Leader to Leader, Ministry Services

Preach it at Starbucks

January 20, 2014 | Posted by Ken Chitwood

The other day I was at a pastors’ luncheon, and the speaker was passionately sharing about how to  preach and be better cultural exegetes with our preaching. It was good stuff.

He said, “Sometimes I write my sermons at Starbucks and as I write, I wonder what it would sound like to the young woman sitting at the end of the bar or the guy hunched over typing away at his computer.”

Again, good stuff.

But what about taking it to the next level?

I too used to imagine what the sermon would sound like to someone outside the church, sitting at Starbucks, swirling a latte or sipping on their piping hot coffee. Then it hit me. Why not try it out?

So I did. I was preaching a sermon on reconciliation and I talked to a red-headed bearded man. We ended up talking about his religious themed sci-fi thrillers and fence-mending between two alien hordes. Weird, but it became an illustration. I was preaching on Jesus and the woman at the well and I asked a middle-aged woman drinking a pumpkin-spice-latte how it would feel to have a religious leader talk to her like that and she responded, “What…like right now?” Just recently I was preparing a message on hope. I asked a young woman if Jesus brings her hope, and if not, what does. She sagely said, “Jesus brings me hope because he brings the promise of something more, something bigger and grander than just you and me.” That’ll preach.

Jesus didn’t cater to the line between preaching from a pulpit or in a portico, between talking to “strangers” and engaging with familiar faces. He preached. He engaged in conversations. He let the Gospel fly, and I am guessing that he learned much and shared even more along the way.

Sometimes we’re stingy with our sermons, holding them back until they “premier” on Sunday morning. I’m not sure what we’re afraid of, or how special we think our messages are that they need to be embargoed like a Hollywood blockbuster, but there is a wonderful twofold blessing in letting the gathered guests at Starbucks appraise and react to our messages before they go live during Sunday services.

First, we’ll learn how the Word resonates with the very people we are trying to reach and better be able to interpret our community and preach to a specific context, other than our own.

Second, you get to preach the Gospel to someone who probably won’t show up on Sunday.

Either way, as long as you don’t act-a-creep on someone or just post up in the middle of the cafe and start shouting, you have nothing to lose trying this out, and much to gain. After all, God did not give us a spirt of fear, but one of love, power and self-discipline (II Tim. 1:7).

So go for it this week. Let me know what happens and what the Spirit does with you, and others, along the way.

(Header: Derivative work of “Starbucks Tall Vanilla Latté” by Justin Daoust used under CCL.)

Ken Chitwood
Ken Chitwood is a religion scholar, Ph.D. student, and graduate assistant at the University of Florida studying ethnography of Religion in the Americas and global Islam with emphases on globalization, transnationalism, and immigration. Chitwood is a forward-thinking Lutheran theologian, preacher and popular speaker who weaves together historical context, societal exegesis, and a fair dose of ironic humor. He enjoys ultra-distance running, well-placed sarcasm, craft beer, bike-commuting, traveling, hiking, camping, and rugby.