Saturday, February 28, 2015

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 3.

My final thoughts on the Modern Church - well actually, the Church as a whole, but I might as well piggy-back on my previous two posts, paralleling with my experience in Specialty Coffee.

Happy feBREWary!


Everyone has their own reasons behind their church commitment preferences.  Sure, I don't have a history sampling numerous denominations.  And that being said, I've learned that I can't discredit what God is doing, simply because it's different than how He works in my life.  I'm not entitled to judge the worship of others, I have no right to declare that my way of connecting with God is better, more efficient, more loved - the Abel sacrifice.  I've come to terms that God has a way of working in my life, and I can celebrate that.  He has a way of working in other churches, and I can celebrate that.

Just as every human is made in God's image, and yet all of us are absolutely different, so churches (made up of humans) are all different and still aim to point to Christ, even if they have to use a different approach - because they are made of different people

Some specialty coffee shops are incredibly successful because they are nested in progressive cities.  And some modern churches are growing exponentially because they are surrounded by the ones who need this kind of bread. We at Surfers Coffee Bar know that we love specialty coffee, but we also know we need to reach our local demographic; we cannot survive on Direct Trade, Pourovers, and Extraction alone.  We've to terms with what we are, and what we aren't.  I'm sure many churches have had to make that same definition.  

Ultimately, whoever walks into the doors of Surfers, we are asked to serve.  Some things I won't compromise on (will not make an iced cappuccino, or any cappuccino over 8oz) (also will not ask my church to preach a prosperity gospel).  I can make sugary drinks, I can make traditional drinks, and I know the facts about coffee if I needed to discuss it.  My hope with the churches I agree less with, is that they'll keep traditional theology, and their leaders know God intimately enough to share His heart.

The conclusion to this entire elaboration is that it isn't my place to judge, or place my connection with God in a higher regard.  Snobby coffee shops shut people out.  And snobby churches shut people out.  Snobbery in general is a natural deterrent.  I am still allowed to disagree - gracefully.  I am still allowed to hold onto what I believe in.  I am still urged to be open to conviction, open to the voice of the Spirit.  And in the places I do not hear Him, even in a church, it's still my position to bless and not curse, to uplift in prayer and not to dismantle by criticism.

There's probably a good reason if you ever find me at a Modern Church.  It's not really my thing.  And yet, I know God is present there.  I also know that God has never expected me to look or be a certain way before I can approach Him; so as mercy has been given to me, so I shall extend to others.

But as it is, God arranged the members in His Body, each one of them, as He chose.... The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you.".. You are the body of Christ.
I Corinthians 12.

And Paul continues in the infamous chapter 13, to show us the most excellent way - to love.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 2

part one here.


Guys.  the United States Barista Championships have officially begun.
Because there is such a thing.

I absolutely love the specialty coffee world.  I recently subscribed to The Barista Hustle and can't get over the paradoxical depth and simplicity of the article on Coffee Extraction.  I enjoy cuppings, brewing with a sock pot, and drinking espresso on Tuesday, because it's at its prime post-roast date.  And at Surfers Coffee Bar, there's a good handful of staff who are equally enthralled at coffee nerdery.

But here's the hole: we're a shop in Wahiawa.  A former pineapple plantation town.  A military town.  A local's town, with Asian quick cuisine and "we like the way things are."  Nobody knows where to park, nobody wants to park where there IS free parking.  Shall I throw out more random facts?  Nearest specialty shop is 20 miles away.  Nearest busiest coffee shop is McDonald's.  Maybe Starbucks.  Or 7-11.  Whatever.

Surfers has come to this understanding that as much as we want to push specialty coffee, we cannot, because it will not fly.  If I start talking about the intricacies of growing and brewing coffee, I will lose my customers.  They don't care, 90% of them take their coffee with cream and sugar.  And that is absolutely okay.

So here is what we do: we provide specialty coffee.  It's on our menu, and we proudly display the numerous brewing methods they can choose from, and offer a selection of international coffees through Stumptown.  But we've accepted where we are, and we also offer syrups, and whipped cream, and seasonal drinks like Bacon Mocha or Black Widow.  We'll create our drinks to the best of our ability, and the customer can enjoy it with cream and sugar if they want.  And when we've made friends of our regulars, we have an easier time talking to them about the honesty of Stumptown's company, about tasting notes in our espresso, about a traditional coffee that they should try sometime.

I've thought about how the Modern Church parallels to my specialty coffee conundrum numerous times.  It's absolutely vital that those behind the modern church are solid in their theology, and are able to defend their faith as effortlessly as a barista swings out a beehouse and brews pourover-style.  I know people shy away from coffee when I throw out chemistry words.  I know people shy away from the church when we spill out our theology.

"My espresso parameters are 19.5 - 28 - 32" may not have the same weight to you, just as, the phrases of "soul-winning" or "accept Jesus as your personal savior" may not have relevance to the modern youth.

I would tell people that at Surfers Coffee Bar, "The well-crafted drinks might bring them here, but the kindness keeps them here."  Similarly, the church as a whole could use frou-frou smoke machines, or even their mile-long booklist of dead philosophers to reel people in.  But the kindness, the connections, the relationship between humankind and with the Godhead - these are the things that keep people coming back.

And sometimes our customers keep coming back, and we get them to try a latte sans-syrup.  Then a cappuccino.  Then a short americano.  Then espresso.
And sometimes they don't get to the espresso, but they leave knowing they have invested in a place where they were also invested into.

And sometimes people keep coming back to the church, and we get them to join a prayer session or small group.  Then they reveal their talents.  And we plug them in.  And we mentor them, and grow with them, and watch them turn from student to teacher.
And sometimes they take a lot longer to get there, maybe they leave, but they leave knowing they have made friends.

(And then friends go out and have bible studies in coffee shops like Surfers.  And the cycle continues.)


Weirdly enough, this post got reverted to a draft and I can't remember my closing statements.
I suppose we'll have to go for part three....


currently watching: "History Channel's Guide to the Presidents"
currently listening: Kwabs, Perfect Ruin

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 1.


Three of my least favorite things: washing my car, styrofoam, and women's conferences.
And thanks to a SCB pop-up cafe, I could begin a hashtag called #heardatawomensconference.

It will be laced with feel-good quotes
You are special.
You are worth it.
You hold the key to your freedom.
You choose to be who you are today.

As well as estrogen-based Christian lifestyle advice
New season, new journal!
Don't forget to wear waterproof mascara and foundation!

And things that shock me as a barista
Why don't you have a $15k Espresso Machine here.  Make me an iced soy caramel latte extra caramel no ice, and find a microwave to heat it up for me.

Yes, I am a disgruntled human at these hype events.  I cannot stand flashy, colorful lures, smoke machines during praise/worship, and songs that ask me to Jump or Shout or other actions that require Obedience to Avoid Shunning.  In fact, in those situations, my human nature turns me to a judgmental, haughty prude.  It's a shame.

But here are the truths about these events, and about the modern popular church, and about worshiptainment:

  1. Based on a certain level of spiritual understanding, I'll find no meat to chew on.  But that doesn't discredit that milk/young food is necessary for those who are growing in their Christianity.  These events are geared to teenagers and/or teenagers in Christ, and a necessary tool to create a hunger for deeper things.  It is okay for me to say, this conference is not for me, and gracefully remove myself from the conversation.
  2. My heart was not prepared to receive anything from this event, to my own loss.  Even though I knew I would be there, I did not ask God to soften my heart to listen and receive His Word; His truth, even if it is covered in feathers that were half-dipped in gold glitter, is still His Truth.  He is always speaking, and it's my choice to listen, and not shoot the messenger.
  3. On that note, it is not my place to say that God is finally pleased with our worship when we turn off the smoke machine.  For all we know, even the one-guitar + bongo living room session can leave a bitter aftertaste in His mouth if these "intimate" worshippers house hearts no different than those hearts of the Pharisees or Sadducees.  We cannot box worship, and we cannot define what God will not receive as a pleasing offering.  He didn't hire us as the worship police.

Essentially, I cannot judge a person's level of spirituality.  Does it pain me that some people remain content at a certain level of spirituality?  Absolutely.  I think that's what makes me feel aggravated.  Some people like to be entertained; like to be amused, don't like to serve.  But again, until I have invested into the lives of each individual, find out where they are with God, and commit to walk with them through their journey, I cannot judge everyone based on an event.

In retrospect, I should've known those three points listed above, and keep my thoughts to myself, no matter how enjoyable the sarcasm became.  I'm sure I am not exempt from having been judged, and I am guilty of not listening to the Spirit, even when I know He's always present.

In the meanwhile, I drew.
Make the most of where you are.

part two here.


Currently listening: "Bridges" by Broods
Currently watching: Street Art Throwdown.

Friday, February 6, 2015

the economy of volunteerism

After the remodel one year ago

This July, Surfers Coffee Bar celebrates four years of service.  I am grateful that we've at least passed the one- and two-year marks, but until we climb over five years, I'm still holding my breath.  Studies have shown that many restaurants tank in their first two years, but those who survive five years usually make it to ten.  But I feel like SCB needs extra credit, and should take each year like "dog years," because we're not an average business.  We are wholly run by volunteers.  Vo.lun.teers.  Un-paid volunteers.

Humanity runs on economy - doing and earning and giving and receiving.  When studies talked about restaurants, they were talking about businesses that pay their workers with resources that practically and tangibly assist and complement their living condition.  So to have a staff of unpaid volunteers, I am asking them to work equally hard as they would in a paid position, offering only the reward of goodness in their hearts and a cup of coffee in their bloodstream.

And it is SO HARD.

First of all, it's hard because Management basically means quality control, and when the bulk of my job is quality control, that means it's laden with confrontation, and correction, and feedback, and education.  It isn't particularly a field I would naturally gravitate towards.  I'm an introvert.  I'm an independent.  I wish other people were independent.

But truthfully, that sentiment is probably why I ended up in management, I can't stand to watch people give their bare minimum and put on their "worker bee" vest without question.  I expect independence and free thinking.  I want them to put wheels and motors on their dreams, and set goals to make them happen, instead of being some unattainable idea they daydream about while stamping cups.  I want them to have the character and work ethic that will sustain their futures.  It's a push and pull - I both like and dislike the confrontation, because it then becomes my God-given responsibility to call out the greatness within each individual staff member, while calling out their rough edges.

Sounds over-the-top for cafe management's job description.  But that is my reality, especially with volunteers.  It's hard to convince them that every little thing they do is meaningful, from doing the dishes, to mopping the floor, to gingerly sweeping up dead roaches that died on its way indoors.  When my workers sign up to work for the non-profit humanitarian organization that mothers the cafe, they imagine the outreaches and the footstools to international welfare; they imagine the tangible joy of giving to people in need.  So to serve the demographic that is not in dire need of clothing or shelter or food, the able middle class, the humanitarian reward is not so obvious.

And when the reward is not obvious, the economy begins to collapse.

How do I convince my staff that their hours are making a difference?
I can be grateful that many of my staff walk in the same faith, and I am also grateful that the principles of Heaven are also understandable to those who haven't chosen this faith-- because it is by faith we receive this reward.  I believe those who have chosen to embrace the nature of our presence in the coffee bar have a sweeter understanding of what it means to serve selflessly, that the reward is not immediately gratifying, or even guaranteed to be tangible, but it is promised.

Of course, I am not trying to make a statement of "how do I make them listen," as much as I am also convincing my own heart that my management makes a difference.  As much as they get discouraged that they have one more closing shift on a slow Saturday night, I get discouraged that I'm not making this place more meaningful for them.  And I want my staff to feel like they have purpose, that their presence is individually meaningful.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 

Ephesians 6.5-8

This charge, similar to that in Colossians and 1 Timothy, is what I want for my staff.  I want them to feel the freedom in choosing to serve in this "hard economy" of volunteerism.  I want them to feel the gratitude that they get to be in the customer service business.  I want them to feel the approval and affirmation of God's heart.  And I want this for me too.  I am a volunteer too.  I want that encouragement from the Lord that reminds me that I am making a difference, however deep of an impact.  I want to be reminded that I have purpose, and my presence is meaningful.  I want to steward my staff well, I want to call out the greatness in them.  I want more patience, and grace, and deep love to do so.

Joy is the reward.  I enjoy my staff.  I love their quirky selves.  And as baristas, their personable nature is indispensable.  They are innately social, or at least curious about humanity, which makes them both amusing to converse with, and, endearingly, good listeners.  Their individual personalities range from sanguine to phlegmatic, and we all have different definitions of "common sense."  They make me laugh, and they stress me out, and I cannot express how grateful I am for them.

Whether they gain self-discipline, or understanding, or skills for the workforce, or the sense of ohana, I want them to be sure of their reward.  I don't want them to look back at the 3 months to two years they've committed and regret the work time spent (heaven forbid, "wasted").  I want them to look at this time and be thankful for the chance to learn, to grow, and to find joy in serving - all while brewing a darn good cup of coffee.


currently watching: The Kennedy's
currently listening: podcasts from Mosaic Church