I was stopping at Starbucks the day after Christmas for my daily coffee fix. As I waited for my grande-sized “Red Eye,” which is a medium coffee with a shot of espresso in it, a lady came up to the counter behind me and ordered some weird concoction.
I can’t even remember what she called it but I remember the barista repeated back the order to make sure he got it right. The customer then explained what she wanted but made sure to add this exact statement: “I don’t want any coffee in it. I don’t like the taste of coffee.”
I smirked to myself in disbelief. I wanted to interrupt her and say, “Ma’am, you know you’re in a Starbucks, right? This place made its fortune in coffee.” It sells coffee and coffee-related accessories. It smells of coffee from the moment you walk through the door. It sells mints that are designed to freshen your breath AFTER you’ve drank coffee. If you don’t like coffee, what in the world are you doing in Starbucks?
Then I realized that I really had to hand it to Starbucks. It had done such a masterful job of expanding its product line and experience that even people who don’t like coffee are coming into their stores and making purchases. They have realized that they are missing a whole segment of non-coffee drinkers in their business model and so they have found a way to get a person who doesn’t like coffee to come in with their Christmas gift card and use it for something that isn’t coffee.
The entrepenurial side of me kicked in at that thought and I considered my vocation… my “business.” Is there a way to get people who don’t like Jesus to walk through the doors of my church and give money? I’m not talking about people who are indifferent or ignorant about Jesus; I’m talking about getting people who have tried Jesus and don’t like Him, like this lady at Starbucks. Can I get them to come and give me money?
Since it was December 26, my mind flashed back to December 24. As most churches do, Ascension had a 50% increase in attendance on that night for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. Many were friends and family of our members who were in town for the holidays. Many were folks who claimed to be a part of our Ascension family but hadn’t been seen at church since Easter. As I thought about this latter group, I realized that my church had found a way to bring in people who didn’t care about Jesus. Just put a candle in their hand, dim the lights, sing “Silent Night,” and watch them give money.
But that’s not what my vocation… my “business” is about. Success is not money in an offering plate or attendance at a service. Success is people believing that Jesus Christ was born for them. The details of the manger, the barn, and the angels are all fine and good and great to ponder as spiritual meat and potatoes later but the main message that has be foremost every Christmas season is this: Jesus Christ is YOUR Emmanuel. He is “God with YOU.” He has come TO YOU because you cannot go to Him. He has come FOR YOU because you can do nothing for Him. He is now WITH YOU always, even to the very end of the age.
It’s okay for people to go to Starbucks and say, “I’m not here for the coffee; I’m just here for the experience.” However, it’s not okay for people to say that about my church. If I haven’t led someone to the Christ who was born for them, then I have not succeeded. I can lead someone to the Living Water but I can’t make them drink. Every experience must lead to the Babe of Bethlehem and His desire to seek and to save the lost.