Coffee & Outreach

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So far so good this week, so let’s continue our experiment and see if we can connect Coffee and Outreach.

Basic Outreach

Outreach, in its most basic form, is simply sharing the love we have experienced through Jesus Christ with others through our words and deeds.  We are grace, therefore we are gracious.  We have been forgiven, therefore we forgive.  We are to God, so we are peacemakers.  Our Father gives us good gifts and we share them.  We have been given the message of the Gospel, the only way by which we are saved from the consequences of our sin, and so we share that story with others.

Touching People’s Hearts With Coffee

I believe it is possible to use all of God’s good gifts (James 1:17) to share His love with others — and that includes Coffee.  Here’s a great video from The Skit Guys connecting coffee and love:

Now was it the coffee that touched this father’s heart?  No, it was the love of his children.  In the same way, we can use something as simple as a cup of coffee to show people that we love them, will listen to them, acknowledge their hurts, and want to be used by God to bring them peace (even if only for the time it takes to drink a coffee).

Some Ideas

1. Take a depressed friend out for coffee.  Part of the struggle of depression is that it drives people into isolation.  Depressed people begin to believe that no one cares about them, and then reinforce this belief by avoiding contact with people.  They wait for someone to call, and when no one does, their perception is confirmed.  Be active and call them, take them outside their environment, encourage them to sit on the patio in the sun (or even the rain!) and let them know in no uncertain terms that you love them, God loves them, and both of you will continue to care for them.

2. Use your Coffee With Your Father time (see Coffee & Worship) to specifically focus on praying for people’s salvation.

3. Here’s a way to use your next coffee time to present the gospel!  Here’s a great video from Billy Kangas connecting Coffee to the Gospel of Jesus:

Coffee & Fellowship

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A-Z of being a Modern Christian by Cake Or DeathLet’s continue our brainstorm by linking Coffee to Fellowship, which is admittedly, the easiest of the bunch.

Coffee and Fellowship… Fellowship and Coffee… they go together like coffee and cream.  Cream and sugar.  Coffee and cookies.  Chocolate and coffee.  Coffee and cake.  Cake and ice cream.  Ice cream and chocolate sauce.  Mmmm… coffee flavoured ice cream…  Ooops, sorry!  Got carried away.

Some Surprising Similarities

I’m sure you agree fellowship (aka people getting to know one another, supporting one another, serving one another..) seems indelibly connected to coffee.  It’s treated like the glue that binds the fellowship together.  But did you know there are other similarities?

1. Both seem simple at first, but are far more complex than we realize.  Check this out these suggestions: 70g/Litre, course ground trimodal particle distribution, no covering to allow the grinds to bloom so you don’t get an uneven extraction from the cake of coffee.  Wow!

Similarly, one would think that sticking people in a room with readily available hot beverages would create Fellowship.  Not so, but this is the approach of most of the churches I’ve been to take.  Provide a space, perk some coffee, make juice, pour water, steep tea (for the hippies), add some no-nut cookies and sliced veggies (again, for the hippies), and just watch the fellowship bloom.  But it’s not that simple is it?

True fellowship is not just meandering around the same floor space sharing insights about the weather and the local sports teams.  True Christian fellowship requires time, risk, sacrifice, determination, leadership, emotional energy, purposeful interaction, mission and the imbuement of the Holy Spirit.  People need education on how to move their conversation to a deeper level, they need encouragment to let down their guard because many of them have been hurt, they need a reason to meet together beyond sharing a location (a good cause, a decision to make, an issue to support, etc.), and they need lots of time (15 minutes on Sunday after church isn’t enough).

2. Both are terrible lukewarm.  No one, not even Jesus, likes lukewarm drinks (Rev 3:16)!  They are best hot, or cold.  Lukewarm fellowship is even worse.  No one likes a hypocrite, and most people can tell pretty quickly when someone is detached, inauthentic or uninterested, even though they walk up to you with a cheery, “How are you?”  It only takes a couple of emotionless, mindless, useless conversations for a person to know that the relationship is fake and that they don’t want to waste their time.  I’m sure you’ve felt this.

3. It’s not good when it’s too strong.  Some people like strong coffee, but even they say it can be too strong.  In the same way, when a fellowship goes from being committed and loving (Acts 2:42-47) to being a clique full of nosey busybodies (James 2:1-13, 1 Tim 5:13), they’ve taken a good, God-given thing, and made it into something bad.

Connecting Coffee to Fellowship

So here’s some ideas:

1. Pretend you’re a barista and serve everyone else first.  Be the first one to the coffee pot and the last one to take a sip.

2. Make some coffee gifts.  A dollar store mug with some chocolate covered espresso beans and a nice, non-preachy note is cheap and does the trick.  Give them to folks you see on the periphery of your daily life (Store clerk, bank teller, newcomer to church, neighbour, mechanic, etc.).

3. Have an International Coffee Tasting night where people bring over their coffee machines and a unique blend of coffee and try them all out!  I recommend “Kopi Luwak” or “Weasel Poop Coffee”.  (I bought it for my brother for Christmas one year.)

What about you?  Have you ever drank a drink that came from the rear end of an animal?  What has been your best fellowship experience?  What has been your worst?

Coffee & Discipleship

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Why yes, I did paint this. My Ode to Starbucks.

Let’s keep the brainstorm going and see if we can connect Coffee and Discipleship.

Coffee/Discipleship is Personal

Coffee, like discipleship, is a very personal thing.  People like their coffee a certain way, and if it’s not done right… well, as my dad used to say, “It’s like drinking dirty dishwater.”  Walk into a Starbucks sometime and listen to how people order their drinks – some of them sound like they are crafting it right down to the molecule.

“I’ll have a Venti, sugar-free vanilla, non fat and soy, 1/2 pump almond, half pump mocha, two pumps sugar-free cinnamon dolce, with whip and caramel drizzle.”

[Here’s a list of “Secret Frappuccinos” if you want to get into the craziness]

Christian disciples can become the same way about their discipleship.

“I’ll have an Utmost for His Highest reading, 3 chapters of the Gospels, 1 Psalm, 4 proverbs, 10 minutes of prayer, 3 minutes of meditation, 1 contemporary church service, a Wednesday night traditional prayer meeting, teach Sunday School twice a month, and may I please have some Chris Tomlin CD’s drizzled on top.”

Can Coffee Help us Become Better Disciples?

I believe it can.  Here are some ideas:

1. Try Different Coffees & Methods of Discipleship – Consistency is wonderful and important for building habits, complacency and being dispassionately mechanical in your walk with God is not.  Knock yourself off of your rut by experimenting with kinds of coffee and coffee drinks.  Expand your horizons!  (Here’s 22 ways to brew coffee.  Here’s 63 different coffee drinks to try.)

And at the same time, try different Discipleship methods.

  • Change your time, place, book, words of your prayer, place you serve.
  • Here’s a challenge: Don’t use the words “Lord, be with him” when praying for someone else.  And don’t use the word “just” at all.
  • Try not singing for a Sunday, and just let the words wash over you.
  • Try taking notes (or not taking notes) during the sermon.
  • Be the last person to stay on a Sunday morning.
  • Ask a friend to meet you for a spiritual conversation.
  • Research a theological question that has bugged you and don’t stop until satisfied.

2. Drink Coffee from Missionary Locations – If your church sponsors missionaries, do some research on how their country drinks coffee, buy some and drink it for a while.  Learn about that country and the missionary, pray extra for them until the coffee is gone, and then move on to a different missionary.

3. Study Fair Trade – Scripture is clear that we are to take care of our environment (it was our first job) and those around us.  If you have your head in the sand about where your morning cup of joe comes from, and are unaware of the implications of globalization, then it’s time to pull it out and take a look around.  Here’s 2 places to start:  Here.  Here.

What about you?  What’s your favourite way to drink coffee and practice Discipleship?  Can you think of any other ways to connect Coffee and Discipleship?  Have you become complacent in your faith journey?

Coffee & Worship

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I drew this for the series because this is how I feel some mornings.

This is the first of some week-long experiments where we take something ordinary and see if we can use it to Worship God, grow as Disciples, encourage Fellowship, and practice Outreach.  And the first thing that springs to mind is the writer’s best friend — coffee.

The History of Coffee

Did you know:

  • Coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed his herd acted pretty excited after eating a certain kind of berries.
  • Coffee beans aren’t beans at all, but are the seeds inside a kind of cherry.

One of the main focuses of this blog is to grow a passion towards making your relationship with God a part of every moment of your life.  That’s why I started “Project: Always & Everything”,“an every growing list of unique, interesting, exciting and challenging ways that we can meet God in our daily lives and practice keeping Him Always involved with Everything we do.”

So in keeping with that idea, I want to brainstorm a bit about coffee and worship.

Worshipping Coffee

For some, drinking coffee is an act of worship — not one focused on God, but in fact worshipping the ever-so-delectable-bean itself.  Think about it.  Worship is to give honour, reverence, regard, homage and sacrifice to someone or something regarded as sacred.  Now run your attitude for coffee through that matrix.

  • If you don’t have coffee for a few days, how do you feel?
  • Do you pursue coffee as a necessary part of your day?
  • How much time, effort, energy and money to you sacrifice for coffee?
  • How do you celebrate coffee in your life? Do you have a sanctified chalice (special mug)?  Do you have any consecrated garments to celebrate your object of worship (any clothes with coffee on them)?
  • When you wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, filled with longing and desire to roll that first, hot, delicious, sip across your lips and past your long waiting taste buds — is it an act of emotional worship?
  • Is coffee the first thought on your mind in the morning, and your source of energy and inspiration throughout the day?
  • Is your coffee an idol?

Worship With Coffee

Yes, coffee can become an idol, but can drinking it also be an act of worship?  If we approach coffee remembering that God created this world full of amazing things to enjoy but not worshiped (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 19-20), have our hearts focused on God in thanksgiving and prayer (Ephesians 5:20, 6:18), then I believe we can redeem our coffee time and make it an act of worship.  How?

  1. Make God your first thought in the morning, and then thank Him for creating things we can enjoy, and even use to perk us up for His service – like coffee!
  2. Do an idol check now and again by not having coffee for a time (a week, a month) to be sure that it is not controlling you, and you are not dependant on it.  (Here’s an infographic about caffeine.)
  3. Thank God for all the people, from harvest to processing to delivery to the store clerk, that worked hard to get that coffee into your hands.  You may want to (strongly) consider drinking only fair-trade coffee.
  4. Have coffee with your Father.  Capture the time you take drinking that first cup as a time to simply be with God.  Not rushing around, not dumping it into a to-go mug, not even during your bible-study time.  Just take that time to talk things over with your Father in Heaven.

What about you?  Have you ever worshipped at the altar of the great bean?  Can you think of ways you can connect coffee and worship?

Should Christians Give to Panhandlers?

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Helping the homeless (2905921539)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Outreach Thursday, and this question comes up a lot, so let’s tackle it first.  Should a Christian give money to panhandlers?

This is a complex issue.  On the one hand we have the divine compulsion and inward desire to help those who need our assistance (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 6:27-36), while on the other we worry that our generosity will be misspent on things that are more harmful than good (like drugs or alcohol).

So what should we do?  After some reading and talking to experts, I’ve concluded that giving cash to people on the street is not a good way to help them.   The best way is to support local programs (InnerCity, Food Bank, etc.) which are designed to serve their needs, and have the expertise to deal with those who seek to abuse the system.  I talked to one inner city program leader who said he wishes people would give less money to panhandlers so they would be forced to participate in the programs set up to help them best.

That said, I remember a time when a young, pregnant woman stopped me in the parking lot of the Home Depot and asked me for some money so she could buy a burger at the McDonalds.  Did I send her away to find an official program?  No, I gave her enough to buy a combo.  Did I follow her to make sure she got the burger?  No.  Do I regret giving her the money?  No.  Would I do it again?  Yes.

I believe that we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) in these matters, and that means educating ourselves about local poverty issues, encouraging our churches to support local programs, and praying for wisdom so we don’t fall prey to those who would abuse Christian charity.   However, when faced with an ‘extreme situation’ like the young woman at Home Depot, we must trust the Holy Spirit within us and err on the side of generosity.

What do you think?  Have you thought about this before?  How have you helped panhandlers and homeless people in the past?

Gossip Kills Fellowship

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English: Loose lips might sink ships -- a post...

I am compelled to write my first “Fellowship Wednesday” post about what I believe is the most poisonous thing to a fellowship of believers — gossip.

As pastor of a former church I spent time in the office meeting with people.  One day a man came in for a chat.  On the way out afterwords he said, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…”.  And I stopped him cold.  “Then don’t tell me.”, I said.  He persisted, “No really, I shouldn’t tell you this but…”.  So I said, “No really… don’t tell me.” and started to walk away.  He walked after me.  I started running.  He started running after me yelling, “I shouldn’t tell you this… but I want to tell you!!!”.  I literally ran him out the door trying to avoid gossip!

Gossip is deadly.  It destroys trust between people and therefore kills friendships.  If left alone it can cripple ministries and destroy good leaders.  I hate gossip, and so does God.

I’ve been around the effects of pervasive gossip among believers, and it breaks my heart.  Most of us know how much it hurts to be talked about behind our backs, the damage it can do to a community, and how much it grieves God, but so many still get caught up in it.  It’s like Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels…”  Sometimes we’re in the middle of the conversation, and half swallowed the morsel, before we even realize what we’re doing!

I think part of the reason is that we don’t know what gossip is.  Let’s take a look at what scripture says it is:

  • Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence…”  Anytime someone shares something they heard privately, it is gossip.
  • Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”  Anyone sharing information to embarrass a person, cause division in a group, or harm a relationship is gossiping.
  • Proverbs 26:20 – “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Anyone sharing a problem that is already being (or has been) dealt with is gossiping.

Romans 1:29 (among other places) says that gossip is evil.  A strong fellowship must be free of gossip.  If you find yourself around gossip, take a page out of Joseph’s book and just run away from it.  Let us all be careful with our words and to bring our concerns to God first, and then to the person we have an issue with. More info here. 

What about you?  Are you a gossip?  Have you been gossiped about?  How far have you gone to avoid gossiping?

Discipleship Fundamentals

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I’ve always loved watching and playing sports.  And anyone who does knows that there is one word phrase that pervades all sportsdom — “We’ve got to get back to the fundamentals.”

If our team is on a losing streak, the answer is always getting “back to the fundamentals.”  If you are practicing, you spend time “working on the fundamentals.”  If you go to training camp, or a draft, do you know what they look for?  “The fundamentals”.  They are where everyone starts, and what everyone must master.

That being the case, what are “the fundamentals” of discipleship?  Sometimes, just like when I was playing baseball, I start to get too fancy with my Christian walk.   Instead of simply trying to learn more about Him, and making space for God to speak, I try to get fancy by reading a lot of books, trying exotic prayer techniques, moving around different locations, or trying to multitask by doing devos while working out, driving, or doing the dishes.

Not that any of that is bad (in fact, my earlier article was all about meeting God in every part of our lives) — it’s just that fancy techniques can be distracting and sometimes cause me can drop the ball.

So my challenge over the next while is to “get back to the fundamentals”.   What does that mean?

  • To allow God to inhabit every part of my day.
  • To read less scripture, but meditate on it more.
  • To find a regular place and time to pray.
  • To come to church simply to meet God there.

What about you?  Do you struggle with the fundamentals?  Do you ever get too “fancy” with your spiritual life?  What ways can we “get back to the fundamentals”?