Honoring God at Starbucks
A pastor learns just how spiritual a “real job” can be...
Because of the financial situation at the church that I pastor, I recently had to get a second job, so I am now a full-time pastor and part-time barista at Starbucks. I really enjoy my new position – the job is fun, I get to work with some great people, I like most of the customers, and I get to drink a lot of really good coffee. And after almost 14 years in ministry, preceded by 4 years of college and a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission, Cambridge, Ontario, 1993, it is good to be back in the “real world.”
But every now and again, I doubt myself: How spiritual is making coffee? What is the eternal value of mopping a floor? It takes me back to the “re-entry” from my DTS, how mundane and insignificant all the details of life felt. I remember longing to be back on the mission field, whether or not God was calling me.
As a pastor, I have frequently preached that all work can be ministry and every Christian can and should be a minister wherever they are, but it’s different now that I am the one with the secular job! I am being forced to think through the “meaning of work” on a very personal level.
At the same time I struggle (present tense) with this, I’ve been working on a book “The Radically Normal Christian: God Doesn’t Want to Be Your Only Happiness.” In my book I am trying to correct the modern (and by modern, I mean the past 1,800 years) Christian tendency to undervalue the things of this life and the happiness God wants us to enjoy without being distracted from him. For example, there can be an impression that if you were really spiritual, you’d be perfectly happy celebrating Christmas without a tree, gifts, or a Christmas dinner (better to donate the money to the needy) and simply read the Nativity story. Biblicaly speaking, this is unmitigated nonsense, driven by an appalling ignorance of the normal godly life promoted in the Old Testament.
I realized (guided by the Holy Spirit, I think), that all of this applies directly to my work at Starbucks. The first commission that God gave his people was not “Go into all the world...” (Matt. 28:18-20), but to “Be fruitful and increase in number...” (Gen. 1:28-30). In others words, to go and live life, to make your mark, and to fulfill your calling as one made in God’s image. This calling is confirmed by God’s plan for Israel, where 11 tribes out of 12 were expected to go and live life and worship God. The Proverbs are filled with instructions for just living a normal, God-honoring life.
If we take the OT seriously, by the very act of working hard to accomplish something, I am fulfilling my calling as a child of God and bringing glory to him. Now add to that all the opportunities I have to be a light here. I am able to bestow dignity and God's love on every person who walks in, from the panhandler, to the gay couple, to the businesswoman, to the retiree. The Holy Spirit has initiated and directed conversations with my co-workers. I am learning about the daily struggle of the real world.
Perhaps like me, you have been in ministry but are now struggling to justify having a regular job and not being out on the mission field. Be encouraged, you now are serving God and bringing him glory in the manner that he has called the majority of his children to. Embrace this time; enjoy the dignity of hard work and the opportunities God brings your way. One of the enemy's greatest sneakiest ways of immobilizing you is to tempt you to focus on some other good than the one God has called you to now.
Joshua C. Kelley is the lead pastor of The Gathering, in Mount Vernon, WA and a barista at Starbucks. He went on his first YWAM mission trip when he was fourteen, where he met Jon Matas. He remembers when Jon still had hair. Quite a bit of it in fact. More information about his book can be found at www.radicallynormal.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.