Since our church is still less than 2 years old, we do not have a permanent facility. Naturally, this provides some challenges, among which is not having a church office. This “challenge,” however, has been one of the biggest blessings so far in my young pastoral ministry.
As a consequence of not having a designated study spot, I have been driven to the local coffee shops (kicking and screaming too). On any given day, you can find me at Stone Creek, Starbuck’s, Black Canyon, Caribou, or my old faithful — Milwaukee Street Traders. I rotate them throughout the month. If I need to get a ton done and don’t care about keeping warm, I go to Starbuck’s because I don’t know as many of the “regulars” there yet. If I want a comfortable chair, I go to Milwaukee Street Traders, because it’s quite literally more comfortable than my living room. And then there’s the coffee! If I want a really good cup, I go to Black Canyon since they brew Alterra, which is clearly America’s best. Anyway, I digress. I am so thankful that I do not have a church office at this point, because I have been sent into a public place for a portion of my study and sermon preparation. Here are the benefits:
- As I dig through commentaries that often spend way too many pages on matters unimportant to a good sermon, and as I simultaneously am surrounded by real people, I am reminded that my sermon is for people. Shocking, huh? The sermon is not for the scholars who wrote my commentaries, but actually for the electrician who I met in line or the retired man reading the paper next to me. This helps me avoid simply regurgitating commentaries and being too technical in the pulpit each week.
- As I interact with the lost of every variety, I am reminded to preach apologetically. I am confronted with objections to Christianity every day. These discussions remind me to answer questions for the sheep in my flock, as well as to equip them to answer difficult questions themselves. Because of my experiences at the coffee shop, I usually try to weave apologetics into a sermon by answering potential objections from the passage. Further, I am reminded that some of the objections I regularly hear stem from inaccurate biblical teaching and preaching.
- As I simply observe the people around me and listen to conversations, I understand more and more about the community to which God has sent me. Church-planters must think like missionaries, seeking to understand their local culture. I’m convinced that places like coffee shops are the present-day version of the Greek agora, i.e. marketplace. Thus, my regular presence there places me in the ministry tradition of the Apostle Paul, my hero and example in evangelism and apologetics.
- As I’ve gotten to know the “regulars” at each coffee shop, I’ve cultivated many great friendships — ones that have spilled over into shared meals, emails, fishing trips, phone calls, and even visits to church. Because of the coffee shop, I’ve had many opportunities to share the gospel within the context of a genuine relationship.
I praise God that I do not yet have my own “office,” and am purposing now that when the day comes for a church office, I will still study in the coffee shop on occasion!