Over the years, some church folk (including me) have used Starbucks to inform the church in terms of how we relate to nonbelievers and how we can create “third place” for the same. But with the announcement that Starbucks is closing 600 stores, I pondered some other lessons I believe the church would do well to heed.
1.) Your church is not immune from down times. Having once worked for the company, the one thing I used to warn fellow baristas was that the company is not immune to economic downturns. The idea that any organization can grow like crazy without enduring a dip is nonsensical and unrealistic. Some churches panic over numbers without panicking over the lack of spiritual depth their ministry is encouraging. Come to think of it, we ought not even judge the “success” of our churches based solely on numbers. This is not to say that numbers don’t matter. Sorry but they do. If my church has 1500 members and suddenly dwindles to 100, something is tragically wrong. But at the same time, just because my church grows to 3,000 members the first two and a half years doesn’t mean that everything’s good in the hood. Sometimes we, like Starbucks, grow too fast too soon without checking the spiritual health of our ministries and churches. (I’m personally sick and tired of church planting books coming out about how to plant fast-growing churches. Fooey!) Understand that churches endure seasons of growth and seasons of pruning. Maybe that is why I appreciate Rob Bell’s “We Invite You to Leave” service.
2.) Oversaturation stinks. I know that there are pastors out there who are all about “franchising” their church. But remember that the body of Christ isn’t the Golden Arches or Burger King. I personally know franchising churches that are literally bumping in to one another “in Jesus’ name.” Praise God! I thank God for the various expression of biblical Christian faith that are out there but I am personally sick and tired of the “one church in 72 locations” mentality. I would buy into this if we proclaimed more clearly that we are “one church under Christ in millions of locations all over the world.” But franchising doesn’t.
3.) Keep it simple. Starbucks is great for coffee. But then they decided to branch off in directions that had NOTHING to do with their original mission statement. An analyst nailed the problem:
>”They came out with the movies and the books in the stores. There’s nothing wrong with that aspiration. But … for a while no one was grinding beans. The place didn’t sound like the coffeehouse and didn’t smell like the coffeehouse anymore”
Does your church have the corporate worship vibe or does it feel more like a mini-mall where you can buy coffee, books, and Christian pencils? Has your church, in its goal to expand, lost the plot Jesus planned before ever stepping onto the pages of human history? If we have, then we need to get back to what we do best: preach the gospel, love God and others. If we can’t be the church Jesus is calling us to be, then we need to shut the doors and get folks where God is moving.