Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lead in 3D

I was on the phone this afternoon with a former colleague in Christian higher education who works for a school in the region. Once I gave him the information he sought, we waxed philosophic for a few minutes. 
I was reminded how important it is to lead in 3D. Here’s what I'm getting at. One of the benefits of having two eyes is that we can perceive depth. Especially when objects are in motion, our brains integrate perspective from each eye resulting in the full, three-dimensional image. 
When making decisions as a leader, it is vital to have the sort of 3D vision that results from various perspectives. 
For example, on today’s call we were talking about building a finance team for a college. In my experience, I’ve benefited from the productive tension that comes from a finance officer who usually saw the big picture paired with a finance officer who focused on the details (the roles are often titled CFO and Comptroller). The CFO gets it when it comes to the business, can communicate with stakeholders, and can speak into decision making from a finance perspective; the Comptroller knows the spreadsheets backwards and forwards, can generate detailed reports that anticipate and answer crucial questions, and can speak into decision making from budget and accounting perspectives. When the perspectives are well integrated, the institution can hit fiscal fastballs
The same sort of thing happens all the time in my partnership with my wife Laurie. I tend to see things in terms of systems over time; Laurie tends to see things in terms of relationships in the present. When we are making decisions in the context of our family or our Church (we serve as pastors together) the productive tension results in a more 3D vision of the problems and solutions. 
It seems to me that a lot of leaders are intent on leading with one eye shut. We fail to be able to lead in 3D when we:
  • Build teams without diverse perspectives, mistaking uniformity for unity (I blogged on this recently). 
  • Only reward agreement and/or punish disagreement (the lesson of The Emperor’s New Clothes). 
  • Rush or make unnecessarily quick decisions that limits input. 
  • Otherwise isolate decision making.   

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stop Speaking in Tongues

We are working through a sermon series based in 1 Corinthians at Pleasant Bay Church. Last Sunday we were in chapter 14. In a nutshell… the ancient church in Corinth appeared to misunderstand what it meant to be spiritual; one of the ways that demonstrated how misguided they were was that their public gatherings appeared to be dominated by a cacophony of speaking in tongues (chaotic, simultaneous, and uninterpreted). The Apostle worked to get them back on track by urging them to seek gifts of the Spirit that were intelligible so that the church would be built up, and unbelievers would hear and believe. 

This is not our problem. Nobody has ever come up to me and said “the problem with this church is that there is too much chaotic speaking in tongues!” If anything, criticism has come from the opposing bias. 

But what if we thought a bit more metaphorically? Now please don’t misunderstand me; the primary meaning of the text is not to be understood as a metaphor. But I think we can get at something very important, something directly tied to the big idea of the text, by thinking metaphorically. 

The big idea of the text is that we must be understood for the building up of the Church. Furthermore, we can understand building up to mean both:

  1. The edification of the Church (strengthening, encouraging, healing, teaching) and
  2. The growth of the Church.
It isn’t just about insiders. There is concern for those who do not yet believe too. Here is what it says starting with verse 23.
So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
Isn’t that what we want? What use is it if people don’t understand us, thinking that we are out of our minds? We want people to join us in worshiping God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
We may not be speaking in tongues… but are we understood? Are we speaking in a language that is easily understood? Or are we speaking our own language, metaphorically speaking in tongues?
Metaphorically speaking, do you know where I’ve encountered the most speaking in tongues? Microsoft. At least in the group that I contracted with for several months, all they did was speak in tongues. It seemed like it was all jargon and acronyms. This was a marketing group… a group charged with convincing and motivating customers and partners. As they were asking “how do we connect with customers so we can sell this stuff?” on a few occasions I mustered up the courage to suggest that they might try speaking English.
Truth is, speaking in technical jargon and acronyms is an important tactic. It helps differentiate between the insiders and the outsiders. Being able to speak in tongues (acronyms and jargons) makes it clear that you are qualified to be in the club. You know how seriously to take people when you hear them speak in tongues. It serves as a secret password or a secret handshake.
So when you are breaking in, you fake it until you make it. I’ve acquired some skills and can usually pickup and use jargon pretty quickly and effectively. It is handy, especially when working on deals. I can put people at ease when I’ve done my homework and can speak at least a bit of their language.
Now there is some risk involved; it can backfire if we get it wrong. Sometimes when trying to make ourselves sound smart, or like an insider, we make a fatal error and completely blow our credibility. Fake it until you make it only works when we successfully fake it… otherwise our cover is blown and rather than merely appearing ignorant, we appear pitiful or, even worse, deceitful.
My point is, in the Church I think it is easy for us to be speaking in tongues even when we are not speaking in tongues. We are metaphorically speaking in tongues when:  
  • We have our own jargon. In the songs we sing, and the words we pray, and the things we preach, and even in our casual conversation… Christians have our own jargon. We need to be on the lookout for Christianese and root it out of our vocabulary as much as possible. 
  • We assume prior knowledge. I worry about this here at Pleasant Bay. We tend to be an educated bunch with a high degree of Biblical literacy. A lot of us have been at this for a long time and it is too easy for us to leave people out who may not have a base of knowledge. 
  • We operate in familiarity. This is the sort of thing that keeps small churches like us small. It is truly wonderful that we find here at Pleasant Bay a group that knows one another; we have a history together that results in strong ties. But when that turns into cliques that cannot be penetrated by outsiders, then we are missing the mark. 
  • We make peripheral things the main thing. Because so many of us have been at this a while, and we have a sort of academic bias, and we love the Bible and theology and such… we could get so fascinated with the fine points and nuances of theology that we fail to keep the main thing the main thing. We want to be sure that we don’t become irrelevant Bible geeks who are so fascinated by some peripheral aspect of our faith that we fail to demonstrate the central message: the power of the Gospel to save and change lives. Being intelligible is more important than being perceived as intelligent.
What are some other ways that we metaphorically speak in tongues?
For more of what I had to say on the topic, check out the sermon, available at http://pleasantbay.cedarpark.org/services

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Ordinance: Giving?

In my theological tradition, we have two ordinances: water baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. In other traditions these might be referenced as sacraments.

One of the great things about ordinances is the tactile nature of it all. We take regular stuff (water, bread, the cup) and make it Holy stuff for a few moments.

We take water, maybe in a river or swimming pool or a specially-dedicated tank or even drops from a bowl, and make it Holy. In my tradition, we get in… and the one being baptized goes all in, completely soaked, completely immersed. The regular stuff becomes Holy stuff as we symbolically bury everything about the old life and the new life rises… every inch of us wet from the washing.

We take the bread and the cup, just as regular as it was when Jesus picked it up from His dinner table, and for a few moments that regular stuff becomes Holy stuff as we remember that Jesus suffered, bled, and died for us. We remember all that He did in order to commune with us. We remember that He is alive and communes with us today. And we remember His promise of eternity with Him.

The regular stuff that becomes Holy stuff helps us more fully understand and more fully believe… it helps us worship with our heads and our hearts and our hands. All of our senses are better encompassed and enveloped when we involve stuff. Thank God for ordinances. 

Along these lines, I wish we approached giving more like an ordinance. 

There was a day when I think I approached giving more like an ordinance. For a number of years I never let an offering plate go by without putting something in… even if it was just a coin, or the smallest bill in my pocket. On more than one occasion, unprepared, I found that the only thing I had in my pocket was a paperclip or a stray button… in it went. I’ve even written the occasional IOU when caught unprepared. I wanted to participate in worship with my giving whenever presented with the opportunity, and I wanted to experience the tactile exercise of it all… my stuff coming out of my pocket, through my hands, and into the offering plate. 

There was even a time when I encouraged folks to participate in just that way when I was given the opportunity to receive offerings. I would tell folks, “just give something… even if you have to borrow a dollar from a neighbor… even if you have to borrow a dollar from me.” 

But, even though I receive at least one offering a week these days, it has been a long time since I’ve encouraged everyone to give something every time. It just doesn’t seem to suit our times anymore. People give online, or once a month, or swipe their card. In a text-to-give or wave-your-smartphone-across-a-scanner culture, it just seems sort of primitive to think that everyone out to put something in an archaic brass plate every Sunday. 

By making giving so electronic and automatic, it seems like we are missing a mystical opportunity when regular stuff could become Holy stuff for a few moments. Just as regular water or regular bread becomes Holy stuff, could the stuff in our hands, before dropped in a plate, become Holy stuff in our regular worship?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Insert Name Here

I’ve been reading Gordon Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians as part of my study for our current sermon series at Pleasant Bay. In a sort of pastoral aside summarizing chapter 13 (page 640), Fee suggested, "Perhaps that point could best be captured by putting one's own name in place of the noun love, and not neglecting thereafter to find a proper place for repentance and forgiveness."

I’m generally not a big fan of cute tricks like this; it usually comes off as a bit too precious for me. But this time I tried it. This simple exercise knocked the wind out of me. 

It is certainly not out of bounds to do so with this passage. More than the sappy love poem about we might try to make it out to be with our cheesy plaques that we might see at a Christian bookstore or a card we might find at a Hallmark store… this passage is meant to be instructive. This definition of love was meant to correct errors in the ancient church in Corinth, and to set the standard of behavior for Christians throughout the ages. The text plainly challenges us, and calls us, to live in such a way… putting such love into action. We are called to this kind of Christ likeness. 

Shall we today? If we were to read it with our names inserted, could we do so with a straight face and a strong voice? There might be moments when such statements resonate, but then there would also be statements that would sound pretty hollow (maybe something like a clanging cymbal). 

Go ahead and read it… read it out loud, saying your name every place there is a blank. And where it could sound hollow, make it a moment of reflection, repentance and prayer. Where we fall short, let’s make these moments for faith to arise… allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us and call us to align ourselves again with God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

____ is patient, ____ is kind.

____ does not envy, ____ does not boast, ____ is not proud.

____ does not dishonor others, ____ is not self-seeking,

____ is not easily angered, ____ keeps no record of wrongs.

____ does not delight in evil but ____ rejoices with the truth.

____ always protects, ____ always trusts,

____ always hopes, ____ always perseveres.

____ never fails.

For more along these lines, listen to my sermon from today at Pleasant Bay, available here: http://pleasantbay.cedarpark.org/services

Thursday, March 13, 2014

When Creeds Really Matter

I had a conversation yesterday that was especially gratifying as a pastor. We were reflecting on a meeting we had with our church’s leadership recently that resulted in a few edits to one of our creeds. 

Our Sunday morning worship at Pleasant Bay includes reciting a creed together. We often use an ancient creed like the Apostles’ Creed. Some Sundays we use a creed derived from our denomination’s doctrinal statements. And there are creeds that we have written ourselves, like the one we recently edited regarding the purpose of the church. (Many of the creeds we use at Pleasant Bay are available here: http://pleasantbay.cedarpark.org/resource)

My friend explained that these creeds find their way into his conversations from time to time. Someone asked the broad question, “what do you believe?” and the outline of the Apostles’ Creed guided his response (not reciting the creed… that might be weird… but using the creed as mental cue cards). In another conversation the topic of praying for the sick came up, and key phrases of our creed on divine healing peppered the conversation. When opportunity arose to clearly state what he believed, our creeds provided a handy toolbox. 

Obviously, I think it is worthwhile to take a moment in each worship service and proclaim together a foundational statement about our beliefs. I’m glad that our congregation has stuck with the discipline, even when most churches of our ilk do not. But when do creeds really matter? Creeds really matter when they apply directly in our day-to-day lives and conversations.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Passive Exclusion

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21)

The ancient Church in Corinth was in trouble. They were divided and confused. One of the ways their founding pastor, the Apostle Paul, helped them correct their errors was to describe the Church in terms of a body. Like our human bodies, they needed unity through diversity (one body, many parts).

After encouraging each and all to press in for their own inclusion, he flipped perspectives to teach that there is no room for exclusion either. In the pursuit of unity through diversity we cannot allow for any of the parts God has brought together to be pushed out.

The way the Apostle describes this is really sort of absurd. He says “The eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you!” meaning that such exclusion in the Church is prohibited. But, of course, the eye cannot say anything to the hand; eyes can’t talk. There is no way for an eye to actively exclude the hand. But it is equally true that the eye cannot go on passively as if the hand does not exist. 

I suspect that this is the message that most of us church folk need to hear. These days, we are seldom guilty of active exclusion (we are polite folks, no keep-out signs posted at the door; we don’t push people out even when they are not like us). But it is so easy to participate in passive exclusion… not actively excluding, but going along as if we don’t need people who aren’t like us, and not doing anything to actively invite those in, or have concern for those, who are not like us.

Truth is… in the Church, if we are not actively including, we are actually excluding.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Smell Test

Today's Daily Mail has an article that references the science behind detecting disease via the sense of smell. Apparently there are devices currently under development, and the article also references specially trained dogs that can identify certain diseases.

It puts me in mind of when our son Donny was receiving chemo in an effort to combat the vasculitis that was ruining his retinas, leaving him blind for a few months in 2012. During chemo, a good friend's dog wouldn’t have anything to do with Donny. The otherwise happy dog, which always looked to Donny for affection, was obviously disturbed by Donny’s presence… growling and hiding until months after the chemo wore off. Our conclusion: the dog could smell that there was something wrong. He didn’t know precisely what was wrong… but he knew that he didn’t like it, so he made himself scarce whenever Donny came around. Donny wasn’t passing the smell test.

Similarly, sometimes churches don’t pass the smell test. People come but they don’t stay… they may not have a clue why, but they can tell something isn’t quite right. Something seems sick or at least unhealthy.

1 Corinthian 12 describes the church in terms of a body (a human body). The church (the Body of Christ) is built like the human body in that it is one body made of many parts… unity through diversity. The text in 1 Corinthians paints word pictures that describe a body with missing parts, or a body that is made up of just one part. With just a little imagination we might picture such a body… which really isn’t a body at all, but more like a monstrosity.

This is the sort of thing that happens when we mistake uniformity for unity (see my post on unity verses uniformity). Rather than pursuing unity through diversity, we pursue the cheap substitute of uniformity. And then we are somehow surprised when outsiders look at our churches, and rather than seeing a beautiful depiction of the Body of Christ, all they see is a monstrosity. Even when they can’t quite identify what is repelling them, outsiders can sense that something is unhealthy and wrong when our churches settle for uniformity rather than pursue God’s designed unity through diversity.

I spoke about this in part of my sermon at Pleasant Bay yesterday; you can access the audio and my notes at

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bad Dog?

If you are my wife Laurie’s friend on Facebook, you may have seen two photos that she posted today. First there was a nice shot of our doggie Annie’s fuzzy face captioned “Wanted: New Home for This” followed by a shot of our formerly full kitchen garbage can dumped on the kitchen floor captioned “Full Disclosure: She Does This.” Nobody took Laurie’s threat seriously; anyone who knows us knows that Annie is part of the family ‘til death do us part. 

We probably deal with a minor mess like this about once a week. I think it frustrates me more than anyone else at our house; and I’ve certainly made more of these fake threats of excommunication than anyone else. 

Truth is… we know it isn’t only Annie’s fault… maybe not even mostly Annie’s fault. First off, we did a poor job of training her. She not only gets in the garbage, she is awful on a leash, jumps on visitors, and runs off if we don’t watch the doors carefully. All of that is mostly because we have failed to train her and now we have given up, determining that we cannot teach an old dog new tricks (she doesn’t do any tricks either, unless being really really cute is a trick).

So now we are the ones who are trained, conforming our behavior to her’s. So when it comes to the kitchen trash, we put it up where she can’t reach it when we leave the house… except when we forget, like I did today when I was the last one to leave the house this morning. 

So we might look at her sternly, shaking our finger, saying “bad dog!” but really these are often cases of “bad humans.”

How often does bad behavior in other aspects of our lives follow the same pattern? Now please don’t accuse me of equating our kids, colleagues, employees, coworkers and such with my poorly trained dog… it is just a loose metaphor. But doesn’t the same sort of thing happen all the time?

People make messes too… and before we react we need to pause and ask questions like “did I provide the training?” or “did I put systems in place to keep this from happening” or “did I fail to hold up my end of the deal?”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Efficiency Eventually Leads to Irrelevance

Some of my most rewarding experiences have been in resourcing or leading or serving-in membership organizations… and some of my most frustrating experiences have been in resourcing or leading or serving-in membership organizations. By membership organizations, I mean those groups in which the governance and productivity of the group comes from the members. So for me these have included committees, boards, churches, and even bands.

Last week I wrote an article contrasting unity and uniformity in which I said “uniformity prizes excellence; unity values broad participation.” When most membership organizations (teams, committees, movements, etc.) form, they not only value broad participation, they have nothing else. They usually come together to get some work done or accomplish something that nobody else is accomplishing. They are certainly not opposed to excellence, but participation is valued more than precision.

Eventually the organization begins to get organized and resourced, and efficiencies are introduced. Early on, these efficiencies usually increase the relevance of the organization to the members. With agendas, policies, procedures, dockets, resources and such, members are equipped and empowered to jump in with their strengths, time, and resources to make a difference. As efficiency increases, relevance to the members increases.

But in my observation, the relation between efficiency and relevance to the members doesn’t produce a simple upward-sloping curve, but rather it is more like a horseshoe. At one end of the scale, efficiencies contribute to relevance and the gains can be dramatic. In the middle, increased efficiencies don’t have a great impact on relevance to the members (increased efficiencies may still be a very good thing, contributing to the impact of the organization… it merely doesn’t impact relevance to the members). And then at the other end of the scale, increased efficiencies actually decrease relevance to the members.

So, for example, an executive committee (or an executive for that matter) may, in the name of efficiency, move from framing the issues for the membership to deciding the matter for the membership, looking to the membership not for deliberation and decision but only ratification. Another example might be a nominating committee that moves from recruiting and qualifying nominees for election by the members, to selecting a single candidate (or a slate of candidates to fill several roles) looking to the membership to merely ratify the selection committee’s work. Each of these examples will very likely increase efficiency, but usually leads the members to conclude that their role is irrelevant… and that leads to the members feeling that the organization is no longer relevant to them. When times are good, members leave or are pushed to the irrelevant margins. But then when times are bad, or there is simply a new challenge and the organization needs the members, the members are either gone or ill-equipped to help.

It seems to me that at one end of the scale, staff and leaders introduce efficiencies in order to serve the members; at the other end of the scale, staff and leaders introduce efficiencies in order to serve themselves, making their work more efficient and their lives easier (I know this because I’ve done it myself… too many times). 

Sometimes an organization changes and the relevance of the members is no longer an important value. For example, what started as a membership organization might turn into a regulatory or accrediting body, or maybe it morphs into an organization that primarily provides goods or services. When that is the case, it may simply be time to formally change the governance of the organization. 

But if the participation and relevance of the members’ participation continues to be a high value, leaders and members need to be ever vigilant to keep their pursuit of efficiency at that sweet spot of high efficiency and high relevance.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Learn Something

When it comes to speaking from the pulpit at Pleasant Bay Church, I’m confident that my best sermons are the ones in which I’ve learned the most in my study leading up to preaching. I don’t know if that seems counterintuitive to you; one might think that the best sermons are the ones preached from expertise. That might be true for me when it comes to being a guest speaker, but when it comes to speaking from my home pulpit, it often seems best when we are learning together

Yesterday was one of those days. I had a lot of positive feedback on a sermon from 1 Corinthians 11 (we’re in a series from 1 Corinthians, the notes and audio are available here). 

Now it wasn’t as if I was a newcomer to the text. In fact I’ve probably preached a mini-sermon from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 most every first-Sunday of the month for the past dozen years. I have the passage memorized, not because I purposefully sat down and committed it to memory, but because I have repeated it so many times before serving Communion. 

But the series caused me to dig deeper when it came to this familiar passage as well as the surrounding texts. The series has me rooted in the context like never before, giving me better insight into what the text meant to the original readers. I am also grateful to Gordon Fee and his excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians; he has been an excellent guide in my study through this series. 

When it came to this passage, here are a few of the big things I learned:
  1. The instructive from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, that which I usually treat as a standalone passage, was almost certainly a correction of error… likely a correction of a specific error. The Corinthians were abusing each other as the haves and have nots were treated differently (horizontal), and they appeared to have lost track of the fundamental reason for coming to the Lord’s Supper (vertical).
  2. I have a much better understanding of the term "in an unworthy manner" as it appears in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. I have generally thought of this in vertical terms, but now I am convinced that this is most certainly a horizontal matter. This may shake up my theology a bit. For example, if this text is about Christians’ relationships with one another (horizontal) then what Biblical basis is there for not welcoming non-believers to join in Communion? 
My point today isn’t so much about what I’m learning, but that I’m learning (if you’re interested in more about what I learned, check out the sermon). I don’t make a big deal out of the new things I’m learning from the pulpit, but many in my congregation can tell, and they seem to appreciate it. Having a learner in the pulpit is good for all sorts of reasons; here are a few things I’m thinking about today:
  1. It energizes the preacher. How can I expect folks to be excited about the sermon if the preacher isn’t excited about the sermon?
  2. It keeps the content fresh. I know that I’ve repeated myself from time to time over the past dozen years in Pleasant Bay’s pulpit, but I haven’t much. I don’t think this congregation would put up with it for long.
  3. It encourages discussion and questions (learning together). After Sunday’s sermon, I had folks approach me with additional insight. It appears that they know that I’m open to learning with them and interested in their perspectives.
  4. It models learning. It is good that folks come to learn… but it is even better when they go to learn too. Sunday should not be their only source; I want folks to be learning in various ways throughout their weeks.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Don't Hate on the Kiosk

In addition to serving as a pastor and private music teacher, my wife Laurie works a couple of shifts a week, pulling shots at a local Starbucks. Actually… it is a Starbucks kiosk in a Safeway. She wanted to earn a few extra bucks last summer, so she applied for a number of openings and they were the ones that called.

There is a rich coffee culture here in greater Seattle, and there is stratification among the various places one can enjoy the sacred bean.

From my perspective, on the top of the heap, are the local specialty shops; in most cases they roast their own beans… and when they serve a latte there is generally a work of art made with the steamed milk.

My favorites in this category include Storyville, Caffe Ladro, and Zoka.

Then there is Starbucks. Ubiquitous, consistent, and trustworthy… not as fancy as the top-tier places, but one can’t go wrong with Starbucks.

Then there are the kiosks… Starbucks stands found in places like grocery stores and airports. They are not corporate stores; they are mere licensed outlets for the desperate.

Then there are all the others.

I have held a coffee-snob’s attitude about kiosks. I’ve walked right by them (several times) got in my car and then driven to a real Starbucks.

Now I know better. I know that Laurie went through precisely the same rigorous training schedule as all Starbuck’s baristas. The equipment, beans, ingredients, and procedures are all the same. They are audited and supervised for quality like any other Starbucks. In fact, they are doubly scrutinized since in addition to all of the Starbucks inspection, they also are fully managed by Safeway.

It occurs to me that Pleasant Bay Church, since its inception in 2002, has been a sort of kiosk. We started in the chapel on Cedar Park’s campus, and then spent a few years in the chapel on NU’s campus, and now we’re back at Cedar Park. We’re not alone in being a sort of kiosk church. Lots of churches meet in spaces that are primarily something other than their church; sometimes it is another church, or it could be a school, or a theater, or a number of other creative spaces in which to gather and worship.

Just like I didn’t think the Starbuck’s kiosk was a real Starbucks, I know that a lot of folks don’t think a kiosk church is a real church. Maybe we can push the metaphor a bit and learn something; here are a few things that come to mind: 

  1. Be at the right place at the right time. Most often, the best thing about a kiosk is that it is handy. When changing planes, I’ve never given a second thought to taking advantage of a Starbuck’s kiosk; I’m glad to find that cup of coffee right when I need it and where I need it. Kiosk churches need to work hard to make ourselves available. I’ve thought about a physical presence for a church in mall or place of business, but I don’t think that is it (too much like all those empty Christian Science Reading Rooms). For a kiosk church, it is more a matter of habitually finding places to serve in workplaces, markets, places of need, and in the midst of community celebrations.
  2. Don't lower expectations. It didn’t matter that I approached the kiosk with lower expectations; those pulling the shots were intent on making the grade. In fact, now that I know these folks better, these baristas seem to work even harder to exceed expectations (I know for a fact that Laurie has developed some skills, making the best Starbucks latte I’ve ever had). So it is with us in the kiosk church. Even with fewer resources and lacking exclusive use of permanent space, our commitment to excellence must be fierce.
  3. Take advantage of the unique location. Sure, you can get a delicious pastry with your coffee at Starbucks. But can you get a chunk of cheese, or a can of tuna, or a Snickers bar? (You can’t ring out your whole grocery order at a kiosk, but they will let you grab a few things to go with your coffee.) We in the kiosk church can sometimes take advantage of our environs. At NU we would make the cafeteria available for lunch, some used the library, and we even made the University the focus of some of our volunteering. At Cedar Park we find ways to plug in with some of their programs and partner in ministry.
  4. Make it to go. Sure, there may be a few small tables near a coffee kiosk, but a Starbucks kiosk is mostly about taking coffee to go. That is a great thing about a kiosk church; the emphasis must be on faith to go... to go out into our work lives and family lives and rest of our lives away from church.
I’m sure there are other ways to push the metaphor. If you think of some, feel free to add them through the comments here on the blog.