Summary: What might happen if our church were to follow the Starbucks example and temporarily close its doors to examine the way we follow Jesus?

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Starbucks Opens

A new Starbucks has opened, of all places, at St. Rita’s Medical Center. We had never tasted Starbucks coffee, so last Wednesday we stopped in to see what it was like.

With all the flavors and sizes and prices up on the board, it wasn’t easy to decide what we would order for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. We finally decided to share one tall cup of Carmel Macchiano. (For those who don’t know, tall is the same as small. Larger cups have fancier names.)

As we expected, the baristas were friendly. The service was fast. And, at $3.00 a cup, the coffee was expensive, but it was tasty.

Retraining at Starbucks

You may also have heard that on February 26, Starbucks closed the doors of 7,100 stores for 3.5 hours to re-train their baristas. I read that customers had been complaining about long lines, cluttered menus, and expensive coffees that did not live up to the Starbucks claim of quality. Their new president announced that they want to better focus their efforts on enhancing the coffee-customer experience. He wants baristas to share their passion for making espresso or, as he says, "to pull the perfect shot, steam milk to order and customize their favorite beverage." In other words, he wants them to do even better what they have been doing well.

I don’t know what the results of their retraining will show. Has their service improved? Does their coffee taste better? Are they attracting more customers? Was it worth the effort?

What about the church?

An article in Leadership Journal (Mar. 17, 2008), by Gordon McDonald, asks the question “What might happen if a church were to follow the Starbucks example and temporarily close its doors for similar reasons?” And it got me to thinking. What if we would try that? And why would we do it? Well, for starters:

• Last year, some 200 people attended services at least once, but, as you can see, they didn’t stay. I keep wondering why not?

• If you look at the age groups in our congregation, the group with the smallest number is young adults – people 20-30 years of age. What can we do about it?

• The number of people in Wednesday evening Bible study and in our Sunday school classes has not changed much in the past couple of years. Is there a reason?

So, what if we closed our doors to examine the way we follow Jesus in this congregation?

1. Could we improve the level of hospitality we offer to those inside and outside our group?

2. Are there ways we could show more empathy to those facing challenges?

3. Could we help people strengthen their commitment to marriage and to the building of Christian homes?

4. How can we develop dependence on God instead of on material things?

These are the kinds of issues our scripture from Hebrews raises. And we know that the way we live as a congregation provides the best evidence of our faith.

Church of the Hebrews

For the past month we have been focusing on the book of Hebrews. This letter was written to Jewish Christians to encourage them to renew their resolve to follow Jesus’ way.

These Christians had bumped up against hard times. In 12:12 we read that their hands were drooping and their knees were weak. Their attendance was in a slump (10:25), and they were losing confidence. Some were ready to go back to their old way of Judaism.

But the writer shows them that Christ is greater than angels, stronger than Moses, and more important than the Old Testament prophets and the law.

He urges them to recommit their lives to Jesus, the one who endured the cross and broke through the barriers of sin and death through the resurrection and is now at the right hand of God. As we learned from Colossians last Sunday, we are to live as resurrection people.

And as the preacher in Hebrews comes to the end of his message, in Ch. 13, he reminds them of important principles to live by. Let’s take a closer look at four of them.

Principle 1. Hospitality. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”

In Bible times, hospitality was not just a nice thing to do, it was a sacred duty. In those days, there were no motels or even restaurants. Travelers depended on the hospitality to survive. One can still sense the importance of hospitality in the Middle East. I remember a wonderful meal a family in Bethlehem served us one evening when we visited them in 1989. Nothing was too good for their guests. I recall the generosity of a family in Turkey who invited us into their modest home and served us yogurt from the milk of their own sheep.

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