The International First United Church of Starbucks

Posted: December 3, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’ve resisted posting this for awhile  because I know it may be a bit controversial.  It was a little teeth-clinchy for me to watch, but it really is an intriguing “parable”.  I think it’s beneficial to know that the marketing firm that created it is run by people who really love Jesus and who want to help churches understand the ways we tend to get exclusive in our thoughts, words and actions.  So, since my head is already chock full o’ my own thoughts – I REEEEEALLLY wanna hear yours!  Here you go:

Coffee is good.  All the time!


  1. Jen Hoffmann says:

    Huh. I don’t really get it.

    It’s bad to say “God is good all the time” when you’re at church? If that’s the case then I probably better stop saying, “you SO Rock” when I’m around my teenagers and “Livin’ the Dream” when I’m having a good day at work…

    I don’t know if I think the thing is controversial as much as I think it’s message falls far short of the real issue. Church’s shouldn’t be “marketing” in the sense that American businesses “market” their products. That’s not what this thing is about. We don’t have a product to sell. We have friends to wrap our hearts around, broken hearts to bind up, poor and hungry children to feed, captives to free. If they had used the analogy to make that point it would have been funny and poignant and worth their effort, I think. But this way…I guess I don’t really get it.

  2. bolovesjoe says:

    I like your insight, Jen…and also I’m wondering how long it’s been since I’ve said Livin’ the Dream in reference to work. I usually use that term in reference to laundry. 🙂

  3. Anne says:

    I think they are turning the ‘marketing’ of the church into an absurdity to show just how ridiculous ‘church marketing’ can become. It’s easy to lose the focus of the main thing and that people don’t necessarily want a ‘half caf venti non fat triple sugar free caramel white chocolate mocha no foam double whipped cream with sprinkles on top’ church, but a ‘I’ll have grande coffee with room for cream’ place to worship God.

  4. Whitney says:

    I just hope that I can plant a bean today.

  5. Karen says:

    I think some of us cannot view the video….or is it just me. I’ve tried both via IE and Firefox and I can see that there is a UTube video but it’s blocked….

  6. Karen says:

    Wow! I came back and the video is uploaded. Very cool Bo. Having worked on both sides of the “seeker friendly” issue for years I think this video makes some important points. We don’t have to water down the message but we do have to be open and inclusive. It’s so easy to get comfortable, talk to the people in our circle on Sunday morning, and have a club mentality. I try to look at things from a newcomer’s point of view but after a while that can be hard. Cliches creep in, and we make assumptions based on our knowledge of the culture of our church.

  7. Jen Hoffmann says:

    But are we supposed to make church “easy” for newcomers? I joined the Homeless Leadership Coalition 3 years ago and go to their meetings once a month. These are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, but they use acronyms like a 13 year old girl uses text speak…”roglol bff. lets f2f 2day!” I still can’t keep up and this is 3 years of working with them…COVO, PHC, COIC, DCCF, BAHFH (these are just the ones I know and can think of).
    I started working in the school district this year and I have to try to figure out what they mean by “the new math adoption”, a “PBS assembly”, and “Don’t use the laminator unless the clippy things are attached to the back or Deb will kill you!”. Wherever we go, whatever we do as newcomers, there is going to be a learning curve, a finding your place, and is that such a bad thing? Yes we have circles of friends that we’re excited to see on Sunday morning and maybe that makes newcomers feel left out. Or maybe it makes them feel like they came to a place where people really like each other. Yes, we know what is meant when the speaker uses words like “Covenant” and “Sanctification” and maybe that turns off newcomers, or maybe it intrigues them because they see that there is some meat to this thing…something to learn.

    Jesus told his masses of followers they would have to drink his blood and eat his body or they’d have no part of him and on that day, masses of followers went home and followed him no more, but he didn’t stress about it, because his mission wasn’t to keep people hanging around to hear his words. His mission was to bring His kingdom and He knew not everyone would dig the way he did it. We HAVE to always remember what the whole point is of this church thing is…and unfortunately, the whole point isn’t to make newcomers comfortable on Sunday morning.

    (I will add the disclaimer: Of course, if we’re doing a good job of the mission we’re “supposed” to be on, newcomers will feel welcomed and loved most of the time and if they don’t we might not be loving Christ the way we ought to…but that is the point. How is our love for Christ expressing itself…not How are newcomers feeling in your church.)

  8. Katie says:

    Wow, I have just so many comments. But I think I will save them and sum up my feelings for it with praise:


  9. Joe says:

    I know of a few Pastors who have read “The Starbucks Experience” and ended up taking a lot of what they learned from the book and applied it to their assimilation and first impressions ministries. Although I don’t think the video gives an accurate view of every church in America, I do believe it gives us the harsh reality that some churches just don’t “have it all together”. Whatever that may mean…

    Is it possible that the right question to ask is, “What if The Church marketed like Starbucks?”

  10. bolovesjoe says:

    Here’s my very raw and continually evolving theory on church: you can say just about whatever you want to say, and you can say it in just about whatever language you want to say it…as long as people – seeker or otherwise – feel truly and genuinely loved. People can handle hard truth and high expectations if they also know that they are part of an authentic and caring community…in fact, I think they welcome exactly those things. I don’t think the American church (in general – there are certainly many exceptions) needs to work more on marketing…I think it needs to work more on emulating the person and purpose of Jesus Christ (which is coincidentally also what I need to work on) because that’s the right formula for making Him happy. If our churches grow as well…fantastic. I don’t think being seeker sensitive is about our phrases or banners or visitor gifts…I think it’s about the authenticity of our love at a I John 3:16 level.

    And Jen – I just loved the laminator sentence so much and feel that there’s been a sentence like that in every job I’ve ever had…though I think it usually had something to do with the photocopy machine (and I have photocopier phobia to this day because of it.)

  11. Ann Dunagan says:

    Hi Bo!

    As I was watching this video clip in our living room, the whole family gathered around me. Jon enjoyed the parable, and got a “kick” out of the message behind it, and so did I.

    I’m sure that the people who made this weren’t trying to be controversial or mean, they’re just trying to open our eyes to seeing our church culture from an outside point of view. As Christians, we need to be aware of what it would feels like for a non-believer or a visitor to take that step to come to church. For many, it’s a biggie. But they can enjoy the life and the difference from the very first time. And no, we’re not “selling” something to make others feel comfortable; and we don’t want our church fellowship to be just like some seeker-friendly atmosphere; but at the same time, the Bible doesn’t necessary tell us to do all those American-churchy-culture things we do and say either. We need to be real. And our walk with Jesus should look “real” both inside and outside the church.

    I read this one statement on a friend’s blog. Her son is in Jordan, and he shared some insights he heard in a Jordanian lecture about Christianity. I thought this insight (from this Jordanian point of view) was fascinating:

    “It is often difficult for the church in the West to remember that Christianity started in the Middle East as a relationship; it moved to Europe and became an organization [Catholicism]; it moved to America and became a business; it moved to Africa and became music. Unless we remember and understand that the culture of Christianity was and is meant to be based on relationships, the Middle East will remain gripped by Islam. Christianity will remain as foreign as the cultures bringing it.”

    Back to me: Christianity is not a business, so we shouldn’t be “marketing” as such. But we do have a real relationship that we need to share. I Praise God that our Lord Jesus is not just a part of our American culture. He’s God. He’s the almighty God of the universe. And He’s real.

    Love you!

  12. bolovesjoe says:

    Addendum (man, this subject is multi-layered, isn’t it?): I do think that the stuff we do in church can serve or detract from how we demonstrate how much we care for those who are there. In other words, I don’t want to downplay the importance of all the emails I get at work that say: “PLEASE park across the street at the medical office so people who are visiting don’t have to walk three miles to get to the front door…because they won’t. They’ll drive through the parking lot, wave at our cheery parking people, and go to breakfast instead.” I’m really glad that we are trying to be intentional in the way we care for those who come to find help and hope from our wonderfully big God…so that they don’t miss their chance to experience Him because of something silly. And so that we don’t give the enemy a chance to keep someone who’s already wary, away from Jesus.

  13. Wow…I don’t even know where to start…I actually think the video is hysterical…is that okay?!

    Partly it could be that I am now in a new church preceded by the dreaded “church hunt”…so I have experienced walking through the doors of several churches over the last year…and I can echo the scary factor…I would always be one part excitement…one part nauseous. We Christians are strange aren’t we…we sing that they will know that we are Christians by our love but someone new might not ever feel any true authentic love…they may get stern faces if you happen to sit in “their pew”…or a loud sigh if your child speaks too loudly.

    Carl and I were greeters for years…we loved this ministry…it is a valid ministry…but we always found it an amusing blend of reactions…some people don’t want to make eye contact or have any physical contact and they can be people that you know…and there are those that you don’t know who either look really uncomfortable or so relieved to see a friendly face that may have a few vital pieces of information. We didn’t have a problem leaving our “post” to take someone to find a room, the nursery, whatever…church can feel so overwhelming and lonely.

    When Caleb was dedicated, we invited a special family to come to church that morning…the husband grew up with a Baptist father and the wife grew up in Holland and had a really hard experience in the Catholic church…they have really rejected church. After the service, we had a brunch at our home and both of them kept shaking their heads and saying how surprised they were that there was so much joy in the service. Doesn’t that just break your heart…what does the world see in us…or what don’t they see?

    I don’t know what the answer is…somewhere in casting vision but not being so overcome by it that we lose the intent…to reveal Jesus to this hurting and desperate world.

    We are at a church that I would never have imagined…the specific words that I felt we were led to look for were…friendly…authentic…humble…Word focused…Word-led…back to basics.

    There is nothing slick about this church at all and some would be “appalled” by the lack of musicianship and other aspects that are by a perfection standard are far from that…but I can’t escape the genuine seeking hearts that are there…I can’t escape the tender heart of Jesus that I am embraced with each week. And finally I feel healed that I can escape trying to fit an ideal and just be free in Christ.

    I could go on but I have a little boy that would not enjoy being the last one to be picked up…because in a 5 year old’s mind it is all about being first…ha.

    Very thought provoking video Bo.

    P.S. I am not saying “slick” is bad or wrong…

    The views of this comment are not necessarily the views of the author of this blog…; )

  14. Oh dear Bo…I wrote a blog post…sorry!

  15. Whitney says:

    I’ll be journaling my thoughts and sending them out in a direct mailer if you don’t mind…

  16. I can’t watch the video because I haven’t hooked my speakers up to my computer (yes I COULD go under my desk and plug them in.. but I haven’t….)
    mostly I just wanted to comment on the fact that as of 7:56pm you have FIFTEEN comments on this post.
    if you could actually just start blogging for my real estate website maybe I could get some traffic to it… there might be some free coffee in if for ya… huh? huh? what do ya say?

  17. Helen says:

    Hi Bo. I saw this video on Beth’s blog a couple of weeks ago and loved it. I loved it because it pointed out some of the cliqueish things we do without meaning to. “If this is your first time at Starbucks, raise your hand.” I mean, who would go to Starbucks if they were singled out in front of everyone? We mean to be welcoming, but it doesn’t come out that way. We can’t erase every thing we do that might seem exclusive (“God is good!” “All the time”) because the community needs to be strengthened and uplifted, but if we are aware of how the newcomers may feel, we can be sensitive.
    Jen, I know you mean well, but I don’t think we can compare making new comers stand up and such with John 6. John 6 is about accepting Jesus in His entirety, not about accepting cliqueishness among believers. I think your point is that as believers, we need to accept each other’s foibles, which is true. We do need to be charitable to our brothers and sisters in Christ. But that does include the newcomer as well as the well established members.

  18. Jen Hoffmann says:

    LOVE that Jordanian quote Anne Dunnagan! Beautiful.

  19. bolovesjoe says:

    Me too, Ann Dunagan! That quote gave me chills.

    Also – Whit, you’re a funny girl.

    Kristin – get your speakers hooked up!

  20. Susan from Nebraska says:

    I had the best laugh of the day when I read Whitney’s comment about “journaling and sending our a mailer”!! I have lived in church all my life so seeing things thru the eyes of the non-churched is good for me. I remember one day when I was the non-coffeed – so to speak – and my sister-in-law took me to buy my first latte. It was definitely an experience and I did feel kind of silly and illiterate because of my lack of knowledge in the field of coffee-and I thought I was a coffee drinker already. But the more I went to those coffee shops, the more I got used to the lingo and the experience itself kept drawing me back. The experience was one of belonging and gaining knowledge I knew I wanted to gain. Now, over the years, I need to thank my sister-in-law for exposing me to the life of a REAL coffee drinker. My life has changed and I will never be the same or settle for the “Maxwell House” life again. I need the “Starbucks” life and more of it!!!! Thank you Bo!

  21. bolovesjoe says:

    Ha! Susan, I totally remember those days as well! It’s funny to think back on that very first coffee shop that bravely opened in Lincoln….and closed a few months later. Nebraskans just weren’t ready to be caffeinated yet. 🙂 I’m glad you have PLENTY to choose from now.

  22. Michelle Herrera says:

    Pure genius.

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