While sitting inside my local Starbucks, sipping on a hot brew of Salted Carmel Mocha, I notice two young men walking in. As they plop themselves down at a table next to me, with cups in hand, they excitedly begin to remind each other of the various things they have to get done while they are there.
As they both reach for their phones to begin cold-calling people, they first start by practicing in front of each other before they begin. Finally ready, one of them makes his first call.
"Hello, I'm calling you to say that it says here that you got baptized this weekend and I just want to celebrate your story with you and see how I can help you with your first steps."
In a somewhat high-fiving fashion they proceed to call the next person on their list with the same greeting.
This is just one of the many types of conversations I have found myself witness to when working at various Starbucks locations.
TAKE, FOR INSTANCE, ANOTHER CONVERSATION … AT STARBUCKS.
Two local pastors, each from different denominations, talking over new changes within the infrastructure of their church staff. As they converse back and forth, one of them shared how he struggled to deal with a recent incident concerning the worship team. It came up that there was a fashion dilemma over the attire worn on stage when leading worship. And yes, skinny jeans became the topic for the few minutes following.
As they commented back and forth, I could hear that they honestly had a great heart for their people while working through the challenges that they both were facing.
Here's the thing. I get it. There is a place for those conversations and I believe we generally mean well, but I think we lack a sense of modesty when speaking (indirectly) while in public about church-related things.
As with any church staff, people in ministry, or Christian businessmen, we have the ability to work off campus or out of office and still maintain the same workload agenda.
Especially in this present generation we literally can work anywhere we desire based on the amount of WiFi consumed as much as the coffee we drink.
This has now become a snapshot of the way we conduct our lives, in various businesses as well as our "get togethers over coffee." We certainly have learned to talk more frequently, more freely, and quite simply—more publicly.
Heck, I too usually end up at either a Starbucks, Caribou or downtown cafe about 4-5 times on any given week. However, as a Christian, I'm just not sure a lot of us are actually thinking about how we verbally conduct our church business outside of the church building.
Even though we Christians have found freedom in expression, I find that we have altered a lingo that fits the current church culture and when spoken outside of that realm we can sound wrought, somewhat insincere, and even maybe a little whack.
By no means am I saying speaking about the things of God is wrong. What I am saying is that to a non-believer, are we really making this an attractive thing or did we just make our testimony harder?
I call this a symptom of "Christianese"—it's the American Christian culture that has latched onto new catch phrases that sum up a thought or idea that gets to the point and, once introduced, it catches on like wildfire within the Christian community and just gets used over and over ... and slowly loses its [original] significance.
The challenge lies when we decide to go to a local cafe to do our work, many Christians seem to loudly express in great detail each others’ inner mishaps or goings-on of a church, or perhaps even their own church, and forget that there are ears that may tune in not just because of volume, but because of the controversy we just spelled out without thinking about it.
If we thought about what we sounded like and could play the tape back, would we be fine with those conversations—making our feelings public knowledge? Or would we more careful to curb how we represent ourselves and, most of all, God?
You don't know how many times I've gotten in the car after a meeting and wanted to hit my head against the steering wheel out of frustration because I didn't hold my tongue or was too colorful and didn't use enough discretion.
When I leave the house or office and hit the road to meet with a client or a contractor, I do anticipate opportunities to share Jesus with someone. To have Christ on [my] lips ... or more importantly, as the Bible says, "to be ready in and out of season" should be guarded as both an honor and [a] responsibility.
SHARING HIS TRUTH AND GRACE CAN BE IMPACTFUL IN MANY WAYS. VERBAL AND NONVERBAL.
In my case, being more on the creative side, words have never been my forte, so I know that when I open my mouth for any duration of time my ability to be clear and concise starts to head North and I start feeling desperate for God’s help. It's just the way I am ... the brunt of many a joke!
I am astounded by co-workers, such as my husband, who can bring people "in" simply by being brilliant and funny. His knack in communicating the hysterical, the deep and spiritual, is a talent I wish I had. So why, you ask, am I the one writing this? Because God has a funny way of working out the "weak" in us.
Take pastors for instance: we all know they have the verbal thing down. They are the Orator for their congregation. The power of their words can literally be the rise or fall of leading a group of people. Communicating is their lifeline to their congregation. But they, too, have to know when, where and how they choose to speak. The way they communicate is just as important as the words themselves.
I guess the more cold and complex the worldview of both "God and Church" gets, the more wisdom is needed to really be effective nowadays. Honestly, I wish we all spoke from the same vocabulary with the same intentions, but we don't live in that type of world.
So as a reminder to both you and I, [architects and designers creating in the house of worship arena], let Jesus be our example. He used His opportunity to speak at just the right time, in just the right place, around the people that God had placed in front of Him.
It has once been said:
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” —Frances of Assisi
So the next time you go grab a cup of coffee with a friend or a client, remember to be salt and a whole lot of Light. The world desperately needs it, and we have it to give.