Monday, May 4, 2009

#79 Coffeehouses



Christian culture enjoys coffeehouse culture and likes to open coffeehouses as a way to minister to the populace by providing a place to convene. Sometimes this is described as "outreach" to the "community."

The Christian coffeehouse can first be identified by its name. Their names are always either

1. a play on a Biblical phrase (The Upper Room, Daniel's Den, Jehovah Java)

2. a more subversive spiritual reference (Higher Grounds, Holy Grounds, He-Brew)

or

3. void of any Bible connotation to make non-believers feel welcome, but still have that community-seeking tone that may alert you to Christian beverages lurking inside (Common Grounds, The Crossroads, The Loft).


Upon entering the Christian coffeeshop you will notice that the baristas are especially perky (haha) and that Christian music is playing (this includes Coldplay). Besides these two key indicators, there is not usually a great deal of religious overtone except for perhaps a stray Bible or the latest Focus on the Family mailout lying around. If these factors have not yet tipped you off, note that the drink sizes are probably tall, grande and Goliath, and there is also a message on a chalkboard about their book club. (They are currently reading The Shack. All are welcome!) The coffeehouse also hosts musical guests and said chalkboard announces the upcoming musicians as well. Their musical guests will appear very similar to these four examples.


Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:
Exhibit C:


Exhibit D:


When a Christian coffeehouse is not handy, Christians sometimes convene in Starbucks for bible studies and quiet times, sometimes thinking that a witnessing opportunity may arise. Students at Christian universities and Christian students at "secular" universities also use Starbucks and the like for witnessing stakeouts. They study there and hope someone asks them about their copy of Passion & Purity, Velvet Elvis or Blue Like Jazz that's lying among their textbooks.


In addition to the potential for outreach, coffee addiction may be one of the few things Christian culture feels it is allowed to have in common with non-Christians. Pastors like to mention their need for espresso in their sermons or in their blogs, and they like to specify the number of shots they order. These pastors (along with worship leaders, deacons, aspiring deacons, homeschooling moms and bros in Christian solidarity) enjoy talking about their reliance on caffeine, often on facebook and twitter. They would not talk as enthusiastically about any other addictive stimulant, but for some reason this one gets a pass.


*It is worth noting that pastors who identify themselves as part of the relevant/resurgent/emergent epidemic are 72% more likely to mention coffee in their blogs or sermons and/or preach with it prominently displayed nearby.

38 comments:

Magnus said...

Zoinks! I had forgotten about Christian Coffee Houses, the last one I can recall was in Surrey, BC but it died by 1994 or 1995.

David said...

Heh, heh... the relevant/resurgent/emergent epidemic. "Epidemic" indeed.

And yeah, if one of these annoying preachers was going on & on about his addiction to bennies, I doubt he'd get a pass :D

Mon said...

Really? Where do these holy venues typically exist? I'm from San Francisco, so I'm assuming they wouldn't be here. We typically have pagan-like coffee houses featuring heavily tattooed and/or pierced baristas with a plethora of ads featuring various alternative therapy services on the bulletins... oh, and copious amounts of leftist political tagging in the bathrooms.

Or is it the case that I've inadvertently stepped into one without recognizing (the now seemingly) obviously signs? I feel so taken!

Last question: Do these differ from the phenomenon of the after-worship coffee offered in some sort of adjacent hall? If so, how?

stephy said...

I've never seen one IN San Francisco but there are plenty in the East Bay. You may have inadvertently stepped into one before but don't feel bad. :) These do differ profoundly from the coffee offered in the adjacent hall (frequently called the 'narthex') after the service. These coffeehouses are free-standing and operate as a full-on business where you pay and tip and stuff. Some warehouses churches have espresso stands in their lobbies that are run by the church but they also require money, not like the free drip coffee post-service.
I hope this helps. Don't feel guilty or taken, just recognize the warning signs for next time. :)

stanford said...

On as serious note (is that allowed :) )…I think most full time Christian workers feel a persistent weight of guilt about getting paid by the church and are constantly trying to prove their value. Being conspicuously ‘into’ coffee is a way of saying, ‘see, I work so hard that I exceed the capacity of my normal, God ordained, body rhythms, such that I need an inordinate amount of legal and socially sanctioned stimulant. See, really, I’m worth the money.’

Of course, this is not a Christian phenomena. You see it in the cube farm all the time as well. Being really ‘into’ coffee is a way of saying ‘I work really hard, please notice’ without the total tact FAIL of actually saying it.

Still Breathing said...

The Christian fixation with coffee goes back a long way - JS Bach wrote a cantata in praise of coffee!

Paul Wilkinson said...

This is where we have a total edge on the Mormons, who can't drink coffee.

Bebe said...

And coffee is the only beverage given a dispensation by a Pope!

David said...

Ahhh yes, coffee in the Narthex. In the Episcopal Church, we refer to it as "The Eighth Sacrament" :D

And kudos for Still Breathing's mention of Bach's Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht ("Be still, stop chattering"), BWV 211 - also known as The Coffee Cantata.

rugger341 said...

Great stuff as usual. I love the band featuring the dude with the Jimbae (sp?) drum, so typical. It's funny, at my church, we started a men's group that met at a coffee house. We had few guys showing up but people eventually lost interest. Then some of us began a "secret" meeting at a bar to have a few beers together. We never announced it in the church, one guy would casually mention it to another "believer." Before you knew it we had to many people to facilitate any good discussion. Now there are multiple "secret" meetings per week. It was amazing to me how many guys wanted a place within the church where they could act like men. So counter to the coffee house, jimbae drum culture we are told we have to embrace.---Dave

stephy said...

Dave, that's awesome. It's an interesting taboo churches/Christians have (esp. in the bible belt) about bars and drinking. The deacons at my southern baptist church growing up had signed a contract never to ever drink or it was grounds for dismissal! Yet many of them would roll off to the Sizzler to clog their arteries or they'd have their addiction to caffeine, just stuff like that. Silly what is taboo and what isn't. Which I guess is the point of my blog. Digression there.
When my husband went to seminary in British Columbia he couldn't believe that they held some classes in pubs. :)

Magnus said...

For Paul Wilkinson - Too bad your last name wasn't two letters shorter. This link is for you (or just go to youtube and look up Wilkins coffee) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ky7g1lgTwc&feature=related

John Simmons said...

HA! This is flawless. I work at a church coffee house in Houston.

Anonymous said...

"Some warehouses churches have espresso stands in their lobbies that are run by the church but they also require money"

Stephy:

Slight correction: The espresso and drip coffee in "The Commons" at the Mars Hill (warehouse) Church in Seattle is free. Donations accepted, of course.

stephy said...

Anonymous, I said "some" warehouse churches. :)

Here is an interesting site about Mars Hill church.
http://freedom4captives.wordpress.com/

Seth said...

Yes, coffee houses are in vogue, but it's a good concept that gets closer to being incarnational and provides a means where dialogue can take place. Whether it does depends on the coffee house and those that run it.

We run a coffee house in Fort Collins (everydayjoes.org) that runs full time, where we don't play much Christian music, where we don't consider ourselves a Christian coffee house, but rather, a coffee house run by Christians. We are affiliated with a church, which meets in the coffee house on Sundays. We try to not so much do 'ministry' as build relationships with people, musicians, etc. Granted, I agree with Rich Mullins that ministry is an accident of being alive for a Christian.

anicia said...

Sooo true.

Cafe Mocha Momma said...

Just an idea, but perhaps the coffee addiction is a little less debilitating than alcoholism. You don't hear very often about a marriage going up in smoke, a career going down the tubes, or children being abused because the coffee pot is empty.

Roman de la rose and Pygmalion said...

"You don't hear very often about a marriage going up in smoke, a career going down the tubes, or children being abused because the coffee pot is empty."

Obviously you haven't met my future mother-in-law.

Anonymous said...

legalism has not died-i suppose you've visted every coffee house where christians gather-just because you are not effective in these venues, should not cause you to attack those who share the gospel in any and all niches.

my girl hazel said...

I cannot count the number of Christian Coffee Houses Trey played when he was touring with Velour100 and Pedro the Lion...they all merged together as one.

stephy said...

Those are unusually good acts for such venues.

georgeluke said...

In the UK where I live, some Christians have taken to calling Starbucks "St. Arbucks".

Manveri said...

I have to say, I was rather surprised to see you take a poke at _Velvet Elvis_ and _Blue Like Jazz_...despite their being popular in church these days, the actual content seems like the kind of thing you'd go for, based on what I see in this blog!

stephy said...

Hmm, that wasn't a poke. It's just what they read. In coffeehouses.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Did you mean "worth nothing" or "worth noting" in that footnote?

stephy said...

Whoops I meant worth noting. Thanks, I just fixed it!

Anonymous said...

The only coffee shop in my small-town Midwestern city is one of these. It's also the hippest location around. As a coffee-drinker and atheist I am eternally conflicted.

Patrick said...

The one in my town only plays contemporary christian...Luckily, I am not a coffee drinker and have very little excuse to go in. A couple of excuses I do have: awesome desserts and friends that hang out there.

Oh Happy Day! said...

I personally don't think that the idea of a Christian coffee house...or whatever is particularly 'evil'. I mean my university in England has a CU-organised afternoon cafe & every Friday some of the folks also provide hot drinks to drunk students (an opportunity to show God in a practical way).

However, the thing is that some of the students have also become equipped/trained in supernatural evangelism...which makes it easier to reach out to other students by praying for them (and also seeing people healed, delivered, restored)...= Treasure Hunting!

Babba-Gi said...

Usually you can tell a Christian Coffee House by the sign on the door that says "Out Of Business". It's hard to stay open when your patrons buy a two dollar cup of regular coffee and park their butt in a booth for 2 hours engrossed in an in depth study of Philemon. The only thing that's emptier than the register is the tip jar.
Babba

Rich E said...

St Arbucks, I thought we were talking about christians ? I did go to some cool coffee houses in the earaly nineties, not that many around now ???

Anonymous said...

Okay,Your are going to blast me on here,that's fine. I'm leaving in 20 minutes to investigate Christian Coffee Shops. I typed in Christian Coffee House in Ohio and this site came up. I'm starting to feel lame,as a Christian I want people to feel welcome not welcome. I'm truly sorry that we have given the impression we are ramming our beliefs on anyone who doesn't believe the way we do. But to quote Penn Jillette If I knew a truck was about to run you over(meaning hell) and I didn't jump in your way to rescue you how bad would I have to hate you?

stephy said...

What's the name of the coffeehouse you're going to? :)

Anonymous said...

We called it Christian Crack in (Chrisitan) College.

immabum said...

Hey! The Loft is a Hawaiian restaurant here in my hometown! It has some pretty good food. :)

Roger said...

They're still out there! There is a good Christian CoffeeHouse in Lutz, Fl . called Organic Life and another in Lacoochee, Fl. called Christian Edge. We've been running the Christian Edge for 9 years and our problem is we would like to attract non-Christians, but like so many have said in their posts, with the name "Christian Edge" that's a red flag for some. We considered just calling it The Edge, but thought that would be deceptive, and we don't want to pull a "bait & switch" on people. That just ticks some people off. We're still searching for that combination of what people crave: a quiet, safe place to go to hear live music without offensive language, and also a place where you can meet people without having to go to a bar to meet them. We try real hard to not get "churchy." ChristianEdge.org

Anonymous said...

I know it's a cliche, but the more things change, the more they remain the same. Christian coffeehouses have been around since the early 70s at least, and have existed continuously in at least some venues ever since.