Adventures in Coffee Shop Ministry

On a Friday afternoon, it is not too unusual to find me sipping on a mocha and doing some last touches to the upcoming sermon at my favorite coffee shop. Those that have known me for a long time know that until now, I wasn’t a regular at coffee shops. For most my life, I have gotten my caffeine fix through Coca Cola- the natural beverage for choice for someone growing up in Atlanta.

My coffee shop expeditions started as a prayer for God to use me for his Glory in our community. This is a way for me to slow down, open my eyes, and welcome embracing whoever’s path would cross mine. Our church launched a new service, whose identity was to simply start doing ministry like Jesus started his ministry. The inspiration for this service comes from Mark 2:15:

“And as he reclined at table in [Levi’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples”  ESV

In short, Jesus took time to eat and fellowship with those who were lost and in need of God’s love. As I look at today’s world, it strikes me that there are a lot of people who are lost and in need of God’s love. Thus, the inspiration for our new service, Table 2:15, came about.

The challenge has been for us to start doing ministry like Jesus started his; going out to eat and engaging whoever we come across: servers, owners, and regular patrons. Or, in my case: baristas and coffee connoisseurs.

On this particular Friday, it had been a while since I had last visited. I remember walking into the shop a little convicted that I had let the busyness of life trump my intentional mission time to our community. I was also feeling convicted because the last time I had been to the shop, God had done some powerful stuff in a few conversations.  Since it had been a few weeks, would people wonder what happened to the pastor? I entered the shop in focused prayer, asking God to use these next few hours however he would like.

I walked in and was greeted by the barista, “Hey stranger, I haven’t seen you in a while!” I tried to deflect the comment best I could and I noticed that there were a few people in the coffee shop today. I set my stuff down, ordered my mocha, and tried to join the already ongoing conversation.

The people that were there that day were fairly regular but unknown to me. However, they obviously knew each other. They carried on quite a lively conversation and I tried to interject a few times but I could tell I wasn’t quite welcome yet.

So I sat… and sat… and continued to sit and pray, “Lord this is your time, use it as you will.”

Of course, when you pray this, you might as well redeem the time while you wait. So while I waited, I jumped on social media and began encouraging some friends from the past.

Every now and then, I’d look up and try to join a conversation, but it each instance was short lived.

So the clock ticked on and I found my time had run out. I packed my belongings and thanked God for the opportunity to be here today and to bless any passing comments that might plant a seed. To be honest, there was a part of me that was hoping for God to do something that day, and despite my best effort not to feel this way, I still felt disappointed that it was pretty much felt like nothing more than a 2hour coffee and social media break.

As I got up and threw my cup away, I addressed the barista by name, “It was good to see you again.”

Barista- “Good to see you again too.”

Me- “How is your friend?”

On a previous Friday visit, I had gotten to know a young man as well as this barista.

Barista- “you mean <name>?  Oh thanks for asking.  He’s….”

I begin to hear the ongoing life events of this young man and realized continual prayer for him would be a good thing.

Me- “Well I have been faithful in what I mentioned last time when we talked.”

I had previously mentioned that I would pray for them both and some of their situations they shared with me.  At this point of my life, I’ve been in the church for a while and have mentioned to many people that I would pray for them or had been praying for them. Normally, there is a deep appreciation, but seldom do I get a response like the one I received this day.

The barista’s face is difficult to put into words. It was as if surprise, heartache, thankfulness, and the deep realization that someone actually cares all happened at the same time. A little chocked up, she managed to say,

“Thank you.”

As I left in my car that day, I remember meditating on how powerful and simple ministry can be. And since then, I have thought to myself, I wonder if the people Jesus sat at the table with ever had the same expression as this barista. Indeed, sometimes we make being a witness more difficult than what it really is:

Small moments of connection, done faithfully over time.

&

Small acts of faithfulness, done in the context of connection.

That’s what sitting at the Table is all about. May God continue to bless us in those moments we make space to encounter another.

Grace and Peace,

Jonathan Mann

One thought on “Adventures in Coffee Shop Ministry

  1. Jeannie says:

    I can understand the feeling of being discouraged when we don’t feel that we’ve made a difference. But, you’ve illustrated how the effort isn’t always so obvious. It is the duty of a Christian to show the love of God through all actions. Sometimes, you won’t even know the difference you have made. Even if we feel, “Well, I’m not doing anything special…” But, it is. A couple of weeks ago, I was having a really bad day at work. I was very disouraged in the way people were behaving, and felt the whole world was self-centered. Moments after such an encounter, a gentleman who didn’t even know how I was feeling, made an effort to hold open the door for me. This was a very simple action, but it was HUGE for me, and turned my day around. So, my point is this, some days there will be that opportunity to preach to the masses and convert. Some days, as you said, you may be planting seeds. Still, other days, you won’t even know the massive influence you have had by just doing what comes natually. Not all dramatic changes are caused by an extensive encounter.

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