Would St. Paul Work at Starbucks? Going Where the People Are

by Dave Ficken

Living with the Gospel in church is often comfortable. But in an age when people no longer come to the church, the church has to go to the people.

Living with the Gospel in the secular world can be uncomfortable. What if I don’t know the answer someone’s question? What if they find out things about me that I don’t want them to know? What if I get really angry with them?

Questions bring uncertainty and uncertainty is uncomfortable. And no one likes to be uncomfortable.

Since I began work at Starbucks more than a year ago, there a few things that I have learned about living with the Gospel in a secular setting. (See “From Seminary to Starbucks–and Beyond” in the print edition of the May Lutheran Witness.) But I have also learned there is an underlying concept at the bottom of every conversation and situation: People who hold “secular” or non-Christian beliefs have a different way of thinking. Their source of truth is different. The lens through which they see life is different from the lens through which we as Christians see life.

For example, in a conversation with one of my co-workers, we were trying to understand how and why we believe what we believe. How could she believe something so different from me? How could I believe something so different from her? Eventually, we figured out that we both had a different way of interpreting life and spirituality. So when you have a conversation with someone who does not believe in the same things you do, it is essential to understand that each of you looks at the world through different lenses, different understandings of truth.

In a sense, we are all like St. Paul today. Yes, he spoke in synagogues. But he also spoke in homes, in marketplaces, in places for public debate, in jail, before kings and emperors, and on the road. We may not be called upon to speak at the Areopagus in Athens, as Paul did, but we can witness to the Good News of Jesus whenever the Holy Spirit gives us the opportunity, whether at work, at school, over dinner with friends and neighbors–or at our local coffee shop or brew pub.

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