Starbucks and the Shallow Church

Hang around the internet long enough and you’re bound to see it:  “Jesus is pretty cool… type AMEN! if you agree!”  Of course this is followed by 10,000 people typing “AMEN!”, 150 typing “Amenn” and the occasional “Yes Lord”.  (Sidenote:  My personal hobby is to like every “Amen” on posts of a Christian nature where typing “amen” doesn’t make sense.  “My Pastor preached a good sermon today.  How was church for all of you?”  Response:  “Amen”  Me: *clicks like*.  My theory is that they aren’t paying attention and find themselves typing “Amen” so much that it’s just instinctive on some level.  That little self awareness?  The best.)

It stretches the mind to picture the type of person that comes up with this sort of thing.  What kind of Christian spends their time coming up with some sort of cute picture and the concept of engaging people on a massive scale to type a particular word?  What do they think typing this word will accomplish?  Even more baffling is that people actually respond.

And yet, here we are.  This type of behavior is repeated again and again throughout the inter-webs, particularly on social media.  But more importantly, the shallow and emotional thinking that fuels this phenomena is not limited to  Social Media.  Nor, it seems, is it limited to a particular flavor or genre of Christianity.  It would be nice to sleep comfortably at night knowing that an insignificant portion of Christianity seems content to fish social media for occasions to type the same word.  Sadly, in principle, the practice is systemic to Western Christianity.

Recently, an immature and entirely unhelpful video absolutely exploded across the Christian Social Media landscape.  Some man named Joshua Feuerstein, who for some inexplicable reason has a large Facebook following (he’s famous for being famous), managed to get most of America riled up -one way or another- over the fact that an entirely secular coffee company known to be hostile to Christians with a pagan goddess on their logo didn’t put “Merry Christmas” on their cups.  He also falsely reported that they forbid their employees to say “Merry Christmas” to customers.

Oh the humanity.

The response to this video from our fellow conservative, level-headed, believers was good enough.  We were forced to spend the better part of the week pointing out that the controversy was horribly overblown, that most of us couldn’t care less what Starbucks does with their cups, and that we didn’t know anyone at all that was bothered by Starbucks’ lack of Christmas cheer.

Well, of course that means that no one at all is bothered, right everyone?  Since we don’t personally know anyone, that must mean they are all made up people, right guys?  Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that.

Over 186,000 people liked the video, and over 500,000 people shared it (although some to mock it, I’m sure).  Maybe we don’t know any of them personally, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Who are they?  They’re the same people who go crazy when someone dare suggest that maybe a nation that kills 180,000 children a year may not be One Nation Under God.  The same people who get riled up about Starbucks cups are the same people that think if pagan teachers lead unbelieving public school kids in prayer that our nation would magically improve overnight.  Some of them are keeping John Hagee relevant.  A few are reading Jesus Calling and cheering on Steven Furtick.  And one or two of them get excited when Joel Osteen makes them feel warm and snuggly about themselves.

They’re the underbelly of the church in America, and the biggest problem they have is that they lack depth.

The church at large is squarely to blame for this.  We’ve failed to draw distinct lines on what matters and what doesn’t.  We’ve blurred the distinctions between cultural preference, politics, and definitive Christian Doctrine.  Most of all we’ve spent years making a series of compromises to the point that now many think they’re Christian simply because they claim to be or because they once went to a revival service.  What a tangled web we’ve woven.

The only way to fix it is to stop indulging it.  The response to the Starbucks cups was a good step for the small contingent that took time to refute it, but it is far from the whole picture.  Facebook campaigns, tweets, and blog posts (like this one) are a part of the answer, but are not the entire answer.  Instead, we have to have a Church that seeks as one of its primary goals maturity in its people.  Too long have we been concerned with quantity, we have to now turn our attention to quality.

Two things would help.  First, a clear and uncompromising message within our own walls that God has saved us to be Holy.  Not sinless, not perfect, but holy.  It must be pressed into each person’s thinking that we are not saved to fight culture wars nor to live in comfort.  We’ve been saved to be set apart, to be like our Father in heaven, not like the world around us.  It should be a primary thought for each of us that we care that the sinful world rejects God, but not necessarily how it goes about its rejection.  Certainly a sinful world is more interested in having a pagan goddess on their coffee mugs than a manger scene.  But the point isn’t the goddess nor the manger, it’s why they reject the manger to begin with.  Just as the problem isn’t that pagans don’t pray in school, but rather than they are pagans to begin with.  I harbor no delusions that the world will steadily progress toward holiness (quite the opposite) and therefore I don’t expect much from the sinful fallen world.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care for them, it just means I don’t expect to be liked by them.  Therefore when I am saved, I expect to be a pair of brown shoes in a world full of black tuxedos.  And that’s ok.  God hasn’t called me to be just like them; He’s called me to be just like Him.

Second, we need to recognize that the type of shallowness that gets bent out of shape about the Pledge of Allegiance but yawns about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts stems from churches that seek to entertain, amuse, or soothe rather than convict, exhort, and build up.  Can we please stop calling these places “churches” and rather call them what they are: entertainment?  We all have that Christian in our lives; the one that doesn’t want to go to your church because they feel “more connected” or “less bored” in their current (*cough cough* WORTHLESS *cough*) church.  They like the people, the music is the type they prefer, the pastor preaches by telling jokes.  They’re happy as clams.

It’s time to make some people unhappy, for their own good.  Because a believer going to a church where the shepherd pets their wool and they walk away inspired to do no more than type “amen” is the same type that will have no idea how to tell their Muslim co-worker why they’re worshiping a false god.  It’s the same type of Christian that will tell the local Kingdom Hall missionaries that they “never saw that (heresy) before” in the Bible.  They’re weak, vapid, and salt without flavor; only finding purpose in being trampled upon.  They type amen and sign petitions while the church around them burns.  They may be saved, but it is as one leaping through the flames.

The luxury of having brothers and sisters who are stunted in their growth will soon come to an end in the West; and the less depth we have the quicker this luxury will end.  It is a death spiral of sorts.  What will happen to them?  Either persecution will reveal them to not be brothers and sisters at all, or they’ll have to learn through the school of hard knocks.  If we love them, we should do our best to prepare them now.

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