“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coffee worship

Often when I go to church, I notice that people take a cup of coffee into the worship service. Now I don't really care whether or not they do that. I was at a church recently, where I bet 10-15% of the congregation were drinking coffee during the "worship" service. Not very many people, but enough that you would notice it.

But, I have often wondered about what worship is perhaps because of how I see it expressed in churches. Singing songs is worship. Singing songs with a cup of coffee in your hands is also worship, I guess, because churches serve coffee to worshippers and don't discourage coffee drinking during the service. So the expectation is that Christians, for whatever reason, cannot do without coffee for an hour in order to be totally focussed on worship to the God they claim to have dedicated their lives to.

You can search this blog and see my questions about worship in terms of what it is or isn't. The thing that disturbs me is not that practitioners like me might be confused, but rather that those in leadership apparently are confused. I guess I could wash people's feed with a latte in my hand or serve the poor, or work with the homeless all while I am sipping my coffee. Imagine standing before a judge or meeting with an important person like the president and walking in with a coffee cup in your hand. That would be considered disrespectful because it in some ways trivializes the interaction. But imagine even more if those in leadership encouraged you to do so. In relationship to worship, that tells me a great deal about who they think God is. God is trivial, not to be taken entirely seriously. "Go ahead and have your coffee while you worship the God of the universe."

This absolutely corresponds to my responsibility to my neighbor, by the way. If worship is trivialized, where I need not respect God, why should I not also trivialize the needs of my neighbor, or ignore them for that matter? This is further evidence of the Christian church's malaise. Muslims pray to Mecca repeatedly in a totally humbling position. Other faiths go through rigorous preparations in order to even enter the presence of their gods.

But hey, for Christians worship is really no big deal. Grab a latte and while you are sipping it, maybe give God a nod because it will make him happy. He likes it when people take a few seconds from their totally self absorbed lives to notice him during the worship service. Are we really so damned dependent on coffee that we can't leave it alone for just one hour a week in order to give God, the respect he deserves? I guess I actually do care...



Mike Dorn said...

Luckily, I've never been to one of those coffee-sipping church services. Unitarians make a big point of saying that the coffee follows the service. But as Unitarians, they expect the coffee to be REALLY GOOD.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. We don't see entirely eye-to-eye on this. Perhaps some of the congregants are self-medicating? Best, MD

Anonymous said...

You've got my vote on this one, Jeff. I totally agree. And I LOVE my coffee... I just think it's irrelevant when entering the presence of our holy God in the company of other believers. We need to get over ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I think that church has become the next starbucks. People do not respect church the way that they should. I agree with you fully on the fact that people do not respect God enough to put down their cup of coffee and give God the time that he deserves, he only created you. I think that church has become this way because churches want people to come, so they want to cater to people as best as they canto get them to be pleased. Church is early in the morning on a Sunday and that is people’s weekend, so they do everything to get them there early, so why not sell coffee, food, and lounge at church? I do not think that church should be like that. I grew up in a church where only water was aloud in service because we respected the church building because it was God's and now churches have concrete floors with stadium recliner seating and coffee cup holders. It is shocking that people will respect the law of the land, but do not respect God and his law because it is not that important to them. I agree that the Christian church is malaise because other religions have very strict rules, but Christianity is lax. I find it funny how churches are trying to accommodate to people to get them to come to church, but when it comes to people with disabilities the church does not accommodate.

Anonymous said...

Your coffee issue hits home. Like you, it is these “little things” that lately stand out to me on Sunday Service. Let me just name a few here: there are the clothing issues: those who dress so ‘creatively’ they seem dressed for a nightclub, or those on the other side of the spectrum that look as though they just rolled out of bed; or how about the parents who allow their children to come to service with toys and snacks; or just let them run all over the church while the readings are still being read? I know I was never allowed to bring my favorite doll or that last bit of chips I didn’t finish for lunch when I went to service. Furthermore, I never dared move out of my seat and you know the amazing thing was? While I may have been bored out of my mind sitting there, I did not starve to death. Moreover, I learned self control. It was ingrained in me that Sunday service was not about me, but about God. Lately I’ve wondered if I have become old fashioned or if I’m just missing the point? The more I think about it though, the more I am convinced that like your observation with the whole “coffee to church thing”, it is these types of behavior that makes you wonder how self absorbed we really are (society as a whole) and begs the question are we attending service as an obligation or as a belief?

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, after visiting a different church with a friend, my fiancĂ© informed me that he would like to start going to his friend’s church instead of ours. I was speechless when he explained the reason was so he could sit outside, watch the service on a big screen, and drink his favorite Starbucks blend. For a cup of coffee, he was willing to leave the church that brought us both to the Lord. I realize that the purpose for the outdoor seating was to accommodate the congregation overflow, but many chose this option just so they could drink their coffee during worship. Anytime that I have spoken out about this issue, I seem to get the same response – “Well, whatever gets them in the door!” My Pastor said something one Sunday that has always stuck in my head. He was talking about the things that are now acceptable in the church, and how these changes can actually distract us from our worship. He was mainly referring to the dress that is now acceptable in most churches. He said that when you dress for church, you should always dress the best you possibly can because you are going to see the King! A pair of jeans and sneakers might be the best someone has to wear, and that is fine. However, if you have better, you should wear better. The same goes for drinking coffee during service. You are at church to praise and worship the King, and I believe He deserves our undivided attention.

Qatar Qamel's travels said...

This reminds me of a friend who took lessons with a member of one of the top orchestras in the country. The teacher taught a long day and didn't schedule a lunch break so usually ate lunch during lessons. It was a really great day for my friend when he finished a lesson and teacher hadn't eaten his lunch. The point was that he'd played so well that the teacher gave his undivided attention to him. The lunch was distracting the teacher from the student and the student knew it.

We are disrespectful when we let anything divide our attention from others and it seems that we should be all the more aware of our respect for our Heavenly Father.

It's important to decide the purpose of a worship service. I think many see it as "church" which can happen with no worship at all. In that sense, who cares about coffee? But if it's adoration of the Most High, how could anything distract? The Glory of God properly understood makes everything earthly pale by comparison.

Anna said...

I enjoyed this post! Imagine my horror, the FIRST Sunday in our new sanctuary, I pick up my cloth purse and think to myself, "wow its so humid. The handle even feels a bit damp." I set my purse in my lap on my white dress pants to find my purse is SATURATED with someone elses latte. Now my lap, and everything inside my purse is too. I was so thankful it was the end of service because I know I wouldnt have been able to worship with my whole heart with someone elses latte on my lap.

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree more with your reaction to the Coffee worshippers. This is an arising issue with this generation, and the times advancing.

Unfortunately, I only predict that this lack of reverence issue will only continue to get worse.
I am so bothered lately by the avid iphone users in church. They pull up the Bible either online or by some app on their phone, and it drives me crazy. I have to ask God to relieve the anger from my heart, because I get so fired up by their lack of reverence, in my opinion. Is it really that hard to bring your Bible to church, or are we just so dependent on one electronic item for everything? The iphone offers so much distraction and it looks so self-absorbed as you said.

My roommate is an international student and she mentioned how much America takes the Bible for granted. She sees a lack of reverence in general here compared to her home country because we worship so freely, almost too freely she said, and mainly take this for granted.

Anonymous said...


However, that being said, i completely agree. Even though i am not a coffee drinker (eww) this issue still is relevant in my life, and it still keeps me wondering. coffee in one hand, and the other hand raised up to God. Really?? are you worshiping our wonderful Creator..or your coffee? Don't get me wrong, I think that it is a nice gesture for churches to have a hospitality table, or maybe even a cafe where you can purchase a coffee..before or after. but i think that it is an entirely different issue that people feel as though they cant make it through the service without it. Has church become that mundane that we cant even stay awake long enough to be captivated by what the Lord is teaching us through our Pastor that day?

Anonymous said...

I find your points to be completely relevant. I understand that coffee is a necessity for some in the morning; it tends to help people start their day on the right foot. However, like all things, there is a time and a place. A great example would be if a student’s phone rang during class. The polite and right thing to do would be to immediately hit the silent button and continue taking notes and paying attention. If the phone call happen to be important and a call that the student could not send to voicemail, then the polite and correct thing the student should do would be to excuse his or herself from the class. There is a time and a place to take a phone call. This goes the same for drinking coffee. If the student were to answer the phone in the middle of class it would be considered a huge sign of disrespect and I think it would offend and frustrate the professor to no end. A student is there to learn, not to talk on the phone. This is just like worshiping at church. A person goes to church to worship God, learn more about Him, and become closer to Him. People do not go to church to drink coffee and socialize. They are there for a purpose, and if there is a constant interruption or distraction, like drinking coffee, possibly spilling that coffee, and wanting more, then coming to learn, get closer, and worship God is pointless because the mind and train of thought is somewhere else. So yes, I completely agree with you, worshiping while drinking coffee is wrong.

Sarah Lopez said...

To me, the real issue that is in correlation to "coffee worship" is the typical protestants view of God. Now days, here in America, there are very few churches that depict God in an accurate light. The view of God in American churches today is often a little one. As our view of God becomes smaller and smaller our worship of him becomes weaker and weaker. Churches today lack a fear of God which should be central to our faith. If people truly understood who they were singing praises to; if they understood to a greater extent the power of our mighty savior, than I believe there would not be a cup of coffee in sight during service. All focus would be on God because he is to be feared and to be revered. Majority of the American churches view of God must be expanded in order for the "coffee worship" to disapear from the congregation as it should.

Brett McIntosh said...

I have never really thought about this when I walk into Sandals Church at CBU. It never really came to mind until I read this of how many people walk in with a huge cup of coffee, or some other iced drink that is supposed to give energy. When you walk over to the gym, you see a huge stand up right before you walk in the door. It is understandable that this is a great way to come up with money to support ISP teams and other projects to serve the community, but it really is a frustrating to think that someone can’t give one hour to serve their God. I would have to suggest if you are running something like this that you make it after service. This would be a good time to have a cup of coffee with the people in the congregation and your personal pastor. What is even more frustrating is that at Sandals night service, you see even more people with cups of coffee. I mean come on! The day is about to end and you need caffeine just to make it through one more hour. For the most part, the mindset of these people is: “Well at least they got coffee there. It won’t be too bad and at least ill stay awake.” If it takes a cup of coffee to keep you stimulated from the word of God then there is something wrong with the church. Can you imagine God sitting there at the beginning of time with a cup of coffee? The informality of this is crazy to think about. In addition to what you said how informal it is to introduce yourself to someone of high power with a cup in your hand is absurd. God was not sipping down “black gold” when he created every single piece of hair on your head was he? Would we bring a cup of coffee to the feet of the throne when we are judged in front of our creator? Funny picture, but it is what we are ultimately doing when we take this approach when we worship in the house of God.

Anonymous said...

Melanie Grant
Dr. Jeff McNair
2 December 2009
EDU 341
Church & Disabilities: Part III
For this portion of the assignment, I chose to respond to the blog “Coffee Worship.” I chose it for many reasons, but mainly because I see the strong detachment between many Christians in America, and the God of the universe that they claim to serve. I think coffee is only one form of distraction that Christians face during worship, where they are supposed to be totally and utterly humbled in the presence of God, focusing on nothing but his Glory and personhood alone.
John Piper says, “Woe to us if we get our satisfaction from the food in the kitchen and the TV in the den and the sex in the bedroom with an occasional tribute to the cement blocks in the basement! God wills to be displayed and known and loved and cherished and worshiped.” God also says in Isaiah 48:11, “How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” The scriptures tell us plainly and undoubtedly the power and the glory of God. Knowing this, why do Christians water down who God really is and portray Him as some distant man that will be content with any short, insignificant amount of time that we eventually throw at Him at the end of the day, after meeting all of our fleshly and natural desires first? I see so much apathy, indifference, and a general lack of concern among Christians in America for the God they serve, and the people around us that are in need. Also, Dr. McNair stated in his blog, “If worship is trivialized, where I need not respect God, why should I not also trivialize the needs of my neighbor, or ignore them for that matter?” This is precisely true of Christians in our country. If we are not willing to give God our first and our best, how can we manage to help or assist any of the hurting people in our world? If He is that insignificant and minute to us, naturally the poor, the needy, and the weak will also be irrelevant and trivial to our lives.
I’d like to conclude with another John Piper quote: “Love is doing what will enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest joy. What will enthrall the beloved this way is the glory of God. Love means doing all we can, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help people be enthralled with the glory of God. When they are, they are satisfied and God is glorified. Therefore loving people and glorifying God are one.” If we can’t simply put down our coffee, turn off our i-phones, or remember to greet one another out of brotherly love, how are we glorifying God within his own church body? How are we surrendering to Him and unreservedly giving Him the glory He deserves?

Anonymous said...

When my grandparents were kids they sat in services for 3 hours straight every sunday in their best clothes and if they fidgeted they would be severely punished. When My parents were kids services were 2 hours long with a 10 minute intermission to stand and stretch legs but they had to sit through the whole thing in Suday clothes. when I was a kid the Sunday school service was an hour of bible stories and usually we didn't have to sit through the interminable adult service that we didn't understand. Which style was best? Well, I actually learned a lot more of the bible as a child than my parents and grandparents because it was being taught at my level rather than as something unintelligible that just had to be endured.

A lot of commenters here are very quick to Judge other people's style of worship.

Some people clearly feel that having a cup of coffee isn't disrespectful. A lot of people have social anxiety in rooms full of people. A cup of coffee may help them focus more on the service and less on the mass of humanity seated elbow-to-elbow around them. If you have been up all night with a sick child,parent, or spouse having some coffee will help you stay awake while you pray for them. You never know someone's situation and rushing to Judge others without knowing the situation is not right.

Anonymous said...

it is amazing how much judgement of others i have read on this site from the clothing to the desire to drink during service

Sandstorm said...

I agree, i really do. I have not jumped to judge those who are allowed to drink coffee but i did visited a church and saw many people drinking coffee and it felt so awkward. Is like you said why cant they leave the coffee out for 1 hour. Not even in my school classrooms was i allowed to eat or drink while the teachers gave the class.