My Role in the Soul of Starbucks

Today I read that Starbucks has started a new line of coffee shops. They are called 15th Ave Coffee & Tea. This is what their website says about themselves:

“Our coffee beans are roasted daily and delivered to your cup through the brewing method of your choice. Choose between pour over, French Press, La Marzocco or Clover. In addition to a full line-up of coffees offered year round, we also seek out small batch coffees sourced from individually owned farms that are available when in season. Check out our blog to see what’s in season today.

Tea is selected through the same deliberate process as our coffee beans. Each tea has been taste tested by our resident tea master and selected based on its uniqueness and originality. We brew whole leaf by the pot or cup.

Fresh food and pastries are baked daily and racked European style. All of our decadent delicacies are produced by Essential Baking Company, a local favorite.

Stop by in the evening and check out some of our local music talent ranging from live bands to our favorite DJs spinning on the tables. Choose from our selection of beer and wine to end the day.

Whole leaf teas, delicate pastries, live music, beer and wine. This coffee shop meets you at street level.”

Sounds great.

So…On August 2009 I wrote a paper for my Graduate Degree. I called it “The Soul of Starbucks.”  I based it upon a 800 word memo that Howard Schultz distributed to his employees.  In the memo Schultz said:  “Over the past 10 years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have led to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.”

I gave the research paper I wrote to a few of my local Starbucks baristas, including a regional manager. She said she would pass it up the chain. Not sure if that happened, but, when I read about the 15th Ave Coffee & Tea concept I went back and read my paper. The connection is pretty uncanny.

Here is the paper: The Soul of Starbucks

Here is the final paragraph conclusion I proposed:

“I would recommend that the Starbucks Corporation diversify. Rather than trying to move the existing stores back to basics, I believe they should hive an offshoot of Starbucks. One that is reflective of the classic coffeehouse, complete with hand-operated espresso machines and on-site brewing and grinding of beans. Each store should reflect the community in its art and décor.Each venue should not feel like a store because the main product is no longer music, books, movies, mugs, and machines but rather the coffee and the atmosphere. Isn’t this how the whole thing got started anyway: one store in Pikes Place brewing really good coffee. I recommend that what IS should stay AS IS and that energy be placed into creating ‘another place’. Perhaps Schultz will spark the kind of discussion needed to get the Starbucks Corporation to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.”

I hope 15th Ave Coffee & Tea makes it to Salem, Oregon. I’d hang out there with a fresh brewed cup.

Pressure Washing & My Love For Pastoring

We recently bought a 60 year old house. Denise and I (along with our kids) love it but it’s got a never-ending list of things to be cleaned, fixed, replaced and restored. With this 60 year old house comes what seems to be 60 years of layers and layers of dirt and residue. I found this out when I borrowed a friends pressure washer and started my systematic attack of the moss, grime and grossness.

What I thought would take a couple hours turned into a full day. And I loved it.

There is something really rewarding about being an agent of change.  It’s remarkable to watch layers of crud blast away with the power of the spray, revealing what “ought to be.”  Swipe after swipe I was discovering the results of hard work, and enjoying the fruit of my labors as the steps, sidewalks, patio and curbing were given another chance to shine.

Oh, and lest you think it was all ‘whistling dixie,’ I have to mention that my back and neck hurt like a bugger today, and getting out of bed was a significant challenge!  But all this pales in comparison to the power of the pressure washer and the product of a fresh new look.

And this is why I love pastoring.

I’ve been a Christian pastor for about 18 years and it has been full of ‘back-breaking’ work and ‘pain in the neck’ challenges. In surveys, year after year, pastoring ranks right up there as one of the hardest professions. I can concur. It’s a lot of work. Long hours, crisis-management, fundraising, people-pleasing, preaching, staffing, facilities, and not to mention, the profound spiritual dimensions. A number of times, I’ve contemplated other work (say, a barista at an espresso stand or selling Slurpies at 7-Eleven). But I always come back to the joy-filled results of pastoring.

I have the wonderful privilege of  a bird-eye view to change. I’m talking about real, significant change.  I get to be a part of something huge and life-changing. The Body of Christ is alive and making a considerable impact throughout the world, and I, by God’s grace, have been given the opportunity to watch it up close and personal. God has allowed me to operate one of His Kingdom Pressure Washers and assist in cleaning people up.

Messy marriages have been miraculously restored. Painful addictions have been shattered. Lost people are found. The shameful pasts that darken and dirty the souls of people have been cleaned by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is so humbling. This is so amazing. I get to be a part of the greatest agency upon the planet:  The Church. Together, with all God’s people, we focus the nozzle of the Water through the Word (Eph. 5:26) to wash away the grime of sin and shame.

This is hard work and I love it.