Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I need to let you know I am updating MY blog, just not with anything I wrote today.
Sometimes in ministry, we get so accustomed to ministering and so used to being THE minister that we forget that we neeed to be ministered to as well.

I want to introduce you to a great man, and I want to introduce you to him through his incredible ability to write. Pastor Mark Edge pastors Bethel Church in Bartlett, Tennessee. He is tremendously gifted and has a great passion for God.

I asked his permission to publish this post from a preachers forum which he authored.
I have read it two mornings in a row before my personal devotion time and have cried both times, and it has led me to a greater desire to be effective in my ministry. I desperately desire a passion to reach people. Read this and if it touches your heart like it did mine, ask God for passion.

Be Blessed.

How Starbucks Saved My Ministry

I have a confession. I am a Barista. Yes, a maker of lattes, cappuccinos, frappuccinos, herbal teas and brewed coffees. Triple Venti White Mochas, Grande Strawberries and Cream Fraps, Tall Vanilla Lattes, Caramel Macchiattos, Venti Passion Tea Lemonades, and a thousand other drink recipes swirl about my head. I've been a Starbucks partner for almost four months now. Now why would a successful pastor of a church with several thousand members get a $7.00 an hour job with Starbucks? Well first of all, I don't pastor several thousand people, and second, I wouldn't say that I am all that successful. Our church is growing and with it the finances are too, but when we accepted the pastorate here seven years ago we also inherited a 1.05 million dollar debt. Pretty hefty for a church of 130. Since that time we have grown to just under 200 and we have whittled away at the debt to just below 800 K. Last August we all visited the dentist and got all the kids caught up on dental care. In the end, with a discount, our dentist told us we were going to need an additional $3500 worth of dental work to correct everything and get us all where we needed to be tooth-wise. I don't have that much money to throw about so I decided to take some action: I applied for a job at Starbucks. I had known for some time that they had great benefits for part-time workers (just work 20 hours a week and you can get full-time medical, dental and optical benefits). I had a little time to wait and then last November I got hired. I had people in our church approach me and say, "Pastor, I hate that you are having to work another job." Others have expressed similar feelings, but I have to tell you, I am really enjoying the experience. I live in the church parsonage. Its a very nice, old Southern style house built back in 1890. We had lived in a 1500 square foot house when we were youth pastors in Ohio, and then we moved into this 4500 square foot place! We were amazed at the room! We didn't have enough furniture or furnishings to fill the place up when we moved into it. The house is located right behind the church. It would be very easy for me to get isolated from the real world. So about six years ago I started to visit the local Starbucks with some regularity. I started meeting people. Dennis, moved down South from Canada because his wife taught at the University of Memphis. Harold, a man who came in every day wearing a Michigan ball cap and a big smile. I met Philip the manager. I met Jeff a Church of Christ youth pastor who was working part time at Starbucks. Buddy and his best friend Danny. Charlie, kind of a recluse guy who would turn his chair around facing the big window behind him and would not talk to a soul. There were dozens more but the point is that Starbucks opened me up to the community; I was meeting people there I would never meet otherwise. Once I was at one of the area hospitals visiting one of our church members and I Iooked up and behold there was Dennis. His mother-in-law was very ill and her situation didn't look good. I had prayer with Dennis and his wife and some family members that were there. They were appreciative. Harold and I would rib each other. His daughter attended the Universtiy of Michigan. She sat next to Chad Henne the Michigan QB in one of her classes. I, being an Ohio State fan, would wear my OSU hat and we would jest and joke about the greatest rivalry in sports. I've got a picture of Harold and me together with his maize and blue hat juxtaposed to my scarlet and grey cap. Harold is a Vietnam Vet who married and had one daughter. His wife got breast cancer. Before she died Harold promised her he would raise their girl and make sure she got a college education. He never remarried. His daughter graduated from the U of M last spring and she came home just in time for Mother's Day. I invited Harold to church and he came to our Mother's Day service proudly introducing his daughter to us. When I asked all of the mothers to stand to receive a carnation for Mother's Day, Harold stood, much to the embarrassment of his daughter and to the shock of our congregation. I knew why he stood. He was standing in honor of his wife, and he was proud of the promise he kept to take care of their daughter. We gave him a carnation and everyone applauded. His daughter is now studying at the Universtiy of Columbia in New York City. Harold has agreed to speak at our Memorial Day Weekend service in honor of America's fallen heroes. Philip sat down next to me one day and said, "Mark, you're a preacher. Tell me what do you think about Bible prophecy?" A conversation ensued about the end times and what the Bible had to say about current events. Philip was really intrigued. He's a great guy, very outgoing and has become a friend. I keep inviting him to church, hoping he will show up with his preacher's daughter wife, Kim. Jeff, the youth pastor asked me one day, "Mark, what denomination are you?" I said, "Pentecostal." He said, "I thought so. Listen, I've got some questions I want to ask you. I've been reading this book written by a former Church of Christ minister..." He proceded to share with me that the man had spoken in tongues (which is not something the CoC recognizes) and then began to tell me he had been questioning a lot of things about his faith. He told me he and his wife believed in these things and were praying for the gift of tongues. I began to share scriptures with him. I refuted the bedrock passage they use against tongues: I Cor. 13. When I shared with him that Jesus was "that which is perfect", he replied, "I've never thought of it that way before." Jeff has since moved to Kansas City but the last time I talked to him he told me they were still seeking the Holy Ghost. I walked into my Starbucks last year and Joy the barista immediately told me, "That was our Buddy, Mark!" My knees weakened. The day before I had heard of a murder at the Kawasaki dealership up the road from the suburb we live in. I knew Buddy worked there. He was a daily regular at Starbucks always sitting with his best friend, Danny, a self-employed painter telling stories and getting his coffee fix before going to work. When I heard that there had been a shooting at the dealership and that someone had been killed I hoped it wasn't Buddy. Sadly it was Buddy. Some young kid, for reasons no one knows, was waiting on a bike he had ordered and had been hanging out at the shop. At some point Buddy had turned his back to him and the kid pulled out a revolver and shot Buddy through the back and the heart killing him instantly. He tried to kill Buddy's coworker but she fell to the floor and he was only successfull in wounding her. A high speed chase ensued minutes later and the young man swerved off the road and crashed into a ditch. The murderer was thrown from his car and was killed immediately upon impact with the ground. He died along with his motives for such a senseless crime. I had invited Buddy to church but to no avail. I regret I didn't try to do more to reach Buddy. His best friend, Danny, had talked to me about the Pentecostal background within his family. I see Danny once in a while. He doesn't show up at Starbucks much anymore. Charlie was a challenge. He didn't want to be bothered. One day I noticed he was reading a conservative political magazine. I started talking politics. He liked my views. He listened to conservative radio. So did I. We began discussing current events and various other hot topics. Charlie, an Irish Catholic from Long Island, New York, stood out like a sore thumb. His heavy Yankee accent gave him away. We became friends. I noticed Charlie walked everywhere. One day Charlie invited me to lunch at a local pizzeria, "New York Pizza Cafe" owned by a Sicilian-born New Yorker named Caesar. Caesar was like a character out of a mob movie. He talked just like Don Corleone from the "Godfather". Nice guy. Great pizza. I found out Charlie was living in one of Caesar's rentals. Charlie was homeless. You would never know it. The guy was always clean shaven, clean clothes, clean hair, didn't smell bad, he just didn't look like someone who didn't have a place to stay. Caesar and his wife got a divorce. He had to sell everything and split it with her. He had to sell the pizza shop and the rentals. Charlie was out on the street. He asked if he could keep some belongings in my garage. One day he stopped by to pick up some things. It was 18 degrees that day. I asked Charlie where he was sleeping. He said in the front of a wrecked pick up at an auto body shop. I thought to myself, "Lord I can't let him stay in the cold, what do I do?" I opened my Bible and the first passage I laid my eyes on was Matt. 25 "I was a stranger and you took me in." I closed my Bible. "Charlie, how would like to sleep tonight in the church?" He agreed. I have a shower in my office, Charlie bathes there. He sleeps overnight and is gone during the day and evenings. He comes to every service. He even raises his hands some times. I never demanded that he come to church as a result of his staying with us. I pray he will get saved. He is planning to move to Kentucky this spring. He says there is a job waiting for him there. Time will tell. So now I get this job at Starbucks. It's a different store than my neighborhood one, but it's the next closest one. In just four months I have connected with my fellow partners and God has opened some doors. One day, a woman who had attended our church a few times when we first moved here went through the drive thru and saw me, recognized me and reminded me of who she was. She has been coming to church since with her three kids the past month. Her twelve year old son asked me about hell last Friday night at a kids lock-in at the church and I shared with him the plan of salvation. Other doors have opened since I started working at Starbucks that I don't have time to tell. I do know this: when the time comes that I won't need the insurance or the church can afford to pay it for me, I won't quit my job. I will work less hours maybe, but I never again want to cut myself off from the outside world. We need to be among the lost, among the hurting, among the needy. We need to be salt and light.

No comments: