Here’s an excerpt from a sermon preached by me here at St George’s recently.
Last week I started reading The Gospel According to Starbucks by Leonard Sweet, a professor at Drew Theological School.
I confess, and if you know me, you’ll know that what drew my attention when I saw this book in the Atlanta airport bookstore was the last word in the title!
In this book, Professor Sweet asserts that Starbucks recipe for success is not that people stand in line for a $3 cup of coffee but that they will stand in line for the Starbucks experience. This experience, he calls EPIC:
I’m sure you’ve run into the “third place” theory—that all of us have two places in our lives—home and work or school—but that we all need a third place where we meet, interact, and relate to others. Sweet argues that the Church used to be that third place—
but that we’ve failed to continue to be that third place.
“The problem is not that Christianity can’t be believed, but that it can’t be practiced because of its lack of lived experience. And it can’t be observed by others because there are too few Christians who are radical enough to manifest what the gospel really looks like.”
This sounds a lot like G. K. Chesterton, who in the early part of the twentieth century wrote that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Sweet points out that “the basic question of life is this: is God a reality to be experienced or a belief to be remembered? The basic question of the Christian life is this: is Christ a living force to be experienced or a historical figure to be reckoned with?”
Of course, our Anglican response to both of those questions would be “yes.” That believing the right things is important—and so is experiencing God.
But when we stop to think about it, Anglicanism IS the Starbucks of Christianity. We offer an experience of the Gospel that is experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective. But I would suggest that although we are experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective, we could be more so. And if Sweet is right, if we increase how we are
experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective, we will bear more fruit.
I have a challenge for us this summer.
This summer I’d like us to be more intentional about being experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective. Think of ways we can be more experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective. Share these ideas. Not so we can be the Starbucks of Christianity–but so we can live our obligation to bring others into the love and experience of God!