The Bible and Coffee
People who know me, know that I really enjoy going to coffeehouses. I love the coffee, frappes and macchiatos. I love the comfortable chairs and the wonderful different genres of music. But, what I like most of all is being able to interact with people and the culture that surrounds their lives. It is a great experience to just be sitting there and someone comes and sits right next to you. There is the all too familiar smile, basic chit-chat and other pleasantries. But this is also a time to bring up a conversation that may change a person’s life and more importantly, their spiritual life.
When I speak to people about the Bible in a coffeehouse, there are some things that I must keep in mind because coffeehouses always have the same people coming and going and if we leave a bad impression with one person, it will surely get around the house and then your effectiveness will be ruined. So, the first thing to do when studying with someone is to show respect. You would think this is common sense. But, what I mean is that when we speak to people who are Baptist, Muslim, Atheist, etc., if we are negative towards them when they are not around, that will show through when we speak to them in a close setting. So, we need to realize that most people are on some sort of spiritual journey and looking for what is right. We also need to remember that everyone is made in the image of God and that God is trying to work in everyone’s life (2 Pet. 3:9). So, show people respect or honor (1 Pet. 2:17; Phil. 2:3).
Alongside this, is to put ourselves in their shoes. This is very difficult when we are different from another and the further apart we are on beliefs makes it even more difficult. I mean, to those who are raised in one religion really does not know what its like to be raised in another. So, when studying with someone at the coffeehouse, think about what the other person is saying and try to understand where he or she is coming from and acknowledge what a person believes. And, even if you don’t agree with it, remember that those beliefs have a lot of meaning and value to them. For example, when we speak to someone who is same sex oriented, do we see him or her as just a sinner or as something that God hates? Or, do we try to understand first, why are they this way and realize that their lifestyle has meaning to them even if we don’t agree with their lifestyle? I believe that if you really want to reach people for Christ that you will speak to people about Christ and THEN morality, not the other way around (Acts 2; 1 Cor. 1:23). If we do not handle things this way, If we do not step into that person’s shoes, then we will likely discount their feelings, minimize their struggles, and fail to emphatically talk with them about their lives, God, and faith.
When we begin to see people in this light, we can genuinely consider another person’s point of view. We also need to take their thoughts and questions seriously. I mean, what are you going to say when someone talks to you about the hypocrisy of Christians or the problem of evil and suffering or spiritual abuse? To a Christian they may be insulting or offending questions. But, to the one who is studying he or she is trying to learn. Of course, not all questions can be fully answered on the spot, which could be a good way to set up another study with that person at a later date.
Another thing is to never judge. I cannot emphasize this enough. While we can judge with righteous judgment, this still does not make us the judge. Nor, can we pick out the worst thing in each religion or each person’s life to show them they are wrong and to show your faith as superior (1 Cor. 13:1-5). I mean, not all Muslims are terrorist and not all atheist are against a moral system and not all religious people are wrong in every way. There is a time and place to compare religions. But, the coffeehouse is not that place. Furthermore, we need to actively listen and get to know people, not just as another person to teach.
Finally, allow others to remain unconvinced. Even our great King and Savior Jesus Christ could not convince all (Matt. 8:34; Mk. 6:3; Jn. 1:11). So, we cannot expect to convince all and neither should we walk away badmouthing them for not learning things “our way” (Col. 3:8; Jam. 3:5). We should not expect people to change their viewpoints and come to faith in Christ in one conversation or overnight, so to speak. We are to present the Word of God (Matt. 28:19). Then, we should allow time for God and the Spirit to work on their hearts and minds and change their lives (1 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 4:12). I mean, almost no one today walks into a worship service and decides to be baptized in the course of a single sermon. Most people don’t have God on their minds or maybe they had a bad experience with religion or they may need to work things out in their lives before taking the next step. Also keep in mind that things do not work quite the same today as they did in the 1940-50s. Our society is not as spiritual, per say nor do most of the methods then strike a chord with people today. So, grab yourself a Starbucks, sit and enjoy the music and wait for the opportunity to present itself to you (Gal. 6:10).