Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What Would Jesus Drink?

Jobina and I were going into the sanctuary of our church this past Sunday and she stopped to get some coffee before going in. As I saw her pouring the coffee in her cup, I started thinking. How is it that coffee, a legal addictive stimulant, has now become a part of people's worship experience in our churches?

Now I have to admit, I'm not a big coffee drinker. OK, I really don't like it. I don't like the taste and Jobina seems to get more headaches when she is drinking the stuff regularly. Add in the fact that coffee is addictive, has a high amount of caffeine which is a toxin, and is proven to increase stress . . . and I struggle to understand how we got here. Can we really not have fellowship without drinking something that isn't actually that great for us?

When I was a youth pastor, I remember going to a lot of seminars and training seminars. One seminar stood out to me: A Bill Hybels church leadership seminar. The speakers were all good, but the most notable part of it was when we broke for our break. Instead of having the usual coffee/soft drinks and unhealthy snacks we had bottled water, juices, fruit, and healthy snacks. This added a holistic element in a ministry setting that I have rarely experienced since.

I know that I am in the minority of people who don't like coffee and that certainly colors my perception. But what if it was another addictive substance we were sipping before, during, and after church? I'm thinking wine or Pepsi (yes, high sugar soft drinks are addictive). Would that be OK? Could we achieve fellowship without it? I'm not saying that there is not a place for such things. I'm just wondering if church is the place for it. Many different religions use mind or mood altering substances as part of worship - are we going down the same path? Where do we draw the line?

May Light increase!


Jobina said...

I'm not sure why, but I feel this intense desire to defend the idea of coffee before and after church. I don't actually even go to the 'fellowship time' that they advertise when they mention coffee. I just want the hot, steamy cup of caffine goodness in my hand as I enter the sanctuary. It's completely cultural, I think. Because I'm conditioned to 'go out for coffee' with friends, I also want that 'go out for coffee' feeling when I fellowship at church. I'm not sure if it's the hot liquid or the fact that it's packed with addictive stimulants, but I find it easier to listen to the sermon with my coffee in hand. I'm often tempted to go back for a second cup between the singing and message but I thought that might be excessive. Hmmm...

Mark said...

Jobina: You do look cute with a coffee in your hand, I'll give you that (though you look cute all the time). I wonder what it would be like for you if you were instead drinking a nice cold water, a warm milk, or a nice hot herbal tea? Maybe a cup-o-soup? Could it be the same?

Rayna said...

I am with Jobina - I think that it is more the hot cup in your hand. Warms you body, warms your heart. Makes me feel more relaxed and in a reflective and receptive mood. I used to enjoy it at Country Hills/RockPointe when I could buy a hot chocolate, herbal or regular tea or chai latte instead of the cup of coffee as well. It truly is the hot cup for me, though I adore a really good cup of coffee (I realize more now that I have been off caffeine for Lent!) Maybe next Sunday you should take a thermos of herbal tea (or your decaf drink of choice) to church and pour it into the cups they have so you can feel the hot goodness in your hand and see what the experience is like for you. Just a thought.
Oh, I do think a cup-o-soup would ruin it though. What if you choked on a noodle or it wasn't mixed properly and you got chunkies. Would ruin the whole experience! :)

Mark said...

Rayna: Thanks for your comments. So you are thinking it is the hot drink in your hand thing too, eh? Hmmm. So are we as a society conditioned then to only be able to worship/fellowship if we have a warm drink in our hands? If so, is there any hope in breaking this turn of events? Or is there even a need to?

Rayna said...

What turn of events? If you are saying that having a warm drink in our hands is needed to acheive fellowship/worship is a new turn of events, I do not think that is true. Even Jesus had fellowship by eating and drinking with people. I believe that it is a universal thing. I believe that it being a hot drink is more North American, but I do not think for one minute that it is a negative thing.
I still think you should try it - in fact I challenge you to! :) Don't be quick to critcize something that you do not understand, nor have tried - and I am not saying coffee or an "additive subsatnce" but something hot that you are comfortable with. Just try it and then we can talk.
(Hey, does this feel at all to you like when we were in Bible school and we would get into debates in the cafeteria? A feeling of deja vu came over me right now. :)

Mark said...

Rayna: OK, I will try it. I'll report how it goes! Of course then I will challenge you to not drink a warm beverage and see how the experience differs. Take care,

Rayna said...

Actually, I have done it. I had water a couple of weeks ago as I have been off caffeine for Lent. I could listen fine it just wasn't the same at all - all icky and cold, so I put it down and couldn't figure out what exactly to do with my hands. Guess I am just too North American. :)
Let us know what you think!
Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Ohh Mark, if you only understood.


stacey said...

I do not completely understand this coffee in church phenomenon. I didn’t realize it was synonymous with fellowship. I guess I have just never given it a second thought. However I’m all for delving into looking at things from someone else’s point of view. But Mark… are you serious? OK, granted, I don’t know you well enough to be sure but is there an ounce of sarcasm in your last paragraph? Reading the comments back and forth tells me you’re not. OK… very interesting… But mind/mood altering substance?! Maybe if you’re under 80 lbs or the age of 12 or a complete abuser :) I agree if you’re getting headaches or maybe at the point where you think you somehow need this in order to “relax or be open to worship” that you might be teetering on a small problem. Certain foods and caffeine affects us differently—absolutely. But maybe that’s more a general personal health concern then a question of one’s ability to worship. But I also don’t see it as a problem for the average church-goer either. You can look at it a couple of ways. The most simplistic one is if you want to partake, do, if you don’t, then don’t. The other way to look at it, and I think this might be the original intention of the churches that offer coffee is that it is all a part of fellowship: setting a mood that makes visitors (especially seekers) feel relaxed and welcome, and that we can come to worship as we are—and how we find commonalities outside of the church is now today welcome inside the church. I don’t think of it as a question of “we cannot achieve fellowship without it”. As Jobina said, and I agree—we are conditioned that this is part of our social and cultural behavior. When you extend an invitation to get to know someone better or spend time with them, you “go out for coffee”. If someone has an allergy or some sort of problem with it they should learn to abstain but I don’t think it’s serious enough to consider “removing” from the church.

I think it’s an excellent setting to make seekers feel that they are not entering some staunch and rigid atmosphere where they are probably already feeling nervous just walking through the doors---and as in my church and I’m sure many others—there is someone to welcome them, offer them a coffee (we also have tea and water)… and you can often see them physically relaxing. I don’t think it is about the “substance” but rather our cultural way of saying, “you are welcome here and please feel comfortable in our home.” Is this not what we do when we invite someone into our homes? How nice do you feel when you are visiting someone’s home for the first time and within the first few minutes you are offered something to drink?

That’s how I feel. However I’m generally not more then a one cup of coffee a day drinker and I do realize that caffeine, sugar, fat and food are abused by our society. But I was surprised by your comment that there are people who can’t sit down in church without a highly addictive mood/altering substance (really, are you serious? :)). If coffee (tea, pepsi, food) is that much of a problem for certain people then there are bigger issues I think.

Rayna said...

I really appreciated Stacey's comment and the point she made in the whole making people feel welcome paragraph. It is the same in my experience, I believe it is totally our culture and as I have stated before Jesus shared meals, and I am sure wine, with people in order to get to know them.
So how did your experience with a hot drink in your hand during the service go Mark? I noticed that for me this morning at church with my coffee it was cold by the sermon, so I put it down anyway. It was nice and warm during the singing and I was aware of the fact that I felt comfortable in a way that I reminded me of a nice warm coffeehouse with great music. It was familiar and I liked that.
Just my 2 cents worth. (Or is it 8 cents now, seen as I have commented for the fourth time? :)

Mark said...

Rayna: Unfortunately I forgot to bring the tea so I'll try again next week. I'm not so sure it will change my experience
Stacey: Am I serious? Yes and no. Caffeine is of course a. addictive and b. mind altering. Do I think that people are consciously trying to alter themselves/feed their addictions in church - most of the time no. Sometimes I think what we just do something as part of worship without even thinking or questioning it. I suppose I'm just questioning it - with a critical eye.

UmmFarouq said...

I am a java nut.

I asked my husband the other day if he remembered back when we used to be able to get up and get going in the morning without coffee. "Yes," he said. "But we were young."

I remember times when I'd only plug in the coffee maker when guests came.

Now I am a 2-cup in the morning, one in the evening kind of gal. I love my 'free' Gevalia coffe maker, too.