Sipping Coffee in Church

Sipping Coffee in Church

Communion and Coffee

“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY [is the] LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY [the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all], WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME [the unchanging, eternal God].”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanksgiving to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and they worship Him who lives forever and ever; and they throw down their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they exist, and were created and brought into being.

— Revelation 4:8-11 [AMP]

Last year, as I was designing and building this site, Pastor John Piper of Minnesota sparked a highly caffeinated debate on whether we should be sipping coffee as we gather within our respective sanctuaries to worship God (Fox News). Now that I am up and running, I would like to add my two sips.

First, let me be upfront that as much as I love my cup of coffee, I do not have an addiction, or so I keep telling myself. The smell of fresh coffee my Nespresso machine gives off each morning helps me start the day, but nine out of ten times, that first cup is decaf—and as hot as my machine can give. I enjoy hot coffee, so much so that it takes most of the morning for me to drink that first cup since every thirty minutes or so I microwave it back to an acceptable temperature. Honestly, it is not so much the coffee that wakes me up each day, but the burning of my mouth as I sip coffee just below the boiling point.

My first “real” coffee does not happen till later in the day when I help myself to Mr. Coffee, which has been sitting since I made it for my wife several hours earlier. Unlike me, she does need her caffeine, which is one of the reasons I have a one cup machine. As I refresh that cup with new coffee, I heat it up again just below boiling.

The other thing you need to know before I give my two sips is that I grew up in a very conservative Greek Orthodox church, one where the women sat on the left side of the isle and men on the right. Did I mention the service was in Ukrainian? To this day I can feel the glare of my dad looking at me whenever I begin to doze off during the sermon.

Enough background. Let’s move on to the question in hand.

I understand that some people do need their coffee in the morning, whether or not it is an addiction. People are also creatures of habit, especially in the morning when they are not awake and are attempting to get things organized before heading out the door; coffee just seems to make the chaos more manageable. Then there is the genius of modern-day marketing where stopping at the local Starbucks for $5.00 coffee has become the norm, $9.00 if you grab that snack to dip into said coffee. There are also many whose home office is the local coffee house; would not surprise me if it serves as their business address as well. After thirty years, coffee shops have become the go to meeting place for both physical and virtual conversations, a place where you can relax as you sip your coffee.

If coffee shops have become the place to meet, is it any wonder that churches, hoping to fill their own chairs, have started serving coffee as well?

This is not even a new trend. My first church coffee house experience was back in 1975. There, coffee was only offered after the service, along with a selection of donuts from the local Red Owl grocery store, purchased earlier in the week, what we considered fresh. Coffee was a form of outreach in the sense people did not simply rush home after church, but encouraged to stay a bit, have a cup of coffee with a donut or three, and spend some time in fellowship. This approach has changed over the years to include actual espresso machines that will create your own special pick me up. While people still socialize with each other over coffee, they have no problem bringing that coffee into the service when it starts.

Personally, I struggle with people bringing coffee into the service, especially those who come in late but managed to stop for coffee before getting to the church. But that is me. I would even consider myself judgmental in this respect… scratch that, I am outright judgmental in this area, and yes, I am doing my best to turn this over to God.

Yet there are many who have no problem with it, which is why Pastor Piper’s remark set off a slew of comments. If you agree that sipping coffee in the service is fine, that is OK. Remember, I admitted that it is my problem to deal with. However, if you agree with the notion that there is nothing wrong, let me offer another suggestion. Second to coffee shops as a place to relax and unwind is the local restaurant or bar that offers people after a long day of work a “Happy Hour”, a snack or two along with wine, a micro-brew, or even hard liqueur for those bad days. If churches are trying to compete with the world, why not join in and offer alcoholic beverages as well? Many a sermon I have sat through where a glass of wine in my hand would have have helped get it down. Granted, most services tend to happen before noon on Sunday, but we are talking about acceptable social norms for drinking, whether it is coffee or liquor. But that is not really the point.

The point is, should churches in trying to reach those in the world, mimic the social aspects of the world in hope that they will be as comfortable in church as in Starbucks? Should the church conform to the ways of the world to draw the world into church? I would offer that they should be setting themselves apart from a world that is self-focused, or to be blunt, idol focused. But again, that is just me.

The truth is, Jesus really doesn’t care. He has no problem with our sipping coffee before, after, or even during the service. Jesus would be the first to offer us a box of popcorn to enjoy during the service, especially if He knew we missed breakfast [Mat 15:32-37]. He knows we are a broken people. We need a savior and not just any savior, we need Him. We need Jesus, who alone can free each of us from the idols in our lives. That is why he died on the cross, needed to die, to pay the price that releases us from the bondages of this world if only we receive Him. The question is knowing the price He paid, shouldn’t we care?

Blessings in the name of Jesus Christ,

Rob Nimchuk

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Rob Nimchuk