Good coffee won’t save your soul – Part 1

There is a plague that has run rampant in Catholic Churches for years. Few have sought to end this scourge. Most have just accepted this fact as an unchangeable reality. The elderly sigh and talk about the good ol’ days when things were different. The young don’t bother to come to the Church for this anymore because they can get fancier, flashier versions somewhere else. The world has become so relativistic that some even challenge the notion that there is good and bad of this fundamental substance.

Of course, I’m talking about coffee.Coffee Cup

Church coffee is notoriously bad. When our bulletin folders are in the office, the coffee is so thin you could read the bulletin through it. For some reason, when particular people make coffee, there is this oily film covering the top. Some days the coffee is so wretched to call it burnt sludge would be an insult to burnt sludge.

Frustrated and deeply desiring a “real” cup of coffee, I made a desperate move. I went to Target and purchased an $18 coffee maker, $3 worth of filters, and an $8 bag of good beans. I brought them back to my office and brewed myself some good coffee. It was magnificent.

Coffee, even if you don’t drink it, seems to be integral to church life. So much of what we do outside of Mass is coffee orientated.

Coffee and Donuts.

Coffee Ministry.

Coffee carafes sitting next to the Crucifix in the center of the table at meetings.

Coffee Clubs of grey hairs sipping half filled mugs, talking about doctors visits, and planning carpools to daily Mass.

Coffee seems to be so ubiquitous in church life that “How to” books about planting new Bible churches are written based on business models for coffee shops. Every mega church in our area has its own “fancy” coffee kiosk and coffee holders in every seat of their auditorium of a worship space. There is a trite but astoundingly accurate Youtube video imagining what a coffee shop would look like if they treated their customers like churches treat new congregants. (Find it here). Sometimes I worry about how bad our coffee is. Are we doing our best to get people in the door if our coffee is subpar? I’m scared I already know the answer. Then again:

I don’t go to church for the coffee.

I hope you don’t go to church for the coffee either. If you want awesome coffee, close your eyes and walk into a business in a strip mall and chances are you will be in a Starbucks or Caribou or Dunn Bros or whatever your local coffee provider is.

Yes, good coffee can be part of evangelization and hospitality. Good coffee may get someone to come in and sit down who hasn’t darkened the door of a church in years.

But good coffee isn’t the Gospel.

I hope by this point you have figured out I am not talking about coffee. Replace coffee with music or preaching or comfortable pews or fancy media or good brand development and marketing. Preaching, music, or beautiful worship spaces are the things we tend to notice about a church, but at the end of the day they are ALL in service to the most important and central goal of church:

Sharing the Gospel. Inviting Conversion. Saving Souls.

Ultimately it is for these reasons we go to church. We can get better coffee somewhere else. We can be better entertained with a click of the remote or mouse. We can certainly find better music on the radio dial. No, we don’t do church because we like it, we go to church because we need it. Nice coffee is just that nice, but salvation is to die for.

If Church isn’t about salvation, we shouldn’t bother.

The only justification for every dollar raised, every Bible or hymnbook printed, every speck of dust swept up from under every pew, is salvation. That is the business the church is in. – Peter Kreeft in Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Good coffee won’t save your soul.

So why are we so infatuated with coffee or preaching or music, if it isn’t the most important thing? Are we that shallow? Why do we lose the point in the midst of all the things trying to make the point?

Read Part 2 of “Good coffee won’t save your soul.” by clicking here.

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Posted on March 8, 2012, in Catholic Realist, Mass, Misunderstood Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. this is so funny b/c just yesterday morning i was talking to my teens about how bad church coffee is (they were asking if the Chick-fil-A coffee was any good and i was comparing it to what we have at the church)…great(ish) minds think alike, i guess!

  2. This reminds me of an excuse I heard from a “Catholic” who refuses to attend her local parish because she doesn’t like the priest. Granted her reason for not liking the priest is because he preaches what the Church actually believes rather than what she thinks the Church ought to believe. He’s too “in your face” for her liking. It makes me truly sad because I love this person very much and in every other respect, she’s a wonderful person. I just wish she would realize that that priest is speaking the Truth instead of the lies that the world has fed her.

    I think a lot of people use bad preaching, a priest they dislike, bad music, etc. as an excuse to leave the Church because as you said, they’re missing the point of church altogether but also because many have fallen prey to the lie that the Church needs to conform to “modern society” and if it doesn’t then it is acceptable to leave.

    • Valerie,
      Thanks for the comment. I reflect a little more about why I think people prefer good coffee to gospel and particularly Eucharist. Part 3 will be about what we as church have a responsibility to do knowing what we know about people and coffee. Should be fun!

  3. Our church coffee is dreadful too. But I do get so tired of people saying how they just didn’t “get anything” out of the Mass. Not that it isn’t nice, but isn’t it more important for us to GIVE something–worship God for one measly hour each week?

    • Leslie,
      Absolutely. Liturgy means work of the people and to that extend it the fruit of our efforting during worship and thus we should GIVE. Yet, liturgy and particularly is God giving himself bodily to us and thus we RECEIVE. Mass is the marriage banquet of God and Us. To that end, we, the Body of Christ, give ourselves in total surrender and God gives us the same. It is mutual self gift. It is love – a love more intimate than that of a husband and wife.

  1. Pingback: Good coffee won’t save your soul – Part 2 | The Catholic Realist

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