Ladies meeting for coffee at coffee shop

Coffeehouse Church

When Ann and I first moved back to Kentucky after having lived in Houston, Texas for a couple years, I took a job as a barista at the SB coffeehouse near our home. I was considered the “opener,” with my shift being from 5:00 – 9:00 am. My reason for taking on such a job had entirely to do with providing benefits for us. Even though my net pay was rarely more than $100, we had amazing health insurance, disability coverage, and a 401k.

For just over a year (right through the middle of the COVID pandemic in 2020), I got up at 4:30 am, Monday through Friday, worked until I got off at 9:00 am, then came home to get ready to go to our office at Life Training to begin seeing the few clients we had.

I could write an entire book about the awesome experiences I had that year, but for the purpose of this article, I wanted to share one particular thing that has stuck with me ever since.

“It’s more like a church than a lot of churches I know”

The first few weeks I was there, I did a couple hours of training first thing each morning. Mostly online, but also quite a bit of mentoring and teaching from another team member who was officially some sort of “trainer.” Although I want to leave his name anonymous, I must say that my relationship with this young guy left an indelible mark in my mind and heart.

A statement he made to me during one of our training sessions those first few weeks was this:

“Dave, I know it sounds crazy, but I wish churches were more like this..
It’s more like a church than a lot of churches I know.
They get it right. Only thing is, there’s no Jesus!”

The year that radically changed my life

What the heck could he have meant by that? Needless to say, what I observed and experienced over the next twelve months or so really brought my friend’s perspective to life. Let me show you a few of the fundamental values I have adopted into my own life (even though I’m a 62-year-old Baby Boomer).

Culture of connection

I’ve heard places like this referred to as a “third space” for people to make connections. First, at home. Second, at work. Third, at the coffeehouse. Every day, I was able to see more and more types of human connections being made. Bible study group. Job interview. A parent and their kid before school. Team members becoming friends and doing life together. Work-team off-site meeting. And a million more.

Unconditional acceptance

I’ve never been in a place where the playing field felt so level. Whether a millionaire business owner who came through the drive-thru first thing every morning, or an accountability group of men meeting early every Wednesday, or a young woman who had just gotten of work at the hotel up the street, or a gay man who just loved to be with people. They were all there. And all accepted for who they were.

No judgement zone

It seemed that I spilled things and made messes more than anyone else. I remember saying, “I’m the first person to come up with ten ways to ruin a batch of coffee.

  • I started the coffee running before putting the container under the basket.
  • I started the coffee running without realizing the container below was already full.
  • I put the container under the basket with the top of the container not opened.
  • I turned on the spigot to the cold brew to fill a cup, but forgot to turn it off once the cup was full.
  • I picked up a large cup of hot coffee by the top, and the cup fell to the floor from underneath.
  • I could go on and on…

The amazing thing to me was that EVERY TIME this would happen, those working around me would drop what they were doing and start cleaning up the mess I had made. No shaming. No having to ask them. No expectation that I would reciprocate. Just genuine teamwork and unselfishness. And the only thing they would ever say when I would apologize profusely and attempt to thank them was, “No judgement zone, Dave. We’ve got you.”

Be yourself and celebrate each other

This one goes without explanation. Suffice it to say, the freedom and appreciation I experienced there during that year has remained unparalleled in my life.

Just no Jesus!

I can only imagine what it would be like to combine the values of this environment with the truth, love, and grace of Jesus. Maybe the world would take notice.


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