Four or five days a week, my alarm sounds at 4:00 AM, I roll out of bed, and slip into my khaki pants and black button up shirt. I brush my teeth, step over our dog (who has no interest in waking up at 4:00 AM), hop on my bike, and ride to the Starbucks around the corner of the the house. Over the next 8 hours I spend my time making coffee drinks, heating up breakfast pastries, and blending frapuccinos for the High Schoolers on their way to the school located next door. In this time I interact with hundreds of people from my community everyday. I hear about their families, their jobs, and sometimes even their struggles. Sometimes I just listen, other times I offer encouragement or even advice. It may be the coffee that keeps everyone coming back day after day or maybe it is something more.
In Genesis 1 the Bible says that mankind is created in the image of God. Although the Hebrew for this phrase is a bit difficult to fully understand, it is relatively clear that this is referring to the Spiritual side of God more than the physical. This means that just as God is relational, we too are relational. This is why just one chapter later God says, "it is not good for man to be alone". As humans we have a need to be heard, to be understood, and to be connected to one another. Christians often find this need for connection fulfilled in their many church events through the week and most of the time these create healthy and fulfilling friendships.
Let us now return to Starbucks... every day hundreds of people go through those doors and most of them have no other community where they are accepted and encouraged. It is only when they walk through the doors of their local coffee shop when they are greeted by name and offered their usual drink. It is in those moments that those people experience their "church". It is these places where the local barista serves as their pastor.
One of the convictions of our new Church is that we want to be people who intentionally serve our communities and not just the Christians who come to our sacred meeting times, small groups, youth events, etc. We want to be the ones offering encouragement and hope to the people in our community who do not find that encouragement in one of the many Christian gatherings in our town. So the truth is when people ask me how many people do I serve as a pastor at Soma Church, my answer is, "hundreds", they just aren't people who come to any of our gatherings.
This is actually very encouraging to me. It helps each morning at 4:00 AM when I ride through the dark on empty streets still filled with the cold ocean air that settles during our Orange County evenings. When I put on my "priestly robe" that looks a lot like a green apron I know that my day as a pastor has begun and that I am a bit closer to living the ways of Jesus in my community.