Friday, September 12, 2008

The Pastor in a Green Apron

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.


Perry said...


You are a good man and God exalts the humble. It must of took a good dose of humility to step into that job.. but knowing the sovereignty of God, there is a purpose other than just making ends meet.

Which Starbucks are you at? I just may have to stop by and use one of my gift cards.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, thanks for sharing your experience as a pastor-barista for the coffee empire. This is Derek, Mike Olson’s friend, seeking to make disciples and build community in Parkland, and, alas, also pouring coffee at a local Starbucks depot close by. As I’m sure you know, I, too, share the same experience, and Jesus has been teaching me greatly of the significance of my presence there.

As I’m sure you’re also feeling, this job has been deeply humbling for me as a church-planting pastor. I really did not think that I was going to be working entry-level customer service after Bible college and seminary. There are days when I’m pulling shots for the morning addicts, and I start asking myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Am I really supposed to be here? And I relish in a wonderfully juicy dose of ‘christian’ pride—very subtle, but dangerous—that says “I don’t deserve this kind of ‘position’”; that somehow a BS in Bible and an MA in theology earns me a right to not deserve this kind of job and current lot in life.

Do I really think I’m better than the Apostle Paul who worked entry-level grunt work making tents, and never took a dime for his full-time ministry work? Who considered it his reward and joy just to preach the gospel that saved him?

God is pruning and disciplining me greatly. It’s been painful but good.

Bro, I encourage you in the Lord, from one brother of the green-cloth to another, keep doing what you’re doing, even at 4am, even at the Third Place some people experience as ‘church’. You will continually see the brokenness of people’s lives around you, and how the gospel is so greater , more powerful and more beautiful.

And this will only make you stronger and more effective as a church-planting pastor.

I trust that it is for me.

patricia said...

Ryan and Derek (Mike Olson’s friend),
I think what your both doing is admirable and if more pastor’s were willing to get their hands dirty, maybe the world (or community) would see Christians in different light, as regular people who have struggles and heart ache just like anyone else, who aren’t above it all.
I believe you’re reflecting God and his love to people who would never be able to relate or even approach a pastor with their problems or concerns. What an awesome example you both are.
I thank God for your humility and to serve as Christ has commanded us to do.

2 Corinthians 10:12 &13
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us…

Sara said...

Ryan I love that you work at starbucks and not because of all the day old pastries that you bring home. I love that you are called and trained to be a pastor and yet you do most of your ministry with people who might never consider walking into a church building. I hope that we can continue with this little "experiment" for a long time because it allows us to be disciples of Jesus in a way I thought was impossible. xoxo Sara

Ryan said...

Perry- Come by anytime. I am next to THHS by the Ralph's. Thanks for the encouragement.

Derekh- I love the Hebrew spelling of your name... it means road/ way in Hebrew. Thanks for the encouragement as well. When I met you this summer it helped me realize that I wasn't completely insane to think about this adventure. Keep it up and blessings on your new community in Parkland. I am excited to hear about its development.

Patricia- As always, thank you for your words and support. You get to see first hand how all of this works out and I look forward to all of the joys ahead.

Sara- I always knew Maple scones were the way to your heart. I love to be on this journey with you.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, thanks for the encouragement.

Yeah, when I learned a while back that my name was the exact transliteration of the hebrew for road/way/path, and, furthermore, that its a recurrent theme throughout the biblical story, I was elated--enough to get the phrase, "the way of YHWH" in hebrew tattooed across my upper-back.

Thanks for asking about our disciple-making/church-planting endeavor. We're excited for this coming season of discipleship with our core group, equipping them in the gospel so they can be sent out to reach their neighbors. God is working in amazing ways. Thanks for asking.

I look forward to hearing about what God will do in and through you and your family for the sake of your city.