Praise the Lord and Pass the Caffeine
By John Fea
I have never been much of a coffee drinker. When I was a teenager, this posed a few problems, since my father was a general contractor and I spent summers working for him. When the coffee truck would show up at the construction site each morning I would pay for my cup, stain the bottom of it with coffee, fill the rest with milk, and join the crew in break-time conversation.
Yes, coffee hour is that sacred time when believers come together in fellowship and Folgers. More than once I was forced to drink a cup of non-dairy creamer so I would be accepted by my Christian friends. When it came to the integration of faith and caffeine, I was failing miserably.
Things got worse about five years ago when my family and I began attending the local mega-church, which has become our present church home. Each week as we move through the lobby and head for the sanctuary, I notice a crowd of people milling, cups in hand, under a large sign that says “Coffee Central.” As they sip their gourmet delights, my old feeling of social inadequacy returns. These are the cool people in the church. They are the members who control the house groups and the adult Sunday school
After a few weeks of attending this church, I concluded that caffeine must enhance the worship experience, as it’s allowed in the sanctuary. This was a new concept for me. In all of the previous churches I attended, coffee was prohibited in the sanctuary. I think it had something to do with leaving all other worldly necessities and addictions behind in order to devote one’s heart completely to the worship of God. I had been taught that Sunday was the one day when we needed to take a break from our wants and desires in order to spend quality time with the Holy One.
Now, after watching dozens of people saunter into the service every Sunday with a cup of Starbucks in one hand and a Bible in the other, I know that my education in this area of church etiquette has been deficient. After all, how could so many worshipping evangelicals belting out “Shine Jesus Shine” at the top of their lungs and chugging from their cups between verses be wrong?
It’s an odd sort of transition. Baptism by coffee instead of by water. Coming to java instead of coming to Jesus. I now spend time pondering the advantages of drinking coffee during the church service, and am open to new possibilities. I have been entertaining the idea, for example, that caffeine triggers a more profound sense of the Spirit’s power during worship. It may also be conducive to clearer thinking. Coffee not only keeps people awake during the sermon, but it also gives them clarity of mind so that they can understand the message and
Of course there are problems that still need to be addressed. What if a person is so moved during singing that she or he wants to raise both hands in praise to God? Does the raising of only one hand (so not to spill the coffee) somehow limit one’s full capacity to worship? What about spillage? Is the church responsible for the dry cleaning bills?
At a recent Sunday morning service I glanced down my row and saw a young woman sipping coffee, munching on a piece of cake, and trying to mouth the words to the first song. If we really want to make things comfortable for worshippers like this, I thought, we should provide a sanctuary environment conducive to both drinking and eating during worship. The church could install tray tables on the back of every seat similar to the ones found on commercial airlines. Just before the closing prayer, an announcement could ring forth over the speaker system: “The benediction will be pronounced shortly, please make sure your tray tables are secured in an upright position and your thermos is safely stored under seat in front of you.”
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that when it comes to accepting caffeine in my life, I have yet to be saved. I do, however, continue to seek help in getting control of this area of my spiritual life. I am doing my best to fit in at church and I pray without ceasing to one day experience the spiritual high that only a hymn laced with an extra shot of espresso can provide. In fact, the other night I had a dream that at Holy Communion they were passing out Mocha Java and croissants instead of the wine and wafers. I think this is a hopeful sign that my salvation may soon be at hand, don’t you?