Christianity and the Coffee Shop

Coffee is an integral part of life. It helps us get going in the morning. When rain is pouring, there’s nothing like a good book and a warm brew to soothe the soul. And when I want to catch up with an old friend, I usually do it over a cup of coffee. Coffee isn’t just part of a morning routine, nor is it solely for the sake of warm fuzzies. It adds real value to the Christian life and mission. Here are three reasons why.

1. The coffee-house is a mission field

I’m an introvert. Social gatherings zap my energy. When I address a large crowd, I don’t have to get to know you. There’s no eye contact involved. It’s more of an impersonal affair than one might think. One-on-one conversation with a complete stranger is the opposite. It’s not my thing. But, the coffee shop makes the whole process easier. We’re often bumping elbows, standing in line, and when we’re not doing that, we’re savoring coffee. It sort of brings us together in a weird, caffeinated way. The whole experience lends itself to small talk, and enjoying good coffee makes small talk easier. I can always ask what my small talking stranger is drinking, or what they’re reading. Or I can turn the conversation toward what I’m reading. And I’m usually reading something theological in a coffee shop because of the aforementioned introversion.

Coffee shops are mission fields. Bring a theology book or your Bible, and use it to turn the conversation toward the Gospel. Once the conversation has begun, play it cool. You don’t have to hit someone over the head with your goatskin ESV or Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ask questions. Be respectful. Spark real conversations. You might be surprised how something as seemingly shallow as coffee shop small talk can turn into hour-long discussions about life, God, and the Gospel.

2. Gathering for coffee sharpens iron

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17 CSB). It might be a slogan verse by now, but it gained popularity for a good reason: it’s true. Talking God over quality java is a great opportunity for some iron sharpening. And that’s especially true if you intentionally spend time with older and/or wiser mentors. Coffee and theology go hand-in-hand, like Baptists and potlucks.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat around talking about God until closing time. I’ve been shooed out of the coffee shop more times than I can count, but every time I’ve been shooed away during some Godly fellowship, I’ve come away sharper, stronger, and encouraged. God uses fellowship like that to bless us.

3. Coffee helps us be sober-minded

I’m not saying drinking coffee is God’s will for your life, I’m just saying Peter literally wrote, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 CSB). There are many ways to be sober-minded, coffee just so happens to be one of my preferred ways. It fuels those missional conversations with strangers, and it enhances Godly fellowship. And given how much time I spent studying with coffee, my degree really should include the names of my local baristas.

Conclusion

The coffee-house, when approached with these points in mind, can be a distinctly gospel focused place. It can be a mission field, a place to refuel the soul and mind, and all the while a place for enjoying coffee. So what are you waiting for? Grab some coffee, share the Good News, sharpen some iron, and stay sober-minded!

Oh, one last thing… Don’t be the guy who orders herbal tea at the coffee shop. It ruins your witness.

ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible Review

European Bible paper. Premium goatskin leather. Art gilding. To be perfectly frank, these are phrases I’m unaccustomed to using. I’ve never owned a truly high end Bible. I’m not a connoisseur of rare or exotic Bibles. I kind of wish that were the case, but Bibles have largely been more about the words inside rather than the leather or gilding. The Bible has been a precious resource for me to excavate, not so much an object appreciated for its physical aesthetics. I never stopped to consider the cover material or yapp. But I do appreciate beauty in everyday objects. I like good design and attention to detail. I enjoy classic wristwatches, the industrial design of Apple products, and the curves of a fine automobile. It’s easy to tell when an object has been made to endure. Likewise, planned obsolescence is also obvious. The ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible should be considered an object meant to endure.

Let’s start with the goatskin leather. It’s gorgeous. If you’ve never held a quality leather Bible in your hand, prepare to fall in love. Instinctually, the first thing I did right out of the box was to smell the leather. Just keepin’ it classy. It smells great, by the way. The goatskin is soft in the hand. When the Bible is open and being read handheld, the feel could almost be described as cushioned.

The red under gold art gilding adds an elegant touch to the pages when closed or open. The effect is subtle, and fades into obscurity while reading.

Speaking of reading, let’s talk about the font and paper. One of the reasons the Omega Thinline was so appealing to me was the font. I still read with youthful eyes, even so, I’ve always preferred larger fonts. The Omega Thinline sports a 10-point font. That’s a sweet spot for me. It’s plenty big, and stylistically pleasant on the eyes. The “high quality European Bible paper” feels, well, high quality. It’s adequately opaque with very little ghosting or bleed through (for a thinline). The line matching helps a great deal.

The Omega is adorned with four ribbons. My personal opinion on ribbons is give me all the ribbons. It always felt unnatural using random scraps of paper or pens to mark a passage, and with four ribbons I feel fancy.

The overall size and weight of this Bible is quite nice. It’s 6.125 x 9.125 inches, approximately 1 inch tall (maybe a hair more), and it weighs in at 38.5 ounces. It’s thin and light enough to be carried easily, and the overall length and width is about equal to that of my 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

In conclusion, the Omega Thinline Reference Bible is a handsome Bible crafted with quality materials, a sewn binding, and topped off with elegant and highly readable font. I’m expecting a lifetime of use from this ESV.

 

Stay in the Word

I love books. I like reading them, collecting them, and sitting in my home library with some Old Toby and gazing upon them with satisfaction. I treasure many of the books in my collection, especially the ones I went through seminary with. Those books are like theology professors who follow me through life. They aid, comfort, challenge, and exhort. They often help me stay on the straight and narrow of orthodoxy. These books are my teachers and intellectual companions. Some have notes scribbled throughout, others bear the coffee stain battle scars of late night study sessions.

As much as I love my books, I have to sometimes remind myself they are complementary material. They’re not the main Book, not even close to it. The Book I’m talking about is the Bible. As good as Calvin, Luther, Sproul and Keller are, they can’t even touch the Bible.

I should probably mention, the inspiration for this little post came from an exchange I saw on Twitter a few minutes ago:

Dr. Sproul knows where true value lives: the Word. It’s “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit” (Heb. 4:12). Our faith grows from hearing it (Rom. 10:17). The Word is a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Along those same lines, Paul wrote “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). And I could go on for paragraph after paragraph, pointing to passages proclaiming the power of the Word, but I think you get the idea. The collective wisdom and knowledge contained within my library pales in comparison to the eternal riches found in the Word. Spurgeon encapsulated what I’m trying to say quite well, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” All of my books, and all of yours are of great value. Don’t give them up. Visit them often, but take up residence in the Bible.

By all means, read and enjoy Institutes of the Christian Religion, but read more the Word written by the One who instituted the Christian religion. Cicero once said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” I say a soul without the Word is like a room without books.

Desiring Authenticity

We have an authenticity problem. Maybe it’s because nothing is built to last anymore, or the cheese we grew up on doesn’t even melt. Either way you slice it, we desire authenticity, but I don’t know what “authenticity” means. I just read a few blog posts about authentic Christianity, and they’re all operating from different definitions of authenticity. It seems like authenticity is a…

…Codeword for:

Messy. I’ve seen this one quite a lot. Anecdotally it seems authenticity can be a codeword for messy. And it’s often romanticized. Hey, my kitchen is messy too, but I don’t feel compelled to write a 1000 word blog post about its authenticity and how by cleaning it I’d be conforming to an Old Testament social construct of good housekeeping made irrelevant by the Cross. In all fairness, I get it. Life’s messy on the good days, and if not for grace, my mess would overwhelm me (seriously, I made Italian a couple nights ago and I’m still finding tomato sauce). But I’m not sure romanticizing the mess is helpful.

Edgy. Like my ink, bro? Tetelestai. You’ve probably never even heard of Koine. All the dudes from my Beer, Bibles, and Bros community group got matching ink. I do love me some Greek tattoos, so no argument there. But strictly speaking, let’s use the right word, and authentic isn’t it.

Honesty and/or Confession. WYSIWYG Christianity. It’s hard to be honest about deep dark struggles, especially in a church with a clean suburban veneer. There’s almost a peer pressure to be awkwardly honest about your edgy mess of a self. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe not everything should be broadcasted in your home group?

Restorationism. I hate to break it to my millennial brothers and sisters, but past generations have desired to return the wayward church to a more authentic New Testament state. It’s quite common. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they just want to ban drums.

Brothers we are not hipsters…

(Two Piper references in one blog post? How many Piper references does this guy have?)

Authenticity is en vogue as a marketing fad right now. Deep down we all desire a level of authenticity. That’s why it works. I enjoy authentic relationships with close friends. I want authentic Mexican food. I want authentic Christianity, and Christian authors have happily obliged me with a plethora of material on the subject.

It’s my messy, edgy, honest authenticity I need saving from. I’m authentically up a creek in my authentic sin if not for an authentically perfect Savior. When you invoke “authentic,” I don’t really know what you mean. It could be messy, edgy, honesty, we’re about to confess some stuff and hug it out, or some form of restorationism. But what I want to do is forget about how authentically awesome I am in my authenticity and focus on Jesus. Maybe focus less on me, and more on the Gospel. Just a thought. What’s yours?

Buzzology: An Introduction

Every field has its own language. Music, mechanics, construction, sports, theology, and well, I think you get the idea. You’ve heard of Hebrew and Greek, but if you want to grow beyond baby Christendom, you must master buzzology. It’s the native tongue of Sunday schools, youth groups, and even pulpits… usually pulpits hand crafted from the reclaimed wood of Mediterranean fishing boats. It can take years of progressive sanctification to gain true fluency, and even then, there’s always a hip new congregation on the other side of town meeting in the backroom of a coffee shop furthering Christian buzzology to previously undiscovered territory. And speaking of territory, you should stop by the foyer on your way out and pick up our new pamphlet on creation care, it’ll really challenge your stewardship.

I’ve been journeying with my community formation leader for a few months now, and I’ve just really felt the the need resonating inside me to live out a more authentic narrative. I don’t want you, gentle reader, to remain a baby Christian. I want you to ascend to the next level. So let’s unpack this. I’m trying to call you to radically live out a missional walk by sanctifying your relational interpersonal communication. We’ve got to cast a big vision if we want to reach the 10/40 Window with our buzzwords. I need you to radically re-vision your walk for maximum missional effectiveness. After all, you could be the the only Bible someone might read.

At the end of the day, I’m just a disciple trying to make disciples, and doing life in a radical community of intentional believers. And who knows, as we journey together, you might just stumble upon your unclaimed blessing (because hey, no one really wants to be a bachelor till the rapture, right?).

If you want to raise the bar and reach the masses more effectively, apply the buzzological principles used in this post in your own small group or high church house church plant. I bet you’ll see authentic relationships blossom in no time.

A Reason to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything about the world seems just right. Red and golden leaves saunter to the ground, the air is crisp, and the atmosphere stirs with holiday excitement. I relish crackling fires with my favorite pipe and a good book, I delight in home cooked food shared around a bountiful table with people I love, and I’m grateful for ever flowing wine when the conversation turns political. It’s boot weather, after all, and cardigans are in vogue.

I suppose when I wrote everything about the world seems just right, I exaggerated. I do get carried away by Thanksgiving. Sometimes the Arminian side of the family comes to dinner, sometimes that one Baptist aunt gives you dirty looks for that glass of wine in your hand, and sometimes the dog sneaks into the kitchen and helps himself to the rolls (true story). And when the Arminians start Arminianing, the Baptists start raising eyebrows, and the dog eats your rolls, it all floods back to you: everything about the world isn’t right. In fact, it’s a lot worse than debates about free will, and dogs eating calories you don’t need. Those little moments are cracks in the perfect Thanksgiving dome we construct, reminders that, try as we may, we can’t make Thanksgiving day perfect. There’s too much wrong. In the periphery of our minds, we’re reminded sin exists, even in this make believe reality called “the perfect Thanksgiving.”

And so, when the cracks form and the awareness of everything wrong floods back into mind (which will probably happen when Uncle Frank inevitably says, “So, how about that election, huh?”), remember this crucial Thanksgiving fact: The Gospel is good news. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” is something to be grateful for (Romans 8:1, emphasis added)! That Paul wrote Christ is reconciling “to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” is good news (Colossians 1:20)!

More than beautiful leaves, crisp air, and holiday excitement, more than the fire, pipe, and good books, and even more than delicious food and loved ones, I give thanks for the Gospel. If the dog eats your rolls, and everything goes sideways, remember the gift of God’s grace, it’s more than a good reason to give thanks.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Coolvinism: The Blog

Welcome, gentle reader, to my home away from Twitter. If my tweets are shots of espresso, then my blog is a big pot of freshly brewed fair trade coffee. This, my friends, is long-form Coolvinism.

I enjoy humor, and I think God enjoys humor. I know Martin Luther enjoyed humor, he once said, “If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.” I concur, Dr. Luther. Of course, there are different schools of thought on the matter. Saint Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) said that “laughter is the beginning of the destruction of the soul.” I bet he was the life of the potluck…

I started tweeting as Coolvinism because I found many humorous things in and about the church, and I found younger church going adults of the hipster persuasion especially humorous. And, to be honest, I feel quite comfortable poking fun at them because I count myself among their ranks.

So, why the blog? There aren’t 140 character limits here, thank goodness, and that means more meat (sorry, vegans). This is my place to share humorous thoughts without limitations. I’ve also given myself extra freedom to explore thoughts on theology, the church, and culture. I aim to maintain the flavor of Coolvinism throughout my musings and meanderings. I’ll still be snobby about my coffee, Bible translations, and theologians, and I’ll no doubt reference obscure theological works you’ve probably never even heard of, and of course I’ll make time to poke a little fun at youth pastors. Together, we’ll celebrate bacon, moleskin journals, and the refined comfort of a well made cardigan.

I want to share thoughts and laughs with you, and that’s what this place is for. We can talk about books, beards, and coffee too. I have much to say concerning those subjects, and I invite you to come along for the ride. So grab your thick-rimmed glasses, brew a cup of your best beans, and let’s do some exegesis together.