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What Starbucks, Harry and You All Have in Common (Heb. 2:2-3)

By John A. Huffman Jr. | Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif., and a Contributing Editor of Preaching

"For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:2-3).

Rick Richardson, professor and writer, tells about a pastor named Dan, who realized he was getting stale. So with the approval of his pastoral team, he took a part-time job at a Starbucks coffee shop.

To his surprise, "All 21 people he worked with believed in God. Not one was an atheist ... They were all very positive toward God and spirituality."

Richardson goes on to report:

A second surprise was that all were interested in spiritual things, but not in Christians, Christianity, or the church. No one wanted to hear Dan's proofs for God or invitations to come to church or ideas about salvation. Almost everyone thought they knew what Christianity was about and had decided they didn't want it. They were post Christian. At some point along the way, each of them had experienced a breach in trust related to Christianity. Maybe a Christian friend had been hypocritical or pushy. Maybe when they were young they had attended church and found it boring and irrelevant. Maybe they had watched TV preachers and been turned off. Or maybe they had experienced a tragedy—death or sexual abuse or some other trauma—and felt that God had been distant and uncaring.

Richardson said, "Dan wasn't starting at ground zero, but rather at minus-three or four. ... The biggest thing Dan learned is that people in this generation have a prior question of trust that must be addressed before we can have meaningful spiritual conversations with them."

Pastor Dan had discovered the outside understanding of how the church was viewed by some people.

That may be your perception today on Easter Sunday. You come Christmas Eve and Easter, tipping your hat to the notion of God. You believe in Him—you're not an atheist. You're very positive toward God in spirituality. But, somehow, a disconnect has happened. It may be a bad experience with Christians, Christianity or the church. Or perhaps you've just found it boring and irrelevant.

Forty-something years ago, I graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. I took my first pastorate as an associate on the staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. My job included visiting the hospitals three days a week.

I'll never forget that afternoon as I signed into the psychiatric wing, a lock-and-key ward, to see a patient by the name of Harry. Harry was in for alcoholic detoxification. He was most gracious to me. I had prayer with him and, on subsequent visits, got to know him quite well. He told me that he had been a member of the First Presbyterian Church for some 40 years. He had come to Tulsa as a young man to start his insurance business. He figured that joining a prominent service club and a prominent, large church would be good for business. His business did prosper. The next thing he knew, he was elected a deacon because the deacons handled the money, and they knew he'd be good at that.

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