Starbucks’ Transformation and Leonard Sweet

One of the objectives of many "post-modern" Christian authors is to faithfully echo the style (if not the message) of our culture.  But, even though I read and reviewed Leonard Sweet’s book The Gospel According to Starbucks, I never appreciated how successful he was in doing that until I saw Starbucks’ Chairman Howard Schultz’ address to his baristas in anticipation of their brief shutdown yesterday evening:

Aged Sumatra … that’s what I’m drinking as I write you this note.  Hands down, it’s my favorite coffee.  Aged for three to five years in a warehouse in Singapore, then shipped as green coffee to our plant in Kent, Washington, and roasted to perfection.  The result is a stunning cup of coffee.  The velvety mouthful, the full-body of one of our classic Indonesian coffees, and the subtle but ever-present earthiness and spiciness brought to life by our proprietary aging process.  It’s rare, it’s exotic, and it’s ours.  What a gift … and we get to share it with one another and with our customers…

As Starbucks partners, we are bound together by the passion we have for our coffee and the customer experience.  More than 170,000 of us stand for quality and an uncompromising ethical standard. We uphold our guiding principles by demonstrating respect and dignity for one another, and for our customers.

Sweet replicates this kind of "upward" prose throughout his book.  But there are a few points that need to be made.

  1. Schultz has just resumed his post as CEO to help turn things around.  For Christians, our CEO hasn’t changed.  And, like Schultz, he expects excellence in what we do.
  2. Schultz also says that "We are the third place in the lives of millions of our customers."  Our CEO wants the experience people have in our churches to transform them and make him first place in life.  (The key to that, BTW, is that that experience needs to come from the CEO and not from somewhere else!)
  3. Sumatra is my favourite blend too, but don’t forget to pray for the Christians and Muslims that live there.  Some of them have to harvest the beans!
  4. From a practical standpoint, the best news is that Starbucks will restore free wifi, so I can do things like this while enjoying their coffee.

Sweet’s response to this was as follows:

Thx! for the link. I think the church ought to consider doing the same: shut down the building/campus for 3 weeks or 3 months or even 3 years to reboot . . . to rededicate ourselves to our lost first love, and to retrain ourselves in the "love, passion and commitment" (in Howard Schultz’s words) to the Christ experience (not the "Starbucks Experience")…

I’m tired of "leadership seminars" . . it’s time for "followership seminars;" it’s time for the lost art of discipleship.

Yes indeed!

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