Racing Together @ Starbucks

Did you see THIS STORY in the news? “Starbucks to encourage baristas to discuss race relations with customers”

starbucks race together 02Starbucks is a business.

Starbucks sells coffee.  And sugary frozen drinks.  And tea.  And hot chocolate.  And expensive pastries.

Starbucks exists to make money for shareholders.

Starbucks has decided to take the risk of encouraging its baristas to discuss race relations in the US with customers.

Churches are not businesses.

Churches represent God to the world.  And usually make Folgers coffee.  And homemade cookies.

Churches exist to spread the message of God’s love throughout the world.

Churches, more often than not, choose not to risk discussing race relations but to remain segregated in black and white church buildings.

Why would a business, whose goal is to make money, show greater willingness to address controversial social issues than churches? This move is clearly not part of their business strategy for increasing sales. It’s a decision by Howard Shultz, the CEO, that his company should have a voice on social issues.

Why would a church, whose goal is to spread good news, not want to spread a message that God can bring racial reconciliation to this country? This message is clearly consistent with the greater message of the Gospel. Have we allowed a concern for congregational well-being to take precedence of faithfulness to the Gospel message?

Do you think that Starbucks baristas will have all the answers to improving race relations in the United States? I don’t. But their willingness to initiate the conversation provides the vital first step.

Too many churches, and preachers, and elders, are unwilling to begin the conversation because they feel that they don’t have all the answers. Answers won’t come by waiting for them to drop out of the sky. Answers come through listening to each other and working together to develop mutual respect and even love across ethnic boundaries.

Tragically, churches’ unwillingness to start these conversations denies the power of the Gospel. It suppresses the truth that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.“(1 John 4:4) It allows fear to seize control of the church. Perhaps fear has this power within the church because we haven’t cultivated the loving environment that makes our churches a safe place for these conversations to take place. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 Jon 4:18b)

Starbucks should never provide a safer environment than the church. Something is broken.

How would your church lobby look if you gave each attender this week a cup that said, “Race Together”, along with permission to start a conversation about race.

Communion cup 01Is it irony that each week we actually do hand each other a cup that says “Race Together”?

It’s a cup that Jesus gave us to remind us that he died for all humanity. (Hebrews 10:10)

It’s a cup that reminds us that all Christians form one body. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

It’s a cup that reminds us that we run a race…together. (Hebrews 12:1)

So church… Let’s #RaceTogether.

The Cultural Mosaic blog exists as my effort to initiate conversation on this topic.

I am also greatly encouraged by the work of the The Racial Unity Leadership Summit. This is an organization within Churches of Christ carrying out conversations about race. You can listen to recordings of their most recent gathering, which was held in Memphis, HERE. (The site has several events listed, so look for the heading “Audio Racial Unity Leadership Summit 2015”.)

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