Daniel Hill holds a steady part-time job working one or two shifts a week at Starbucks. It's hardly a career-track position, and it's not that he needs the extra cash or battles a secret caffeine addiction.
It's the people.
Purple hair, belly-button rings, tattoos, black-painted fingernails—those people.
For Hill, whose day job is ministering on staff with Willow Creek Community Church's Axis outreach, Starbucks provides a context to build meaningful relationships with postmodern, Gen-Next twentysomethings who are far from God.
"Nothing has been more transforming for me than working at Starbucks," says Hill, "These people matter to me."
But the moonlighting gig isn't a free pass to easy evangelism. His coffee colleagues are like a good cup of triple espresso—plenty of steam, a little bitter, and enough kick to knock you on your backside if you aren't careful.
Exhibit A: "The first day Debbie worked at Starbucks, one of the shift supervisors points at me and asks her, 'Did you hear what his real job is?' After she hears I work at a church, Debbie freaks out. She says, 'Three years ago my 16-year-old daughter was raped and murdered. Tell me, what kind of God would let that happen? I believe in God. I just have a real problem with him.'"
Hill isn't alone in facing these kinds of questions. Suspicion and distrust of Christians, and wariness of God are readily observed.
Consider the bumper sticker: "Dear God, please save me from your followers." Or the ubiquitous Christian "fish" that has mysteriously grown feet courtesy of the Darwinian crowd—a symbol of faith sarcastically twisted by the culture.
Even Christian bookstores carry such titles as: "Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God," "Toxic Faith," and "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."
With fingers pointed at Christians, we're obliged to identify the underlying accusations and offer a response. Three questions are at the core.
Why should I trust you?
Daniel Hill suggests that 90 percent of the accusations Christians face are rooted in mistrust. "I don't find that people have a problem with Jesus," he says. "They have a problem with Christians."
Anyone who claims authority today—politicians, parents, or pastors—will face the question of trust.
Rick Richardson, author of Evangelism Outside the Box and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's national field director for evangelism, observes: "When people ask questions about homosexuality, for instance, we're tempted to think they're asking questions about right and wrong. But they're not. They're asking about dominance and oppression.
"Homosexual strugglers look at what the church has done to women, they look at slavery, at this history of collaboration between Christian faith and Western dominance—and they say, 'In light of that, how can I trust you?'"
If that's the question, how can we respond?
The answer requires more than words. Christians, with PowerPoint presentations and four-point evangelistic outlines, have mastered the art of proclamation. But words alone ...