Where, exactly, do you "do ministry"?
As a freelance writer, I work from home. But I often pack up my laptop and head for a local coffee shop to work. A recent Chicago Tribune article referred to people like me, who take over a table with a laptop and slowly nurse one Venti latte for three hours, as "laptop squatters." Nice, right?
That same article quoted Kate Lister, president of Telework Research Network, a research firm that focuses on work done outside the office. (It's an interesting commentary on our culture that there's a whole firm just researching the work we do when we're not at work!) She compared today's coffee shops to "the marketplaces of medieval times," where groups of entrepreneurs gather to make business connections.
You may have an office or at least a cubicle in a church or parachurch organization. But using a coffee shop as a remote office or meeting room is, I believe, a great strategy for leaders.
The people you lead, and the people your church is trying to reach, are in the marketplace—and many of them, in today's freelance economy, are in coffee shops. And even those who have offices apparently spend some of their working day in coffee shops—some 34 percent of workers do so each day.
If we are followers of Jesus, and doing ministry in his name, perhaps we should use him as a role model for how to do ministry.
Jesus, although he regularly taught in local synagogues on the Sabbath, spent most of his time out and about. If the Word became flesh and dwelt among us today, I wonder if he might hang out at Starbucks or the local indie coffee shop.
In the Tribune article, Lister's comment about coffee shops being today's "marketplace" reminded me of this verse in Mark:
"And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed" (Mark 6:56).
Likewise, in Luke we read:
"Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem" (Luke 13:22).
Jesus didn't keep office hours at the local synagogue. He was out in the world, in "the villages." Because that is where the people who needed healing—whether physical or spiritual—gathered. So the question for leaders who want to follow the example of Jesus is simply: What would it look like for you to be out in the "villages"? And what would it look like if your focus were on bringing healing to those places?
In coffee shops, I can easily pick out the pastors. Typically, the ones who frequent coffee shops skew younger demographically, looking a bit like the "metrosexual worship leader" described in John Acuff's book Stuff Christians Like: overstyled "faux hawk" haircut, Rob Bell style glasses, wearing canvas high tops and a scarf with a white T-shirt in midsummer.
Their conversation (not that I'm eavesdropping!), the Bible on the table next to their laptop, the way they hug someone who comes to meet with them instead of shaking hands—you can tell. I want to tell these leaders: way to go. Way to spend time in the villages and marketplace of our day.
Most church leaders have more work to do than time to do it. Taking your laptop to a coffee shop, or scheduling a face-to-face meeting over coffee instead of just making a quick phone call might seem less efficient. But I wonder: If Jesus were on earth today, where he'd hang out—in a cubicle at church, or at a coffee shop?
What if you spent some time each week in the marketplace—not just to meet with other Christians, although that's great. What if you went with the prayerful intention of being like Jesus, who brought a healing touch to the marketplace? What would that look like?
Keri Wyatt Kent is a retreat leader and speaker, the author of nine books, and runs a freelance writing and marketing business—mostly from her local coffee shop. Feel free to get in touch with her via Facebook, Linked In, Twitter or her website, www.keriwyattkent.com.