Venti…Blonde…w/Cream Please

Many of you know that I ‘office’ more often than not at one of the many local Starbucks establishments here in Kenosha. Specifically, I find myself with a coffee in hand at the Starbucks location on 75th in the tiny strip mall next to the Fed Ex office.

Yesterday, after I dropped my beautiful girls off at school, I made my way through the drive-thru as I was in the mood for a bit of the aromatic nectar that stars my day off in a way that is just so….well, just…so…right. I went through my normal ritual, pulled up to the talking box and said, “I’ll take a Venti, Blonde roast coffee, with Cream please.” The box responded, “Venti…Blonde…Cream. See you around the corner!” I pulled around the corner to the window. Paid for my coffee. Drove away.

I usually wait awhile to drink my coffee as I really do not like when it is scalding hot. Often, when I get my drink to go, I wait until I reach my destination to take my first sip (but the aroma still fills my car … and I like that too!). When I did finally reach my destination, I made my way inside, put my keys down and then took my first sip…

…it was the wrong coffee. It was not a blonde roast coffee, but a dark roast…and there was no cream.

It wasn’t a big deal. I drank most of it as I began my morning not thinking much of the mistake. Dark roast isn’t my favorite flavor…but no big deal, an honest mistake and we all make mistakes. I had forgotten about it by mid-morning and didn’t think about it again…until about 45 minutes ago.

After I cast my vote for the leader of the free world this morning, I proceeded to participate in my normal, daily ritual. I drove up to the talking box like I have so many times, ordered, and heard the welcoming response “Venti…Blonde…Cream. See you around the corner!” I pulled around the corner to the window with my payment in hand. The Starbucks employee greeted me with a smile and handed my drink. While she handed me my drink she said, “We gave you the wrong coffee yesterday didn’t we? Well…sorry for the mistake, this one is on us. Have a great day! … and again…sorry for the mistake.”


Full disclosure here – the staff, or at least this particular employee recognized me and often is working when I order and knows what I get. But even so, I was very impressed! This is actually the second time I have had a free cup of coffee from Starbucks in a month. The last time I received a free cup was when I ordered my usual in the drive through and that particular roast was gone (they were brewing another pot). So, they asked me what else I wanted and made clear that it was “on them” because they didn’t have what I ordered. So it was…free.

Starbucks often gets a bad rap for being overpriced coffee that simply isn’t “the best”. Maybe so. But that is a matter of taste more than anything, and yes, it is a bit on the expensive side…but I offer that we are not paying just for the coffee. We are paying for the experience.

Leonard Sweet, one of my favorite authors and thinkers about the future of the church says, “Organized religion has been assuming that because it has a better product – namely, God – that it simply needs to open the doors and customers will line up. That assumption no longer holds.”1

He is right.

Churches often assume that people ‘should’ come just because we are there, just because we exist, just because we are a “God fearing” or “Bible believing” or “Jesus loving” church. We assume that simply preaching a ‘better’ or more ‘pure’ gospel that we will grow and be effective. I submit that there is more to it than that…or maybe less.

This morning, Starbucks could have had some the lowest quality coffee in town, but I would still go back tomorrow because of the experience, because they noticed me, because the remembered me, because they admitted a mistake and because they attempted to make it right. The quality of the product had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Often, as churches and as Christians we are hung up on being right, being accurate, being Bible centered or Christ centered … one might even say we are hung up on having the “best coffee”. When in reality we are simply called to love one another and like Starbucks, “best” has nothing to do with it. We are called to do on a grander scale what that Starbucks employee did for me this morning. We are called to notice each other, remember each other, respect each other, care for each other, and help each other.

Jesus already said that the whole law, all of right and wrong, is wrapped up in this little idea. Jesus already said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It really is that simple.

And who would have thought that Starbucks might be reminding us of this more than the church does?

More on this to come…but first, my venti…blonde…w/cream has cooled down now. It is time to have some coffee…


1 Sweet, Leonard I. (2007). The Gospel According To Starbucks. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press.