Why I Don’t Run a Ministry

Yesterday I was talking to a big deal ministry leader because that’s how important I am, and he said, “How’s that blog of yours coming along? Don’t you hate having to do that? It’s every day, isn’t it? I hate it when I have to do stuff like that, because then you have to turn everything you see, or that happens to you, into a little sermon. It’s like you can never just relax.”

So I thought, “You are such a dink.” But then I thought, “Wait. How come I don’t do that? How come I never try to think of little sermons based on stuff I see?”

So I’m gonna do that. Right now.

As I write this, I’m sitting at a Starbucks. So let me look around myself here, and see if I can scrounge together something I can use for a deep Godly observation/mini-sermon. Pretend like you haven’t read anything in this post before this: like it’s just starting.

Godly Reflections at a Starbucks

You know, Starbucks and God have a lot in common. They’re both everywhere, for instance. And they both help people wake up in the morning get gas spend their money stay focused and get motivated. And just like people come to God to get exactly what they want, people come to Starbucks to get exactly what they want. One of the great things about Starbucks, after all, is that you can order your drink so exactly how you want it that people waiting in line behind you roll their eyes at each other and make faces while you’re ordering. If visitors to Starbucks are looking for comfort, they might find it in the frothy cappuccino of a rousing hymn. If they’re looking for forgiveness, they just might find it in the soy nonfat double-shot latte of confession. In need of inspiration? Why, you just might find it in the venti Caffe Americano of a rousing sermon. Looking to just connect with God? Go WiFi!

[Wow. That was awful. Lemme try again.]

Godly Reflections at a Starbucks

This morning, as I sat in a Starbucks sipping on my iced venti latte that was creating so much condensation it was practically shorting out my computer, I looked about myself. And I noticed something. I noticed that almost everyone in the place was engrossed in one personal electronic device or another. Whether it was an iPhone, a notepad, a laptop, or … well, that’s about it … people were tuning out the world around them. What does it say about a society when its members overwhelmingly prefer one-dimensional electronic communicating to three-dimensional human interaction? It is from meeting, knowing, and loving others that we most fully discover who we are, what we need, where we belong. This whole culture has become a disgrace. I, for one, won’t even be almost surprised when God decides to wipe us all out with a giant fireball that will rush down from the heavens, and ignite …

[No, no. Slipped into unbecoming derangement. Fail.]

Godly Reflections at a Starbucks

As I sat this morning at my neighborhood Starbucks, I began reflecting upon the question of whether or not it’s time I cut back on caffeine. After all, does God need caffeine? Probably not. But who knows? Who among us can say with surety that God doesn’t wake up in the morning, and go, “Somebody get me Juan Valdez. Is he dead yet? He is, right? Bring him in here. I want some coffee.” But, again, probably not. God probably just snaps his fingers, and bam: coffee. I wonder if he takes cream in his coffee? Probably not. They probably don’t have cows in heaven. Not milking cows, anyway. They’re pretty heavy. I love cows. I’ll bet there’s only cows in heaven. If I was God, I’d instantly make every cow that ever died into a big giant cow angel. That way …

[Right. So I give up. This is why I don't run a ministry. Well. One of the reasons.]

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Yeah—good thing too. I for one wouldn't read your blog if it were like that. There are like a million other blogs aimed at turning everything into some little sermon. If you did the same, you'd be facing a lot of competetion for readership, and the non-religious would just be avoiding you like the plague.

    • http://odgie.wordpress.com odgie

      Yeah, what Matthew said.

    • Freda

      Dittos all the way.

  • http://hottiemcsorry.wordpress.com hottiemcsorry

    what the…?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      I know. It's hard to know what to say when, through the powerful, piercing words of another, you suddenly see heaven. I get that all the time. Think of my words like a venti caramel Frappuchino. Yes, they're sweet, delicious, frothy, and perhaps even a tad too rich. But if you don't pace yourself, and take them in too quickly, you are sure to get a first get a headache, then feel dizzy, then get extremely irritable. And once you've reached the end of what I've had to say–just like when you reach the end of your delectable Frappuchino–things, you will find, will inevitably–if only for a very short while–get terribly sucky.

  • Elizabeth

    First I laughed so hard that I hid behind the computer monitor. Then I laughed so hard that I put my head down on the desk. THEN I laughed so hard that I crawled under the desk and rolled up into a ball. I have not had a laugh this good since… the last time you wrote like this.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      John Shore. Helping people go fetal since last time he tried to do a sermon.

      • denver

        This, more than the blog itself, made me literally LOL. XD

      • amelia

        I’m smiling and I don’t even know why I’m smiling and giggling all goofy and wondering how in the world did I ever hear about JohnShore.com in the first place and is this guy for realzies and somehow there’s huge “YES, OH YESes” going off in my head at how hilariously, yet quite skillfully, he makes me think about God in light of others, God’s light in others and for crying out loud, WAFFLES! LoVE YoU Mr. Shore! <3

  • Scott Spencer-Wolff

    So, just askin here of course, what if one made the distinction between Starbucks as a "sermon" with some kind of moral attached – and Starbucks as an observation. For example; how similar the corporate culture disconnect that Starbucks the company may have, from the (oftentimes) very lovely people who work there, and, perhaps even further, from the masses who patronize them.

    For example, my own United Methodist Church (I used to be Roman Catholic, and although I am not especially "religious", I do look awfully cute in black – but decided against a career as a professional religious guy because of the RC Church's extreme fear/paranoia/disdain for women – among other things and so had to go somewhere, and the Methodist Church has really good potlucks) has a strange culture where they, on one hand disparage gays and on the other profess to be "open and welcoming", which is, basically talking out of both sides of your mouth. Anyway, sounds a bit "Starbucks" like.

    I've heard sermons along those lines and liked them very much.

    Also, just have to add this too – John, you are running a "ministry" whether you know it, acknowledge it or not. You'd be AMAZED at the places your stuff gets circulated to. Now, how to up booksales!!!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      I think I WOULD be amazed where some of my stuff ends up. But probably not in a good way. (Thanks for the rest of what you said here, Scott. Interesting stuff!)

  • Christine

    have only just regained my composure enough to write….oh that was too good….loving the cows!!! Trying to write a sermon at the moment and was running out of inspiration but mate you have picked me right up again. (cows…..bahahahahahahahahaha). Might print this out and put on my wall for when I need a smile

  • Matthew Tweedell

    HOLY COW!

    (I bet you were just waiting for someone to say that, huh John?)

    • Christine

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….oh that was awesome!!!

  • Troy

    Maybe you should just stay away from Starbucks for a while….

  • Robert Meek

    You will be glad to know that your "Retweet" button works.

  • JohnB

    Beautiful.

  • http://penelopepiscopal.blogspot.com Penny Nash

    This made me laugh out loud. I spent the better part of my day today (1) writing a sermon for tomorrow, which I do pretty much every week and (2) writing a blog post for today, which I do pretty much every day. I gotta tell you that the whole “it’s not about ordering up what you want from God” (perhaps with a little editing) is a sermon most of us need to hear on a regular basis.

  • http://www.allenrandall.info Allen

    Loved it. Miss you. Admire your ever-growing body of work–life observed from the shorline…

    In LA recently I passed a young woman on the street. On her the front of her T-shirt iwas the word, "born." After taking about 7 steps I turned to look back at her. On the back of her T-shirt: "to blog."

  • http://www.allenrandall.info Allen

    I should at least do a quick edit for typos before hitting the Submit Comment button. Live and learn…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Epistomolus Dennis Dawson

    This morning, before I spent five hours teaching Toastmasters how to be Area Governors, I stopped at my favorite coffee spot, the Pacific Coast Cafe (located in the front of the Lucky Supermarket where we borrow the training room for our Toastmasters events). I ordered, and received, a 20 oz. "coffee."

    Yes, they have the frappadingo machine and you can get iced froofie poof vendy wendy latte wattay or any other form of personal espression you wish to espress, but I just want plain old coffee, with caffeine thank you, at the slightly less unreasonable price of $1.79. A little half-and-half and I'm all set.

    This is similar to my approach to the metaphysical. Yes, I can have golden candle holders and robes and incense and miters and self-flagellation and spend hours debating what the latest translator in a long line of translators meant when twisting the words and context of long-dead religiots. Or I can be good and try to help others, and let the rest take care of itself.

    I might or might not burn in hell for that, but I certainly did burn the tip of my tongue on my first sip, and I _hate_ that.

    Be sure to watch me corrupt America's youth (or at least my art students) at:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/Epistomolus

    ~D

  • Gina Powers

    The second entry…..*especially* the last two sentences. YES.

    Also, if you start your own ministry, you risk dorks like me raiding your entries for stuff to teach my minions-I-mean-teenagers in Sunday school because I'm such the procrastinating dolt. It's like, almost TWO a.m out here, and so far…I ain't got squt. Yeah, I know……

    By the way….and John, if I should save this for my own damn blog, I understand, but I wanted to post this question to you and my fellow readers……I want dragons in Heaven. Is that bad? Can dragons be in Heaven?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      No. Sorry. Dinosaurs, yes. Dragons, no.

      Unicorns, yes. Abonimable snowmen, no.

      Loch Ness monsters, yes. Bigfeet, no.

      Wookies, yes. Chupacabras, no.

      Hobbits, yes. Trolls, no.

      • LSS

        what?! are you serious. poor Yeti.

  • Gina Powers

    *Unicorns*, but not abonimable snowmen…? Hmmmm………gotta chew on that one there…..now, Chupacabras, I'm totally with you on!! They just NEVER have good days! Wookies–right on!! ;)

    P.S. Your current *ministry* is indeed just fine….no worries! Happy Sunday, all!

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    See I thought Starbucks was Satanic because at those prices who can afford to tithe?

  • http://www.lovecominghome.com christina lewis

    perfect timing. and career altering, for us. tim and i just created a blog. seth godin says too. hugh macleod says too. john shore does. but we are FROZEN. felt like we were s'posed to create mini sermons. but everything i write makes me roll my own eyes and throw up a little in my own mouth. blech. this post of yours changes everything…

  • christy

    I’d just like to point out that it’s pretty clear that you enjoy what you do, John, and the way in which you do it…..as do we. The big deal ministry guy……maybe not so much. Yes, what a dink.

  • http://johnshore.com Dan

    Very funny blog John. And of course I will read anything about starbucks! I am not sure what was funnier though, your post or Elizabeths response! Only time I wind up in a fetal position like that i if I drink the Kamodo Dragon! I think it really bites on the way down! In any case have a fine sunday and will look forward to reading more this week.

  • Ace

    Well, cows DO always seem to be so zen-like and at peace with the universe. :D

    • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

      Moo.

  • http://www.screwtype.com Lucas

    I once attended a "hip" service by a reality-show famous pastor in the back of a Brooklyn bar, and that first example is disconcertingly close to his actual sermon.

  • http://spiritualmeanderings.wordpress.com/ Sentinel

    Outstanding post, John.

    I for one appreciate that you stick to the "ministry" to which you feel called, rather than arbitrarily trying to be a pastor without being called to it.

    Keep writing, we'll keep reading and commenting, pastors keep pastoring, worship leaders keep singing, and we'll all continue to be blessed by the diversity of ministries to which we are all called.

  • Melissa

    I have been following you for about 10 days and I am hooked. I wish I still had photoshop bc I would be having some grand fun right about now.

  • Kim J.

    Very funny blog. Loved the fetal position comment. Hilarious!

  • http://www.facebook.com/FCC.FirstChristianChurch Mike Paddy

    What we see in Starbucks is opposite of their values, goals, their mission: http://www.starbucks.com/about-us/company-information/mission-statement

    Building that safe place, that community of people…

    Nice blog!

  • http://barbaradeshong-msteryshrink Barbara DeShong, Mysteryshrink

    John,

    This is terrific. If you want to see how miserably one can fail at combining marketing and life, you might want to check out This Little Piggy Goes to Marketing on barbaradeshong-mysteryshrink.

    Smile, smile, smile.

    Thanks.

  • Leslie Marbach via Facebook

    Have you ever read R.G. Ryan’s St. Arbucks books? I can’t help now but to call Starbucks “Saint Arbucks.” LOL

  • Deb Curnock via Facebook

    that’s strange, I’ve always thought of your posts as little sermons. Funny though.

  • Paula

    Yes, but how DO you do it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Me? Do what?

  • http://sillama1.xanga.com Sil in Corea

    I’m reading backwards (darn that Hebrew course) through your old posts. Had to laugh at Starbucks and sermons!!! LOL & ROFL!!!

  • Roger

    I’m sorry. I love you, John Shore, and often find your work inspiring, thought-provoking, convicting or funny. (often in a bizarre combination of all of those) But, I disagree with you on the basis of this post.

    For you, John, do “run a ministry”. Not only do you run a ministry, but you run a ministry that is affirming and inspirational. Not only do your blog posts “preach”; the fact that in this age of social media, that you allot time and space for feedback, questions and even the occasional dissent means that your ministry is more healthy, vibrant and authentic than most churches. So how about that???

    Too often the church only recognizes ministry as those things which put butts in pews and dollars in offering plates, but the very heart of ministry is…touching hearts. You, my friend do that. A lot.

    So, get used to it. You are a minister, and an effective one, at that.

    • Crysta

      Ummm…yeah. I’d have to agree!

    • cat rennolds

      thank you, Reverend Roger. Now we just gotta get him a camel hair shirt. Anybody wanna send him honey-covered locusts for Christmas?

      Yes, John, you do. I told you that. You were called, you answered. Don’t be playin’ Moses and goin’ “But God! I get all tongue-tied in front of people!” Cause nobody’s gonna believe you;)

    • LSS

      maybe there is a distinction between “running a ministry” and “doing useful stuff for God”. maybe there shouldn’t be, but maybe there is.

      • cat rennolds

        okay, no, wait, you’re right. he’s not running a ministry. it’s running him.

        isn’t that the kind we want?

    • http://facebook.com/unorthodoxology David R. Henson

      I have to agree with Roger on this one. When people are writing with you and sharing with you the deepest, most difficult parts of their lives, well, that is something ministers wish they had!

      Most posts you write are better than 90 percent of sermons that get preached every Sunday. But *ministry* is really just about proclaiming the grace and love of God and being willing to walk through and to dark places with and for people.

      So, thanks for being a ministry leader in that way and not the schmaltzy God in Starbucks kind. :)

    • Susan Carter Finazzo

      Yep! Absolutely agree; and a great one at that! Thank you John, you minister to each of us with every post! Oh, and I’m 1/2 way through Unfair. (I have to admit that I liked the first title better!)

    • Mindy

      I am SO glad someone officially said so. I knew it, but now it’s, like, for real.

      Your ministry is the best one I’ve seen. Ever.

  • Roger

    There’s also the fact that people do not take the stands you do, facing the ire that you do, unless:

    a) they feel driven (called perhaps?) to do so, or

    b) they are completely off their nut.

    I choose to believe the former.

    What about you?

  • Susan in NY

    I totally agree with both Roger and David. You rock, John.


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