During my sabbatical I spent a lot of time at my favorite Starbucks closest to our house.  I know… for those of you who know me well, this is no big surprise.  However, one day while fixing up my coffee at the cream and sugar (and various other things) stand I hear the name of my favorite barista called by another patron.  I didn’t see him behind the counter while ordering my drink, so I turn around to make eye contact and wave hello.  But once again, when I turn around, he is now nowhere to be found.  I began to scan the store trying to spot him by looking for his green apron and his yellow rimmed glasses.  To my surprise, I found him dressed in street clothes sitting at a table enjoying a cup of coffee just like any other patron.

I went over, sat down and said hello.  We began to chat about what he’d been up to lately. His job.  His latest creative projects.  Twitter.  Etc…. And after about a 30-40 minutes of conversation we got up to refill our drinks and moved to the patio.  This time at different tables in order to do the work we came to do in the first place.  I had two conference calls over the next few hours for spiritual direction and leadership coaching.  His work?  He was drawing a picture of a bird for the son of one of his customers.  A little boy who has an imaginary pet bird named Loo Loo.  But don’t be fooled.  His work was equally important as mine, if not more important.

I jumped on to my calls.  He struck up his pipe and began to draw.

Over the next few hours, with his pipe smoke wafting in air, while on my conference calls, I watched him work.  And as he worked, I was struck by what I saw.  During the next 90 minutes he must have been interrupted from his work at least three times.  And each time he readily put his work aside and was 100% fully present to whoever was sitting across the table.  Some people stayed for 10 minutes, some people stayed a full 30 minutes.  People of all races, ages and genders.  He had no bias; he simply made himself available to whoever was across from him.  And on top of that, there were at least another dozen people who passed by and either waved hello, gave him a pat on the back or a hug.  Through watching all of this it was clear that he was well versed and incredibly rooted in the local context of this community.

After watching this scene play out, I came to the conclusion that this man wasn’t simply a barista, he was a pastor.  His congregation was his colleagues and patrons.  The sermons that he preached were his life that overflowed with love, compassion and patience.  Watching him work inspired me once again, to re-imagine what it means to be a pastor.  Again, it’s not about “getting things done” and “making things happen,” but about being available to where God is at work and where the Spirit is leading.  It’s about paying attention and calling attention to where the Kingdom is breaking into our midst and being 100% fully present to the work and the people God brings before us each day.  Whether it is serving coffee, running a corporation or stocking shelves, God is always at work.  The question is whether or not we have the eyes to see it?

May we recognize that God is always at work.
May we have eyes to see where the Kingdom is breaking in.
May we come to see that the Kingdom of God is often found in the local & ordinary.

Oh yeah… and if you think that I was simply using an analogy to describe my friend as a pastor, he really is a pastor.  Check out his latest sermon here.


3 Responses to “What I learned on Sabbatical (part 2): A Pastor with a different kind of congregation”

  1. Emily

    Excellent reminder – I pray Ross and I can be people of ‘presence’ and quality time as we minister in our community. Thanks for sharing, Bryan!


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