God Talk at Starbucks

By Mark A. Taylor

Worldly compromise or godly influence?

Marketing genius or evangelistic zeal?

Each of those labels would match the conclusions of some about Rick Warren after discovering that the Purpose Driven Life author will have his name on Starbucks coffee cups next year.

I, for one, admire him for getting his words included in the feature Starbucks calls “The Way I See It.”

The coffee seller finds provocative paragraphs from thoughtful writers and prints them on the paper cups used in their shops. Starbucks calls it a way to stimulate “good, healthy discussion . . . in the tradition of coffeehouses everywhere.”

When they invited customers to submit for the 2006 assortment of quotes, Warren sent one, and it was accepted.

Cathy Lynn Grossman, writing in USA Today, said Warren got the idea of “a grande pitch for God as creator after seeing a Starbucks quote on evolution from paleontologist Louise Leakey.” Leakey’s statement isn’t the only one that would irk some Christians. In fact, earlier this year Baylor University banned the cups after Armistead Maupin’s quote advocating homosexuality appeared on them.

Next year, because of Warren’s initiative, at least one of the dozens of coffee cup quotes will offer a good word for God.

Admittedly, Warren knows how to market himself and his ideas. His books have sold tens of millions. His “Purpose Driven” campaigns have been used by churches everywhere (including a slew of Restoration Movement churches). He’s featured not only at popular Christian conferences but also in the news and on TV shows like Larry King Live.

But according to some observers, his reputation puts him in line to replace Billy Graham as “America’s pastor.” Warren has used his fame to help others and to spread the gospel. When asked about his success by a caller to Larry King, Warren said he believes we should use our blessings to bless others. His new wealth has not changed his lifestyle; he hasn’t bought a larger home or a vacation house, and he doesn’t own a luxury car. His foundations are doing benevolent work around the world. He preaches for no salary at the Saddleback megachurch he founded in Southern California. And he practices “reverse tithing” he gives away 90 percent of his income and lives on 10 percent.

Warren is a student of our culture. (He began Saddleback after walking door to door and asking people in his community their attitudes about church.) He finds culturally relevant ways to challenge culturally created norms. If he can help make coffeehouses a place to brew discussion about God, I say more power to him.

After all, at least for now, there’s no law requiring the separation of church and coffee!

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