CHURCHES WITHOUT STEEPLES: The Woman at the Well May Be at Starbucks

By Bill McClure

My brother was once a professional Pacific Ocean fisherman. I vividly remember the times we were out in his boat looking for increasingly hard-to-find salmon. It was so windy one time I could barely stand straight and had to hold on to avoid falling overboard. Another time, in spite of over-the-counter remedies, I got really seasick. I also recall the time we went far from shore—even losing sight of land—and the fog became so dense we navigated using only the radar gear on board.

It dawned on me later: we had taken some major risks. Why would a sane person do that? Well, the answer is simple: if you want to catch fish you have to go where the fish are. In spite of hazards and risks—in spite of distance and danger, in spite of winds and waves—you won’t catch fish if you don’t go where they are.

The same is true when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a lost world. We must go where the lost people are.

The Right Place

Paul was in the city of Athens when he “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). The synagogue and the marketplace were both filled with people who needed to hear the message of Jesus.

While the synagogue is off-limits for evangelism and preaching the gospel today, the marketplace isn’t, and the popular coffee house Starbucks is usually in the heart of the marketplace. Starbucks plans it like that, and spiritually needy people are there in abundance.

The San Jose (California) Mercury News reported: “A writer froze in her tracks when she recently stepped into a Starbucks. The entire establishment was jam-packed with teenagers. Giggling, gossiping teenagers clutching whipped cream-doused frappuccinos; shoving Business Week and The New York Times to the side in favor of the latest Abercrombie catalog. Where were the crotchety old men? The college students, the business people, the starving artists? . . . When did kids begin to take over the place?”

Starbucks may not be dangerous or windy, but it is an ideal place for sharing the Word with those who are lost, because many of them spend their free time there.

Marketplace Ministry

My friend Derek Murrow showed me his marketplace ministry in Escondido, California, and he wrote: “It started quite by accident! While memorizing the Word of God at Starbucks I soon realized that the ‘woman at the well’ is at Starbucks and she would like ‘a vanilla latte with two shots of living water, please!’ The names and the places have changed, but the story is always the same! The wages of sin is still death, destruction, and despair, but the free gift of God is still eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

God led Derek and his coworkers to Starbucks so that a number of needy people, young and older, would be won to the Lord. In recent days, a practicing Black Muslim, a sexually mixed-up man, and a casino worker and his family have all been baptized into Christ and are starting new lives with Christ in the local church.

Starbucks may be an unusual place for the church to preach the gospel, but is it not just like the Athens marketplace visited by Paul?



Bill McClure is director, Gospel Broadcasting Mission, Onalaska, Wisconsin. For more information visit

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