Starbucks at the Expense of Gospel Outreach?

As our family continues down the road, I never cease to be amazed at those who tell us, “Oh, I could never do what you are doing!” Or, they may comment, “Lord bless you, but that type of work is definitely not for me!”

Similar phrases normally revolve around the lack of amenities that are available in Liberia such as no electricity, little to no running water except in Monrovia, very poor roads, and an infrastructure that is probably 100 years behind America.

Yet, each time I hear these type of comments, I remember a quote I once heard that says,

“How much is too much for something or someone you love?”

The reference, as I recall, was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, who had need of nothing, laid aside the splendors of glory to come down to a sin-cursed world, took upon Himself human flesh, and became a servant, obedient even to the death of the cross. This was NOT too much for our Savior to do in order that He might redeem to Himself His elect from every tongue, people, and nation.

2000 years have passed since the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth and there are billions who have never heard the gospel even once. Here in the west, we hear it on the radio, see it preached on the television, sit through brief sermonettes supposedly proclaiming the gospel and the glory of Christ, but rarely does anything change either in our hearts or in our lives.

Little more than 100 years ago, here in America, most did not have electricity, and very little running water unless it was hand-pumped. Trains were slow and travel to many parts of the USA was difficult. There was no Starbucks, no Wal-Mart, and no grocery stores lined with enough merchandise valued at what some small countries spend in an entire year on their own economy.

Let me put a little perspective into this last statement. The US Central Intelligence Agency puts Liberia’s GDP at $3.6 billion per year. Wal-Mart has annual sales of more than $370 billion. In other words, the total income of Liberia is just 1/10th of what Americans spend at Wal-Mart alone! This does not include the next top 5: Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, and Costco. These last five stores account for another $340 billion in annual sales.

Does this not startle us? Does it not shock us? What about Starbucks? Annual sales for Starbucks in 2010 was $8.96 billion, which is 2 1/2 times the size of Liberia’s entire GDP!

Now it is no secret to family and friends that I do not like Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons, but I will admit to having had my share of Starbucks $4-5 cup of coffee. The more I consider the poverty around the world, the more it hurts when I take money the Lord has entrusted to my stewardship to buy a drink that is the equivalent of 2-3 days of work for a Liberian brother or sister. Yet I wonder how often our conscience is often soothed while we drink our lattes and iced cappuccinos and maybe even offer a quick prayer that the Lord will bless our Christian brothers overseas.

With this post, I am not advocating the boycott of Wal-Mart or Starbucks. What I am seeking to do is put a little perspective into what is often a mundane existence for us in the West. When our brothers and sisters are in need, I grow more and more convinced that we will give account for what we do with our finances.

So, we go back to the question of “How much is too much for someone or something you love?” Do we easily and glibly rattle off “For God so loved the world” and proclaim that while the gospel is for the world, we cannot be bothered to reach out because we are more interested in spending our funds on that which will gather moth and rust and will eventually decay?

Sundays in many evangelical circles even take this to an additional level. We gather around bagels, donuts, and lattes because without them we won’t draw the same size crowd. While everyone sips their drinks and proclaims how good and awesome God is, souls are slipping into eternity while we ease into Sunday barcoloungers and absent-mindedly throw a few crumpled dollars into the offering plate. As it slips from our fingers, we may even ask the Lord to “bless” our humble offerings and cause the gospel to be spread around the world.

Who are we fooling? What is wrong with us in the West that we can be blessed with so much and yet think that we have a responsibility to give so little? Jesus Christ came and gave of Himself in death – the ultimate sacrifice – so that we might be free from the penalty of death. How much is too much for us to give? Are we willing to do more than give of our finances? Will we give of ourselves?

The phrases often quoted to us are not just fair pictures of the malaise in evangelical churches when it comes to true sacrifice and the cause of missions. It is actually a reflection that maybe even at the base level – sometimes even a Starbucks White Chocolate Raspberry Mocha is too much for the Someone we claim to love.

11 thoughts on “Starbucks at the Expense of Gospel Outreach?

  1. I think it’s absolutely wrong to heap guilt on people in rich countries since there are poor people everywhere – I don’t see that in this post, but one could infer it. I do think Christians who are rich in this present age have pretty clear instruction in the Bible about how to handle that circumstance – in 1 Tim 6:17 – 19 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

    For many years, I’ve been pointing out to men that $4 puts a complete Bible in local language in the hands of a Christian in Africa or China (I support the Bible League for this) and how many of us fail to think of eternity when we buy a Happy Meal?

    I like WalMart because it allows me to have more money for kingdom work. I will not spend money with StarBucks because they are at war with God and know it – supporting homosexual activists and charging too much for coffee that is not fit for man nor beast.

    The church at large would be much better served if Christians would read and heed the Word of God – taking care of people in need, especially those of the brotherhood of Christ. Anywhere and all over the world.

    DP – you press on, my brother, for the glory of our Lord. And quit spending money at Starbucks 🙂


  2. Desert Pastor, Great post, great perspective. We need balance, we need gospel focus in our lives, we need more of Jesus everyday.We should be different as followers of Christ, and sadly, we are not. When will we (speaking to myself here) realize that our pocket change can bring the gospel to the lost in places like Liberia?


  3. Brother Manfred,

    My apologies if it came across like I was trying to heap guilt on people, that was definitely not my intention. If someone wishes to shop at Target or Wal-Mart or wherever, they are free to do so. Likewise, if somebody wishes to drink Starbucks, Peets, Blind Dog coffee, whatever, again that is a choice. My real thoughts and intentions were to simply point out that far too often we can so caught up in enjoying the pleasures of our existence that we can too easily forget the need of our brethren around the world. Also, if we are unwilling to give consideration to the needs of others, especially Christian brethren, and would rather enjoy expensive lattes (or whatever), we have crossed a dangerous line that keeps us focused on an earthly plane of existence instead of on an eternal perspective. Hope that clarifies and thank you for your thoughts. — TDP


  4. We have learned well – our government pays $16.00 for a muffin we put $1.00 in the offering.
    Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

    “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against MY church” I have come to believe that the vast majority of churches today are indeed the church, BUT they are NOT – His church.!!.


  5. Talking about giving or sacrifice, seems to hit a raw nerve with some westerners.

    They will make a contract for a cell phone, for so much per month for a year or two.
    They will have cable t.v. and pay so much a month for it.

    Yet, ask them to give the same amount to missions for the same year or two. Well?

    2 Cor 8v1-5 tells us of the Macedonian churches, how they were commended for their giving, but they first gave themselves to the Lord.

    We have a lot to learn.


  6. @Abiding Through Grace, thank you for your words of encouragement.

    @Ali – Very true. We can expect that from government, but should not from true believers.

    @Doreen – Also very true. Contracts are easy when the world requires them, but when the Lord speaks to the heart and ASKS what we can do – few rise to the occasion.


  7. I retracted my original comment because it did not reflect what I truly wanted to say. This is something I have been convicted of and have sought forgiveness. I feel guilty giving to my churh at times because I don’t see how helping to pay the electric bill is advancing the kingdom, especially when the congregation is more concerned with their earthly status than they are with spreading the Gospel and digging into the meat of God’s word. Prayer requests often center on job promotions or various other self-centered greeds. I feel my giving would have more impact for Christ through what is my missionary of choice…heartcry.
    Although I do not agree with David Platt’s choice of friends or all that he teaches, his book ‘Radical’ speaks out against America’s stinginess as well. When brought to the attention of the wealthy, instead of falling on their faces and crying out for mercy, they make excuses. We need to get back to the basics, being content with food and clothing (1 Tim.6:8) and understanding what daily bread actually means.
    Desert Pastor, you are truly an edifying instument in the hands of God…bless you brother.


  8. Unworthy1, there is much truth and wisodm in what you shared (and in Desert Pastors OP too). God bless you brothers.



  9. Westerners are not unique among humans. We do after all have the same origin, Adam. Make no mistake, whatever sins underlie human action, if the poor who couldn’t ever afford Starbucks were to become affluent to any degree, their consumption of lattes would follow.
    “My apologies if it came across like I was trying to heap guilt on people, that was definitely not my intention.”
    Nonetheless, that is how you cam across. Intent means nothing, and neither does any view not grounded in a biblical view. Although I can surmise the biblical view you may have “intended”, it received scant and nearly insurmountable obstacles to seeing or understanding it aside from the near vitriol.
    “What is wrong with us in the West….”
    We are what’s wrong. Sinful humans in need of a savior who shed his blood for us. And the question could just as easily have East, South, Black, White or whatever as a subject and still have the same answer, sin.


  10. @fleebabylon – Thank you for your encouragement.

    @unworthy1 – You are right that we need to get back to basics. You summarize my thoughts very well when you mention “the congregation is more concerned with their earthly status…” And yes, we, as western Christians, have become very adept at making excuses. Thank you for your encouragement.

    @Michael Henry – Thanks for stopping by. I would be very interested in light of all we write and share about missions here how you have deemed that our approach to missions is somehow unbiblical. Your statement about “the poor becoming affluent to any degree and starting to drink lattes” smacks greatly of a huge lack of understanding of what really is going on in third-world countries. I would also be interested in knowing what approach you personally take towards the work of missions and the call of the Great Commission.


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