Usually, before I go to bed at night, I make coffee, or maybe I should say I get my coffeemaker ready to make coffee.
I empty the carafe, rinse it and put it in place. I grind the beans and measure them into the filter. I fill the reservoir with cold, clean water. And then I set the automatic timer for 4:55 a.m., so that the aroma of brewing coffee will rise to my nostrils on the second floor just before the alarm goes off at 5.
And that really helps.
Once I’ve had coffee, I can actually think about how it got here, and it occurs to me that somewhere out there is a factory that makes coffeemakers. As I refill my mug, two things seem clear:
1. If there wasn’t a factory to make coffeemakers, I probably wouldn’t have one.
2. If coffeemakers didn’t make coffee, there probably wouldn’t be a factory.
Stay with me.
I heard someone refer to the church as a “disciple-making factory” recently, and I sat up a little straighter because I’ve had that thought myself.
When I became pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church seven years ago, our mission statement read, “First Baptist Church exists to make disciples…” and, almost immediately, I pictured fully formed, fully functioning disciples rolling off the assembly line.
But then I wondered, “What does a fully formed, fully functioning disciple do?”
As I suggested earlier, if coffeemakers didn’t make coffee, the factory would go out of business. But what about the church? Could it be said, “If disciples don’t (fill in the blank), the church will go out of business”? And how would you fill in that blank?
The answer to that question could make all the difference in how we understand the church, and how we approach our mission.
Some people fill in the blank by saying that disciples make disciples, and if they don’t, the church will go out of business.
That is to say, good Christians are supposed to share their faith with others, and bring them to church, and make Christians out of them, so that the pews and offering plates remain full.
That seems logical, until I apply that same logic to coffeemakers: coffeemakers aren’t supposed to make coffeemakers; they’re supposed to make coffee.
If they do it and do it well, people will continue to buy coffeemakers and the factory will stay in business.
So, what are disciples supposed to “make,” if not more disciples? Here’s one answer:
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends his disciples out to preach the good news of the coming kingdom and to give people a glimpse of what the world will look like when God at last has his way.
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons,” he says, and off they go to do it.
That’s “Kingdom Coffee,” friends, and I believe that if we made more of that, the church would have all the business it could handle.
That’s what Jesus did, after all, and everywhere he went he drew such crowds that he could hardly breathe.
But along the way he was teaching his disciples to do the same things he did, to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons – and to do it as a sign of the coming kingdom.
There aren’t a lot of lepers to cleanse in 21st century America, but there are people who have been excluded from our communities, and pushed to the margins of society.
There aren’t a lot of demons to cast out in these modern times, but there are people who struggle with depression and anxiety who need to be loved and understood.
I haven’t raised any dead people lately, but I have heard people talk about having hope again for the first time in years.
And every time we take the time to listen or put an arm around someone’s shoulder or offer to say a prayer, we are doing the work of healing.
I believe that if a coffeemaker-making factory makes coffeemakers that make coffee, it will stay in business, and if a disciple-making factory makes disciples that do these things, it will stay in business, too. And maybe, just maybe, God’s kingdom will come.
Jim Somerville is pastor of First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.