I usually make myself a mug of coffee before I head to work, but one day last week I went to Starbucks instead. There were few people ahead of me, so I figured I’d have my order in no time. I was wrong. The baristas were crazy busy making coffee for people who weren’t there. They’d yell something like, “Polly, mobile order,” as they put Polly’s coffee on the bar. Pretty soon, Polly arrived to get her order. She was in and out in 10 seconds. This happened again and again. Meanwhile, I was the only customer actually in the store.
I mentioned this at our staff meeting that morning. Everyone laughed at me. Silly Tom. Don’t you know to order ahead using the mobile app? My wife said the same thing happened to her at Panera Bread. All the mobile lunch orders were filled ahead of hers.
But wait. I thought the whole point of places like Starbucks and Panera Bread were to create a kind of community. Now it’s just the opposite. Now you don’t have to interact with anybody.
We’re studying Acts 16 this week, where Luke tells of three conversion stories in quick succession. There’s Lydia, a wealthy business woman; a demon-possessed slave girl; and a Roman jailor. They were as different as three human beings could be. But they were all changed by the Gospel. Three people who never would have had anything to do with each other, became part of the same church.
It seems to me that an increasingly impersonal culture has given the church an opening. We were created for each other, and we all know it, even if we don’t act like it. The church is the one place where people of different generations, races, cultures, and incomes meet on a regular basis. That ought to be attractive in and of itself.
And we get to tell people about the one who makes us one in him.
There’ll never be an app that can do that.