The Gospel According to Starbucks (by Leonard Sweet)

I'd never heard of Leonard Sweet. Apparently he's a prolific writer with a pretty high profile in the Christian world in the USA.

'The Gospel According to Starbucks' is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. But one of our sons gave it to my husband a couple of years ago, and when he read it he said it was pretty good. So finally I decided to read it myself - and have been doing so for the past ten days or so, alongside various other books.

At first, I found it a bit irritating. The author tried to draw all kind of parallels between Starbucks and the Gospel message of Jesus. I even wrote a post about this, "The gospel and... Starbucks??" on a different blog. He seems to be assuming that Starbucks coffee houses are something out of the ordinary and that Christians would do well to look at Starbucks, the way they're run, the jargon, the welcome... and so on. It all rather turned me off, since it just seems to me like another American chain cafe, trying to make as much money as possible.

But as I got into the book, there was less about Starbucks, and more about the Christian community; how it was, how it is, what influences there have been on it over the centuries. The author takes the acronym EPIC (Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich and Connectivity) which he links with both Starbucks and the worldwide Body of Christ.

When relating it to Starbucks, I found myself bemused - he evidently has a very different idea of this coffee-house from mine - but when relating to Christian believers, there was a lot that was thought-provoking and very interesting. So much so that I was prompted to write another post about the concept of a 'third place', which was new to me.

Towards the end of the book there was very little about Starbucks, and I found myself enjoying the writing more and more. There are interesting asides about coffee itself, bad puns for the titles to the boxed asides within the text (such as "brewed for thought") and a comprehensive section of notes at the back, as well as suggested questions for personal or group study, which could promote a great deal of soul-searching and discussion, with the right people.

So, all in all, I think I'd recommend it fairly highly. Just skim the early parts extolling Starbucks. As much as anything, it's a gimmick to capture people's attention - and there's no denying that Starbucks is remarkably popular amongst those who can afford their high prices!

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th November 2010

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