The Language of Life

Every now and again, I find myself in a coffee shop for long periods of time reading books for class. Sometimes, this reading marathon takes place at my neighborhood Starbucks. Because it is rather small, I often have a view of the cash register or the coffee pick-up and thus get to see and hear everybody that passes through the store. I number of weeks ago, a young teenage boy comes in and places three orders (presumably for his parents who waited patiently outside). Although this in and of itself is not anything that should draw attention to itself, for some reason, on this particular morning, I found myself astounded and how deeply the language of Starbucks infiltrated this young boy. He rattled off three straight orders without hesitation, using all the lingo that comes from Starbucks (e.g., tall, grande, venti). The boy ordered in such a nonchalant manner – this language was second nature to him.

I often watch documentaries on CNBC. I like to learn how businesses and corporations got their start and how they have developed over the course of their history. One time, the documentary was on Starbucks. The monumental moment in the history of this Seattle company was when Howard Schultz took over the company. Not only did he begin serving coffee in the store itself (it originally sold tea leaves and coffee beans for consumption in one’s home), he also created a language for store. Now, instead of ordering a small cup of coffee, you order a tall. Although confusing at first, eventually you start to get the hang of this new language. When Schultz was asked the reason behind the use and creation of its own language, Schultz said that he wanted to create a culture of Starbucks in which people felt like they were a part of the company. The lingo, when picked up by customers, made one an insider to their neighborhood coffee shop. They communicated in a different way and thus became a part of it.

I wonder what it might look like for the church to take its use of words and sentences and language this seriously. That instead of stripping the Christian faith so that it is easier to understand, the church instructs visitors what our language means and why we use it. I wonder if this was the case, people would have a different window through which the world could be seen. I wonder if we take all the words muttered in Christian worship that seriously or if we say throw-away words in order to fill the time or end the silence.

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