While we may not see our day-to-day jobs as ministry opportunities, people in every context need to hear the message of the Bible.
I found myself somewhat frustrated in accepting yet another position as a barista. I was days away from entering the final semester of my undergraduate career with a degree in Christian ministry, and being a barista was not how I pictured myself ministering.
A few days later, I was angrily wiping down counters when a dear friend reminded me that ministry is all about service. I couldn’t think of a more practical way to serve than in a coffee shop! That day, something changed within me. I had been preaching to the teens in my youth internship about “ministering everywhere you are,” and I realized that the coffee shop was the perfect place to do just that. The message I had been teaching others was becoming real to me. A textbook opportunity presented itself: I was able to practice what I was preaching . . . funny how that happens.
So, I set out to bring my Christian lingo into the workplace.
I began asking guests, “How can I serve you?”
Many customers were taken by surprise at my question.
I started to notice that people tucked into the coffee shop corners were often trying to escape or avoid their current realities.
Real people and real struggles sat before me each day.
One day it was a woman just diagnosed with stage IV cancer who didn’t know how to tell her children. Another day it was a man staring down at the divorce papers on the table in front of him, with a pen in his trembling hand and doubt in his eyes. Another day it was a weary pastor who hadn’t practiced Sabbath in months . . . and the list goes on.
Amazing conversations have happened whenever I stopped to notice these people and intentionally stepped into their reality, holding a cup of coffee and bearing a smile that said, “I’m ready to hold these burdens with you.”
The coffee shop has given me an opportunity to build an incredible relationship with a young man who calls himself a pagan. Slowly but surely, he’s started asking questions about scripture and about why I have chosen a career path in ministry.
One night, in particular, he said, “Ashton, the only reason I trust you and am willing to actually talk to you about my beliefs is that I can tell you care. I don’t believe in your God, but you didn’t stop caring about me when you found out I wasn’t interested in your belief system. If I did believe in your God, it would be because finally someone who calls herself a ‘Christian’ hasn’t written me off because I didn’t fit into her perfect mold.”
I have realized that hurting people are everywhere, just waiting for someone to walk over to the corner and ask, “How can I serve you? What’s going on in your life?”
We all have a place of ministry, even if it is not always the setting we would choose for ourselves. I am so grateful that God is leading me into His mission field over a cup of coffee.
Ashton Mason is a licensed minister in the Church of the Nazarene and a recent graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University.
Holiness Today, May/Jun 2018.