Church of the $15,000 Espresso Machine

Posted on January 23, 2012


Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington D.C.

I visited two “community” churches in Washington D.C..  The pastor of National Community Church was trying to raise $15,000 for an espresso machine.  The pastor of New Community Church was trying to raise $10 million for a local bank they were starting.  I wrote reviews of both mind-blowing churches HERE.

As usual I  interviewed the person seated in front of me in worship which happened in both churches to be 21-year-old women.  When I asked one why she needed Jesus, she quickly answered “We are all fallen and cannot access God.  Jesus is the bridge.”  I waited for something more, some clarification of “fallen” for example or maybe a more nuanced, personal, account of how she had shimmied over the Jesus bridge.  Nothing.   I restated it for her hoping it would seem incomplete and she would want to flesh-it-out a little; You need Jesus to help you get to God?  “Yeah!” she tells me with raised eyebrows as if I seemed to really get her meaning.

The woman from the other church asked for a minute to think after I asked her why she needed Jesus. She eventually  responded  “Jesus is an example to me of love for the poor, of challenging the powers,and of taking risks.”  I restated her answer and she was glad to tell me about her personal struggles of faith.

I asked them both to share why they need the church.  The participant of the $15,000 espresso machine church admitted she attends this Saturday night service because it is innovative.  The participant of the $10 million “let’s create a community bank” church shared that her church’s requirements for membership are pretty stringent.  Prospective core members have to complete a year-long course for Christian Living, be a regular participant in a small group, and be willing to honestly identify their gifts and passion, striving to live-out this calling in loving service to the stranger.  Each October is a church-wide time of membership reevaluation, and some acknowledge they can no longer continue membership with integrity.  My subject admits that this kind of accountability around spiritual formation might seem “heavy-handed,” “But it’s good.  It’s like spinning; sometimes you need someone to tell you to pedal hard.”

The book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean explains why there are so many young people like the one I interviewed who will no doubt give money toward a $15,000 church espresso machine.  Dean’s book opens with a quote from theologian Douglas John Hall:

I am personally not very much worried about the reduction in numbers where Christianity…[is]concerned.  I am far more concerned about the qualitative factor:  what kind of Christianity…are we talking about?

What kind of Christianity is worth $15,000 or even $10 million?

Posted in: Changing Church