Convenience or Community

Convenience or Community

I don’t know why I clicked on the link. In fact, today I don’t remember where I saw the link. But what I read has captured my attention for over a month and shaped my contemplations that have resulted in this reflection.

The link I clicked led to a November 2, 2018, Business Insider article about Starbucks. The article reported that more than 80% of the new Starbucks locations opened in 2018 in the United States were drive-thrus. When one considers that the coffee chain’s original brand appeal was a focus on community, providing a place for coffee lovers to gather and connect, the rise of drive-thrus has caught the interest of the business industry. To explain the decision, Starbucks officials cite the reality that in recent years an increasing proportion of customers prioritize convenience over community.

What do I prioritize? Convenience or community?  The gospel, of course, puts a priority on community. The incarnation of Jesus was definitely not convenient! The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Immanuel. God with us. God values community. Furthermore, the walk of faith is often not convenient; the call to obedience is often costly. (Hebrews 11)

In contrast, our culture values convenience. We love efficiency and ease. When we feel the need for community, today’s digital world gives an opportunity to be connected like never before through a variety of social media platforms. I must admit, I love the convenience of keeping in touch with ever-increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances. I love the opportunity to write a reflection each month that is delivered digitally. An online community has value, but we are created for more.

As we begin a new year, as we contemplate fresh starts and priorities, I challenge each of us to move beyond convenience, placing a priority on true community. Members of our Alliance family who serve cross-culturally are challenged to sustain an impactful, meaningful presence. I am inspired by that goal. What does this require? Time. Availability. Authenticity. A willingness to be inconvenienced.

In 2019, I want to be available for others. I don’t want to settle for “drive-thru” relationships alone. Yes, I will continue connecting through social media. I will continue to post, share, and comment. I will participate in an online community. But I will also walk across the street to greet a neighbor. I will pick up the phone and invite a friend over for a cup of coffee. I will take the time to chat with the cashier at my local grocery store. With God’s help, I will “make the most of every opportunity.” (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5) This, my friends, is a wise investment.

Jen Vogel

Jen served as national director for Alliance Women from 2015-2023; she serves in a variety of ministry capacities, including on the President's Cabinet for The Alliance. She enjoys reading, travel, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. Jen and her husband, Doug, attend Dover Avenue Alliance Church in Orange City, Iowa.

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