Two Coffee Shops

A Parable for Pastors

Once upon a time there were two brothers, Al and Zack. Al liked making coffee. He served it in his kitchen. “This is delicious,” people said, and they invited others. Soon the group outgrew Al’s kitchen. He set up chairs in the living room. Al liked people — liked knowing their names, their joys and sorrows.

The group grew. They rented a building. Soon, they bought it. Still more came. They expanded into the building next door, and then added on. They were now in debt, but a thousand could be seated at once. Still people came, some from far away.

Al’s became the biggest, fastest- growing coffee shop around. Aspiring coffee-makers admired him. Everybody in the coffee world knew his name. He was a success. But now Al spent more time overseeing staff than brewing coffee. He worried about debt. He began diluting his coffee, just a little bit, to increase profits.

Al missed the old days, and his brother. Zack had also once served coffee in his kitchen, in his living room, and in a rented building. Zack’s shop also expanded, again and again. It was crowded, but still people came, some from far away. Zack sketched expansion plans and contemplated a big loan.

Then one of Zack’s customers suggested, “Teach me to make coffee. I’ll serve it in my kitchen to people who have been driving here. Then you’ll have more room.”

Soon there were two coffee shops rather than one. Whenever Zack’s shop gets too crowded, he just does it again. He never applied for that loan. And more people than ever are drinking coffee.

Zack still mingles with the people in his shop. He knows their names, their joys and sorrows. They think he’s a success. He spends more time brewing coffee than overseeing staff. And he’s never even considered diluting the coffee.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

P&D Editor’s note: I should think the point of the parable is obvious. I ran across this article in an old FrontLine and thought it fit well with my recent articles on small churches. I think the point of the article is very important, but I don’t discount the value of large churches. I am planning an article in the near future on “The Value of the Large Church to the Small Church.”