What do Starbucks and Pope Francis have in common?

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What do Starbucks and Pope Francis have in common?

August 26, 2015 -

“Today’s financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers’ attitudes and behavior.  Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. . . . Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

If a Starbucks barista was especially friendly to you this week, now you know why.  Company CEO Howard Schultz sent the paragraph above in a memo to the chain’s 190,000 employees.  He once told 60 Minutes, “We’re not in the business of filling bellies.  We’re in the business of filling souls.”

Meanwhile, a recent survey shows that Pope Francis is significantly more popular with Americans than the Catholic Church.  And in one presidential poll, Brady Olson, a 15-year-old who lives on an Iowa farm, is receiving more support than all but four of the 17 Republican candidates.

What do Starbucks, Pope Francis, and Brady Olson have in common?

Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister knows the answer.  Banister’s story is remarkable: he contracted bone cancer in high school, and nearly lost a leg.  He broke three vertebrae in his neck playing college baseball, and was paralyzed for ten days.  He went on to play professional baseball for seven years, then coached for 20 years before the Rangers hired him as their manager.

Banister knows something about leadership in tough times.  He was recently invited by ESPN to contribute a guest blog, where he noted: “You can’t coach today’s game by yesterday’s rules.  The millennial athlete needs for their leader to be a serving leader who focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and the communities in which they belong. . . . Leadership today is about authenticity, not authority.”

Authenticity explains Starbucks’ compassion, Francis’s popularity, and the rise of non-political politicians.  And it empowers Christians to impact their culture for Christ.

Henri Nouwen: “When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian.”  His statement bothered me at first.  For years the “What Would Jesus Do” movement has taught us to imitate Jesus.  “Many ways and forms” seems to broaden Christianity beyond biblical norms.

Then this thought occurred to me: perhaps Nouwen means that we are each to be authentically ourselves as we follow Jesus.  As the “body of Christ,” some are a hand, some a foot, others an eye or an ear (1 Corinthians 12:14-17).  Paul notes, “there are many parts, yet one body” (v. 20).

Similarly, Jesus embodied the gifts of the Spirit.  None of us has been given all of these gifts.  Thus we must each utilize the gifts we have received, so that together we can express all the gifts and continue the ministry of Christ on earth.

W. H. Auden: “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”  If you’re authentically who Jesus has created and gifted you to be, you’ll be original.  And the Kingdom will advance, to the glory of God.

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