Coffee Shop Ministries is an inspiring work in which accounts of the kindness of strangers are shown to help people make their ways through troubled times.
In Dennis A. McIntyre’s religious book, Coffee Shop Ministries, chance meetings in coffee shops are portrayed as divinely orchestrated.
Each chapter describes one of McIntyre’s encounters with strangers in coffee shop settings. The people he meets are usually down on their luck; problems with work, relationships, and life’s general uncertainties have discouraged them. They are portrayed as finding McIntyre trustworthy, and his lending an ear helps them to find solutions to their problems. McIntyre is presented as having a special ability to function as a wise sage; he expresses great satisfaction in being able to help.
The organization of these stories is straightforward and easy to follow. Bible verses bracket chapters, and each contains an anecdote about a personal struggle or victory, followed by a lesson learned from the experiences. Reflective questions are followed by lined space that encourages further consideration and journaling; these additions make the text interactive.
The book is inspiring. Its thematic refrain is that nothing happens by chance, and that God is caring for all of creation. This comforting message rejects harsh interpretations that life is a struggle and that only the fittest can survive in a competitive world. However, the book also unconvincingly asserts that the creationist view of the world is the right one, presenting evolution as a godless myth. Cited suggestions of evolutionary development are layered over with divine explanations, such as that giraffes don’t lose their balance because of a neurological mechanism that is an obvious evolutionary development; instead, the book suggests that creation follows the Book of Genesis model, and that is that.
The book’s quiet, studied style is subject-matter appropriate, and its language is accessible and easily digested, keeping the message clear and uncomplicated. Incidents and episodes of friends in crisis, strangers who need someone to listen, or chance meetings that develop into more serious situations function in a story cycle, with the framing setting of the coffee shop holding them together and giving the book thematic unity.
The last section of the book rehashes earlier information to draw conclusions, but it takes a long time to reach this point of this book. The epilogue better ties everything together, reaffirming the book’s message about the workings of divinity in everyday life.
Coffee Shop Ministries is an inspiring work in which the kindness of strangers helps people make their ways through troubled times.
Philip J. Kowalski
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