This week I bought a grande, triple-shot mocha, with whole milk, and whipped cream. Heart-attack in a cup. I like to live dangerously. I custom-designed it myself.
I can remember a day, back in my teens, when coffee was a lot simpler. There were three fundamental elements for coffee drinkers: black, sugar, and cream. The number of permutations you could come up with was pretty limited. Artificial sweetener wasn’t even an option. You could ask for two lumps of sugar, or if you liked to walk on the wild side, three lumps. If you were a psycho, you’d swap out cream for milk.
Life was simpler back then.
Did you know that Starbucks once boasted that it has 80,000 customizable drink options available to its customers? Imagine that…the thought is almost paralyzing. It’s probably why some people are so confused when they visit a Starbucks for the first time. Classic paralysis by analysis. You can always spot a Starbucks rookie because they usually just gawk at the sign for ten minutes and then order a medium, black coffee, or a large double-double. Amateurs.
Starbucks has mastered what is known as customization. It’s the ability to offer consumers custom-designed products, both efficiently and inexpensively (relatively speaking). Presently, we are living in an era of advancing customization. Having your goods and services customized or personalized, is very much in vogue and is likely not going away. You can order customized t-shirts, cars, eyeglasses – even denim jeans. There are restaurant chains built around customized burgers or pizzas. Coca cola is personalizing it’s bottles by putting people’s most popular first-names on its labels (good luck if your your name is Razzmatazz, or Meshiboleth). Netflix offers personalized channels for each member of your household and websites offer you personalized shopping lists or playlists.
If you’re under thirty, you might assume that this has always been the case. It hasn’t been. Once upon a time, coffee was much simpler.
Customization used to be something only available to the rich or the elite. But now, thanks to the speed of communication and advancements in technology, it’s accessible to the masses. And what has made it most possible is the DEMAND. It’s hard to sell something that nobody wants. It turns out we’re a culture of consumers. We’re also a culture that highly values individualism. And when you put these two things together, you’ve created a potent mix: “I want it my way, and by golly, I’m gonna have it my way.” Customization is the logical outcome for a culture of consumers.
So gimme my grande, triple-shot mocha, with whole milk, and whipped cream. I’m very important.
The question I’m hoping you will consider is this: Could our demand for customization somehow affect our faith?
This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.