I have two lessons from the history of chocolate and coffee that have bearing on strategies for advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century. The lesson from the history of chocolate tells us something about setting the agenda for our times and coffee tells us something about the importance of networking as a strategy in the age of the Internet and Facebook.

The Chocolate Agenda…
A recent book by Deborah Cadbury called “Chocolate Wars” gives a fascinating insight into the origins and impact of the great chocolate makers of England in the early 19th Century. All the great English chocolate dynasties, the Cadbury’s, the Rowntree’s and Fry’s, were Quakers. In early 1800’s when Methodists were looked down upon, Quakers were really beyond the pale. They weren’t called “Quakers” for nothing but they really loved the Lord and served Him with a passion. At that time they were banned from careers in government, the church, law or the military. And so that left them only with work in commerce. But event there they refused to do anything to do with alcohol, gambling or armaments. So they got into the food industry, specifically chocolates….and prospered mightily!
It is what they did with their wealth that changed the course of history. They showed remarkable compassion to their workers in an age of child labor, abuse of workers and total neglect by government or the state church of the needs of the common worker. Factory conditions were horrendous with no worker rights. These evangelical industrialists changed all that.

They got children out of the factories and started “Sunday schools” for the workers children so that they could get a basic education.
They limited the working week and working hours so that workers could have a family life.
They provided a pension for old retired workers and decent weekly wages for their workers.
They built decent houses for their workers in the form of entire new towns. The Cadbury’s built Bourneville which still stands today as a town.

And most importantly from a purely business viewpoint, they produced great products at good prices and their constant innovations in the sweets industry beat out the competition and produced profits for their ministry work.

The actions of the evangelicals in early 1800’s England shamed the entire nation, Wilberforce in parliament shaming the nation over slavery and the Quakers in commerce over worker rights. It caused a social outcry across the nation that made others demand similar rights and benefits as the workers in the Quaker factories. Social legislation soon followed in Parliament dealing with labor laws, pensions and schooling for children. Europe had to follow and Bismarck in Germany established the first social democracy.
The church leads the way, the world tries to follow but here is my prediction…they won’t be able to keep up with us in the future the Lord has planned for us. The world will come to us and say “teach us your ways” (Micah 4). But to do this we as a church need to get off their agenda and start setting the pace and the vision for the future.
The world system has hit a brick wall with regard to so many areas: the government citizen social compact is unraveling all over the world; the accepted economic truths are failing as the financial structures collapse; education systems are producing generations of functional illiterates unable to create meaningful wealth for society. The poor, the old and the infirm multiply in the midst of rapacious and uncaring government bureaucracies. We need to set a new standard for business, education, and welfare. We need to show the world a better way just as the 19th Century evangelicals did for their time.

The Coffee Strategy…
A strategy for doing this is found in the history of coffee in England of the 1600’s.  For the average person of the 1500’s and 1600’s England you were a peasant working the lands of your overlords, the King, the Barons and the Church. 95% of productive wealth came off the land and that land was owned by the overlords. You had no knowledge of the Word of God as that was kept hidden from you by church and state upon pain of death should you ever dare to read the Bible. Most of your life was spent in useless demeaning work on the great estates and when you were not working you were in a drunken stupor.
Everyone drank beer, women and children included. Every household made bread and brewed beer. Breakfast was beer thickened with eggs and poured on bread and then ale for lunch and stout for dinner. The average person including women and children drank the equivalent of almost two six packs of beer a day, and their beer had a higher alcohol content. A sixth of the land was sown in barley and every seventh building was a tavern. The church decreed about a hundred special “holy days” a year which was wasted in further drunkenness. Fetal alcohol syndrome in children of the time produced stunted mental development. But then came the Puritans and coffee and what followed was the scientific and industrial revolution that changed the world.

The Puritans led by the Oliver Cromwell took on King Charles and his army over the issue of rule of law or rule by a King who ruled absolutely by “divine right”. By 1650 the issue was decided with the execution of Charles and the introduction of the Commonwealth. The Puritans with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other had broken the power of the supposed divine rights of kings and prelates and established the divine right of the common man to rule of law, free speech and private property.  What the common man would do with those rights after 1650 was greatly enhanced by the introduction of the first coffee shop in Oxford …also in 1650. In 1652 there was one coffee shop in London but by 1699 there were more than 2000. In 1675 Charles II tried to ban them without success. Why?  Well this is what happened…

The Puritans loved coffee. Alcohol is a depressant, coffee is a stimulant. Instead of wasted days in useless church “church holydays” and menial work for the Barons men could now work for themselves on their own terms and their own interests. Instead of men drunk most of the time on alcohol, serious men could discuss serious business over a good stimulating cup of coffee in a warm coffee house without the distractions of drunken louts shouting and fighting. And discuss they did…

Lloyds Coffeehouse is where men came to negotiate shipping risks and became the insurance giant Lloyds of London. The Baltic Coffeehouse gave rise to the Baltic Shipping Exchange (where you booked cargoes). The Jerusalem Café gave rise to the East India Company. Scientists and artists had their own Café’s. Isaac Newton hung out with other scientists at the Grecian Coffeehouse and the writers like Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift frequented Will’s Café.  Then a man named Jonathan Steel decided to publish a weekly compilation of all the best gossip from each of the Café’s represented by a “correspondent’s desk” Foreign news came from St. James Coffeehouse and arts and entertainment from White’s. He called his weekly the “Tattler” which became the first magazine. Pamphleteers of the time wrote that “coffee and commonwealth came in together…to make a free and sober nation.”

This break with the dead weight and drag of the feudalistic system of church and state that wasted men’s lives and alcohol that stupefied men into brute behavior allowed a new social, economic and religious reality to emerge. It allowed men of ideas and men of action to emerge. It was the Protestant revolution in England of 1650 that allowed the industrial and scientific revolution to emerge from England after 1650. 

Our 21st Century needs a new spiritual revolution to break the bondage of the Babylonian world system. Like the feudalistic power of church and state in the Middle Ages that wasted men’s lives in peasant bondage to wasteful overlords, we the people of the 21st Century are wasting our lives and treasure on useless financial and political overlords. Our minds and the minds of our children are stultified by the useless plug in drug called TV and more recently the broad electronic media. A cultural and religious wasteland in an electronic landscape devoid of any serious discussion of issues of eternal importance.  Our children talk like characters out of TV sitcoms. Adults cannot talk sensibly beyond sports and entertainment fads.

The evangelicals of the 19th century set an agenda for their times that changed the world. The Puritans of England in 17th Century London fellowshipped over a cup of coffee while their contemporaries drank themselves into a stupor. From that fellowship emerged concrete actions that resulted in new forms of financial empires such as banks, insurance companies, trading empires. New literature was launched. New scientific ideas were explored. Capital was accumulated by hardworking men who invested into new inventions and new technologies creating new wealth, more employment and financing the spread of colonies to the new world “for the glory of God and the spreading of His Kingdom”. Sociologists called it “the Protestant work ethic”.

We evangelicals need to move beyond meetings for the sake of meetings. We need to move purposefully to plan and implement new strategies for spreading the Kingdom of God. The coffee shops of yesterday are our home cell groups and international internet connectivity of today. We need our own Kingdom community Facebook to connect those who are serious about the Kingdom and have the anointing for new ideas and new vision.  We need new vision and a new agenda in areas like banking, education, health care and real living communities. We need new ideas and agenda’s for caring for the earth and sustainable development.

Unplug yourself from the meaningless electronic matrix that is the Babylonian system designed to waste your life. Get into real and meaningful fellowship with the Lord and His church and lets set the agenda and the strategy for the Church of the 21st Century to move the Kingdom forward in our generation.

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