Popular Christian theologian John Piper has stirred controversy after tweeting about the fitness of coffee in church sanctuaries. “Can we reassess whether Sunday coffee-sipping in the sanctuary fits?” the 77-year-old former pastor wrote. He then quoted Hebrews 12:28, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Responses to the tweet were mixed soon after. One user commented from a Catholic perspective, writing, “We are supposed to fast, refraining from eating and drinking (including coffee), for at least one hour before Mass. We do this so that we will be hungry and thirsty for the Lord when receiving the Eucharist.” Another wrote, “Jesus: feeds 10k people during a sermon OP [Original Poster]: akshully you shouldn’t have food or drink at church.” Popular women’s speaker Beth Moore chimed in, writing, “Brother John, I think you’d like us Anglicans. Ain’t nobody walking into service with no coffee. We’d receive you gladly.”

Even Fox News got in on the debate, reaching out to several people of different Christian denominations on their opinions. While noting that Catholics require fasting before Mass, not all denominations are as hard line. Sarah St. Onge, a Lutheran who responded to the post on X, told Fox News Digital that “The average American church service lasts less than two hours,” and the average person should be able to “manage two hours without having a coffee.” Fr. Chris Steele, pastor of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas, described coffee as “the 8th sacrament.” “There’s a broad spectrum of practices,” Steele said regarding the Episcopalian churches. “Some [people] do fast, but it’s personal. Not many bring anything but water to the Eucharist, but during Morning Prayer on weekdays, it’s common.”

Piper is one for sparking debates amongst Christians. During his “Ask Pastor John” podcast, he sparked controversy over his opinion that women shouldn’t lead parachurch organizations. “Well, that’s sad to hear to me, but it’s not surprising, and it’s not new,” Piper responded to a listener’s question about his church’s decision to allow women in leadership positions in their nonprofit organizations. He concluded his reasoning by saying, “I think Paul would say, ‘I have taught, Moses has taught, nature teaches that it goes against man’s and woman’s truest, God-given nature to place a woman in a role of regular, direct, personal leadership over men.” 

Writing about the controversy on the Faithroots blog, Dave Williams encouraged Christians to remember that God is in more than just the church sanctuary. “You see, there seem to be a few misunderstandings going on here. Even Piper’s use of the word sanctuary to describe a church’s main meeting room suggests that our church services happen in special holy places at special holy times,” he wrote. “God is no less present in my kitchen than he is in the church auditorium. I’m no less able to encounter him at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning than at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Now, this is important because, yes, I agree with John Piper that there should be reverence in our worship of God, and sometimes we might seem to lose that with a casual flippancy.” He then connected how the early church worshipped during meals. “I was surprised at how many people seemed to see food and drink as out of place in a gathering of God’s people. After all, the early church seems to have mostly met at meals.” He then encouraged food and gathering to be a time of unity and holiness. “It is possible to have a meal together in which the host is revered and respected. It is possible to enjoy food and drink when we gather as God’s people without losing anything from the gathering. In fact, I want to suggest that if it encourages a sense of this being a family meal with the king and if it reminds us that we have come not just for physical food but also the greater spiritual food, then that’s a good thing.”

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