We are a family that savors a morning cup of coffee. The first thing that I do in the mornings, after letting the dog out, is to fill the kettle with water and begin making two cups of coffee — one for me and one for the missus. Admittedly, however, I had not really thought about the theological significance of coffee until recently. With that in mind, let me offer three observations on the life of discipleship inspired by my morning coffee routine.

     1. Discipleship requires discipline. My coffee routine is a set habit. On the very rare occasion that I forget to make the morning cup, my day is significantly altered (and not for the better). While many of us bristle at the word “discipline,” the truth is that spiritual growth thrives with regularity. If we wait until we “feel like it” to pray, read scripture, give thanks, ask for guidance, confess, or repent, we may never get started. However, if we discipline ourselves to make these regular habits, then growth will inevitably follow.

     2. You get out of it what you put into it. One of the lessons that I have learned about coffee is that the ingredients matter. When I first started drinking coffee, I would drink whatever was available. Coffee was coffee, after all. Decades later, I no longer follow that faulty logic. Quality ingredients will always yield a better tasting cup. The manner in which a coffee bean is grown, harvested, roasted, and ground has a profound affect on the final outcome.

     Similarly, the way in which we pray, the sources of our devotional material and bible studies, and the quality of our conversation partners have a profound impact on the final outcome — the growth we may or may not experience. When evaluating materials and mentors, ask a few questions: Does this point to the character and ministry of Jesus? Do I see something in this material/person that I admire and want to be like? Does this resource challenge my thinking or merely reinforce what I already believe?

     3. Process matters. For many years, I was a Mr. Coffee person. I poured some water in, put in a scoop or two of whatever grounds I had on hand, and pressed the start button. Over time, I’ve learned that the quality of a cup is greatly affected by the process. There are countless variables: how finely you grind your beans, the temperature of the water, and the style of coffee maker (drip, French press, pour over, etc.). How you get there has a profound impact on what you get.

     Discipleship works in much the same way. Jesus said, “I am the way,” not merely the destination. The early church was referred to as “people of the Way.” Discipleship ultimately finds its goal in Jesus, but the journey shapes the outcome. We are all works in progress. We are shaped by the grinding of life together in community, by the pressing of difficult circumstances and suffering upon our souls, and we are washed by the pouring of the Holy Spirit over our hearts and minds.

     So, the next time you pick up a mug of steamy goodness, take a moment to reflect on the ways God is calling you to “Wake up!” to the reality of heaven all around us.