Coke and the Church of God
In 1886, an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, was attempting to create a unique soft drink to be sold in the ever present soda fountains of that day. He mixed some flavored syrup that he concocted with carbonated water and the rest as they say, is history. His partner, Frank Robinson named the drink “Coca Cola” and secured all the necessary patents and trademarks, including the cursive script still in use today.
128 years later, Coca Cola markets over 500 different drink products, in over 200 countries worldwide. 1.9 billion servings are consumed every day, generating over $48 billion in net operating revenues for the company. Coca Cola is almost certainly, the most universally recognized product in the entire world.
About the same time Coca Cola was coming into existence in Atlanta, about two hours northeast, in the Appalachian Mountains, something else was being born. A small group of Christians gathered to pray for revival. They called themselves “The Christian Union”. Within a few years they experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit and changed their name to “Church of God”. Today, the Church of God consists of 7 million members, in 36,000 local congregations, in at least 178 countries.
Back in August, I visited the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, GA. I discovered that the Church of God should share some things with Coke besides a birthday. Even though I am a “Dr Pepper man”, I took special note of a display with three simple phrases that was labeled “Coke’s Secret”. I immediately pulled out my cell phone and made note of these three things.
Uniform Quality- Anywhere you go in the world, a Coke tastes the same. They market some other products that are unique to the local culture, but the signature brand is always the same. While the Church of God needs to contextualize its ministry across the USA and around the world, we dare not compromise our main mission “to communicate the full gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit and power of Pentecost”. In practice, we must remember Christ gave His best for us. We should approach ministry for Him with the same dedication to excellence.
Unforgettable Taste- There’s just something about the taste of a Coke. It sticks with you. It’s refreshing and satisfying. People should have the same experience when they come into contact with the Church of God. We should not be afraid to be ourselves. We have a gospel message to proclaim, with a testimony and history to back it up. While there are other great tasting soft drinks on the market, Coca Cola doesn’t try to be Pepsi or Dr Pepper. The world is our parish. We can’t reach all of it with the gospel by ourselves, anymore than Coke can be the favorite soft drink of everyone in the world. We can celebrate the things that make us a unique brand in the kingdom, among our other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Universal Availability- Coke doesn’t ever limit itself. It is always looking to expand into new markets. Neither should the Church of God think that we can only successfully do ministry in rural areas or certain geographic regions. Jesus died for the whole world. The Holy Spirit came to empower us to take this good news to the whole world. We must always be stretching the ministries of our local churches accordingly.
Church of God in California/Nevada, the next time you drink a Coke, remember it just might have something to say to all of us.