Tag Archives: church

Churches and Coffeehouses

Dwight, over at Center for Renewal had a cool entry on the coffeehouse phenomena, where he noted the activity, and wished for the same at Maundy Thursday services. It got me thinking quite a bit, and rather than hog his comments, here goes a few thoughts.

The allure of the coffee house.

What the coffee house provides beyond coffee and free wifi is the following:

  • A calm, and reflective environment, ideal for creative work.
  • A sense of social connectivity, in an ultra non-threatening environment. No interaction is assumed, but casual interaction may occur. This human desire for connectedness, but not interaction per se is fascinating.
  • Overtime, relationships may or may not build. Being that’s not really a primary goal, coffeehouses foster a very organic relationship building process. Its vastly different than the traditional restaurant that has a coffee clique crowd so to speak. I don’t know whether this is intentional by design, but it might be. Ie, the tables for 2-4, the sofas, comfy chairs, free wifi, etc, encourage folks to linger and as such purchase more $5 coffees. A restaurant on the other hand, wants to get people in and out, and at $0.50 for coffee it makes sense. (not a coffee drinker so unsure on prices, but do cherish the coffee house environment for work and meetings)
  • There is much collective wisdom. If one is bold enough to ask, many will step in to help, but its often facilitated more so by location tools like brightkite/twitter than 3d. Ie, I will jump in to help anyone on twitter, offer opinions, comments, etc. I might do so in 3d, but if not directly asked, I wont.

The church is sort of there, but not quite:

  • The church has collective wisdom, but few will ask.
  • The church has the capability of organic relationship building, but often its forced, or worse clique driven.
  • The church has a problem with the threatening aspect. Ie how many of us would pull up to an unknown church and go and crash them? (when I traveled a lot, I did this, and its cool, but its a seemingly bold thing to do, and failure is common, ie doors locked, no one around). Imagine what would happen, if churches opened their doors, physically, as well as spiritually?
  • The church often forces interaction, rather than a passive; ok if you do, fine if you dont, approach at the coffee house.
  • Many sanctuaries are ideal for contemplation. Back in my CCM days, egads, the amount of writing, contemplation, and I must admit naps also  occurred in the upper balcony in churches all across the US. The thing is… it would sort of be odd, to grab a laptop and hang out in the upper balcony, even if it had free wifi, also the nature of a sanctuary doesnt align itself with collaboration either.  As a traveling musician, despite a janitor, or pastor being surprised to see one or more of us sleeping in a balcony pew, knowing our travel schedule, it was seemed to be acceptable to them, albeit likely a bit weird.
  • Fellowship halls, are often seriously lacking in environment, ie they foster eating together, not so much socializing. In many cases they are pretty sterile, and the existence of sofas, reading chairs, or tables for 2 or 3 is exceedingly rare.

Saying no to God

If one searches the scriptures, are there any places where saying no to God ended with a favorable outcome? I have yet to find any, and I have tried. I have said no to God hundreds, if not thousands of times… the outcome, well as a general rule, I have yet to be eaten by a fish, but hindsight leads me to believe had I said yes, the individual outcomes would have been positive, or at a minimum neutral… and there are some lingering after effects… ranging from man was I stupid or what, to egads, I really blew that with God big time.

A distinction must be made, is it God, or is it man trying to get his own way?

Whenever I hear someone say, God told me that you should do X, the warning sirens come on. It almost always seems to be the desire of the person speaking, which does make me suspect. Otoh, when I hear someone state “God told me you should do X”, or “scripture says you should do X”, and the person speaking goes on to state they personally think doing X would be a bad idea, the light bulbs come on. God’s ways are often not mans it seems. Ultimately though, after a review of the scriptures, listening for the still small voice is key.

What if its the church who is asking?

“Churches will eat you alive, if you let them…” is what a friend told me some years back. I’ll go one further, the ministry needs of a church will expand to consume all available time, plus another 20%. Many secular folks say boundaries are the key to success. Boundary teaching is so prevalent, it is even preached in many churches and schools. Let me throw a wrench in the works…. What if one comes upon an injured church member alongside the road, and our family needs are in conflict? Should we pass by on the other side in our hurry to fullfill our families needs, and hope some dude from Samaria happens by? 

What about picking up ones cross?

A recurrent theme throughout the Bible is not to take the easy way out, but to pick up ones cross and follow Jesus. Man on the other hand, has a very very difficult time with this… what about the yard, what about the children, what about my day job, what about where I will sleep, what about what I will wear tomorrow…. but Jesus calls. The young ruler, the dude who wanted to go take care of his families burial…. Jesus had some hard to hear words about that.

Burnout is real, consequences are real

Burnout however is real, depression in ministry is real, even look at Elijah, the dude was fixing to sit under a tree and die, the work was just too great. When you have scripture telling us the burden will be easy… and one has been up for 72 hours straight, its not so easy…. its not so easy to stay awake in the garden, when Jesus is right there, its not so easy, when Jesus asked the disciples to remain awake and to watch, and they crashed and burned. Its not so easy, when you are a young kid hanging out in an upstairs window to hear Paul preach the Gospel, that you fall asleep, slide out the window, and crash to the ground to your death. Suicide exists, moral crash and burn failure exists, families get shredded, churches implode… there are real brick walls, these are real problems.

Thus, even if though the recurrent theme of scripture is to pick up ones cross, scripture also provides examples of situations where folks have run into brick walls. Society and history also show that brick walls can and do happen. 

Its not a total deal

The problem imho, is we are looking at this as a total deal… Individualistic theology has hosed over many a fine brother or sister in Christ, its wrong thinking. Obviously there are times, when we are called to act and no one else is around to help, but if one considers the big picture, short of 3AM, in the middle of nowhere and without any means of communication, those situations are exceedingly rare. Even the church organist who gets interrupted at late night practice has huge resources at hand, but more likely than not, is unaware of them. The primary difficulty of the individualistic approach, is one doesnt see all of the capabilities, gifts, skills, and help available. Even Paul traveled with a group… The second issue is a failure to make the call early on that problems exist, and that more help is needed. Acts 6, where a set of dudes were chosen to serve the widows is a prime example of this. It shows not only the problem of being spread too thin, but utilizing the resources at hand, and the power of a group… they didnt just dump the problem on one guy, and say here you go.

If God is asking us, who are we to say no? Who are we, to think we can do it all by ourselves?