This morning I had the joy of meeting with a couple that is just 5 weeks away from their big day. I asked to meet with them since they have asked me to speak at their wedding. When we decided to get together it was suggested that we meet at a Coffee Shop here in Eden Prairie. (For the record It was their idea to meet at a coffee shop – No objection from me!)
So this morning I got up early, ran to the farmers market, to stock up on some fresh veggies then headed off to the coffee shop. I had to circle through the parking lot twice before I went to plan B for parking. Plan B was to drive down the street and wait in the next parking lot and watch…. for a car to leave and then move in for the kill! It worked! Before long I saw not one but two cars leave the parking lot so I moved in for a spot!
It is a beautiful day in Minnesota so I was not surprised to see many people outside on the patio enjoying their coffee. But as I waited for the young couple to arrive I began to ponder…Why are there so many people here? What is it about coffee shops that draw people in?
One word, and it’s not “coffee”, the word is community. What brings people together on a beautiful Saturday morning? the desire for community. I noticed 1 small group inside the coffee shop in a back corner having a Bible study and over heard a group outside talking about happenings at their church this weekend. Another group seated near me got up and took a group photo of them as they hugged and went their separate ways.
Community, it was what brought Mariah and Brandon together to meet with me, a desire for community. We had a great talk this morning, it was wonderful to hear about their friendship which moved to a deep and abiding love. It was fun to hear of favorite memories and plans for the future. We talked about faith, and our personal call to be disciples of Christ in our world. They shared the impact faith has made in their life, and how they know they will need to lean on their faith in the years to come.
As I drove away I continued to ponder what I had just witnessed? People gathered together engaged in Study, conversation, community. I even observed a book club or an amazing coincidence as 6 ladies sat with copies of the same fiction book in front of them.
I pondered the fact that there are many people at my church, where I have been serving full time for the past 6 months that I do not know as well as I know the two people I that spend just over an hour talking with me. I hope that tomorrow I will drive to church and watch people circling the parking lot looking for a place to park. I would love to see a group of people sitting around a table with the same book in front of them talking about what they had read. I want to see people engaged in conversation and discussing faith and their personal call to be disciples of Christ in our world. I want to hear them share the impact faith has made in their life, and how they know they will need to lean on their faith in the years to come.
I Pastor a small church, there will be no battle for parking spaces in the morning. There will be casual greetings exchanged as members trickle in for Worship. Some will have a conversation for a few minutes after the service is over. A small number will stay and gather around the tables with a cup of coffee for Bible Study.
Why are the people here? What is it about my church that draws people in? I pray it is not for the Folgers coffee in the big silver coffee maker. I pray it is not for the music or for the video illustrations used in worship. I pray they are there for the community. I pray they come for a desire to gather as a community, the people of Christ around the Altar to celebrate the Grace of God and grow closer to their Lord and one another.
Tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money is often spent on the production of the Sunday Morning Worship Experience. While I desire that worship is done well and befitting the King of Creation, and Lord of my Life, I also believe that today the church needs just a little more coffee shop and a little less theater.
As shepherd of my congregation, I need to find ways to make our gatherings become a time of Celebration, growth, restoration, and community around the Cross of Christ. My prayer is that we who have the ability, and the powerful message of life to build deep and meaningful community will strive to draw in those who long for community. If this means more tables, and expresso so be it. We are the keepers of the most powerful message the world could ever hear in the powerful truths contained in Scripture. We couple this with the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord Supper, which create and sustain a community the coffee shop can never hope to achieve.
I pray that the church today takes a lesson from the Coffee Shop and that we back away from being a place of entertainment to being a place of belonging and community.