Coffeehouse Christianity

I sat down in a coffeehouse this morning.  A beautiful setting with delicious smells in the air and comfortable seating.  I wasn’t pressured to sign up for a coffee class by the Barista.  There were no people in my face asking me questions about dark roast coffee that I didn’t know the answer to.  I was able to take my 6 year old in, grab a latte, a chocolate chip muffin and sit on a comfortable chair and have a great conversation with him.  He told me how he was going to create a planet and launch it into space with a giant launchpad.  His planet would be lined with colorful flowers so that aliens would have a sweet smelling place to land and live.  What a beautiful opportunity to connect with my son and get to know him more.

It seems that the people in our world are interested in sitting comfortably and watching to see if they are interested in joining.  What if the church allowed people to do just that?  What would it look like if the church provided an environment where people could comfortably interact and explore questions about faith?  Not in an atmosphere where they felt pressured to react emotionally to some call, but to openly explore their questions, without the fear of judgment or favoritism.  Scripture teaches in Ps. 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  How could the church impact the culture right where they are if the atmosphere was provided for them to literally “taste and see” that the Lord is indeed good?

It may be time for the church to take a lesson in atmosphere and environment from the coffeehouse.

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About Stan Rodda

Follower. Husband. Father. Shepherd. Apostle. Husker.

Posted on April 16, 2009, in the culture. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. What you dont think that we should have our visitors stand up at church on Sunday morning and be recognized? But that would help us to know who they are without actually interacting with them! It wouldnt make me uncomfortable why would it make them uncomfortable?

    I definitely get what your saying, but how do you balance making meaningful connections with visitors and still have the coffeehouse mentality?

  2. culturalawakening

    The church must first, according to your response, answer the question, “What does a meaningful connection look like?” A meaningful connection may come in many forms and can be answered in different ways. The practical part of this must be identified by each individual church, but the coffeehouse atmosphere is universal, in my opinion. I plan to write more on the topic of a church’s atmosphere later.

  3. I think providing a way for a guest to be known and to make a connection, if they so choose, is the way to go. Then they can decide whether or not they want to go that route or to continue just searching while maintaining anonimity. For example, we use a connect card that can be dropped in the offering plate. No one is forced to fill this out, but if they choose to we can then make a connection. And EVERYONE is encouraged to fill out their card, even members, so a guest doesn’t feel they are singled out. The card is there, in their chair, and they can take it or leave it.

  4. Coming from someone who has not always been “Churched”, I can tell you that the feeling of being singled out is awful! I remember when we visited a church that had visitors sit in the front row! It was horrible when we went to leave, it was like a wedding receiving line…I never went back. I love the connect cards. They are still personal without the giant spotlight! Our Guest Packets are a great way to reach out to visitors as well.

    What I find appealing is not what all find appealing, but the coffee house atmosphere is so inviting. It seems as if is saying “Come in and RELAX, and listen to a good message.”

    Being on the cutting edge is something that we need. The appeal needs to be something that is inviting and makes them want to stay and learn more about Christ without being pounded and horrified that they are doing everything wrong in their lives.

    If I walk into a church lined with wooden pews and a center aisle that I have to walk down (while being stared at like I am a bride), I am going to feel uncomfortable and not only fail to return, but I will not be able to focus on the message because I am so nervous that everyone is staring at or judging me. However, if I walk into a church where there are comfy seats and an inviting atmosphere I would be more willing to sit and focus.

  5. billyjohnsonlive

    I guess the root issue here is this: how much do we want unchurched people at OUR church anyway?

    I remember struggling with some age challenged followers of Jesus who were strongly opposing to using chairs over pews. Their argument was that the “church” would look like a “movie theater”. Reality check: people LIKE going to the movies. In other words, we have to go deeper than couches and coffee and ask ourselves WHY we do what we do in the first place.

    AND- if we are not/can not make meaningful connections with the unchurched away from OUR building, I am not sure adding couches and coffee will help us much. We all have opportunities next door or at the next table. That’s probably the best place to start.

    Thanks for this post, Stan.

  6. culturalawakening

    At every turn in our church in Petersburg Billy, I have asked our guys, “Why are we doing this? Why do we do this particular ministry? Why do we do it this way?” I have challenged them with that very question. I think it’s a challenging question to all of us. And I agree with your assessment. Just having a “coffeehouse church,” won’t give your church that in reality. You have to already be doing it. Sounds like a topic for a blog about preparing hearts for the work of evangelism. 😀 Good thoughts Billy. Thanks.

  7. On our churches website there is a 5 min video all about what we do and how we do it. Somewhere in there someone says that if you visit our church once you will probably be shocked, (maybe even horrified?) by what you see, but if you come back the next week you’ll probably stay. Im a big fan of letting people see what Christianity is really all about before we expect them to jump in, but we need to make sure that what they see is the real deal, not some cheap knock-off church game thats more about ourselves than the saving power of the cross! When people visit us we dont make them fill out any cards or talk to anyone they dont want to talk to, the only exception being a door greeter giving them the low down on where the bathrooms and the coffee bar are located or maybe an usher helping them wrangle a seat. The trick is to show them something that they want!

  8. Ryan, what’s your church’s website?

  9. thecrossing.net

  10. I really like Billy’s comment, and just to kind of go off that. You will not see on starbucks’ menu “Good conversation $4.98, extra shot of Jesus experience only add a $1.00.” They don’t provide the relationships or the topic you have to bring that yourself, they only provide a place and a comfortable atmosphere. I think that what we want to do is provide something like this where the church meets, so that when christians and non christians and the unfortunate unaccompanied visitor come they have a place that lends itself to connecting in a more natural fashion.
    My thought: Why not just go to the coffee house?
    I imagine everyone is done talking about this one so… too little to late eh?

    • culturalawakening

      It’s all good Casey. I appreciate the insight no matter when it comes. It’s really helpful. The more opinions and thoughts we get, the more well rounded we can be. So comment away my man.

      To be honest, if Christians aren’t already using opportunities in settings like a coffeehouse to open up spiritual discussions with their “un-churched” friends, then it will be difficult to create that atmosphere in the church. It has to be a natural thing. Many Christians need to begin learning how to naturally talk to their friends about spiritual things, then I think that atmosphere can be more effectively be brought into an actual church setting. I guess that’s where leadership and discipleship come into the mix. Keep coming back Casey. I enjoy hearing from you. Take care man.

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