We had our first Café Church trial on Sunday and a few people have asked why we’re are having an experiment with this format. Well let me first of all reassure you that its not because the pastor has a particular fondness for coffee. Here are a couple of reasons why we are having café church as a trial and why I think it is worth the effort.
CAFÉ CHURCH IS TO HELP US FULFILL OUR PURPOSE
Last year we spent a lot of time listening to what God’s Word says about the purpose of God’s People, listening to what we thought the Holy Spirit might be saying about our future and listening to one another. From that “REVisioning” process we reaffirmed that our purpose is to enable people to become “lifelong followers of Jesus” We decided we would be serious about the Great Commission and making disciples.
This is the mission we decided, I believe with God’s leading, that we as Westlake Church exist to fulfill
“ENABLING PEOPLE TO BECOME LIFELONG FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF THE WORLD”
Everything we do as a church should help people to become or develop as lifelong followers of Jesus, otherwise we will have no focus, and ultimately not make the impact that we believe God has called us to make. There is a big difference between a group of people that are having services and running programmes and a church in the New Testament sense that is joining God in His mission in the world. If we want to be the latter then we can’t afford to pay lip service to our purpose and allow it to become just words on a web page. We have to work out how we can do what God has called us to do as effectively as we can.
To help us understand how to actually make lifelong followers of Jesus, based on the New Testament, we defined a lifelong follower of Jesus as being
“A lifelong follower of Jesus is someone who believes in Christ and is committed to belonging to Christ’s Body, becoming more consistently like Christ and building God’s Kingdom.”
We are using this graphic to remind us of the dimensions of discipleship that are involved in in being a lifelong follower of Jesus
This has implications for us as individual Christians and as a church.
|FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST||BELONGING||BELIEVING||BECOMING||BUILDING|
|THE BODY OF CHRIST||Embracing people||Encouraging faith||Enabling growth||Equipping servants|
As a church if we want to fulfill our purpose of “enabling people to become lifelong followers of Jesus” then one of the things we must do is create a pathway that “encourages faith” We need to be doing things that enable people to take the next step in their journey towards eventual faith in Jesus.
As Europe especially has become increasingly detached from Christianity encouraging people to have faith in Christ has become more challenging. In the past people felt comfortable enough to come along to normal worship services in Church buildings if they were interested in finding out more about Jesus. That is no longer the case. The increasing numbers of people with little or no experience of church is growing, and these people are proving unwilling to attend church services as we normally have them.
Café Church is our attempt to once month create a context where someone who has had contact with Christians and is open to finding out more about Jesus and what it means to follow him could come along and find a setting that wouldn’t be too alien for them. Our hope is that we will see people connected to GEMS, the JUST O Café and perhaps WLam coming along to Café Church as safe place for them to consider a dangerous message, the Gospel. It was encouraging on Sunday to see that actually happening and few people saying it was the type of event they felt they would be able to invite ubchurched people along to.
So, to sum up we are experimenting with Café Church because evangelism cannot be optional extra for us. A church that is not actively trying to help people come to faith in Jesus is not a church in the New Testament sense. I feel that Westlake has always been good at helping people who are already Christians to grow in their faith, its always been known for good solid preaching and teaching, but like every church in Europe we now need to work hard to help people who have had little experience of the church become Christians.
CAFÉ CHURCH IS A RESPONSE FROM OUR REVISIONING PROCESS
Another reason we are experimenting with Café Church is to respond to something that came through in our REVisioning discussion. Many people, particularly, but not exclusively, our younger adults, expressed a desire to occasionally have a form of service that was a bit less formal and allowed for more dialogue and discussion. As a congregation we do need to listen to this generation, or we risk losing those we already have and being ineffective in reaching out to others below 40. Café Church is an attempt to address this need.
Actually I think that we are trying to do in the 21st century what Paul did when faced with a culture with no experience of Christianity in Ephesus in the first century AD
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. Acts 19
The word of the Lord was heard in Asia Luke tells us through both proclamation and discussion. Paul proclaimed the Word of God in the synagogue and presumably later in Christian worship services. God’s Word also spread through discussions with seekers and Paul and other Christians in a less formal setting a lecture hall. We are simply trying to replicate that pattern at the moment. Most Sundays God’s Word will be proclaimed through preaching because we believe in the power of proclamation. Once a month we will have a shortened “proclamation” part of the service and just like Paul did in Ephesus give people a chance to discuss what they have heard. So, in one sense Café Church is not being innovative its being traditional, its inspiration is the tradition of evangelism we see in the book of Acts in Places like Ephesus.
I hope that explains a little better the thinking behind Café Church. I know that for many of us, this style of service is perhaps not our preference, its different, it pushes us beyond our comfort zone. Archbishop Temple once said that “”The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” What he meant is the church must not become inward looking only thinking about itself and its membership. Temple reminded the church that it must think about those in need physically and spiritually who are not members, those who don’t attend. There are thousands of people around us in the expat and English speaking community whom we claim our God loves and who are in spiritual need and heading for a lost eternity without God. We need to take their needs into consideration. Can I say gently that when we evaluate Café Church our first criteria should not be whether it suited those of us who are already followers of Jesus but whether it might be helpful to someone with little or no experience of Church who wanted to investigate Jesus and Christianity for themselves.
I worked with a few churches as a consultant helping them think about the future and many were afraid of trying new things for fear of change and failing. I encouraged them and encourage us as Westlake church to realise that real failure for the people of God is to attempt to do nothing new or different to make an impact for the Kingdom of God if we are not being effective. Remember in Jesus’ parable it was the servant who took no risks with the money that had been entrusted to him, who just kept everything the same, whom Jesus condemned. Lets be the kind of church that lives and ministers so that Jesus sees we are always willing to take risks for the Kingdom of God.