The incongruity of the scene doesn’t affect you as you sweep past on the way to the sanctuary so that you might find a seat a least a few moments before the praise team takes their places. The rich, bittersweet smell of the daily roast caught you as you entered the lobby of the church and you wind through the clusters and knots of people surrounding the cafe. The brisk pace that you set for the family belies the fact that the Nine O’clock hour is moments away, but you can’t help but notice the number of people sitting at the little tables sipping coffee and the number of people still waiting in line to purchase a steaming cup of their own. Taking your seat with a minute or two to spare you glance around at the sanctuary which is barely one quarter full. Your eyes close and your head bows and you focus on the process of quieting your heart and bringing yourself fully present to the community worship of God.
As people trickle into the room for the next twenty or thirty minutes, you can’t help but wonder how many of them were sitting outside enjoying their latte as the praise leader skillfully attempted to lead the congregation into the immediate presence of God. Sure, many of the latecomers have no sense of urgency in being present while prayers are lifted up and voices raised in praise; to some it is simply a prelude to the sermon and it serves no purpose other than ritual. Do those same notions fill the hearts of the coffee drinkers? Have we gone too far in attempting to create an inviting environment, so much so that we have abandoned our primary mission as the Church – the worship of God?
I believe we have. I believe that in some instances the Church has leaned so far into the venues of the world in an attempt to be relevant or attractive that we have done so to the detriment of the Church itself. We would do well to contemplate again and again our purpose in convening on Sunday mornings. Is it to meet our needs for fellowship and only incidentally about worship? Or, do we gather at an appointed hour and place specifically to give corporate expression of our love and worship to God? With our answer in hand, we should then strive to ‘cleanse the temple’ of everything that distracts from that purpose, stripping away things that do not direct the people of God in the appropriate direction.
What do you think? Do you think that the cafe/bookstore/etc. contributes to preparing the hearts of the people of God for worship? Or, should these venues be closed and the hospitality ministry be directed to remove any friction between the front door and the chapel wherein people can quiet themselves, put the world aside, and prayerfully seek to know the presence of the Father?