Some seminary students were discussing a book that said churches must be sensitive to the needs of people.
The book went on to say, for example, that the Sunday morning social time should offer four kinds of coffee. (I suppose they included the caffeine or decaf options plus a little more, and maybe juice and tea and so on.)
A Nigerian student in the class found the suggestion absurd. He did not understand all the fuss about coffee. In his country, he pointed out, people often will have walked 20 miles in order to get to church.
"When they finally arrive," he said, "they are not looking for coffee. They are looking for something much more life changing than that."
Well, I am sure most of our churches do offer some coffee at a social time and I would say it's more than coffee being offered. That "coffee-cup-in-hand" social time can be a setting for fellowship, connecting, caring and relationship building. It can be a time of community. But I like that story because it does raise deeper questions.
1) What do people expect and look for in church?
2) What is it that we do offer?
I could quote a host of surveys attempting to answer these two questions, and you might have some idea for your own answer. But my suggestion is that people might be looking to the church for something they can't seem to clarify or directly attend to in other ways.
What might be unique to a gathering, worshiping community of faith? What is it that we do as a primary task that makes us stand out? What is our main job that no one else has? What is it that can't be obviously found through sports, or entertainment or at the stores or even the many wonderful service organizations that enrich us?
Again, we could gather up some rich and varied answers.
Could the personally experienced, life changing love of God be the answer to those questions? Could it be that powerful, deep, soul touching truth of an amazing grace -- a spirit force of unconditional love applied in the world -- that is offered, celebrated and taught in Christ? Where else will you hear that as a central focus and reason for being? Who else is focusing and concentrating primarily on that?
You might be fortunate enough to hear that as an aside in other non church settings, but other institutions exist for other good purposes. The main purpose of the church is to witness to Christ's love in the sharing of the Good News. We are to be the grace-full people!
Philip Yancey asks, "If grace is the Church's business ... why don't they try to outgrace their rivals?" In other words, may the people of God be outstanding and excellent in doing and proclaiming God's love! May we settle for no lesser goal ... May that be the message that comes through the church as it worships God ... So if you want to really know what the "best part of waking up" is? Where else will you look?
If you are a reader who is active in a church, continue to embody a love that is thicker and stronger than coffee! See that you offer it fresh and refillable!
If you are not active in a worshiping community, please know there is something stronger for your cup of life that will truly wake you up ... and a church near you is ready to serve.
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