Monday, 22 October 2018

Reasons to Choose?

Recently I watched with interest a social media thread which started off with a report from the USA about a couple who chose their church to go to based on the coffee it served.Was the article true? I don't know, Its reported here -  however it generated a discussion on what coffee was used - ethically sourced, fair trade or whatever. Was is served before the service, during, after? One (hopefully tongue in check) pointed out that they wouldn't go to a church that served instant granule coffee.

Now there is an argument that says that offering the best kind of refreshments shows a sense of care for the people who come, and there is some truth in that. But not all churches have the resources to provide such things. As a pastor how would folks feel if I complained about their coffee or tea brand when I visit to talk and pray with them? I am happy with whatever they are happy with and blessed with what they provide.

It got me reflecting a little on why I go to church and why perhaps others do. What is important to folks and what perhaps should be important.

When I first went to church over 30 years ago, I went to find out what I could about what our neighbours believed. To be fair if I was not persistent in character that would have put me off, but the people were what kept me going. the people in the home group I started going to. They had an attractiveness about them and they accepted me questions and all.

After moving we went to another church, again friendly, accepting, well mostly as our small children were not the most quiet or well behaved. But then we were not run out of the church when our 2+ year old escaped and toddled up to the priest in the middle of the sermon to offer a drink from his beaker. The priest handled it rather well.

After my wife and I became Christians (another story :-)) we felt the need to be taught and built in God and while we were really involved in church life and loved the people, we were not growing Spiritually except by going to other churches. We decided with a degree of sadness and reluctance to move churches to one where the teaching was challenging, seemed sound and where we would hopefully grow in our faith. There we stayed (well there was a 3.5 year excursion to Italy on business) until I became a full time minister.

Given all of that I wonder where coffee, social life and such have become so important in choosing a church or leaving a church. I accept that these things have a bearing, and lets face it they are things that can easily be changed with a bit of help, encouragement and dipping into our pockets.

I understand that having limited numbers of the age group we or are children are a part of can make a big difference, but in the end is it not about what we can give in worship, praise, fellowship and how we grow from being a part of that, receiving and applying good teaching in our lives and investing our time, love and gifts where-ever we are called to be?

If there were no coffee served or the coffee was not the brand that we are used to at what-ever coffee store we get our regular fill up from, would that church get crossed off of our list? I don't think it would get crossed off of Jesus' list. In some respects such a church could be considered a social outcast. Jesus associated with social outcasts and was scorned and mocked for it.

Are we becoming such slaves to the culture in which we live that we are loosing sight of what is important in church? I wonder how many of our folks would stop coming if we stopped serving refreshments other than water before, after or during the services - maybe something for next lent?

Oh by the way the church I pastor does serve good fair trade filter coffee, tea and such. But if that were the deciding factor in why folks came to the church it would need a serious think about what kind of message we are giving. All of the ones I have asked suggest its actually because of the fellowship, spiritual life, pastoral care, teaching and love.

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