Pentecost – Sunday 12th June 2011
Acts 2: 1-21
Just got back from my local Costa Coffee. It was a meeting, honest. I didn’t just nip out for a quick fix – although the temptation is very real. For a number of years now, Debby and I have become addicted to Starbucks, Cafe Ritazza, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, and the like, and we like to have a treat at one of them maybe once a weekend.
I don’t know, it’s not just the coffee (or the cakes!). It’s the nice relaxing atmosphere, the friendly staff, the daily newspapers on hand, the comfy seats, (more often than not) the cleanliness and warmth of the cafes. It all adds up to a memorial experience.
Why can’t the church be more like a trip to your local Costa? Embracing change, always looking to redefine itself, relevant to different ages and cultures, thriving instead of just surviving. I’ve just made a quick list of the things that make me want to go to Costa Coffee, how does that list measure up in the life of the church?
Let’s start with the comfy seats. Does your church have pews? Does it have those plastic chairs? Why? Is that going to bring people flooding in? Can you actually get comfortable on them? Or is that the point for having them? Do we really believe that church is not to be enjoyed, but a place to feel uncomfortable? Pews or not, comfort and the ability to feel at home should surely be high on the priority list for the church.
So should the welcome. Not too overpowering, but neither letting anyone go unnoticed and unwelcomed. I have to say the majority of churches I’ve visited get this one about right. But it could be improved 100% with the smell of freshly brewed coffee, a plate of croissants, a couple of newspapers strewn about and some settee’s to lounge on.
Now I don’t want to demean Church worship. This isn’t about dumbing down. I’m not trying to make the church look more like MacDonalds than a gospel hall. I’m not trying to dilute the message, or say that all you need is a feel good factor. But I believe authentic worship is authentic worship whether you gather in a cathedral, a community centre or a car park. What I do want to do is to wake the church up, to bring it into the 21st century, to give a professional approach to what is often our amateur efforts. I want to dream dreams … and Pentecost is a good place to do that.
Peter told the crowds, ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants — men and women alike — and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below — blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
I’d like to think that they then adjourned to the local Starbucks to talk it all over, after all, they were no churches, cathedrals or convention centres to accommodate the thousands who swelled the numbers of the disciples that day. They were doing something right. The message we preach is still the same, so what did they do different? We need to get outside our comfort zones, examine what we do, how we do it and dream a few dreams. The challenge is there and we need to embrace it soon.
After all that, I’m ready for a burst of caffeine. Meet you at Costa Coffee in half an hour?