Coffeehouse Congregations: What is Church?

Coffee Shop Congregations: What is Church?

The Church Question: To Go or Not To Go?

Internationally recognised, the Barna Research Group, in their 2006 publication “Revolution”, disclosed an intriguing trend: a large number of devout, born-again Christians are leaving established churches. What has prompted their departure and where are they choosing to go instead? Revolution from Amazon.

Fast forward 17 years and this trend appears to be persisting, with the Covid crisis potentially accelerating it. It’s not uncommon now to find mature Christians congregating in coffee shops, calling it their own form of “church”.

What Defines a Church?

Before we delve into this, it’s essential to understand the reasons behind this departure from traditional church attendance.

According to the scriptures, mankind, including Christians, is influenced by the spirit of the age. Here are a few factors influencing Christians:

  1. Spirit of Lawlessness: This is increasingly visible in the way people dismiss the police, government officials and those in authority. Today’s society seems to disregard any form of authority.
  2. Unteachable Spirit: Christians have access to a vast pool of knowledge via YouTube and the internet, featuring millions of teachings from a plethora of teachers. They tend to develop preferences and become hesitant to listen to other viewpoints.

In contrast, many Christians believe we are living in the end times and are witnessing a “falling away”. 2Thes 2:3. This can be seen in the number of churches filled with false teachings and doctrines, causing many Christians to abandon the institution.

Several churches are adopting a “seeker-friendly” approach, avoiding discussions on sin and repentance. Practices such as homosexuality and fornication are tolerated under the banner of “walking in love”. Various false doctrines have permeated the church, including hyper-grace, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), prosperity gospel, and more.

False Doctrines: []

However, isn’t it likely that there are churches still committed to pure doctrine?

Jesus declared that He will build His church and, as we know, Jesus never fails. Mat 16:18

The Meaning of Church

You may find believers in coffee shops, enjoying each other’s company and referring to these gatherings as “having church”.

So, what exactly is church?

The church is akin to a family, replete with structure: fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and more. It requires leadership, authority and mutual respect. Much like a family, you don’t choose your church members. When you choose a spouse, for instance, you also gain in-laws. While you may not necessarily “like” certain family members, you’re expected to love and tolerate them.

Coffee shop gatherings, by comparison, are akin to friendship circles rather than familial bonds. You choose your friends, the time and place to meet, and everything is on your terms. There is no need to tolerate anyone, nor is there a structured leadership in place.

This suggests that the church’s structure serves a purpose and an aim, even if it merely allows personal growth in patience, kindness and love.

Yet, perhaps a more critical issue looms. There is a lack of eagerness to seek His presence, to pray and to worship. The songs commonly sung these days focus on what God can and will do for us, echoing His goodness, love and faithfulness. But that is not genuine worship. True worship involves declaring His majesty and holiness, and exalting His name. It should be all about Him.

Reflecting on the parable of the ten virgins, where the oil symbolises the Holy Spirit, it becomes clear that the only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is through prayer, praise and worship. Therefore we must strive to seek His face and draw near to Him. Mat 15:1-13

Consequently, we may find a deficiency of the Holy Spirit, or “oil”, whether we are in or out of the church.

Mat 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (right standing with God, pleasing to God), for they shall be satisfied (rewarded).”

There’s a popular saying: “that person is hungry”. We use it to recognise someone who fervently strives to achieve a goal or displays exceptional zeal in sports or other competitions.

We, as Christians, should possess this same HUNGER and THIRST to please our Heavenly Father!

In doing so, we will find fulfilment and satisfaction!