What if we started over? What if we erased everything we know about the organized church and its activities?
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What if we started simply with the scriptures—the Old and New Testaments—and our understanding of people and our present times? What might ministry look like?
A few years ago, several of us did just that. After swimming in the scriptures we came away with a renewed picture of God’s desire for us. He wants to be in relationship with us. So, if that’s the simple desire, how can we help make that happen right here where we live?
We listed a bunch of characteristics that we believed to be conducive for building relationships—with fellow humans and with God. The list I’m about to share eventually became the architecture for Lifetree Café, a very different approach to ministry.
FRIENDLINESS. People crave other people who exhibit authentic warmth, kindness, care, openness, and fun. Friendliness cannot be mass-produced. It’s one on one.
HOSPITALITY. Relationships grow in a welcoming atmosphere. Good hosts and hostesses make people feel comfortable with an offer of food and drink, introductions to other people, and help finding a comfortable seat.
FAMILIARITY. Especially when trying someplace new, people appreciate a degree of familiarity. From the get-go, they feel like they belong. They don’t have to puzzle over when to stand, sit, gesture, or sing unfamiliar songs in public.
SMALL. Relationships naturally flourish in an intimate setting rather than a crowd setting. (That’s one reason you won’t find a 1000-seat Starbucks.)
CONVENIENCE. People are more likely to spend time with us if it fits within their schedule—on a day and time that’s convenient in their busy schedules. And it helps to offer a location within their established traffic patterns.
REAL-LIFE FOCUSED. People want to talk about the everyday life issues swirling around them—from pets to politics to purpose to peace.
CONVERSATIONAL. They want to participate in the conversation. They want to share their thoughts, ask questions, interact, laugh and cry together.
STORY-BASED. People are captivated by the real stories of those around them. And they love to tell their own stories.
GOD-FOCUSED. Even though many have been turned off by church people, they openly desire to grow closer to God. They’re fascinated to see how God works today among their contemporaries. They deeply hunger for companionship with the real God who loves them. They crave relationship.
So, what if we started over? We’re in the process of rolling out this fresh approach with Lifetree Cafes across the country. You’re welcome, just as you are. Stop by. Make yourself at home. www.lifetreecafe.com.
Thom Schultz is the founder of Group Publishing and blogs at Holy Soup.