Friday, October 8, 2010

Coffeehouse "Mission"

 Messiah Lutheran Church in Midland, a congregation in our Midland Circuit, will be opening a second "Journeys" coffeehouse in November.  The first "Journeys" coffeehouse was opened a few years ago and is located inside Messiah's building.  This second "Journeys" coffeehouse will be located in downtown Midland.  You can read about this here.

I was a bit confused when the article from the Midland newspaper was brought to my attention last month.  I knew that Messiah had applied to the Michigan District for an "Ablaze/Fan into Flame" grant for this "mission" a while back, but had been denied.  So, I wondered where they got the money to go through with this.  Did they raise the money themselves?  Did the Michigan District reverse its decision?  Where did the money come from?

[NOTE:  Pr. Doerner informed me on the phone earlier today that Messiah only received $200,000 from the District, not $250,000, as I had reported.  I apologized to him for not checking with him about this before posting, and told him that I would correct it here]. 

Evidently, from what I've been told, the money came from the District, but there is still some question as to how that happened exactly.  I was informed by a couple of brothers in our circuit that Pr. Ed Doerner of Messiah mentioned during Winkel on Tuesday, September 14 (I wasn't able to make that Winkel, as I was traveling back from our trip to St. Louis that day) that Messiah was given a $200,000 grant from the District.  This was not an "Ablaze/Fan into Flame" grant, but a grant given by the Michigan District directly from the proceeds it received from a now defunct congregation.  And, from what I understand, the approval/authorization for this grant came from the District President's office, without having been discussed and/or approved by the District Board of Directors.  That seems odd to me (and others).  I would think that the disbursement of $200,000 would have to have BoD approval.  But, maybe not.  I honestly have no clue.  It could very well be that there is some other mechanism for such approval in place, or even that the DP's office has this authority.  As I said, no clue.

But, regardless of how the grant was given to Messiah, what grieves me is that it was given at all.  I cannot fathom how Lutherans could even consider the opening of a new coffeehouse to be mission work.  I mean,  I know the argument those in support of this sort of thing put forth - "People love coffee and we can use this coffeehouse to reach out to those people with the Gospel" - but I don't buy it.  This is nothing more than the "bait and switch" technique employed by the Americanized Evangelicals (and Lutherans doing their best impression of Americanized Evangelicals).  As Pr. Doerner is quoted saying in the article linked above, "When people say, 'What about this place is so amazing?' it gives us a chance to say, 'This is a place where God is.'"  Really?  Is it really God's presence that is going to make the place amazing?  If people are amazed by the place, won't it be because they like the coffee, or the atmosphere, or the music in the back, or the nice people serving them, or the friends they hang out with there, etc.?  NEWSFLASH:  People don't go to coffeehouses to meet God.  They go to drink coffee and hang out with friends, or study, or relax, or . . .  NEWSFLASH #2:  God has not promised to locate Himself FOR US in coffeehouses.  He locates Himself in His Church.  He visits us with His presence in the Divine Service to gift us with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  In other words, Jesus is not in your mocha, no matter how good that mocha may be.

[NOTE:  Pr. Doerner assured me on the phone today that there is no confusion regarding the purpose of the new "Journeys."  He understood how those reading the article might be confused by the seemingly contradictory quotations of himself and Mr. Sean Bartley included in the article, but made it clear that this was not due to there being actual confusion, but to the selective writing of the reporter.  The new "Journeys" will not be "just another place of business," but an extension of Messiah's mission and ministry, a place "to introduce people to Christ" through a variety of means.  "The Word of God will be permeating through the place," he said.  

Therefore, I have removed the paragraph I had written about the seeming confusion I noticed in the article about the purpose of the place.  I also apologized to Pr. Doerner for not talking to him about the article before making the comments I did.  I do not agree with him that I am guilty of slander here, nor that I had a Christian duty to follow Matthew 18 before posting this on my blog, but I do agree that it would have been the courteous thing to do to contact him and get his take on the article, since I know that newspaper articles don't always accurately reflect the actual interviews done in preparing the article.    

With that said, I stand by everything else I have written in this post.]

But, besides all this, what really irks me about the whole thing is that there are far better ways for the Michigan District to be dispensing money to support the actual mission and ministry of the Church.  I get regular letters from the District about stewardship workshops and resources.  Why should I take them seriously when the District exercises such poor stewardship as it has here?  We have struggling schools in our circuit that would benefit greatly from a grant of $200,000.  We have a wonderful campus ministry at CMU that I'm sure would benefit greatly from a grant of $200,000.  Heck, give our congregation a grant of $200,000 so that we could start a campus ministry at Alma College!  And there are a plethora of other far more beneficial ways that our District could have distributed this money within our circuit or elsewhere.  Instead, it goes toward a new coffeehouse.  Sad.  Very sad.

But, what's even sadder to this Lutheran pastor is what I witnessed when I explored Messiah's website, after being directed there by one of the parishioners I serve, who has family connections there, and spent an hour watching an archived video of a worship service done there.  I was curious when I saw the "message theme" they used throughout the summer, titled, "Come see Jesus, Go be Jesus," so I scrolled down to the first Sunday in that series and clicked on the link to watch the video.  There was absolutely nothing Lutheran about what I watched transpire before my eyes.  And the "message" still has me befuddled (if you don't want to click on the link above to watch the whole service, you can click here to just listen to the "message").  Pr. Doerner spends a lot of time talking about the difference between "believers in Jesus" and "followers of Jesus."  The point he is trying to make is that we need to move on from being mere believers to actual followers.  But, how do we do that?  We discern through prayer and study where God is leading us and set out to follow Him.  Where might God lead us, you ask?  Well, that is up to you to figure out in your faith relationship with God.  And, hey, it might very well be that God is leading you not to attend Church on Sunday, so don't worry about, or apologize for, missing Church.  Go where God leads you, whether to the amusement park, the campground, wherever God leads you.  Just go and be Jesus.  Now, if you find yourself drifting a bit, then come back to Church, so that you can be motivated to get back out there to wherever God is calling you and be Jesus to others.  Oh, and while you're out there being Jesus to others, be sure to look for the "God stories" and then come back and share those "God stories" with us.

Don't worry about missing Church.  Go and be Jesus.  Look for the "God stories."  What the heck?!  How in the world can this in any way be considered Lutheran preaching?  You might catch the couple of passing references to the Gospel, but it is completely done away by all the Law.  This is typical "Evangelical" preaching - Jesus has done His part, but now it's up to you to do your part.  It's the whole "WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?)" fad revisited.  

As I listened, I just felt sad for all the people there.  What a burden they have being placed on them.  They have a lot to figure out to become the followers of Jesus they evidently need to be.  I mean, how can they ever really know that they've accomplished that?  Think about it.  What does it mean to be a "follower of Jesus," to move on from being a mere "believer in Jesus"?  I thought we were "followers of Jesus" when we regularly go to the place where Jesus IS; the place where He speaks to us His Holy Word and fills us with His Holy Body and Blood.  But, according to this "message," to be a "follower of Jesus" means to go out and BE Jesus to others.  Talk about a completely impossible task!  We cannot BE Jesus.  Um, that's kinda the point of His whole coming down from heaven to become incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.  He came to live the perfect life we can't live; to fulfill the Holy Law in our place, and to take all of our failures, all of our sins, upon Himself and pay the full price for them all with His Holy and Precious Blood on the cross.  If we could BE Jesus, He would not have had to come to BE US!

But, hey, after watching this "worship service" and listening to the "message," at least the whole "coffeehouse mission" makes a little more sense.  When the idea is being fostered that we need to get out there and BE Jesus to others, and the Divine Service where Jesus IS Present for us is de-emphasized, then, yeah, open a coffeehouse.  And when people ask you why you're at the coffeehouse instead of in Church, just tell them that you are BEING Jesus to them.  And, heck, why stop at a coffeehouse?  Why not open a bar, or a dance club, or even a strip club?  People like those places, too, you know.  Am I being silly?  Maybe.  But, no sillier than those who believe that a coffeehouse is a "mission" of the Church, worthy of funding with District dollars.  That's more than silly.  As I said above, that's just plain sad.      

26 comments:

Jim Pierce said...

Pr. Messer,

Thank you for writing this article. I watched the "service" you linked and I have to say that it was truly painful. I don't mean that to be hurtful, but having a background in Pentecostalism I can't imagine attending such "worship services" ever again. They are painful because they are empty of the Gospel and are anthropocentric. I watched the "full service," and I hope that it is a heavily edited service in actuality, and was looking for confession and absolution, which was not there. I was looking for the Lord's Supper, which was not there. Although, I understand that not every congregation partakes of the Lord's Supper each Sunday. I looked for the Kyrie... not there. That congregation has set themselves up for misery. The parishioners are not hearing solid law and gospel, but therapy sessions which the pastor is delivering to help make the people "Christian masterpieces," but that isn't what is happening. Instead, people will despair over the fact that they can't possibly be Jesus to the world around them, or they will become self-righteous and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. I lived that type of life and once the law was done crushing me, I didn't hear the gospel but more law. It drove me to atheism. Because I could never measure up to being Jesus to the world, I turned my back on God altogether.

I hope the pastor of that congregation reads this blog and takes seriously what you have written. By abandoning the traditional liturgy, and adopting the pop-church form of "worship," that congregation has cut out much, if not most, of the Gospel and replaced it with law and emotionalism. "Christian mood music" will not be the healing balm they need. Sermons of how they can be a "better you" will not give them relief from the weight of sin burdening their hearts. No! What they need to hear is that they are sinners, but Christ has forgiven them. They are sick, but He is the great physician who has healed them.

May the Lord have mercy.

Garry Trammell said...

Coming from a Baptist background, I'm always saddened by these types of stories. Lord have mercy.

Bethany said...

Pastor Messer,

Maybe your congregation should quit giving to the district. My Grand Rapids congregation no longer does due to things like this.

Best,

Bethany Kilcrease

Billy Kangas said...

Bethany,
Are you seriously suggesting that?

This is just petty... You may not like the message or the means, but this is in NO WAY heresy. Isn't it possible to live with Brothers and sisters who do things differently then we find to be most effective and meaningful for us?

I love the liturgy personally. I prefer it. I love classic lutheran Law and Gospel preaching, but all I am reading on this blog is LAW with no GOSPEL... And it's Gossip... What right do we have to suggest things about the finances of another parish without any facts... and without talking to the PASTOR HIMSELF!

I have personally seen the Gospel preached in the context of a coffee shop many times since I spent nearly ten years as a barista. In that time I developed a liturgy of espresso and a way of sharing the gospel using a cup of coffee.

Are you saying that all the fruit I saw was not evangelistic because it wasn't sacramental?

Do you think the women at the well went to meet God? Of course not BUT SHE DID! If we can't trust that God can be with us in a coffee shop then we have fenced him into the sanctuary and mended the curtain to the Holy of Holies.

It was through our encounters in the world that we can bring people to the point where they want to join in the sacraments.

Peace be with you

Ed said...

Tom, this article was slanderous. Shame on you for publishing it and not calling me first.

The Lacher's said...

Pastor Thomas I would like to share my thoughts on your post and journeys coffeehouse on main street.

When journeys coffeehouse was formed over three years ago inside the of the walls of Messiah it was known that is was only a place to grow and cultivate the idea of using a third place to help share the Gospel to the world. As much as one will try the fact is that journeys coffeehouse in it's current location is stuck within the confines of a traditional church building. Folks who don't yet know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior don't want to walk into the walls of a traditional church, most churches buildings freak them out. As I recall from what I read, Jesus did not do the majority of His ministry and outreach in the temple but out where the people are. journeys coffeehouse goal is to create a ministry venue in which the gospel can be shared and lived out. journeys coffeehouse is not intending to be "a church" on main street but instead and more powerful to be "the Church" on main street. We can continue to build traditional church buildings and asking the world to come to Him, or we can take Him to the world.

Be Blessed,
Dan Lacher
DanLacher.COM

Jim Pierce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Pierce said...

Ed,

I have read Pr. Messer's article and I am having a difficult time finding slander. Could you point out the false and malicious statements you think he made? I think that would be more helpful than just tossing out a slander charge.

Mr. Lacher,

You seem to be repeating the ideas of the now defunct "Emergent Church" and "seeker sensitive" movements. The so-called "brick and mortar church" (or as you labeled it, "traditional church building") has never refrained from doing missions work to the world. You have bought into "the problem" as sold to you by men like Donald McGavran and his followers. If you buy "the problem," then you will purchase their materials, maybe their consulting, and build their vision for them.

As Lutheran we have followed the pattern of evangelism given to us from the word of God. The church sends out from amongst herself men who preach the Gospel and faithfully deliver the sacraments. Each person, through their respective vocations, are the masks of God to the community. As you point out, Jesus reached out to the woman at the well, but notice he didn't build a new well which he thought would pull the woman to it. He went to where the woman was. This is what we do in our vocations. As a Unix administrator you are doing what God has called you to do and through your vocation you get to tell people about what Jesus has done for you.

Finally, Journey's coffee house can't possibly be "THE Church" to anyone. Where do we find the Church according to our Lutheran confessions? We find the Church where the pure doctrine of the Gospel is being declared and the sacraments are being administered in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see the Apology VII&VII, 5). Unless your coffee house has a pastor proclaiming the Gospel in its purity (both law and gospel) and is delivering the sacraments, then the coffee house is not being the Church. If law and gospel are to be preached and the sacraments faithfully delivered, then I fail to see why any unrepentant sinner would want to buy their coffee drink at your coffee house. Unless, of course, we reject the doctrine of original sin and claim that unrepentant sinners CAN seek God and come to Him; therefore they wouldn't be offended by the Cross of Christ, but just need a different setting where they can comfortably make a decision for the Lord. Yes, decision theology is where all this "coffee house outreach" stuff comes from.

There is much more that I can write, but I will end it here. I pray that your congregation will rethink the direction they are going, since I, for one, have been down that road and you really don't want to travel it.

The Lacher's said...

I guess we are approaching this from two different sides even if we think we are on the same side. I come to this as a Christ follower and not a Lutheran follower. I follow the one who died on the cross and rose again.

As Pastor Thomas stated in his news flash that God did not promise to locate Himself in a coffeehouse, I agree. He did not promise to locate Himself in a coffeehouse where His believers are not located and proclaiming His love and forgiveness for the world.

"Our world is marked by unprecedented degrees of multiculturalism, ethnic diversity, social shifts, international collaboration, and technology-driven changes. The changes are profound, especially when you consider the unchecked decline in the influence, size, and social standing of the church. There is an undercurrent of anxiety in the evangelical world, and a hunger for something new. And we're sensing the urgency of it." via Dave Gibbons

As we look to the changing face of the culture today if we continue to pursue building His Church as we have for years are we just trying to fool ourselves? journeys coffeehouse is a non-traditional approach to bringing the message of Jesus Christ to the world. I will hold my breath of this one and count the success in changed lives given over to Christ.

Be Blessed,
Dan Lacher
DanLacher.COM

Jim Pierce said...

Mr. Lacher,

I don't think you may realize it, but you have pitted being Lutheran (a "Lutheran follower") against being a Christian (a "Christ follower"). I am assuming that was unintentional, but if it wasn't I would like to invite you to read through the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and even through the entire Book of Concord. I think you will find that being a Lutheran can't be pitted against being a "Christ follower" since Lutheranism expresses the Gospel in its purity. Those who are Lutherans are Christians.

You also ask if perhaps we are fooling ourselves if we continue to build church as we have done for years. The question is built upon a false premise and namely, that it is we who build the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who adds to the Church daily. The Church has survived quite well without the pop-church coffee houses and when that fad eventually disappears, the Holy Spirit will continue to add to the Church as He has always done through two things, the preaching of the doctrine of the Gospel in its purity and through delivery of the sacraments according to His Holy Word.

God only wants to deal with us through His means of Grace: His Word, baptism, and the Lord's Supper. There are no "bait and switch" techniques that God works through. There are no "surprising ways" in which God works. In fact, His way of working in hearts are rather mundane to our "old Adams." Our flesh finds it unsettling that God doesn't want to use our means through which to deliver His Grace, since that removes the focus off of our works.

God promises to work through His preached word and the sacraments, period (Mt. 28). We are not Calvinists who think that these things are merely symbolic and that God works immediately on our hearts apart from His word. We also do not subscribe to the idea that those who are dead in sin have a free will that they can make a choice for Christ. Faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8) worked in our hearts through hearing the preached Gospel (Romans 10:17). Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that our Lord can't work through us in our vocations, because He does where His Gospel is proclaimed. The point is that a "coffee house" is not a ministry, it is a business and we should stop pretending it is anything other than that.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

I love the liturgy personally. I prefer it. I love classic lutheran Law and Gospel preaching, but all I am reading on this blog is LAW with no GOSPEL... And it's Gossip... What right do we have to suggest things about the finances of another parish without any facts... and without talking to the PASTOR HIMSELF!

Dear Billy,

Thank you for your response. I am sorry that all you are reading on this blog is Law with no Gospel. I don't see that myself. Could you explain what you mean by that?

As for your charge against me that this is GOSSIP, I disagree. I have only written about what was made public. Neither did I "suggest things about the finances of another parish without any facts." The only actual error in my post was the amount Messiah received from the District, and I have corrected that. But, to say that I was without any facts is wrong. What facts am I missing here?

Peace,
Pr. Messer

Billy Kangas said...

Pr. Messer,
Thanks for the response....

I would like to clarify one thing. I have looked at other parts of the Blog and have found a great deal of Gospel.

My main concern was with this article....
I will adress the gossip comment first

Gossip has been defined as "rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted."

Just because something has been made public does not mean it should be proliferated. If you want to make a critique of how District money is spent get the facts and bring it up with those who handle these sorts of things.

As far as the LAW comment is concerned, I invite you to try reading this with new eyes...

It seems more like you are trying to create a hedge around some sacred ecclesiological idea (that is still somewhat ethereal to me) then proclaiming Christ Jesus who died, is risen, and will come.

Now I understand this is hard to do all the time. I have trouble doing it myself most of the time.

As an outsider with a deep love for Both the Lutheran confessions and Coffee House evangelism I felt very hurt by this post, and it didn't concern me directly at all. I was just hoping to point out that you may have been too quick to speak in this instance.

Peace be with you

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Mr. Lacher,

I appreciate your willingness to respond here. I don't have much to add to what Mr. Pierce has stated so faithfully and eloquently in his responses to you. So, let me just say, "Ditto."

I will however comment about what you wrote over at your site (danlacher.com):

I would rather pour my life into someone while sharing the gospel instead of polishing the pretty bricks on a traditional church building. Jesus did not come to the world to have us make members in church clubs but instead to have His creation cross from death to life through believing in Him.

It is obvious that you are woefully confused as to what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice. We're not about the business of "polishing the pretty bricks on a traditional church building," but preaching the Gospel in its purity and administering the Sacraments according to Christ's institution. Again, read Mr. Pierce's fine posts, where he explains this.

It does seem that you have developed some animosity toward the Church, as suggested by your comments about "polishing bricks" and "church clubs." I'm sorry about that, but the fact is that Jesus DID establish His Holy Church to be the place where He would BE among us to deliver the Divine Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.

But, again, I think this is because you are just confused about what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice. I mean, I don't even know what it means to "pour your life into someone while sharing the gospel," but I do know that Christ pours His life into us at the altar when He gives us His very Body and Blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Billy,

I would like to clarify one thing. I have looked at other parts of the Blog and have found a great deal of Gospel.

Thanks for noticing. :)

Just because something has been made public does not mean it should be proliferated. If you want to make a critique of how District money is spent get the facts and bring it up with those who handle these sorts of things.

Yes, but just because something is proliferated doesn't make it gossip. According to the definition you provided, which I accept, my post here does not qualify. With the exception of the actual amount, which changes NOTHING about the point of my post, by the way, everything I wrote was factual. Not based on mere hearsay and rumors. But, based on a public newspaper article, a public discussion had during our Winkel, information from the District, and the public website of Messiah.

But, besides this, what I'm really struggling with is why in the world those who support this endeavor would be upset about me bringing it to light on my blog. If they believe that this is a worthy endeavor, what is there to hide? Now, if they take issue with my critique of this endeavor, or are upset by that, fine. But, why the beef over bringing it to light? I don't get that at all. Why shouldn't this get publicized and why shouldn't we talk about it? Please help me to understand that.

It seems more like you are trying to create a hedge around some sacred ecclesiological idea (that is still somewhat ethereal to me) then proclaiming Christ Jesus who died, is risen, and will come.

I'm simply saying that I do not support our District giving a congregation $200,000 to open a coffeehouse. And, I'm saying that I do not believe that the rationale behind this, or the public confession of the congregation in question, per the links I provided from their website, is in agreement with what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice. I don't know if I would call that "creating a hedge around some sacred ecclesiological idea." Rather, I'd call it holding Lutherans accountable to the confession of the faith to which they have voluntarily and unconditionally subscribed.

As an outsider with a deep love for Both the Lutheran confessions and Coffee House evangelism I felt very hurt by this post, and it didn't concern me directly at all. I was just hoping to point out that you may have been too quick to speak in this instance.

I am sorry that you were hurt by this post, but I am simply confessing what I believe here. And, as for being too quick to speak, I actually sat on this for a long time before posting it, but having had another parishioner ask me about it, I felt it was time.

Billy Kangas said...

Rev. Messer,

I am withholding judgment on whether or not the money from the district was a good idea or a Bad idea, mostly because I don't know all the facts.

I am glad that you have now gone straight to the source and corrected any bad information you were given. That was my main concern with the Gossip topic. Thank you.

I would like a point of clarification

Which confession is being violated by creating a coffee shop as a tool for evangelism? And what scripture for that matter (since that is the ground upon which the confessions stand)

Bethany said...

Billy,

Sorry, but I disagree about not funding something you disagree with being petty. The district is not a divinely appointed structure; there is no reason for individual congregations to support it if they don't agree with its aims. The same thing goes for the Synod at the national level. We do have a congregational polity in the LCMS. Frankly, I have no problem with your congregation opening a coffee house, but I don't want to pay for it because I question the missiological presuppositions behind such a move. Best of luck with it though.

Bethany Kilcrease

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Which confession is being violated by creating a coffee shop as a tool for evangelism? And what scripture for that matter (since that is the ground upon which the confessions stand)

Billy,

It runs contrary to what we Lutherans confess about a great many things, including what the Church is and what the Church does, how people are converted to saving faith, what true evangelism is, the Office of the Holy Ministry, just to name a few.

It flows from the false theology of those whom our Lutheran Confessions reject and condemn. I mean, I would surely hope that no one would try to argue that the idea for this sort of "evangelism" originated among Lutherans. This is borrowed from those who bought into the Church Growth Movement and dependent upon the principles of the same.

Scripture? How about 1 Cor. 11:22 to start? Or a proper interpretation of Matt. 28? Or the whole history of the Israelites revealed to us in the Old Testament? When was it that the Israelites always got into hot water with God? Think about that.

It's a bait-and-switch type of salesmanship evangelism which believes that God needs our help to "win souls for Jesus" and places all the emphasis on what WE do. It's no surprise that those who support this sort of thing preach motivational messages exhorting people to go out and BE Jesus and not to worry about missing out on coming to where Jesus IS for them.

Being out of town at a conference, I don't have time right now to flesh all this out, but I hope to do so in a few days. I do appreciate the conversation.

Q said...

Rev. Messer,

I believe that this type of article is exactly why the church (including Lutherans) continues to dwindle. You say that your problem is with the Biblical nature of the coffeeshop but you spend a significant chunk of your article complaining about MONEY being spent. But let's move to your Biblical problems. I will confess that I am a lay person not someone who claims to have "studied extensively" all the theological issues you claim. That said, I fail to see the logic of your claim that Jesus did not promise to meet us at a coffee house. I refer to Matt 18:20. Here Jesus promises to be where 2 or 3 come together in his name. This can certainly occur anywhere, including a coffee house. Christ tells us to reach out to others to tell them the Good News. It seems that a coffee house could be just such a place to slowly build relationships so that others may come to know Christ. Your "bait and switch" comparison appears to dismiss any attempt outside a church as a way to bring others to Christ. This would appear to be un-Lutheran as well as un-Christian. We are to go where those who need Christ are or to create places where they may meet Christ. I see nothing unbiblical about this. There is simply an attempt here to reach people where they are, just as Christ met people where they were. Finally, your quoted scripture to Billy lacks any sense to me. 1Cor11:22 is part of Paul's condemnation to the Corinthians for eating and drinking excessively during the celebration of the Lord's Supper (see notes in Life Application Study Bible if you doubt my interpretation). How in the world does that apply to your argument?

I believe that this type of attack on so called "Evangelical" missions (btw I am not part of an Evangelical Church denomination) is exactly why the new generation is leaving the "Church". They read the Bible, see that they need to be involved in community and reach others as Christ asks us to. They also can strive to BE Christ by striving to follow His lead in that they wish to help those in the community and be a reflection of God to the world. Contrary to the earlier post, they do not expect to BE Christ perfectly but want to do the best they can and grow each day in their relationship with Christ. We know that as humans we are imperfect and we will fail at times but God shed his grace on us by sending Christ to die for our sins. He is the atonement for all of us. Having said that, he expects us to act. To make the effort. To pray for guidance and try what we can to bring others to a relationship with Him.

Perhaps attacks like this should strengthen our resolve since God told us that the world would be hard and warned that we would be attacked for our belief and love for Him. I pray that many are impacted by this coffee house and pray that God uses this for His purposes.

Keith said...

Rev. Messer,

Thank you for your thoughts about the Journeys coffee shop going up on Main St. in Midland.

I have known about the coffee shop opening for some time now, and have learned a few things from your post.

I did not realize that the Lutheran District had granted the church with $200,000 for the coffee house. It was my understanding that all of the grants came from the city of Midland.

To your concern about this. I understand that it is hard to support your District when they have granted Messiah Lutheran with 200k to start a coffee shop when your church or other churches in the area could use that money for something else.

However, I feel as pastors, we should be in support of what other churches in the district are doing. No matter how you see it, it's still being used for the kingdom of God.

Doesn't Jesus himself say "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."? (Matt. 28:19).

If this is furthering the kingdom of God, then why complain about it?

I know you are going to say that it's not a real missions outreach and that it's a bait and switch move, but in all reality, isn't the main goal of a church to get lost people to come to Christ?

As I have read more about the coffee shop opening and have talked personally with Sean and Pastor Ed about it, the base behind the coffee shop isn't about planting a church.

The base of the coffee shop is to create a safe environment that people can come, have coffee, and hang out and "BE SHOWN" God's love.
I put be shown in quotes because there can be a lot said with your actions rather than your words.

A pastor can go and preach a sermon on a Sunday morning, but if his actions afterwords contradicts what he preaches, then all is lost.

The coffee shop offers people who may not want to come into a church (because of the title "Church") or even step into a service, (Because of the way the church has hurt them), a place that they can just enjoy coffee and a friendly environment.

The baristas aren't going to preach at the people who walk into the coffee shop and tell them that they are going to Hell if they don't love God. They are going to love on the people. That's what God calls us to do. Love him above all else, then love people.

...Continued

Keith said...

Continuation...


To your "NEWSFLASH #2" and I quote, "God has not promised to locate Himself FOR US in coffeehouses. He locates Himself in His Church. He visits us with His presence in the Divine Service to gift us with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments. In other words, Jesus is not in your mocha, no matter how good that mocha may be."

I agree that He never said "I will be in the coffee shop... in your mocha."
But honestly, Jesus did say that "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matt. 18:20)

I'm sure that the main goal of the coffee shop isn't to be a church, but when two or three are gathered in God's name, he's there. And that can be anywhere. He doesn't say in the church.

I know that this "Coffeehouse Mission" may seem unconventional and very out of tradition, but how else are we supposed to reach the lost of Midland. There are hundreds of churches in Midland. Midland once held the world record for the most churches per square mile. If they aren't reaching the people who are lost and drink coffee... then how are we supposed to do that?

Jesus calls us to Go out and make disciples of ALL nations... and America is a coffee drinking nation by all means.

There are practical ways of getting people to go to church. ie: inviting them, outreach, potlucks and so on. But what happens when they won't even step foot on church grounds? Then how do we reach them.

Paul understood how to reach a people who didn't care about Jesus/God. He went to Athens where the city was full of idols to different Gods. He then looks around and notices an altar the says "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD". He then knows how to reach the people of Athens. He talks to them about a God that they don't know... His God. And they respond well to it.

Paul was the leading disciple that Jesus told to go out and make disciples of All nations... and he did it unconventionally.

I think that the coffee shop is a great way to show God. Through our actions... not preaching at people. Jesus is about relationships and serving... if the people at the coffee shop can show people Jesus through making a relationship with them and making them a good cup of coffee, then I fully support that.

Thanks,

Rev. Keith H. Clarkson

Jim Pierce said...

If I am not mistaken, Mt. 18:20 is a reference, in context, to the gathering together of the disciples to receive forgiveness and for mutual consolation. That is, gathering together in divine service. We should not separate the act of brothers forgiving sins from Mt. 18:20 and try to "baptize" any efforts conducted by a group of Christians as including Christ, or that Christ is in that effort in virtue of two or more gathered together "in His name." Indeed, Jesus is with me now even-though I am alone in my house typing this message, so just that fact alone tells one that Mt. 18:20 has everything to do with members of the Church gathering together for the forgiveness of sins and nothing to do with gathering together for a sip of coffee or tea with the unrepentant.

Furthermore, the idea that it is a "coffee shop" that shows God is an appalling idea. Christ is shown to us by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. The mercy of Christ can be "seen" through individuals working in their vocations, but how a business structure "shows Christ" is beyond me.

Finally, Jesus is about the forgiveness of sins (not being relational). The relational jargon of "Emerging Christians" misses the Gospel, since their focus is not upon what Christ has come to do, and is doing for us, but instead the focus is on how WE form relationships with the unrepentant in a "bait and switch" setting in order to bring them to Christ. Hence the whole "coffee shop" motif. After all, the unrepentant would never set foot in a church, so we must go to them with a "coffee house." No. Christ didn't build a new well. He simply met the woman at the well. That is much like us working in our vocations and meeting people daily, showing them mercy and love because Jesus first showed it to us.

Save the money and teach people to invite their friends to church and don't be ashamed to use the traditional liturgy. It is dripping with Gospel from start to finish and that is what people need to hear.

Q said...

Jim,

Interesting take on Matt 18:20. By your thoughts, a group of us in prayer over a brother or sister doesn't contain Christ because we are not in a Church doing the "rites" as you see them. Also, we are wasting our efforts with those who do not know Christ since they are unrepentant at this time. By extension of this logic the Church should just close it's doors to outsiders and focus inward on its members. I find this quite sad and am sure that others would as well.

As far as your comment that relationships are bait and switch and Jesus didn't build the well...I think you miss the point. God is all about relationships. We are told, by Jesus, that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors. How could this possibly be done without a relationship both with God and with other people? As far as building the well. Someone built the well and Jesus used the opportunity to converse with the woman. We do not know who built the well since the Bible does not speak directly to this. God could have told someone to build the well or Jesus may well have been part of the crew of men who dug the well. You cannot say one way or the other because the Bible is silent on this part. Any comment is conjecture at best. In the coffee house case, people in prayer feel that God is calling them to use this as a way to reach the world. Will it be successful? Only God knows. He will ultimately decide. In the short term, is it really so distastful to you and (apparently) Rev Messer that people try something to reach people and show them how God has impacted their lives? For there to be a place where people will try to live out lives worthy of God? Of course, they will not be perfect. Only Jesus lived a perfect life. Only Jesus and His sacrifice gives us eternal life but people striving to live a Godly life should be something we all encourage for ourselves and others. It's not easy to follow God and to make mistakes that we regret. Luckily for us, Jesus is our freedom and we can have a relationship with God. But we also need brothers and sisters to lift us up, to help us along the way, to stand in the gap with us. No one is saying that they can be Jesus perfectly. What they are saying is that they can try to follow His example of compassion for others and showing them what God's love can mean in people's lives. Again, not perfection.

Based on your many posts, I hope that you can get past the issues you had earlier being "beaten down by law". God is about amazing grace and love for all of his children. So, take a chance...show love and grace to those around you. Ask God to help you be a reflection of His love to others so that you might be the salt and light for Him in this broken world. If we all did this, we would honor God and the world would be a better place (not a perfect place).

One last note. I am not afraid to ask people to attend church but I also am not afraid to show them how God impacts my life outside of a church. I'm not afraid to try new things if I prayerfully believe that God will use it for His purpose. I also am not afraid to think that God and His Gospel can be presented outside your liturgy.

Jim Pierce said...

"Q,"

You are raising paper tigers and knocking them down. For instance, I clearly wrote that Jesus is with me even as I type out this message alone in my house. I don't need to call a couple brothers and have them come over so that Jesus will be present. Furthermore, given the context of Mt. 18:20, which is the forgiveness of sins and mutual consolation of the disciples, we can't seperate the forgiveness of sins from what it means to be gathered together in Christs name.

You have also caricatured vocation as "wasting our efforts with those who do not know Christ," or you completely failed to understand the points I made over vocation and in particular my pointing to Luther's comment that through our vocations we are the masks of God to the world.

Your charge of speculation around who built the well is also a paper tiger, since it entirely misses the point which is Jesus went to where the women of the town drew water and met the woman. The point being that he went. Of course, I don't think it idle speculation to note the well likely had been in that community for some time and it certainly isn't unreasonable to note that, but it surely misses the mark to focus a counter-argument turning on that point.

What you are right about is that Jesus lived a perfect life. He lived the life we can't possibly live, so there is no sense in focusing mission on what we do in the community. Christ should be brought to the community, not our efforts. Our efforts do not create disciples, the Holy Spirit does that. The job of the Church is to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. The Church does that by calling pastors. We laity work our vocations as masks of God showing mercy and love to others because Christ did so for us.

I have much more I could write, but I have a meeting to attend and will leave it here.

Q said...

Jim,

Well, I wish I could say I was surprised by your recent post, but I knew you would again simply attack any response to your earlier statements.

I suppose that this is to be expected as you seem fixated on only having the church as you believe it to be defined be able to bring people to Christ. While you say I've missed your point about being a reflection of God, you give no ability for that reflection to do anything useful, apparently, outside of getting people to go to a church.

You also miss the point of the well and who built it because you cannot ever see a coffee shop as a similar situation. In ancient times, people gathered at a well. Here, they will gather at a coffee shop. Both can be directed and used by God for his purpose. For you to dismiss this puts God in a box and defines how He can work in this world. Seems you have a very small view of God and His ability to reach His children.

You also comment "What you are right about is that Jesus lived a perfect life. He lived the life we can't possibly live, so there is no sense in focusing mission on what we do in the community. Christ should be brought to the community, not our efforts. Our efforts do not create disciples, the Holy Spirit does that. The job of the Church is to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. The Church does that by calling pastors." Here again, the idea of the coffee shop is to bring Christ to the community thru a demonstration of how He has impacted the lives of the people there. The Holy Spirit will also be present since He is with us always...but again, you dismiss the notion that the coffee house only focuses on our efforts. I'll admit I don't understand how showing people how God impacts your life is pointing toward "our efforts"???

I will leave this discussion with just the following, which you may say is just a paper tiger again. We are called to love God and love our neighbor, to be in the world for God. If you cannot believe that people can be helped to see what God can do in their life by seeing others living for Him and reaching out. If you truely believe that only a church and liturgy can ever really serve to bring others to Christ, then nothing I or anyone else will ever say will sway you. In the end, we can only do what we believe God would have us do based on prayer and a continuing relationship with Him. In this case, reaching those who will frequent the coffee house will hopefully, with God's grace, lead them to explore a relationship with Him. It will also hopefully lead them to a spiritual home church where they can be filled with the grace of God and come to accept the gift of Jesus' sacrifice for us. It is my hope that other Christians look for ways to show their faith and are not beaten down by those who would denegrate their sincere efforts to bring Christ into places like the coffee house because they "aren't the church or pastors" as you have said. In the end, all of us must have faith that God will work thru us if we are willing to listen and make Him the center of our lives. I think that the people in the coffee house are striving to do just that and I'm encouraged that they will step out in faith to love their neighbor as Christ tells us to.

Jim Pierce said...

"Q,"

You aren't engaging my points and if I continue I will just be repeating myself, so I will simply thank you for your response and offer one suggestion. If you really are into developing relationships, you might start by posting on blogs with your real name.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Rev. Clarkson,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sorry for the delayed response, but I've been out of town and playing catch-up . . .

I disagree that I am supposed to support the efforts of another congregation when I believe those efforts run contrary to our Lutheran confession of the faith. My objection is not merely about the money which could be used elsewhere, but about the false theology which serves as the basis for opening up a coffeehouse in the name of Christian mission.

You cite Matthew 28 in your post, but do not finish the verse, which tells us how disciples are made, i.e. through Baptism, catechesis, and ongoing reception of the Lord where He promises to be. That's a common thing to do, even, sadly, among Lutherans these days. The concentration is on the going and making of disciples, but the how and by whose authority this is done is left out. This is not a "personal evangelism" or even a "programmatic evangelism" text, as many wrongly conclude. This is a dominical mandate from our Lord to His Apostles to serve in His stead and by His command in the Office of the Holy Ministry, through which He will make disciples by means of His Holy Word and Sacraments.

You also repeatedly ask how WE are going to reach people, implying that we need to be creative and do things such as open coffeehouses to accomplish that goal.

Rather than delve too deeply into this, perhaps you could answer a couple of questions: 1) Where in Holy Scripture does it say that it is up to US to reach people? This is often put out there as an assumption that all Christians agree that we are to be out there reaching people. But, where is the Scriptural basis for this? 2) Do OUR "outreach efforts" have an effect on the number of the elect who will be saved?

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.