Let’s link arms with the bold leaders at the Jerusalem Council. Let’s decide not to do anything that makes it unnecessarily difficult for those who are turning to God. Let’s go deep. But let’s be wide. Let’s be so wide that the whole world knows the church isn’t for church people. It’s for people people. For everybody!” Andy Stanley (North Point Ministries)
Why and how it all began
“What if we took our monthly Celebration Café service from inside the church and offered something similar in an actual coffee shop?
That was the question that simply would not let go.
A very informal Sunday afternoon service in the foyer of the church building had been up and running for quite some time. The prime reason for this additional service was to welcome new people into the mix. But those new people still had to take the big step of coming into a strange building. Why not reverse the scene? Why not make it as easy as possible?
Sounds great. But how? And where?
In a flash, a friend quickly piped up: “I know someone who runs a coffee shop. Perhaps he’d be open to the idea”.
With that, two of us made our way down to ‘Big Guy’s Little Coffee Shop’ on Lakeshore Blvd. W. in Toronto, with this crazy idea to ask the owner. “What would you think, Steve, if we offered a super simple ‘church’ experience here in your shop once in awhile?” Steve’s response: “Sure; when do you want to start?”
We had no idea as to when, but at least we now knew where. What a gift!
For the next four months, we met regularly at Big Guy’s to pray and dream about what a little Café Church might look like. This was often accompanied with prayer walks in the area. Finally, on what would prove to be the coldest night of the year, the little team gave it a shot. Café Church was launched.
While January 2015 celebrated the birth of Café Church, this baby has been developing gently ever since, perhaps even to the place of learning how to crawl, if not stand. Proverbs encourages us to ‘train up a child in the way s/he should go and they will not depart from it’. Perhaps this relates well to this little mission base. 2016 saw an actual core of people develop over the winter and spring months and a dozen people came to identify with Café Church as ‘their own’.
Taking it Outside
The summer of 2016 involved taking Café Church ‘outside under the big blue sky’, as we made use of a nearby park. The program became all the more accessible for people who otherwise may be a bit reluctant to enter a confined space. Additionally, there is something wonderfully healthy for a small community like this to sing and share God’s praises out in the open, and to actually pray out in the open.
On each summer occasion, passers-by took the time to express their appreciation for the gathering. Some of them felt ministered to (example: a Hindu family that came to grieve the loss of their dad on the anniversary of his death).
January 23rd, 2017 marked the second anniversary of this little project. It proved to be one of those ‘standing room only’ events, with much celebration and gratitude. To put this in perspective, a ‘standing room only’ event at Big Guy’s Little Coffee Shop only requires 30+ people. J
During the Winter and Spring months of 2017, the Café Church community grew in trust and love. It became quite common for members to request time for a listening ear and prayer during the week. Some joined an Addictions program we offer at CCSJ; others came to special events at the church. One lady dived into a book study at CCSJ and soon took leadership in leading the same study in her neighborhood with non-church goers. She has blossomed in her faith.
But what we celebrate above all is the care and support people exhibit during and following the circle prayer times. Members share their struggles quite openly.
As with the previous summer, Café Church on the Lake Shore held the July and August gatherings ‘under the big blue sky’. A simple BBQ, much singing, guest speakers, and a time to pray for one another and for the wider community all fit together well. Also, the attendance for these gatherings was nearly double that of the core. It was a delight to see people bringing their friends and neighbors to these times of joy.
Where do we go from here?
There remains a tri-focus with this little mission base. It springs up from 2 Timothy 3:17:
- that the person of God
- would be thoroughly equipped
- for every good work
We will continue to work and pray with three hopes in mind:
- that all who identify with Café Church on the Lake Shore will come to a place of humble certainty of ‘belonging’ to Christ
- that all who share in that awareness of belonging will ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of God’, going deeper in their walk with Christ.
- that all who continue to abide and grow in Christ will discover a passion to serve and share in gospel ministry.
We are aware of the potential danger of becoming a holy huddle. It doesn’t take long to lose concern for those who are on the outside looking in. With this flashing as an amber light in my thoughts and prayers, an ongoing challenge will be to help cultivate a compassionate evangelistic attitude while also encouraging people to discover more of what it means to follow Jesus.
One new member wrote and shared this poem at one of our gathering – a lovely moment.we all need a sanctuary we all need a shelter somewhere to come out of the wind and the snow. here we are known known by name people he speak our tongue a place where we receive the gift of home where all our masks and all our fears disintegrate at the threshold of each heart’s unreserved welcome here our spirits join as one through the unseen movement of the one whose life we know our eyes see past the surface and our ears hear the calling of our names and in this holy blessed embrace we find a place of safety