coffee-house christianity

By September 15, 2005General

Don Bosch, in his blog The Evangelical Ecologist, described LifePoint as “coffee shop Christianity.” It’s hard for me to be offended since I’m writing this blog from a coffee shop. In fact, I may adopt the phrase myself — with proper references, of course.

An entire marketing/sociological concept has arisen over the past few years known as “third place” thinking. The idea is that after home and work, people need a “third place” to feel connected.

Starbucks has sought to master the idea of creating an environment that invites lingering. The most popular independent shops have the same mojo — people go there as much for the environment and connections as they do the coffee. You begin to see the same faces, you know which chairs will be comfortable, and there’s a barista behind the counter who remembers your drink.

Robert Putnam wrote an interesting book a few years ago entitled “Bowling Alone.” The book explored the levels of people’s involvement in community and civic groups. Not surprisingly, we have become increasingly isolated over the past 30 years. That’s why the title itself is purposefully ironic. No one used to go bowling alone; you always bowled in groups.

I like the idea of coffee-shop Christianity, especially if it means developing intentional communities of faith that invite and welcome. A place to linger. A place to absorb quietly or engage in a game of chess. A place to go where you have a reasonable sense of what to expect.

Perhaps the church of the 1980s and 1990s resembled Dunkin’ Donuts more than a good coffee shop. It emphasized efficiency and structure. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t give too much thought to ambience.

As I sit in Twiggs, I’m struck by the bohemian feel of the place. A hodge-podge of couches and chairs, eclectic artwork, concrete floors. And it’s brimming with people of all ages and backgrounds, different colors.

I hope LifePoint can learn from “third place” thinking. This is where the community/relational nature of the church can have a powerful impact on our culture. It’s not trendy to talk about creating an environment that is inviting and warm — it’s biblical.

May you never have to bowl alone again.

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