Thursday, May 24, 2007

Church in a Coffee Shop

Dion put a post in his blog about emergent church stuff that set me thinking. Too many thoughts to just comment on his post. But I haven't had time to blog the thoughts until now and I'm not sure what's left!

We did church in a coffee shop in a church (if you know what I mean) for nearly two years and it was actually reasonably successful. We had an evening service of about 25 people in a place where (in retrospect) it was crazy to expect people to come at night.

But I am wondering whether the concept is really suited to the South African people. I know it works in pockets in the USA and Europe. I am not convinced that it is what people in the area where I live want (middle to upper class?).

Now I'm in a different church. I can't stop myself being post-modern and trying to reach people in that way - but I am struggling to really identify that which will appeal to young South Africans. I just know that it is not as easy and straight-forward as some people say! People are an almost paradoxical mix of conservative and radical. They want the predictable and they want surprises. They want community and they want to be able to worship alone. The 20 and 30 somethings in our congregation want to sing the old Sunday School songs. The teenagers choke over hymns. The 40 somethings (like me!) still want to be teenagers.

Multi-media - yes. Authenticity, a hundred times yes. Church in a coffee shop - not any more. They are looking for church in a church. Or perhaps Christianity without a church. Or maybe we can find some uniquely South African way of doing things. I wonder if effective serving is maybe a key. Post-moderns want to change the world for the better and are willing to do it one hungry child at a time.

On a different tack, what is interesting is the number of people in South Africa who are making the move from pre-modern to post-modern and skipping or only stopping briefly at modern. One day the rain was God's tears. The next it is something be experienced as spiritually uplifting. Without necessarily going through meteorological understanding of any kind. Essentially, I mean black people who are still close to poverty. That is a whole new avenue of post-modern ministry. Because story-telling is pre-modern and story-telling is post-modern. That is a good bridge.

I know I am becoming incoherent - because I don't want to make this post too long. If anyone knows what I am trying to say, please help me out!


Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Hi Jenny
(I arrived here via Stew's blog.)
Interesting observation. Kevin Light is doing some great work around emergent church issues: look him up in the year book. I am keen for your point to be explored ie: "what is uniquely South African?"

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Pete

Thanks for your comment! We will continue to explore the concept - whereever the opportunity arises. (Being a lay person there are some limitations!)
I do believe that the church should express Jesus' love in a contextually relevant manner.

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hi Jenny,

I think I can hear you!

In my mind every Church is an emerging Church in some sense (we all try our best to find creative and contextual points of contact with our unique communities of people).

However, there is some more radical stuff than what is common to most of us taking place in the Church 'out there'. I agree with Pete, Kev Light's expression of Christian community is one of the most creative in our context.

However, some of it not only has to do with structure or style, there is also a whole new theology developing. Have you ever had a chance to watch any of Rob Bell's DVD's (they are called 'nooma'). I use them quite a lot. On Thursday I will be showing the DVD entitled 'Rhythm' as part of a meditation we do as a community at John Wesley College... It is not only a creative presentation of the Gospel (in terms of the production and communication style), it also communicates a new kind of truth about the timeless love of God... It challenges me, not only to find new ways, but to find newness!

Blessings in your ministry!

You're a gift!


Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Dion

Yes I agree with you - many churches are actually emerging churches - at least those that make an effort to engage with the context. And yes, what we are actually looking for is the radical difference. Like how's this - I've got a data card in my pc and we can project it on the screen. What about keeping that up and letting people comment via mxit? People could participate without even being there. The problem is that there is no soft and gentle way of making that sort of change. You either are doing standard church with add-ons or you are taking a great big risk that could bring about a big fat zero. Or you have lots of money to market it well. That sounds very negative. It can be done and it will be done - but it takes something very special.
Is there anything by Kevin Light on the web?
Thanks for your comment!