In the most recent edition of Catalyst Leadership there is an article entitled “Walls do Talk” by Paul Louis Metzger in which the author talks about a recent trend in many churches of replacing the community that happens around meeting at the Lord’s Table for communion with the “real community” of a conversation over a late’ in a coffee bar on the church’s campus.
The following introduces the topic,
“Consider that in many churches the coffee bar has displaced the Lord’s Table as the place where real community happens. Due in part to the neutralizing of sacred space that has been popular since the 1980s, churches began removing or de-emphasizing the Lord’s Table and introducing coffee bars. Without doubt the desire has been to build community by offering people a culturally familiar setting to engage one another. But we must ask: What formative message does a coffee bar convey?
Metzger asks a great question, “what does this trend convey?” What message are we sending either implied or unintended? The communion table or the celebrating of communion communicates a message of community that is based on a far deeper level than just friend sharing together over some coffee. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to meet as friends in Christ and encourage each other to be more fruitful disciples.
Metzger goes on to say,
Both the coffee bar and Lord’s Table affirm community, but the kind of community they affirm differs significantly. Churches with coffee bars may have to work harder to ensure they are fostering community around the values of Christ rather than casual consumerism. At the same time, there is no guarantee that a church that prominently displays the Lord’s Table and forgoes coffee will automatically model unity, pastoral care, or break down cultural and generational cliques.
I believe there is a place for both the coffee bar and the Lord’s table as both affirm and build community. The challenge is how?How do we unite in celebration around the death of Jesus which is the uniting factor of all christian relationships while also afirming our needs to grow through sharing and being together in social settings.
Perhaps the answer is found in returning to the book of Acts and seeing that the early church met around the table and shared a meal of remembrance together (The Lord’s Table) while also meeting together for the purpose of being together and building community (Coffee Bar).
What about your church…does it contain a coffee bar? Has that space become the place where “real community” happens? Is there such a thing a sacred and non sacred space? Is celebrating the Lord’s Table been replaced by something else in your church?