Irresistible Church, Part 3: Dao Shalom Cafe

Today, I had the honor of being part of an alternative church experience.  Born this past September, the idea for Dao Shalom Cafe came from a dear friend of mine, who is on a journey to discover what church can look like for people open to something other than typical evangelical church settings or practices.  Essentially, the goal is to become a space where everyone–conservative evangelicals, ex-Christians, atheists, agnostics–can come and share stories of their lives, and how God or the absence thereof has impacted them.  But this journey is not just for others who are searching, disenfranchised, or de-churched, nor is it only for over-churched people, looking for a break from their routine; this is part of my friend’s own journey to discover where he fits in the church, the body of Christ.

Eight people, sitting around a large antique table, sipping coffee, eating bagels, taking turns sharing our stories of how we ended up there.  It might not seem like much.  For me, it was a refreshing, positive encounter.  It was something I could see myself joining and enjoying on a regular basis.  I plan to go back.

At the same time, I wondered if even this–as open and accepting a group as it is–still only fits a certain type of person.  I can think of several people I know personally who would absolutely love Dao Shalom Cafe.  One of my relatives is not a Christian, but is very spiritual and open to the teachings of Jesus, and one of the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know.  I think he would appreciate Dao Shalom Cafe.  He would “get it.”

I can also think of several people I know personally who would not know what to make of it, or who would reject it outright.  For example, my aunt is not a regular church-attender, though she would probably call herself a Catholic.  But if she’s going to go to church, she probably wants to see typical church things happening: songs, Scripture reading, a message, familiar things.

My point is, it takes a certain type–someone who is okay with abstract, with artistic, with unconventional–to truly appreciate what’s happening at Dao Shalom Cafe.  As much as I love what I saw today, I still think only a certain type would fit in there.

And this makes me wonder if any manifestation of church could ever be irresistible to everyone, or is that why there are so many different churches? Maybe churches like the one where I serve, who want to become irresistible to non-church people, should decide which kind of non-church people they want to go for.  Are we going for unchurched families, the addicted and at-risk, immigrants, the artistic community, LGBTQ community?

Or perhaps our focus should simply be on whomever is within a 1 or 2-mile radius of our church campus.  And when we say “whomever,” we had better be ready when “whomever” walks through our doors.

Regardless of who might walk through the door at Dao Shalom Cafe, I think their goal would be to make it as irresistible a place as possible.  Shouldn’t that be the goal of every church?


About Catterfly

Mexican-American guy, married to a Korean woman, with Korexican kids. I have not arrived yet, but I'm on the path every day to becoming the man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, and pastor I was meant to be. My standard, my highest aim, my very life is Jesus Christ. This is my journey.
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8 Responses to Irresistible Church, Part 3: Dao Shalom Cafe

  1. Samuel says:

    I grew up like your aunt. All I knew and understood was a setting, same program every Sunday. But I think my journey in finding Jesus on my own allowed me to be open to all kinds of things. This Cafe sounds like a place I’d totally love to join.

    I think the thing we have to realize that not all churches are supposed to fit everyone, but every church that is driven by God shouldn’t be denied by others. I’ve known “Christians” who see people dancing in the pews, shouting out during service as crazy and not right. I used to be that way too. Or at least I was unsure of it. But now I have seen so many different ways of churches work that I am now open to all different types. There are no rules how a church should look like. It’s a gathering of believers, seekers of God. Be it in a big chapel, a cafe or a picnic, it’s all fine with me.

    It’s not for everyone. But if it glorifies God, then it’s all good.

  2. notapastor says:

    A guy at a writers conference today said something, “if you’re trying to sell everything to everyone, you’ll end up selling nothing to no one.” His point was, you need to define your target audience; who are you engaging?

    Church is the same way. There is no church for everyone. And, if I can say so, there is no one faith for everyone either. The way I see it, God is far bigger than churches and cafes, than Christianity itself. And the more diverse ways we set about experiencing the divine, the richer our species is and the more honored God is.

  3. Angela says:

    I wonder what church would become if we let it grow organically with people there dictating, defining (refining and re-defining) the culture and shape of the church. When we already have a set culture upon which we want to build a community, is that truly an authentic community? Are we not only expecting certain people to come (or not come)? But if we allow the culture of the church to grow organically, what would happen? At church, we spray way too much pesticides and use GMOs to grow our crops. So do I have a clear idea of what this looks like? Of course not–perhaps just a blurry inkling…but it sure sounds irresistibly sexy! Instead of Whole Foods, maybe Whole Gospel or Whole Church? =)

    • youchunhee says:

      Thanks for the comment, Angela! I like your analogy of using “pesticides and GMOs” in church, rather than letting things grow organically. Btw, how did you find my blog? Just curious…

      • Angela says:

        Oh, hi! Peter Hsu emailed me your blog link. My husband and I attend Shalom Cafe whenever we are in town. =) I would love to meet you next time we are in town! Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful reflection on the gathering. I really appreciate that.

    • notapastor says:

      Angela, that is a great way to illustrate new churches, like daoshalom. There’s another small worshipping community in silverlake called “the study” that also takes an organic agricultural approach to church. They often refer to their worship as “life on the farm” and work the metaphor of farming into their “services.” From my experience there, they have very little hierarchy and don’t take much for granted, theologically or culturally.


  4. notapastor says:

    The Study LA is hosting an open house this month (jan 2013) for visitors to stop by without their usual visitor protocols:

    The Study is an egalitarian house church network, committed to the excavation of scripture and its creative application in participatory community. As many hands make light work, a decidedly agrarian approach, our church practice is structured such that everyone must rise to the challenge of growing, leading, and imparting spirituality, one to another. The Study hopes to demonstrate an ecclesiastical culture of engagement and creative production, redemptive enterprises which inflect our spiritual formation towards embodied Christian people, even as Christ creatively embodied Himself among those he sought to engage.

  5. Hey Peter,

    Love the post and insightful thoughts into relevant church. The church is going to look different in different cultures. The problem is we import our non-contextualized traditions and foreign practices into the church thereby becoming irrelevant and non-reproducible. Happens all the time in the missions world – overseas and stateside.

    Church is not really about form or function – that is secondary. It’s about people and changed lives. I have some thoughts here:

    Press on brother!

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