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?