I am writing this from a new café. Someone described it recently as the new “destination” café. To be honest, it is so new, they only have filter coffee, as the new coffee machine is not working, but everything else is all carefully designed to be a destination.
I usually write from a café down the road, but wanted to try out the new place, because I am stupid enough to fall for the flashy newness! The café down the road is great and serves great food and good coffee. The café down the road is where the locals go. If I go, there I will end up in conversation with someone.
I have been here 20 mins, and nobody has spoken to me yet, apart from to offer me a drink. People here are working on the laptops or talking on their phones. Too busy to talk to people.
I am the kind of person who falls for flashy and new. As a Marketeer in the past, I know that “new” is a word that people are excited by. Jesus said a few things about the old and new wine, but what often strikes me is that he said the old wine is good! And in fact, people will pay a fortune for a vintage, aged wine, so experts know that old wine is better!
So, although I know the cafe down the road serves, currently, better coffee, has a more community atmosphere, and is cheaper, here I am sat in a new café.
We have the same attitude with church. A few years ago, a new church plant opened in the city centre, it was a from a big national church movement, cool, and with all the “features” people wanted. I met at an ex church leader and asked where he was now, he said, “it’s a cliché, but I go to…” and named the church. He added that he and his wife could sit with each other while the kids got looked after, but it was said with such a sense of reservation.
What is interesting is that we have just received into membership two people who have left that church. They started following us online, during Lockdown, and while we do not have the flashy newness, what we did have was integrity. After we started meeting in-person again, the wife said she had learnt more in three weeks than she had done in three years at the other church.
You see the old wine is good! Not that we are that old either (we were only planted 22 years ago, but always as a community church in an area of high deprivation and incredibly low church attendance).
I wonder what Jesus thinks of our churches today. I wonder, when he took 12 individuals and assorted hangers-on and started a movement that would become “the church”, or when Peter and the other disciples were overwhelmed by the Spirit at Pentecost, I wonder whether they realised that 2,000 years later we would end up here? A time when people see church as something to consume, to experience rather than to live? When people will drive past dozens of churches to attend the new “destination” church?
So while I love the flashy newness of the new café and if I need a place where I can work in where nobody will disturb me, I will be back but next week I will be in my usual café where the coffee is better and cheaper!