Coffee never appealed to me growing up. In fact, when coffee shops became a fad, I would always order a soft drink or a really sweet latte. That was until I moved to New Orleans. Moving to the Big Easy not only was a culture shock, but also an education it what it means to be a coffee connoisseur. I found myself drawn to the coffee shops for that caffeinated nectar that feels like a warm hug. These coffee shops offered a slow down atmosphere filled with conversations, free wifi and friendly faces. It’s not surprising that this is where my church planting journey began.
Every Thursday night I would watch the sitcom “Cheers.” I can’t tell you about the characters, episodes or even the witty banter – but what I do remember is the one line from the theme song “sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” I believe that little phrase offers the key to incarnational church planting. Church planters, and any pastor, who wants to make a profound difference must be willing to establish a base camp where everybody knows their name. For me, it was a local coffee shop. For others it has been gyms, high school football fields, restaurants, parks, and the list can go on and on.
I believe that the local church is called to evangelize – continuously. That means that yearly initiatives, weekly visitations, or even crusades and events are far less important and effective than the incarnational presentation of the Gospel to those who know you and know you care for them.
Every day you could find me at PJ’s coffee shop or Garrison’s coffee bar meeting people while checking email, sipping on a hot beverage and meeting with others in our church. Every morning it was as if the bar yelled “NORM!” as the barista automatically gave me my “medium, medium” cup of coffee.
God did great things during that season in my life, but what was unexpected was that during my 2nd church plant my “cheers” was not a coffee shop, but a hair salon. Let me make this clear – I have no hair to speak of, but since my office was directly above the studio – it become a natural spot for me to meet, greet and gather those who needed Jesus. I can’t tell you how many people have to come Christ through my time spent in the chemically saturated hair salon. God can use a bald guy to express Christ in a hair salon – further proof that HE does exist !
My advice to any church planter or person who wants to extend the gospel without relying on direct mailers, knocking on doors or counting on big events is simple: Find a place that everyone knows your name! Invest in and love those people – because that is what Jesus did.