I SENSE A THEME
Each Friday morning, Kim and I go on a ‘coffee date’. It’s always interesting exploring the various new options which keep springing up around Launceston. I think we have sampled every coffee shop in our city now, but there are a handful which we like to regularly visit. Most of our favourite coffee shops are also some of the most popular ones in town as well – and I think it has little to do with the coffee. In fact, what’s interesting about going to one of these half dozen regularly frequented (and popular) coffee shops is just how often people have to walk past another coffee shop to get there (where the coffee is often just as good). Each of Launceston’s most favourite coffee shops all do the same thing well whereas the least popular ones don’t – and probably don’t realise it!
¶ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
First Corinthians 10:31
One of our favourite coffee shops has now become incredibly popular. Sometimes it’s hard to get a seat there. Yet, whenever I go in there, James, the owner, always greets me by name. His staff are well trained, efficient, and courteous. But I’m not sure that even these things continually attract us back there. It’s not a particularly big shop. In fact, customers happily spill out onto the side-walk most days because there’s no more room inside the shop. This is despite there being an even bigger coffee shop right next door which is comparatively empty most of the time.
This is not the only coffee shop where this happens. Recently, one of our other preferred places for our Friday morning coffee had a change of manager. This lady used to run her own coffee shop over in Inveresk. Before that she ran a coffee shop in George Street. Both of these under her management were really great places to enjoy a coffee with someone. Her presence at the Launceston’s waterside coffee shop has made an immediate improvement. Probably without realising it, she has now done what James has also done. And I think there’s some valuable lessons for us to learn from them.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
In each of these few cafés there is a very clear message which I might describe as a theme. I choose the word theme because this ‘message’ comes across in the décor, the menus, the furniture, the demeanour of the staff, the cleanliness, the quality and presentation of the food and beverages, the availability of parking, and the prices – yet, unlike many other businesses, this ‘message’ is no where displayed in text. It is an unwritten theme which pervades everything they do – and it is so obvious, it doesn’t need to be written and hung on a wall! This unwritten theme appears each time a guest visits these cafés which tells them that the café is very intentional about being thematic. While some coffee places focus on taking your order and collecting your money without much thought to presenting an appealing theme to their customers, these thematic cafés present a subtle theme most of their guests probably aren’t even aware of even though they keep coming back because they appreciate it so much. This message of this theme whispers softly, “Welcome! … Make yourself at home … We’re here for you … Enjoy what we’ve prepared for you … We hope you enjoy being here with the one you’ve come here with or are meeting here … And we’ll be here for you when you come back!”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
THEMES NEED TO BE CONSISTENT
These ‘thematic’ cafés are consistent with their message. This includes their colour scheme, their art, and even their counters where their cakes and pastries are displayed. Most of them, if not everyone of them, have a visible kitchen to the dining area so that their guests can see how their food is prepared for them. Even this sends a message as part of their theme that they have nothing to hide, and you can be assured that we are doing all we can to ensure your time with us as our guest is the most enjoyable it can be.
Families need to be consistent in oder to develop their theme. As much as guests in a café or restaurant need consistency to feel comfortable, so children need their parents to be consistent so that they can read their family’s ‘theme’. This is why family meal times at a dinner table are probably more important than most realise. It is here that those most important elements of a theme are reinforced: mood, message, manner. This is where children discover what’s important to mum and dad. When dad asks their children about their day, how their team went, what they’ve read, it reinforces the family’s theme. On a Sunday, when mum and dad take going to church seriously – as an important act of devotion to Christ and an integral part of their family worship – they are reinforcing their family’s theme of honouring Christ in all they do (conversely when they choose to not go to church on a Sunday that also sends a clear message to their children about Christ and His bride).
CHURCHES HAVE A THEME
We can learn something from these coffee places that have a clear theme. By developing our theme that Christ is Lord and has a deep love for all people and wants His bride to reflect that Lordship and love to our community, we preach more than just what comes from the pulpit each Sunday! How we present our facilities; how we welcome people; whether we lead our worship with energy and passion or not; how our preachers prepare and deliver their messages; how we engage during our worship; and how interact after our services – all reveals what our real theme is. When new attenders join us on a Sunday are they experiencing our theme of Christ is Lord and has a deep love for them? I believe they are because I hear them tell me they do. I am so grateful as the pastor of our church that we are intentionally developing our church’s theme so clearly. Of course, it’s not just what our church does on a Sunday that projects our theme. It’s also how we interact on a Monday – and not just our church’s staff – each of us. And in this new digital era it’s also how we present ourselves digitally. (This is why we are now rebuilding our entire website and refining our social media presence to reflect our theme even more clearly.)
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
First Peter 4:8-11
This year, you can expect to hear an important aspect of our theme reflected from our platform: God is the Redeemer. Redemption is going to feature in just about everything you hear from us this year because it is a small twist in holding up the diamond of our grand theme to the light. In a world where more and more people are being hurt, redemption is needed more than ever. It is what Christ does for those who are lost, lonely, broken, confused, and hurting. To be redeemed is to be rescued, set free, healed, and given a new life. Redemption involves turning disadvantage into advantage. Redemption involves our weaknesses becoming a source of our strength.
¶ You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!
I hope more and more people appreciate our church’s theme in much the same that Kim and I appreciate the theme of the coffee places I’ve been talking about. They may not even recognise the particulars of our theme, but they’ll enjoy and benefit from it. I suspect over the course of this year we’ll see more and more people prepared to travel on a Sunday to experience it at Legana. I also expect that we’ll see people who have arrived here from many different parts of this world joining us as well. We’ll continue to make people who have never had a church background feel especially welcome. We’ll also continue to welcome younger, older, single, married, divorced, men, women, religious, irreligious, into our church family as well. And hopefully, I won’t be the only one who senses a theme in our church.
Happy new year!