Cafe Church

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This blog isn’t dead. I’ve been busy the past week or so doing some fairly all-consuming programming, I’ll be busy the next week or so with Christmas, and I have a long post I’m working on. But here’s a short rant about Cafe Church.

I was talking with someone yesterday who had been involved in setting up a cafe church - a funky, postmodern church that, as the name implies, meets in a cafe. I would have thought that setting up a church like that is easy:

  1. Get a bunch of mates together.
  2. Go to a cafe.
  3. Talk about God.
  4. Recruit others.
  5. Go to step 2.

But it turns out that things are far more complicated than that.

There’s the registration, the training, the contracts you have to sign, the material you have to obtain, the negotiations with Costa Coffee, the subscription that you have to pay…

You see, I’d never noticed before that all cafe churches meet in a Costa. I’d never noticed that they all used the same materials. In fact, I had never really noticed before that Cafe Church was a brand, a franchise, a commercial endeavour.

Students of postmodernism are familiar with the concept of a “simulacrum”: an artificial symbol that comes to replace the authentic reality to the extent that there is no authentic reality any more.

Ideas like Cafe Church, like The Alpha Course, are fantastic examples of simulacra - manufactured community, regimented authenticity and regulated spontaneity. They are, in a sense, the very opposite of what they actually claim to be.

And this is our witness?