People have always struggled to grasp the concept of our coffee shop.
Almost invariably, their initial reaction upon learning of it is something like "That's brilliant! Selling coffee to fund the church!"
But the reality is much different.
Our little congregation has always carried the cost of the coffee shop. Tithes cover the rent and utilities as well as the pay I've received (never more than $1300 per month, and often none at all). The sales have always been a pittance.
The idea was always to create a non-threatening environment for people who would never enter a church to interact with people of faith. It's a bridge to facilitate relationships across cultures. And boy has it worked!
Our heart has always been to be a blessing to our community.
In the eleven years we've been in our building, nearly ten of which we've run the coffee shop, a lot of ministry has happened.
We've hosted two church plants, other than our own. We provided a space for a youth group from another church without a permanent building. We've been a meeting place for hospice nurses, vacuum salespeople, neighborhood groups. We've hosted poker tournaments, tabletop gaming meetings, open mic nights, American Sign Language chats. We hosted an English as a Second Language startup ministry. We have fed hundreds of homeless people thousands of breakfasts.
And of course, we've held a lot of church meetings and introduced people to a real, living and active God whose greatest desire is a personal intimate relationship with each of us. We've seen people's lives changed both physical and emotional healings. Marriages restored and family relationships mended.
And along with all of those things, I've made quite a few excellent coffee drinks.
Last summer, I was really excited to see all of the things happening in our building. My dreams had finally come to fruition. We had a weekly game day, open mic night, ESL ministry, ASL chats, homeless breakfast and church meetings all happening on a regular basis.
And I had a sense of unease. Followed quickly by a prophetic word someone shared with me that my ministry was about to change drastically.
Within another month or two, our landlord was threatening to evict us over the homeless breakfast, so we had to move it out to a park. The open mic night was cancelled. The ESL ministry changed locations. The game day came to an end.
In the last couple of months, a couple of families decided it was time to move on to other worship families. And coffee shop sales fell in half compared to last year. I'm now finding myself alone at the shop a lot more.
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us there's a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.
It would appear that the season for Renaissance Cafe is coming to an end.
We will be closing our coffee shop at the end of this month.
Notice what I didn't say. We're not quitting our church. We're just taking it a different direction.
My understanding of my call to ministry hasn't changed. My intent is still to serve East Portland. I'll continue to make and distribute breakfast to our homeless neighbors every Sunday morning. Our motley crew will still meet together for worship and encouragement every Saturday evening. Our group is committed to pursuing God and learning to walk out our faith together.
It's been a long, tough journey to get to this point. I've learned so much through this experience. I've met some great people. God has used our coffee shop to arrange some miraculous connections. I have developed new ideas of what church is or should be. And I'll continue down this winding road wherever He leads, constantly seeking deeper relationship with God and with people He brings into my life.
I remain convinced that my presence at the coffee shop was God's intent and His purposes have been accomplished, even as it meant letting go of my expectations. I am inspired and encouraged by another verse in Ecclesiastes 3.
"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it."
God has done great things in this season that draws to an end. And He will accomplish even more in the seasons to come.