CHURCH PLANTING & Starting a Plant in a Internet Cafe: The Sol Cafe in Edmonton, AB

By Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 15, 2006. This is an excerpt of the chapter on this innovative church plant I wrote for the Abingdon Press book titled: Inside the organic church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations.

Chapter 2: Sol Café, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

We’re a “coffee-stop,” an “information booth” along a spiritual highway.

“Worship leading is … ‘curating” (providing opportunities for engagement and free association). – Sally Morgenthaler, worship leader and consultant

First Encounters:

It looked like any other Internet café, with little indication a church gathering was about to take place. Feeling adrift, I made my way to the coffee bar. “I guess I’m the church greeter,” began Winston, the barista. “I usually don’t act so forward but you looked lost.” As a church growth consultant, I visit worship gatherings every weekend. But he was right, an unobtrusive beginning to this worship gathering had disoriented me. I didn’t know the bewilderment was so obvious.

“We usually don’t tell people a worship gathering is starting,” continued Winston. “We just let them get comfortable, have a coffee, and engage in conversation. Then the worship unfolds slowly … at an unhurried pace. We want to usher people into a spiritual encounter, we don’t want to announce ‘Hey, its worship time: in or out!’”

I wondered out loud if people get offended once they discover a worship gathering is unfolding. “Rarely,” replied Winston. “Most of the time people like the music, the unhurried atmosphere, patrons sharing their stories. It is a great way to do church, and it impacts people who have never been to church. They are slowly led into a church experience. It’s not dropped on them all at once.”

True to the forecast, the evening progressed deliberately forward, but at a leisured pace. People laughed, talked, introduced themselves, and generally turned this Internet café into an extended family. Instrumental music was played at first, but soon some people were singing along. Over time more joined in, and even reticent attendees soon sang. At first the songs had a reflective timbre, but as the evening progressed so did the songs’ Christian content, until finally I noticed many visitors were reflective and pensive. This unhurried evening would eventually culminate with a short interactive sermon.

The gathering that evening was warm and sociable. “And we get even better attendance when its colder,” reflected Matt Thompson one of the leaders. “Edmonton is cold in the winter,” he continued “and the Sole Café provides a warm cup of coffee, good conversations, and time to reflect on life.” Though usually frigid in January, this day in Edmonton Alberta resembled a spring afternoon. Yet good weather did not seem to deter a good turn out at the Sol Café.[i]

Dashboard:

Church: Sol Café

Leaders: Debbie and Rob Toews (now employed as the director of a Christian retreat center), Jacqueline and Winston Pei, Anika and Steve Martin, Matt Thompson, Dave Wakulchyk.

Location: Whyte Ave., an urban neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta.

Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada

Size: 30-55

Target Audience: college/postmodern thinkers, metropolitan residents, urban artists, immigrant families, blue collar families, people in their twenties into late-thirties.

Website: thesolcafe.com

A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and just sit around,” reflected Rob Toews, the founding pastor. Jokingly he continued, “a pub was another option, but we didn’t think the CMA[ii] was ready for that.”

Sol Café had begun in the basement of a nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. However, the leaders felt that the catacombs of a local church would not adequately impact the postmodern thinkers in the neighborhood. “The church facility was a safe bet. It was available, and it wasn’t costly,” continued Rob. “But it also wasn’t very effective.”

Rob and another leader used a large portion of the denominational support to purchase a local Internet café. During the week they ran it as a business. Rob worked 2-3 shifts a week, selling coffee and conversing. Eddie Gibbs describes such risk taking as a characteristic of the organic church, where, “uncertainty becomes an occasion for growth, not a cause of paralysis. It is a church prepared to take risks, which learns from its failures and mistakes.”[iii]

As Gibbs forecast, mistakes followed risks. “The café was supposed to support the church, but the finances to support the staff weren’t there,” recounted Rob. “And the people we were reaching were too young or too underprivileged to make significant contributions. But the location was excellent for our mission … just not for our finances.[iv]

Read more by downloading the chapter BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt. 2 Sol Cafe.  But, if you enjoy the book consider supporting the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy.

And, find more examples of innovative and cost-effective church planing models here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/church-planting-cost-effective-alternatives-to-the-customary-planting-strategies/

[i] Sol Café’s leaders appropriated their name from the book “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café” by Leonard I. Sweet and Denise Marie Siino (New York: Broadman & Holman, 1998). They also modified to fit the bilingual culture of Canada.

[ii] Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, the denominational affiliation of the Sol Café congregation.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, (Downers Grove, Ill.: 2000), p. 235.

[iv] Subsequently, Rob Toews had to take a fulltime job at a Christian retreat center. “I think we will survive, but it will be difficult,” observed Rob. “We are on our own now. No support from the denomination, which can be a good thing. It will make us learn and adapt.”

And click here to download a flier from the Sol Cafe explaining a bit about their ethos and genesis: thesolcafe.

NEED-MEETING & Quote: “Christianity… is a willingness to selflessly serve others, rather than an insistence on being served” www.Enthusiast.life p.42

“John (Wesley) saw most religion as self-seeking, designed to focus on the Christian’s needs, comfort, and pleasure. He began to realize the New Testament Christianity (which he sometimes called ‘primitive’ Christianity) was more about restoring purity in the church and a willingness to selflessly serve others, rather than an insistence on being served.”

Enthusiast! Finding a Faith That Fills (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2018), p. 42.

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

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How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53

MULTIETHNIC & “It’s… impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first”

“(Bob) Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

‘Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,’ he said. ‘We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change’.”

From “Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it” by Emily Snell, United Methodist Interpreter Magazine (n.d.), retrieved from http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

MULTIETHNIC & Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it #UMCIntrepreterMagazine

“Three congregations share learnings”
By Emily Snell

“If heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the church?”The work of Mark DeYmaz inspired the Rev. In-Yong Lee to challenge her congregants to think about this question.Lee is pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her church has been striving to become a more multiethnic congregation.

In the early stages of its renewed emphasis on diversity, Lee said Cokesbury hosted small groups, which intentionally met outside of the church building, to discuss The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer (Mosaix) by DeYmaz, who is a pastor, author and leader on multiethnic ministry.

This was important in “challenging our preconceived notions about race and pushing us to the higher level of cross-cultural competence,” Lee said.

Change consultants often cite Garfield Memorial United Methodist Church in Cleveland as an example of a successful multicultural body. The Rev. Chip Freed said the church views its multiethnicity as “a faithful commitment to the great commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, not just some nations.

“We’re really serious about reaching non-church people. Non-church people live in diverse environments. It’s only church people who live in segregated environments.”

For Freed, the church’s multiethnic identity is about “presenting a credible witness to the gospel.”

“If we want to be relevant, if we want to connect with a growing new generation of people, we need to commit to this, or people will write us off as irrelevant,” he said.

In 2011, the Rev. DeAndre Johnson began serving as pastor of music and worship at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston — another congregation focused on reaching diverse people.

As Westbury saw its neighborhood demographics change, Johnson said, the congregation began asking, “How do we let our multicultural identity shape everything about us?”

The church envisioned being “a church for all people with more than enough love to go around.”

“We are committed to maintaining and living out what it means to come from different places but have a common vision and life together,” Johnson said.

The church’s first core value is “multicultural inclusivity.”

Ministry for reconciliation

The Rev. Bob Whitesel, author, professor and national church change consultant, said multiethnic ministry is about reconciliation.

“We are given the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is more than just reconciliation to God. That’s the most important, but it also means reconciliation of people from different cultures,” he said.

In his latest book, re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press), written with DeYmaz, Whitesel said multicultural identity is a crucial aspect of the church’s mission on earth.

“We’re never going to reconcile people unless we get the established church today to embrace this, to embrace a church of living color,” he said.

Moving toward multiculturalism, Cokesbury decided that listening sessions would allow groups within the church to learn.

“We’ve realized, not only in different ethnic groups but across the economic divide, there are so many classes and groups that are divided from one another,” Lee said. “They all act out of preconceived notions, assumptions, prejudices. So we are intentionally breaking those barriers between us by reaching out and listening to one another.”

Cheryl LaTanya Walker, director of African-American ministries at Discipleship Ministries, said her goal is to “demystify” differences and break down “assumptions based on race or class.”

“We can worship together, be vital together if we break down the assumptions on what we see with the physical eye but look to God’s spirit,” she said. “We will see that we are more the same than we are different.”

To that end, Walker suggests that historically black churches begin by “doing pulpit exchanges” with congregations that seem different.

“Take your congregation, confirmation class and other ministry groups to churches that have different worship styles and persons who are outside of the African descent family,” she said. “Tour the facilities. Observe what is on their bulletin boards. Listen to the announcements. What are they doing in the community? Listen and observe what they are doing that may be the same or different.”

Start with leadership

At Garfield Memorial, “empowering diverse leaders was a very important strategy,” Freed said. “We don’t want the people on stage to be all one race. We try to represent diversity from top to bottom in our staff.”

Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

“Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,” he said. “We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change.”

Walker observes, “Bishops are assigning black pastors to historically Anglo churches that were in downtown with a specific mission of moving that pretty much Anglo congregation with some black members, to a more diverse, more multiethnic congregation,” she said.

Renovate worship, outreach

Westbury shifted from a “traditional, middle class, Anglo worship service” to something “in the language and style of peoples worldwide.”

“We started singing in languages other than English — some represented in our congregation and some not,” Johnson said. “We did this to nurture this sense of multicultural inclusivity within us and to challenge us to go further.”

Another key for all of the churches was a renewed vision for ministry in the community.

Walker pushes congregations to be creative in their outreach.

“What mission things are you doing for the neighborhood?” she asks. “What is your piece to get them in the congregation? Once they’re in the congregation, you begin the disciple process and inviting them to be involved.”

That involvement is not limited to Bible study or even to something in the church building, she adds.

“Particularly for our young folks, they are the ‘do’ generation. Sitting in a service for two to three hours doesn’t make a lot of sense to them, unless they see some output from doing that,” she said, “but they will go volunteer.”

In July, Garfield Memorial hosted “freedom week,” similar to vacation Bible school, at its South Euclid campus.

“It’s focused around teaching some of the Civil Rights movement,” Freed said. “As part of that, we have police officers come in and talk to the youth. They played a whiffle ball game.”

Partner with schools

Cokesbury and other churches are working to “do even more for the school” in their neighborhood. “Every time we meet and talk, we sense that it is not we who are doing this, but God is guiding us,” Lee said.

Garfield Memorial hosts an annual back-to-school event to assist low-income families by providing health screenings, haircuts, backpacks and supplies. “We’re trying to meet a need,” Freed said. “We’re bringing joy to the city. We want to make Cleveland a better place.”

Westbury also created the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM), a ministry at a nearby apartment complex, which houses many refugee families.

The ministry has led the congregation to be “tremendously blessed” as people from all over the world join in Westbury’s worship services.

“Many of these dear friends of ours have also become part of our worship life,” Johnson said, adding that they “faithfully participate” in worship despite some language struggles. “You can watch them begin to feel comfortable in the space and to take ownership of their own place here.”

“A person who doesn’t know the love of Christ, they’re our VIPs,” Freed said. The mentality is, “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll set aside my personal preferences to reach those who are unchurched. When you do that, diversity will walk through your door.”

As churches embrace new cultures, Whitesel said, it’s important to create short-term wins. “Demonstrate to the congregation that this is going to work, that this is a worthwhile way to go.”

Humility, courage, vulnerability

DeYmaz emphasizes that, if a congregation tries to grow into a multiethnic church, “there is a 100 percent chance to offend each other.”

“Humility is the only way to approach one another,” Lee said. “We will offend the others without meaning to, because we don’t know them well, but we will be willing to approach each other. If offense happens, (we apologize), and mutually we will learn better together.”

Moving toward diversity requires pastors to take risks — and not worry about themselves.

“When you venture out to something new, there is a big possibility of failure,” Lee said. “Only when you are ready for failure can you do something.

“Those of us, when we are trying to grow in diversity, we need patience, persistence and perseverance. It’ll turn out to be a blessing to your local church, to your community and to yourself, so do some-thing!”

Emily Snell is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes frequently for Interpreter and other publications.

Read more at … http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

BEYOND HOLIDAY CHARITY & How to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder #YearAroundService

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/12/10.

A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. Such churches in Dan’s mind were comprised of “do-gooders.”

Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.

The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago. Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led. Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar. “You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment. “Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.” Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later. Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households. “You go, I won’t,” Dan stated. “I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.” Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.” On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds. He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience. Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited. A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner. And, he was right. In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better. Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2019), pp. 48-49.

TIPPING POINT & We try to force the organization to tip early w/ strategies not proven or vented enough to succeed.

Quote by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/26/17 in a response to Jon Hunter in LEAD 600 discussing the tipping point principles of Malcom Gladwell, (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown.

# diffusion of innovation Malcom Gladwell early adopters innovators laggards