HOW WE ENDED UP WITH A COFFEEHOUSE @ THE MERGE
As important as our coffeehouse is to the overall vision of The Merge, you might find it interesting that we were as surprised by the concept as anyone else might be when we were in the planning stages for our church plant. Scott and I had known for years that we would someday plant a church. We knew it would have a heavy emphasis on music – thus, the music venue portion of our plans – because music is a significant part of Scott’s personal testimony (I’ll leave that for him to write about at some point). We also knew that we wanted to focus on a relational approach to church life, discipleship and outreach.
What was nowhere in our sights was a coffeehouse. That “little” addition to the plan was completely a God thing. So, I thought I’d share with you how that came to be.
I had been journaling for quite some time about the idea of dreaming big and living with passion. For over a week, I had repeatedly used the word “impossible” in my reflections. My mother-in-law had read a book about a missionary and told me that every time she picked it up to read it, she thought of me. So, she was going to hand it off to me when she finished.
One day, I was walking through the living room and saw a book lying on the ottoman entitled A Passion for the Impossible. I didn’t realize this was the book my mother-in-law had told me about or that she had left it for me. I just knew the title jumped out at me and I had to read this book.
It was the biography of Lilias Trotter, who became a missionary to Algeria in the 1800s. Prior to her work in Algeria, however, she lived in London. While there, her heart went out to the prostitutes she saw in the streets and she ministered to them through local missions and job training programs. Lilias eventually opened a storefront café where these women could come in off the streets, have a meal and “normal” conversation, and just feel loved. When I read about her café, I wrote about it in my journal and said, “This is something I think Scott and I need to consider.”
A few days later, Scott walked in the door after work and confirmed the idea I hadn’t told him about yet. Uncharacteristically for him, he didn’t even put his briefcase down before he said with an almost puzzled look on his face, “I’ve been thinking a lot about having a coffeehouse.”
I said, “That’s interesting. Let me show you what I wrote in my journal this week.”
We both still find it humorous that Scott actually voiced the idea. He was not even a coffee drinker at the time and never frequented places like Starbucks. I, on the other hand, could often be found working and/or socializing at coffeehouses. Having Scott bring it up without me mentioning it was definitely confirmation to me that the idea was from God.
And that’s how The Merge came to have a coffeehouse. We spent several years defining its purpose: a safe place for the community, a place for church members to build relationships, a place where we interact with the public in a way that feels like a normal part of their everyday lives, a place you can invite people who won’t readily accept an invitation to church.
We didn’t open a coffeehouse to be cool. If you know Scott and me, you know we’re just not that concerned about being hip – good thing because it certainly would not come naturally. We didn’t open a coffeehouse to bring in revenue – good thing because our most recent adventure with the coffeehouse is to offer a “pay what you can” menu so no one is denied service because they can’t afford it. We did not open a coffeehouse for most of the reasons I hear people speculate. We opened a coffeehouse because that’s what God led us to do.
It has been a wonderful adventure so far. I can’t wait to see the ways God uses this place He has helped us create as we continue to follow His leading.