There is a shop next to our church called The Common Room. It has been open for just over two years and is part of the ministry of the church. As is often the case the vision for The Common Room came from one individual. This person was concerned that there was no interaction with, or witness to the variety of mainly small local businesses that are our neighbours on Commercial Road.
And so, out of one person’s vision and indeed concern for neighbours, a three-year lease was signed and the small shop next to the church became The Common Room. As contact began with neighbours it soon became apparent that the church did not have a good name on Commercial Road. Ministries such as our Tuesday breakfast and the fact that we used to operate a coffee shop several mornings each week meant that our forecourt had become an area for the homeless and hopeless to gather, often in an inebriated or belligerent state. The negative impact on neighbouring businesses meant that the church was viewed in a very poor light.
Opinions appear to have changed over the last couple of years, but most interaction between volunteers in The Common Room and the street has been through footfall past the shop and conversations with customers. Sadly, many of the business owners work alone and they cannot simply leave their shops to pop into The Common Room for a neighbourly chat. I guess that means we should go to them, and that does happen perhaps three times a year. The question is do we need a shop staffed by volunteers next to the church or is there some other way this ministry could or should develop? Should The Common Room evolve into something else, or could the ministry continue from the somewhat less attractive church building? That might save money but would it be as meaningful to our neighbours?
I am sharing my thoughts on this blog because I am deeply challenged about the lack of interaction between churches and individual Christians with their neighbours, myself included. Overtly selling the Gospel doesn’t work. That’s why The Common Room is called The Common Room rather than The Jesus Shop. But it is a Jesus shop because it is a place of witness, perhaps more so than the church. And, through the hard work of volunteers, the church is now considered a better neighbour than it was.
I don’t have any answers concerning the future of the ministry that began in The Common Room other than a burden to pray more. That’s what Jesus did. He took off into the hills alone to seek God, which tells me that the key to ministry is to spend time alone with God. But what should we be praying for? Revival? Lovely word, but it is no use praying for revival if revival hasn’t first taken place in us. Are we alive in Jesus Christ? Is He really at home in us? And when our neighbours look at us do they recognise something in us that they would be happy to see in themselves? The questions go on as they should, because one day we will have to provide answers in person to Jesus Himself.
So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,and every tongue will confess and give praise to God. ’”
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. (Romans 6:10-13 NLT)