“We fall in love with Jesus and trust when we do our part, we let Holy Spirit and the Word do its transforming work”
Greetings from Switzerland,
Today I awoke to snow on the ground as I enjoy some care at a holistic well-being clinic and feel very grateful. I’m reminded of our Oikos friends who operate a café in outer suburbs of Melbourne – who call their café meeting place like a ‘Switzerland’ a neutral space, be encouraged by their story….
"Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden?" 'Come to me and I will refresh your life for I am your Oasis” Growing out of Matthew 11:18, Martin and Cher operate a Cafe in SE Melbourne that is used for workplace skills training, and also use the space to invite friends and make disciples in a caring and nurturing space – a safe oasis.
As they reflect on their values; they say – “We fall in love with Jesus and trust when we do our part, we let Holy Spirit and the Word do its transforming work”
They are growing in numbers, locations, leaders and the spiritual depth of people involved. Our vision is "making Jesus disciple makers". Here is a glimpse of their journey and approach to reaching people:
“We operate a cafe so we use the cafe as a primary meeting place. Its neutral, safe and non-religious so people feel safe to come”. We call this "Switzerland" because it’s a neutral space to do Simple Church. Our simple process is: Connect in the cafe and invite customers into casual, enjoyable and sincere conversations.
Next, we invite them to a social gathering to eat with and meet likeminded people make friends. And then we invite them to a Jesus meal where we gently structure the gathering with prayers, devotion and dedication to Jesus. Someone different will lead the meeting and bring testimony, scripture, story or songs that gives honour to Jesus.
We regularly run a men’s breakfast and a women’s breakfast which has been much appreciated and bought meaning connections.
The group has been going 2 years and we have tried and failed on a few things, but persevered with what seems to be working for us.
Here are a few ideas that we have found work for us.
We meet every 2 weeks and publish a calendar on a whatsapp group to let others know when and where we will meet. We have dates set for 3 to 4 months in advance to help everyone make plans.
We pivot all we do around the relaxing joy of eating together. Hospitality is a command and we do our best to host and feed guests well.
House to House
We deliberately and intentionally move the meetings from the cafe into people's homes. We began with a BBQ at our house and now pass the baton from house to house. Now every alternate gathering is in a house. We have a "respect" rule that when we are in the government of someone’s house they get to run and lead the meeting however they see fit. We have had glorious times.
Day and Time
We choose to not meet on a Sunday so we typically meet on a Friday or Saturday night. Some nights can be noisy with so much chatter and laughter... always a good sign. Also, the more impactful an evening the later everyone seems to leave. Some just don’t want to leave which is another signal it’s been a hearty night.
We prayed about 9 months ago for leaders and what has happened is people are approaching us, asking can their house be the next venue. This has been an electric answer to our prayers.
What we have noticed over the last 6 months is that people like the gatherings, and feel safe enough to invite friends. We are now about 4 generations deep in invitations which is a very exciting signal. We always have new people tagging along for the first time... who then become regulars... who then start inviting their friends. We call this "stickyness" or being "sticky". When people "stick" they start inviting others naturally with enthusiasm and growth occurs organically.
We are growing in numbers and fast out growing the cafe for us all to fit. What is more important is the spiritual growth and maturity we see in the group in terms of attendance, generosity, Godly conversation and honesty. Its normal for members to ask for prayer or share a struggle so others can administer some wisdom and care. The core group has grown with 3 existing houses being used, and with 3 more houses opening up soon. We desperately need to keep the gatherings small and intimate between say, 8 to 14... so all can talk and participate. Managing larger groups at the cafe is a bit easier, and the gatherings in homes seem to default to the perfect number leading to great encounters.
Our group is made up of diverse people from unsaved searching folks to well established Christians from a variety of church backgrounds all enjoying fellowship together. All united in a caring, loving, safe learning space. It’s very sweet.
We plan to move from house to house so that each house becomes its own regular venue with its own growing group. We like the Discovery Bible Reading (DBR) method which is simple to do and easy to replicate and have plans to test and implement that as a regular feature of our gatherings. Finally, we have emerging leaders who we will coach and resource to ultimately lead their own groups using the cafe as a central mission base of sorts.
Since our group was birthed from local customers, our group is hyper-local, meaning, most members can walk to the cafe. It’s not unusual to see members at the cafe in groups during the week for coffee or lunch enjoying deep and meaningful conversations. We may open up a migrant worker group in Cardinia and also possibly support a couple moving to Geelong who are keen to start another group. We follow the leading of the Lord "as the wind blows" so to speak.
None of this happens without an outreaching "heart". To model any form of healthy discipling we need to be able to model the process of engaging strangers into powerful and trusted kingdom conversations. Building trust with authenticity are very important ingredients to our outreach efforts. We use and train our own " Harpoon Method" of biblically based one-on-one evangelism which has a very high success rate and always leaves relationships intact. We have a deep heart to see any church doing small groups to add an outreach element to the group to mature the discipleship pattern.
Our values are:
Empower the Priesthood of every believer
Every conversation from the start of a relationship is a discipling conversation
Love each other, be king, patient and gracious to each other
Fall in love with Jesus
We do our part and let Holy Spirit and the Word do its transforming work