Nov 14, 2019

"What This Church Needs is a Good 5-cent Cigar."

[ kuh-myoo-ni-tee ]
a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists

The plan was pretty simple: Sell a successful restaurant (and the adjacent property that housed twenty tenants of a variety of businesses) to an investor who would tear down the properties and build a senior high rise that would overlook the Mississippi River.

In an effort to accommodate the sale, the twenty businesses that occupied the site were given notice that they would need to vacate and relocate elsewhere.

The tenants responded by securing new locations, packing up, and re-establishing their businesses in new locations with the hopes that their loyal patrons would follow them.

Within a few months all of the businesses found new locations and started once again to establish roots. Notices were sent out and patrons such as Cathy and I continued to support their favorite business by following them over to their new locations.

Or I should say most clients followed the businesses to their new location.

One of the businesses that needed to relocate was a cigar and pipe tobacconist store. Over the past forty years it has been recognized as one of the premier spots for aficionados and provided its patrons with a space both indoors and outside to satisfy their passion for enjoying cigars and pipe tobacco.
In the past, I have stopped in the shop to look through their ever-growing pile of cigar boxes to see if any of them would meet my need for manufacturing my next cigar box guitar.

I should note that although I tend to prefer to use antiques cigar boxes to build my cigar box guitars, the shop was a great place to search for a box that would inspire me. I also liked the sense of community that I observed and the hospitality shown to me, even though I was only (occasionally) purchasing a used cigar box.

In time, the shop relocated to another city, but they left behind a bunch of displaced patrons who continued to gather in the evenings to sit outside of the (closed) shop to smoke their cigars and pipes like they had for many years. Almost every week for the past eighteen months I would see this group of patrons sitting outside in the evenings no matter what month of the year it was.

Just this week, while driving past the site in the evening, I saw a group of them gathered as though the shop had never moved.

Now, I'm relatively certain that these patrons still purchase their tobacco from the shop in the new location which is only ten minutes away. But their need to gather seems to far outweigh the fact that the temperatures are dropping as the season is transitioning into winter (as they did last winter when these people sat outside).

My observation is that the need for community is stronger than we may realize and in many respects is part of the answer to what ails us.

For many years, some pastors and churches have thought that the reason that people didn't attend was due to a lack of interest. I disagree and submit that perhaps the visitors didn't return because they didn't find what they were really looking for; community.

In fact, when the church was established, the members gathered “daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart…” (Acts 2:46)

The problem is, the church doesn’t have a corner on the market for community.

Community is found in many other venues besides the church such as bars, beer leagues (bowling, softball, hockey, etc.), hunting clubs, coffee shops, support groups, barn raising, sewing bees, potluck dinners, sporting events, and many other venues. It can even be found in dark places such as sharing a needle for drugs or sultry affections under a bridge. 

These patrons of the (former) cigar shop found each other and a place to gather and they appear to have no plans on leaving until the bulldozers raze the buildings and they are forced to find a new place to gather.

If the church would capitalize on this, I know of at least ten people who would relocate on their property.

No, I'm not suggesting that churches build a smoking lounge.

I'm merely suggesting that if community is what attracts people to gather, then that might be part of the formula to keep them in church.

Then, and only then will the main message (the Gospel) be heard by individuals in which relational equity has been established through meeting their need for community.

Perhaps it is time to get back to our roots and once again be the church in which others can find gladness and simplicity of heart through community.

Tommy O's Guitars can be found on Facebook

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