I field a lot of questions about the purpose of the Common Cup. Usually they are a variation of, “Do people know that the Common Cup is part of the church?” My response is pretty straightforward, “They get it.”
For six years I have been watching people hesitantly come through the door at the Common Cup for the first time. They are easy to spot. They cruise down the steps and then glance both ways before entering the room. Their body language screams concern. “Will the people inside splash me with holy water or something?” Once they realize that no one is lurking with a tract and a gospel presentation, they enter with their full self. Then they approach the counter. They view the menu. They make a selection. As they search for a method of payment, they muster the courage to ask, “So, what’s the relationship with the church?” The baristas are trained to respond, “Its all the same, we are all together.” More curious looks, more hesitancy. “Really? Huh.” In those brief moments, their perceptions of church are rocked. Suddenly, this church doesn’t seem so intimidating.
Now, to be sure, in six years, no one has ever bowed a knee right there and declared, “Here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptized?” But one conversation has led to another and to another. God continues to use this ministry as a casual entryway into a relationship with him. The first step is often just breaking down barriers.
People get that there is a connection. There are many who have a pronounced aversion to Jesus and the church. Almost every week I have to pick up the Common Cup sign on Sunday morning because someone kicked it over on Saturday night. Anything to jab at the church.
As if we needed more evidence, this past Tuesday was Festifall. Festifall is the U-M’s sponsored event on the Diag in the center of campus where all student organizations get a table and an opportunity to “peddle their wares.” It is truly the free marketplace of ideas. We had our table. The front of our table had a sign for ULC and a sign for the Common Cup. I watched no fewer than five people approach the Common Cup sign and reach for a coupon only to look left and see the church sign. As if by instinct, they ceased their reach and turned aside to another table. Church just isn’t for them. I sat there praying, “God, just let them grab that coupon…just get them in the door for the first time.” Alas, there are still many barriers to break down.