By Carl Stagner
More than eight out of ten adults in the United States drink coffee.* Every day, scores of people hold meetings, interviews, and conduct business over coffee. Others read the morning paper, watch a good movie, or struggle to stay awake through the afternoon with a hot cup of coffee in hand. Christians and non-Christians alike know coffee—and therein lies a connection point. So when a Church of God in southeastern Colorado needed a permanent home, instead of purchasing land to build on, or buying a traditional church building, they opted for acquiring a place to sell coffee.
In rural southeast Colorado, far from the ski slopes of Aspen and the hustle and bustle of Denver, sits the charming little town of Lamar. But Pastor Mike Schneider of Grace Fellowship doesn’t see all that. He peers out the windows of Brew Unto Others Coffee Shop on Main Street and sees a mission field, ripe for harvest. In this part of Colorado, where Schneider estimates that only 17 percent of the inhabitants attend church, something needed to change.
Schneider’s church plant was in need of a building, as the group of believers had outgrown several facilities and was looking to stop renting traditional church sanctuaries. Searching for a place to call their own wasn’t easy, though. The group was strapped for funds, and fire codes required that any reasonably priced church facility be updated with sprinkler systems that averaged more than $100,000 in cost. After a few years of setbacks, a shop on Main Street went on the market.
Grace Fellowship could begin using the shop as a gathering place for just $15,000. Schneider knelt and asked the Lord to provide this need, and after three hours passed, the $15,000 came in. As the small-town pastor continued to pray, God revealed that another traditional church facility wasn’t what the community needed. Schneider reflects, “We began to ask ourselves, what if the church could get involved in the economy of the town? There are a lot of small churches in rural America. Many have fifteen or twenty people and can hardly pay their pastor. Because we got involved in the economy of the city, the city gave us a grant for $25,000!” Additionally, they were able to secure a sprinkler system for just $2,000.
Grace Fellowship partnered with the Church of God Colorado Conference and nearby Wiley Community Church to start a business in the heart of the town that would ultimately create jobs and serve as a home for their worship services. Today the business is in the black, and the church is growing. Their Sunday services meet in the evening because that’s when the people want to meet. Visitors can grab coffee, breakfast, and lunch seven days a week. “You can just come and have coffee or you can be a part of the church,” Schneider explains. “You don’t have to be a part of the church to get coffee, but you can.”
Last Thanksgiving, the church was honored to host a community worship event in which souls came to Christ and a believer was baptized. “Ours is a place to come that anybody can walk into that is nonthreatening.,” Schneider concludes. “Our purpose is connecting people with life, and we do that by being this symbolic well of life right in the middle of downtown Lamar.”
*According to a study conducted by the National Coffee Association in 2013.