Podcast – Interview with Paul Clifford

Paul Clifford is a tech genius helping churches and ministries use technology to further Christian ministry. He loves everything tech and teaching people how to use it properly. He discusses the three books he’s written—Podcasting Church, Tweeting Church, and Serving Church—and his passion for making much of the church through technological means. You can find Paul on Google Plus here.

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Music: Hillsong United “Relentless”

The Coffee Shop Church

As one church neared death, another church began. Josh Grimes became the pastor of the small church on the brink of closing. He introduced an idea that 14 of the members weren’t fond of—that idea was to start a coffee shop where the church would meet.

“Everyone in that church left and got mad except for one person,” Josh explained.

With only one member remaining, Josh proposed his “church in a coffee shop” model to a dozen others who soon backed him and began meeting in a restaurant to discuss the future of a new business and new church.

“We closed the old church,” Josh said. “We put the property on the market and used the equity on the property to start the coffee shop.”

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A year of meetings brought the genesis of Avenue 209 Coffee House in Lock Haven, Penn. The church (The Common Place) wouldn’t meet for three months until the coffee shop was up and running, and had developed a substantial presence in the community.

In the meantime, Josh attended a coffee school operated by another church, and it was amidst his schooling that he learned “what is good for business is good for ministry and what is good for ministry is good for business.”

To explain the business and ministry concept, Josh gave a few laughs as he said, “If you treat people nicely, like Jesus would want you to, then they’re going to want to come back and buy more coffee. That wasn’t too much of a stretch for us.”

It’s not about exploiting Jesus’ teaching for profits, rather Josh learned how conducting a Christian business makes people feel welcome and accepted. He reiterated that what is practiced in church should also be practiced in business. The Christian business plan only makes sense.

Why Church in a Coffee Shop Works:

“We were pretty intentional from the beginning that we didn’t want to be known as the ‘Christian’ coffee house because we figured that would only attract the Christians, then we would go out of business,” Josh said.

The idea wasn’t for another Christian business hub where only Christians would gather, but rather a place where Christians and non-Christians would enjoy a cup of joe, casual conversation and community. Through being in the shop and around the staff, people would learn the meaning of the shop, but it wasn’t forced upon them.

They were intentional about being honest when customers asked who owned the coffee shop and what took place within the walls of the shop. Josh used customer interaction as an avenue to invite people to their church.

“We have a lot of un-churched people, in the sense that they don’t historically have a Christian background or they walked away from church for a long time,” Josh explained.

With a mixture of these people entering the coffee shop everyday, it only made sense to have church where the people were. “The traditional model was a big enough hurdle in their lives that they would not go to church even though they were very spiritual or spiritually curious.”

Whether it’s the traditional setting of churches, hurt from past church experiences or misunderstanding of Christ, Josh and his church set out to offer a setting where people could casually walk in and out and learn the truth of church, and ultimately, the trust of Christ.

Today: 

The coffee shop church continues to expand and bustle with people. One service led to two and now they must expand their space within the building to house more. Remodeling projects are ongoing to streamline the ministry capacity of the church and develop more functional space for the community.

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Intent is to stay in the coffee shop since it defines a place of gathering for so many and is strategic in its location and ministry.

“If we go to another location, we lose that entry point and it’s huge,” Josh said. “We have a lot of people that come because they were first customers and then became involved in the church community. It’s been pretty substantial.”

After four and a half years of existence, the coffee shop employs five people and talk of coffee roasting in-house is the latest buzz. The old rundown building is now a vibrant coffee shop, a place the whole Lock Haven community embraces as life giving in more than one sense.

Whether the northeast is a difficult location to operate a Christian business, Josh didn’t express any concern. He did have a simple message to say:

“I have found that liberal people and conservative people are all hungry for Jesus.”

 

 

Q&A with Personal Trainer, Pastor, Entrepreneur, Author – Jake Merrick

Jake Merrick has a packed, full life, as he’s started a fitness gym, nutritional supplement line, is a bivocational pastor and author. You could say Jake is an entrepreneur at heart. He starts what he believes in and sees no separation of church and career. It’s all one. One life surrendered to God’s glory and use.

I sat down with Jake to discuss his work, his thoughts on being bivocational and honoring God in his endeavors, and how he handles some tough situations within his career. Here’s our Q&A session:

Q: What all are you currently doing and involved in?

A: Well we own a fitness studio here in Oklahoma City (Balance Fitness Studio), and we bought it a little bit over a year ago. It’s been going really good and I’ve been in personal training for over seven years and then God just really opened this door to start this place and it’s centrally located, so we’re still learning about how to grow it and market it, but it’s headed in the right direction. I have this and help pastor at a church up the road. And I have a book coming out this summer (“Bodies of Christ”) that deals with fitness, especially within the church.

Then we have nutrional supplement company that we’re putting together and we have a partner down in Florida who has a manufacturing plant, so we’ve been working with him for a couple of years. Hopefully we can launch that about the same time as the book comes out.

Q: I guess you’re an entrepreneur at heart?

A: Yeah, exactly. Always have our hands in several things, which I love it. It definitely keeps us busy and moving, but we don’t just want to be busy, we want to do the things God has opened for us and I feel like all of the things we’re doing now are. It’s just about balancing them and it’s really neat because they all work together and it’s not like they are all separate entities.

Q: Do you have a business background or just interested in these things and learned how to do them?

A: My background is a major in Biblical studies and psychology, and then I went to seminary with the pursuit of full-time ministry. Over the years God has just morphed what full-time ministry is and it doesn’t have to be in the pulpit all of the time. I went into personal training because I was going into church planting and wanted to be bivocational to help supplement while we’re planting a church. Then God just really started opening doors with the training and He just taught me that that is ministry—helping people, working one-on-one with them.

Seven years later we have this business and we’re still learning about the business end of it, but one of the things God has shown me is that it’s about serving people, and when we do that, He is going to bless it. It’s been an interesting journey.

Q: How would you encourage bivocational living and letting your career be your ministry?

A: That’s one of the biggest problems we have, I believe, in the church, is an artificial divide between our church life and our real life. It’s all just one life live to God’s glory. If we glorify Him in everything we do, then our whole life becomes ministry and He’s going to gift you with certain talents, whatever that is. For me, I have a passion and calling to teach and to preach, and that’s something I’ve had training in, but it’s something that comes naturally for me—it’s a passion of mine.

I would encourage people to find their gifts and those are going to be used within the four walls of the church and outside of the church. I have a friend who just loves to serve people and he looks for ways to come alongside people with a vision and help them out. So he doesn’t really carry a vision or try to be the lead man, he just wants to be there to support. And that’s a huge thing!

I would just see your life as one life, surrendered to God, and He has gifted you with certain things to bless the body and bless the world. That’s inside and outside the four walls (of the church).

Q: Have you had opportunities to share your faith through your work?

A: Oh yeah, it’s all the time. Seeing life as a unit and not divided up into spiritual and non-spiritual is important. I carry that into my training and when I’m training someone physically, it’s not just about their physical health. When someone is really overweight and out of shape, there’s a reason they got there and it usually has a spiritual route to it. They may be in prime condition but have depression or some other type of issue and there are spiritual routes there as well.

With everyone that I train, it’s all about, first and foremost, that God created this body and we need a living breathing relationship with Him.

There’s a guy right now that I’m training and he’s almost 400 pounds and just struggling to lose weight. So I’ve been training with him for almost a year and he hasn’t seen much success and he came in the other day and said, “I have problem. I can’t stop eating.” And I kind of laughed it off, but he said, “I’m serious. I have real problem. I can’t stop eating.”

So I asked him, “how bad do you want to change?” And he said that he wanted to really change. So I said, “what are you willing to do to change?” Then he said he would do anything.

Then I told him he needed to sign up for training five days a week because he wasn’t getting in the gym five days a week and needed to. Then I asked him again, “how bad do you really want this?” And he said he really wanted it. So I told him we were going to his house and made him take me to his house across town and I went through his fridge and cabinets and cleaned it out. I said, “if you want to make a change, you have to get rid of this junk and start making real choices.”

Then it went deeper than that and it was about how he wasn’t connected to a church body and he’s Christian but he’s out there on his own. I said, “man you need to get connected to a body and that needs to be priority number one.”

We get people who come to us and are real desperate, but I say to them, “okay, I’ll help you, but we’re going to do this on my terms.” And our terms are to lead them to the one who can really heal them, who is God.

Q: How would you address the issue of gluttony, one of the biggest issues that the church tends to sweep under the rug?

A: It’s actually the focus of the book I wrote. I’m passionate about it and believe it’s a real serious issue. What I believe the root cause of it is—well, I look at God’s number one priority. What is His most valuable creation? His greatest creation is His church and His people. And He’s called a people out to be separate and holy. We’ve got this individualized mentality about it being all about my life and I’m going to live it for me, and so it becomes a selfish way to live. And it becomes about your cravings and what you’re going to do to satisfy your cravings.

When you sacrifice those cravings, you sacrifice your individual life and you commit it to other people and you become accountable. It becomes about something bigger than you.

I believe that when we truly understand the nature of the church and what God wants to do through His body, then we’re going to see success with our own physical bodies. Then I believe that people aren’t living on a daily basis surrendered to the Holy Spirit and just letting Him lead you in everything you do. Paul says, “whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”

We’ll go to church and tie it to the glory of God, but we won’t choose to not go to McDonald’s for the glory of God. You know? We need to know that He wants to lead us in all the small things in life.

Q: What’s your advice for people who have a desire to start something and how to manage the risk?

A: Speaking to Christians, the way we live is one big risk. We are betting everything on a God we can’t see. Our whole life is about faith, so that should flow over into every aspect of our life and so we are constantly taking risks, and I think God is wanting us to take bigger risks because that means we are trusting Him more and more.

God, who is the source of creativity, is going to give his people great ideas and inventions. It’s just about Him leading and you following him. Don’t try too hard to figure all the details out, just walk in it, take the next step as He leads you and don’t run ahead of him.