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Church reaches out to rural community through coffeehousecomment (0)

February 10, 2011

By Neisha Fuson

Freshly brewed coffee, microphone at the center of the room and a lit candle at each table. French vanilla and hazelnut creamers next to cookies and cake. Live music and strings of lights hanging from the ceiling. This is CoolBeans.

Liberty Baptist Church, Alliance community near Bessemer, is trying to reach its community in a new way. James Copeland, youth pastor of Liberty Baptist, and Keegan Sullivan, assistant youth pastor, put together the idea of a monthly coffeehouse outreach with live music.

Building on the idea of The Refuge, a Mud Creek Baptist Association youth event, Copeland said, “We wanted to think outside the box and come up with something that’s original to this area. Since The Refuge had such a good turnout, we thought we’d expand on that idea and have it more often.”

Sullivan is excited about CoolBeans’ possibilities.

“It’s not some place where we’re going to shove the gospel down your throat. Sinners don’t wake up on Sunday morning and think, ‘Let’s go to church today.’ This is our way of building relationships in this area and hopefully sharing the Story in those relationships,” he said.

His father, Pastor Eric Sullivan, sees the potential, too.

“Today the majority of folks don’t go to church and don’t know what it’s all about. We want the community to know who we are, so someday when they have a problem, they can know where to go,” he said.

Ken Maddox, director of missions for Mud Creek Association, said, “CoolBeans is unique to this area. I think it’s a great thing; opening the door to all ages and having a safe place to come together to meet new people, worship, fellowship and grow.”

Events like coffeehouses are taking place across the state as part of the state’s evanglistic strategy God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS). GPS has a new emphasis every two years. “Reaching Across Alabama with Attractional Events” was launched Feb. 3 as the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ (SBOM) new emphasis challenging churches to look at new ways to attract nonbelievers or those who do not attend church regularly.

“Our goal is to get the gospel to all people in Alabama by 2020. [CoolBeans] helps us do that by building relationships and doing things in a different format that we may never see in a traditional Sunday church service,” said Sammy Gilbreath, director of the SBOM’s office of evangelism.

Held the last Saturday of each month, CoolBeans features a new musical artist. January featured Adam Jack, of Clanton. His medley of mostly worship songs created a “chill” atmosphere as people from age six to 83 filled the room to listen and relax.

“I like having the whole Starbucks feel,” said Tonya Burford, who attended the event for the first time in January. “Music and coffee … it’s good. I’ll come back again.”

And that’s just what Copeland is hoping for.

“We want to outgrow [our youth building at the church] and be so filled that we have to do this two or three times a month,” he said.

Looking beyond Liberty and Mud Creek Association as a whole Maddox added, “It would be great if [CoolBeans] became an areawide event. [Liberty] just has to be faithful to what God leads them to in the moment and let God do the work.”

CoolBeans is looking for more musical artists. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/CoolBeans/186925661328805.

To view a video related to this story, visit the video library.

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