California Church Preaches Gospel at the Bar … Beer Replaces Coffee

Churches, like businesses, are always trying to attract new faces. Some use tactics like providing coffee and sweets, or they boast a variety of different ministries for all age groups. Others have worship bands of rock star proportions and lots of digital technology to keep parishioners entertained. But a new church in San Jose, Calif., has a very different approach – it provides beer for attendees – after the service, of course.

Bill Jenkins, a native Londoner, calls his month-old church plant in northern California Urbanlife. They meet in downtown San Jose in a bar call the Loft Bar and Bistro at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. He told The Christian Post he wants to create “a safe environment for a dangerous message.”

Ninety-two percent of the population in Santa Clara County, where San Jose resides, is unchurched. The majority of people there have rejected traditional forms of church. So Jenkins wants to provide church in a new way.

“Most people that come to ours [church] wouldn’t touch a traditional church with a barge pole,” he said.

So he has made Urbanlife as unchurch-like as possible. Their website backs it up. “Urban life is a community of faith with no religious rites, rituals or man-made rules to trip you up,” it states.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t subscribe to any theology, even though the hour-long service doesn’t follow much of an order of worship. It’s simple, with Jenkins preaching a short message and then breaking the 20 or so attendees into small groups to talk, and later return as a large group to discuss what they talked about.

Since Jenkins is a former firefighter, he said his message this past Sunday tied in with the basic principles of fire. To have a fire you need three sides to a triangle: oxygen, heat and fuel. In his message, he compared the Christian life to a triangle, with fuel being the connection to God, oxygen being the connection to other believers and heat what we display to others outside the church.

After the service, people stick around and have a drink at the bar. Jenkins said this is where the real ministry takes place. People want to talk about their faith and their doubts. He likens it to his experiences with local pubs back in England and says he wants to create an atmosphere like it in San Jose. The local pub is “the hub of the community, where people feel comfortable.”

Jenkins was ordained in the Baptist Church in England, and then later, when he moved to the United States, he was ordained at an independent Christian church in South Valley, San Jose. He says Urbanlife church subscribes to the Nicene Creed and the Lausanne Covenant, but he would characterize them as evangelical with a “small e.”

Even though this past Sunday was only the fledgling church’s fifth Sunday, they have already become active in two different ministries around the area. Jenkins doesn’t want to become “another Christian country club.” He said he wants to focus heavily on discipleship with his members.

“Come on,” he said to this reporter, who offered to visit the unconventional church if in the area, “I’ll buy you a pint.”

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