When Preston Ulmer set out for Colorado with missions on his heart, one of his first stops was at a coffee shop in Denver's Highlands neighborhood.
Quite randomly he asked the guy behind the counter, Trax, who happened to be the owner: "What kind of church would you want to go to?"
The owner laughed and said "Oh, I'm not religious" — he identifies as an atheist — but then said he would consider attending a church where people were not pushed away for asking questions and for believing different things, a place where they could actively engage their minds with pastors.
He added, "I think you should start such a church in this neighborhood."
Before Ulmer knew it, a deep friendship and pre-evangelistic space called "The Doubters Club" in a nearby coffee house was born.
Ulmer, 29, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, received his master of divinity degree from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and says in an interview with The Christian Post that he feels a particular burden to reach skeptics and atheists with the Gospel because he used to be one.
Now married to his wife, Lisa, and raising two daughters who are toddlers, Ulmer said he was raised in a Christian home but left the faith in 2007 because he had too many questions he could not reconcile. Through the personal mentorship of a few pastors who knew of his deep intellectual struggles, he ultimately returned to Christ after an arduous nine-month process of searching for answers.
"I don't care where you land as long as you are honest," he recounts one of his mentors saying.
Such honest searching for truth underpins everything in The Doubter's Club, a group that Ulmer started with Trax where the two model friendship and pursue the truth together in highly intelligent discussions. Each week they explore theological and philosophical questions in a group setting with participants who hail from diverse backgrounds, both Christian and non-Christian. They started with 10 people in September of last year but now engage close to 60 in two separate locations; and their vision is to expand to several other coffee shops across the city.
At the conclusion of every discussion group they take a vote on what to discuss the following week. The most important core belief they hold is to value the truth over being right.
"It's a democracy where votes actually count," Ulmer says with a laugh.
Next up for discussion this Sunday: "Did Your Parents Brainwash You?"