Beer and Bibles: Michigan Church Launches “The Upper Room” Project In a Bar

Crossroads Church Pastor Noah Filipiak delivers his sermon on Genesis to a congregation of over 60 people gathered at The Loft in downtown Lansing, Mich., for the premiere of the church's weekly gathering. (Matthew Dae Smith / AP)
Crossroads Church Pastor Noah Filipiak delivers his sermon on Genesis to a congregation of over 60 people gathered at The Loft in downtown Lansing, Mich., for the premiere of the church’s weekly gathering. (Matthew Dae Smith / AP)

This wasn’t church. It was a bar, the Loft in downtown Lansing, on a Tuesday night.

But the tables had Bibles next to the beers and popcorn, and Kevin Brown, a pastor at Crossroads Church, was sitting behind a keyboard on the stage.

“We hope you didn’t bring any of those non-Christian people tonight,” he said to the dozen members of the audience. “Tonight is about getting all the kinks out.”

The next hour would be a trial run, preparation and practice for how an evangelical congregation might do services without prayers or hymns or altar calls.

Because the Loft is on the second floor of a building on Michigan Avenue, Crossroads is calling the project The Upper Room. Because they want people to come whose relationship with church is tenuous or nonexistent, the pastors have promised to buy a drink for every first-timer.

The drink is a gesture of friendship, said Noah Filipiak, the 31-year-old founder of Crossroads.

“We think it communicates something to people that are very leery of church and very leery of the church being very judgmental about things,” he said.

Two summers ago, Filipiak spent a three-month sabbatical from his small downtown congregation playing safety for the Capital City Stealth, Lansing’s minor league football team. He invited other players to come to Sunday morning services.

“I feel like our church is ‘cool,’ you know,” he said. “We serve coffee and pie, and we’re laid back and you don’t have to dress up, and the things that Christians normally think, ‘Oh, people who don’t go to church will come because we do these things.'”

Only the people he invited mostly didn’t come and, when they did, they mostly didn’t come back. It got him thinking about one of the perennial questions for pastors and church planters: What was it about church, even a casual church with pie, that kept them away?

“There are concentric circles of people,” he said. “I think that your blue jeans and coffee and rock and roll band on Sunday morning church plant is reaching a certain concentric circle, and that demographic has now been pretty saturated.”

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SOURCE: The Detroit News
Matthew Miller, Lansing State Journal

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