How does a Christian introduce God to atheists? This was the question on Pastor Preston Ulmer's mind as he planned to start a new ministry in Colorado.
Ulmer decided to go to a coffee shop in Denver's Highlands neighbourhood to find out, and the first person he talked to was the shop's owner. "What kind of church would you want to go to?" he curiously asked.
The owner laughingly replied, "Oh, I'm not religious." He considers himself as an atheist, but he might be pulled to go to a church where people don't dismiss outsiders who share different views and pastors gamely converse with non-believers.
After talking, the coffee shop owner told Ulmer, "I think you should start such a church in this neighbourhood."
That suggestion sparked something in Ulmer. He eventually formed a pre-evangelistic group called "The Doubters Club" in a nearby coffee house.
"When people have uncertainties about God, the most healthy thing we can do is bring it before God in community and not to keep it from God or suppress it," Ulmer tells The Christian Post.
What Ulmer noticed about people who join The Doubters Club is that they come from Catholic or Protestant backgrounds, but left the church because of fundamentalism or a lack of intellectual engagement.
"They were handed Christianity as a set of beliefs, and it's a house of cards theology," Ulmer explains. "So at any point when any of those doctrines were challenged outside the context of their church or youth group, their faith collapsed."
When asked if Ulmer's ultimate goal is to bring people to faith, he answers, "We have to remember the process. The question I care about most — and I want this engraved on my tombstone — is: 'What did you do with Jesus?'"
Ulmer recalls an instance when a young woman, who was a regular participant of The Doubters Club, approached him after the group engaged in a heated discussion about life after death. She told Ulmer that she could never be a Christian because that would mean leaving behind all of her atheist friends who were heading straight to hell.
Ulmer understood her view and told her, "It's not your belief about hell that is going to make you a Christian; it's your belief about the reality of what Jesus did and what He is doing in the world."
"That I can get on board with," she replied.