Want to learn more about God but not quite ready to step into a church?
Local coffee shop owners Josh and Kali Cooke realize the traditional place of worship can be intimidating to those who are not sure what they believe. The Corner Perk owners have brewed up a laid-back alternative in what they hope is a nonthreatening atmosphere.
The Cookes will host an evening of worship and discussion the first and third Monday of each month at their shop on the corner of Burnt Church and Bruin roads in downtown Bluffton. They're calling it The Corner Church, and will offer not only free coffee but live entertainment, Bible study and an opportunity to ask spiritual questions.
"We're hoping that people who don't feel comfortable going to a church will feel comfortable having coffee, sitting on couches and listening to someone who's not preaching at them but is just kind of helping them to understand Scripture and spiritual things," Josh said.
A small group of eight or nine people gathered March 7 for The Corner Church's first meeting. By the time the next session rolled around March 21, that crowd had grown to about 25 people. A diverse group of married couples, young families and teenagers showed up to check out the new ministry.
Local musician Jonathan King leads the group in worship by playing his acoustic guitar and singing praise songs for the first 15 minutes. Next Josh steps in to read some Scripture and discuss its meaning. Then he gives the crowd a chance to ask questions about that Scripture or any other topic.
Josh said he wants The Corner Church to be a place where people who are seeking answers can come and ask anything. If they're too embarrassed to ask questions in front of others, they can throw their questions in a box for him to answer at the next meeting, ask him privately or email him later.
"Our whole goal is that people will come just one step closer to knowing the love and the life that is within Christ," Josh said.
Josh, who grew up going to First Baptist Church in Bluffton and was ordained there, considers himself "multidenominational." He graduated from the faith-based Mercer University in Atlanta and has worked in youth ministry at several churches, including The Church of the Cross in Bluffton. He and his wife, Kali, have been active members there, volunteering with the church's high school ministry for the past two years.
Kali was the worship leader at The Harbor Christian Community Church in 2009, around the same time she opened her business, Palmetto Music Therapy.
The Cookes have partnered with their friends Jonathan and Helen King and Carl Martin, to kick off this new venture. Josh said Martin, who is the pastor of CrossPoint Church in Bluffton, has helped launch several churches and is a mentor to him, offering guidance and support in getting The Corner Church off the ground.
And aside from sharing his musical talents, Jonathan and his wife help the Cookes plan church gatherings. Jonathan said he hopes The Corner Church will draw people from a variety of churches because he believes it's important to build community among the faith community.
"I hope that we all grow closer to God as a result of (The Corner Church) and ... that we honor God through this," Jonathan said.