Coffee shop mixes business with faith

January 2, 2013 

  • Bare Bulb Coffee

    Address: 1117 Ga. 96, Suite 100, Kathleen
    Phone: 787-3482
    Leadership: Nikki Collins MacMillan, pastor
    Worship: 7 p.m. Sunday

KATHLEEN -- It’s a trend among churches to offer coffee before or after their service.

Bare Bulb Coffee is doing it different. They’re offering church with their coffee.

“We’ve been open as Bare Bulb Coffee since 2010,” said Nikki Collins MacMillan, ministry director, pastor and manager at Bare Bulb. “We’re still a new business and we’re growing. We opened to serve great coffee and food and to be a space for people to gather. We’re also a new kind of church community. On paper, we’re legally a new church of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but we’re an experiment in moving church outside the four typical walls using a business to engage people. We were looking for a new expression of church that meets people where they are.”

MacMillan said with declining numbers in her denomination and church attendance overall, there was an openness to re-examine what reaching people and being church was all about.

“For a long time, the church was able to complete its mission by building a building and providing programs,” she said. “People would come. That doesn’t work anymore. The church has to find better ways to do its job communicating with and reaching our culture. We don’t want people just to come learn church-language, music and rituals. Jesus was out on the road with people, in their homes and in their world. He had interaction with them on a daily basis in the common doings of life but he changed their perception of God and his work in their lives. We want to do that.”

You wouldn’t call it preachy, but elements of the Bare Bulb faith community are always present in the café even if it’s nothing more than caring conversation. But there are also book studies, Bible studies, knitting groups and other activities that place at Bare Bulb that are both church and just something Bare Bulb does.

On Sundays, the shop closes at 7 p.m. tough the doors stay open for worship. Still it may not be what you’d expect at church. And of course you can grab a cup of coffee.

“Our service is very conversational,” MacMillan said. “That’s key to what church is like here and key to what people value here. There’s singing and scripture reading but there’s not the typical sort of preaching. I facilitate a conversation, ask questions and get people talking at tables about things we’re looking at in God’s word. The goal is for us to wrestle with those things during worship and throughout the week to let God use them in our lives -- let him change us. I’ve spoken in churches in the traditional way, but I believe being engaged in this way is really fruitful.”

As to the question whether or not it’s really Bible teaching, MacMillan has an answer from the highest source.

“Jesus regularly taught by asking questions,” she said. “He asked questions even when people were asking him questions. People asked him who he was and he asked them who do you say I am? He made them wrestle with who he was; he didn’t always give them an easy explanation. I do slip in some Greek and some context, but not 15 or 20 minutes of me pouring in what you have to swallow.”

But the faith community at Bare Bulb is itself on guard of being trapped within the coffee shop’s four walls.

A parent-children’s study around a table at Bare Bulb turned into a teaching time held at Cherished Children Education Center for Bare Bulb attendees and the children at the center. A desire to prepare weekend food packs for a handful of children who would otherwise go hungry while away from school turned into more than 60 packs being prepared weekly at the shop on Fridays and delivered to community schools. A trip to serve coffee and tea on a Sunday evening at the Daybreak homeless facility in Macon turned into providing meals once a quarter and a number of people serving there on a weekly basis to build relationships and not just deliver food.

There are other projects and other plans for the future. There’s a coming coat drive and all the regular ministries for various age and interest groups. And there’s the arts element Bare Bulb encourages which includes open mike nights and monthly artwork on the shops walls. This month the art is from homeless people from Daybreak.

“People who worship here come from all sorts of backgrounds,” MacMillan said. “We even have a partnership going with a music ministry from Christ Chapel, an Assemblies of God church here. We’re planning two worship conferences together, one Jan. 26 and one April 20. Often they lead worship for us on Sunday nights. You don’t find Pentecostal worship leaders in too many Presbyterian churches.”

Though MacMillan runs a business, she said the mission of the church is too important to regard as business-as-usual.

“For too long we’ve fooled ourselves and mistakenly assumed God’s work happens inside the church walls and forgotten that the whole world is God’s,” MacMillan said. “He invites us to join him at work in every place and in every heart. We want to be friends with people who will never come to a regular church. We want to know those people and help them know God’s love. The Gospel doesn’t change, but church has to do what it needs to do to fulfill its mission in the world to spread the good news of God’s grace that redeems us in our brokenness.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at

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