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Ebenezers serves more than coffee

Coffee with a cause. That’s the mind-set behind the ministry of the staff of Ebenezers Coffeehouse in Washington, D.C. The idea behind this new-wave outreach is to create a way for believers and nonbelievers to connect in a nontraditional setting.

Ebenezers is a natural gathering place for hundreds of people in search of a good cup of coffee. But there’s a catch.

“We not only serve coffee, we serve Christ,” says Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC), which owns and operates the coffeehouse. “We have to reach out to what might be uncharted territory.”

Located just five blocks from the nation’s capitol, Ebenezers is a three-level coffeehouse designed to bring in D.C.’s 30-and-under crowd. The middle level dining area is on par with any Starbucks. The lower level features a miniauditorium where bands regularly perform.

Beyond the ambience, regulars come for a variety of the city’s best coffee, as chosen by AOL CityGuides for 2008.

Ebenezers creates an unseen ministry framework that goes something like this: sit, drink, experience and enjoy. Conversations about life and faith are as likely to ensue as ones about politics. Patrons are informally invited to weekly functions. Outreach is a constant focus but also nonthreatening and low key, whether it’s “Alpha” Bible study for borderline or new believers on Monday night, “Poet-a-Tete — Open Mic Poetry” on Thursdays, or the two Saturday night church services.

Each event aims to reach unchurched and dechurched young people as their generation emerges. According to Christian researcher George Barna, 61 percent of under-30 Americans who grew up attending church discontinue going to a place of worship at some period during their 20s. Ebenezers attempts to lessen that statistic. According to Batterson, 70 percent of their weekly gatherings consist of people who are under 30 years old.

The coffeehouse sits near two prominent universities, Georgetown and George Washington University. The campuses represent 32,000 prospective customers — many of whom need Christ.

Batterson and company are socially minded too. Ebenezers’ profits go toward missions. The earnings have contributed to Convoy of Hope functions in the D.C. community, along with other missions events.

Batterson points out Jesus didn’t just hang out at the synagogue; He spent time at the water wells with the common folk. And that, he says, is the crux of what Ebenezers’ ministry is all about.

“Going outside our normal religious realm,” he adds, “being a blessing and an asset to the community.”

— Derek Guilford

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