U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis takes center stage for most of the country on Sunday evening (Feb. 4), when it hosts the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles for Super Bowl LII.
Almost in the shadow of the stadium, only six blocks away, sits an obscure coffee shop that won’t capture the national spotlight – even though the work going on there has significant ramifications.
The coffee shop, known as the Jaur Café (for Just As You Are – or UR), is owned and operated by Grace in the City Church, a church plant led by John Steger. Partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, the church meets at the coffee shop for worship on Sundays. And the café serves as the economic engine that helps support the ministry of the church.
“The vision God gave me was to have a church that was open seven days a week,” Steger said. “Cumulatively, a church [building] might be open one to two days a week. And we wanted to be open more than that. We knew that there was a need to minister to the people – meaning homeless people, people who are recovering, people who needed a safe place to go to get off the street.”
BP photo by Tim EllsworthGrace in the City Church in downtown Minneapolis owns and operates Jaur Café, a coffee shop that ministers to students, professionals and the homeless. On Sundays, the church meets in the coffee shop for worship. The congregation consists of about 40-50 people and has grown steadily since the church officially launched last April.
The Jaur Café is open six days a week, for about 13 hours a day. The customers are an eclectic group, from students at nearby North Central University, to residents in the million-dollar condos in one direction, to people from the Section 8 housing in the other direction.
Homeless people stop by daily for free bagels and coffee and a place where they know they’re welcome. In the basement is a bed where people can sleep during business hours.
“Somebody told me a few years back that if you’re going to be in the city and be effective, you need to plant your headstone there,” Steger said. “People need to know that you’re here. They need to know that you’re not going anywhere. They need to know that they can trust you.”
On Sundays, Grace in the City Church meets in the coffee shop for worship. The congregation is about 40-50 people in size and has grown steadily since the church officially launched last April.
With Minneapolis hosting the Super Bowl, the downtown area is a bustling place this weekend, and the Jaur Café plans to be directly involved in the activities. Though the coffee shop is far enough from the stadium that it likely won’t see much traffic from visitors, it will serve as a hospitality center for ministry teams from suburban churches coming in to share the gospel with football fans.
“We’ll have hospitality teams going out all day long, and prayer teams going on prayer walks all day long, and it’ll just be a place, a hub, where people can be warm and take cover and just hang out, when they need to get off the street,” Steger said.
“We need to get the truth out there, and that’s what they’re going to be doing,” he continued. “These teams will be doing that this weekend –praying and just being there, showing the love of Christ.”
The love of Christ is a topic with which Steger is exceedingly familiar.
A self-described “bad boy,” Steger was into himself, money, drugs and alcohol before the Lord saved him 15 years ago and subsequently called him into the ministry after a career in the auto industry. He’s been wealthy, and he’s been poor, and he knows his life experience has been helpful in preparing him for this role.
“God called me to the city,” Steger said. “He knows my background. He knows that I have a recovery background of drugs and alcohol. I get it. I know what it’s like to deal with that, and I’m able to minister to a lot of people. I can talk to the homeless person. I can talk to the billionaire. It doesn’t matter.”
Steger and his wife sold their house and their cars when they moved to Minneapolis and now live just two blocks from the church and coffee shop in a 600-square-foot apartment.
“I walk to work every day and I get to see people on the street who say, ‘What’s up, pastor? How you doing?’” Steger said. “And that’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be that way. I wanted to be part of the community.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)