WEST JEFFERSON —Highlands Community Church is taking a new approach to help reach others in the community who are looking for something more than the traditional church experience.
According to Steve Witherspoon, pastor of Highlands Community Church, his congregation has been gathering for a discussion group called “Lifetree Cafe” in lieu of a traditional Sunday morning sermon.
“Mine and my wife’s concern has been that people, even with traditional Christianity, they end up going to church as a ritual and it doesn’t really affect their lives,” Steve Witherspoon said. “What the bible says is that God wants to have a personal close relationship with him and with our fellow man.”
Steve Witherspoon said that the discussion group, which features scripture related topics, acts as another avenue to help people connect with God in a coffee house like setting.
“This is an effort to help people connect with God and when we get together and discuss these issues, we find that most things in life are connected with our spirituality,” Steve Witherspoon said. “One aspect of trying to use Lifetree Cafe for something productive is trying to get the word out to people who normally don’t look for church events.”
Discussion topics for the group change each week with future topics including discussions based around conflict and living with those with cancer.
According to Steve Witherspoon’s wife Dorothy, Lifetree gives people the opportunity to meet and talk with others in a comfortable setting.
“This allows groups of four to talk about certain aspects of a certain issue that has been presented,” Dorothy Witherspoon said. “Those who wouldn’t normally talk in church at all feel really comfortable talking to four people that they’ve gotten to know really well.”
According to Steve Witherspoon, the feedback from Lifetree Cafe has been incredibly positive so far.
“Most people say they think that it is beneficial and they really enjoy the discussion that takes place,” Steve Witherspoon said. “People usually say they feel like they’ve connected with God when they leave.”
Steve Witherspoon says that one reason why he decided to incorporate Lifetree Cafe is because of his own experiences with traditional church.
“I just remember in years past there are a lot of times that I would go to church and I feel like I’ve been to church but I hadn’t really connected with God,” Steve Witherspoon said. “I think that’s what it’s all about.”
According to Dorothy Witherspoon, Highlands Community Church wants to help the community with any issues that are causing them to doubt their faith.
“One thing that we tell people is, is that if you have an issue and it’s not being addressed in these Lifetree Cafe sessions, that we will provide time to allow you to address those issues,” Dorothy Witherspoon said. “If anyone is dealing with an issue and they doubt God is there, those kind of things can be addressed.”
Steve Witherspoon wants to encourage the community that everyone is welcome and that there are no wrong questions or answers.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions because there are no stupid questions. That’s partly what we are trying to help people to realize,” Steve Witherspoon said. “One of the premises that we have is that you are welcome just as you are, your thoughts are welcome, your feelings are welcome and we’re all in this journey of life together.”
Highlands Community Church, located at 797 Ray Taylor Road in West Jefferson, plans to continue Lifetree Cafe on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. until March when they will move the discussion group to Thursday nights.
For more information about Lifetree Cafe, contact Steve Witherspoon at 336-972-8152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.