September 1, 1999

Church turned empty rooms
and gym into 'Cafe Esprit'

___By George Henson
___Staff writer
___HOUSTON--First Baptist Church of Sheldon in Houston is convincing a number of unchurched teenagers the Devil doesn't have all the good music.
___Nathon Dees came to the church as its associate pastor in February, and it wasn't long after that he says God began to speak to him about how to use four empty youth Sunday School rooms and a gym that was unused on Friday and Saturday nights.
___Dees said God then began to lay out a vision for him "in almost blueprint fashion."
___He saw the walls removed from between the Sunday School rooms to make one large room and attached to the gym. The area then would be large enough for young people to
come and listen to Christian rock music, drink coffee and fellowship.
___Dees took the plan to his pastor, Robert Pitts.
___"When Nathon came to me with this idea, I pondered it a bit. We're not a real conservative Southern Baptist church or anything like that, but I really wanted was to hear from the Lord," Pitts recalled.
___After consideration, the idea was brought before the church and was approved unanimously. Café Esprit had been born.
___"Some people supported it out of respect for me, Nathon and the elders, but now they are starting to see the vision," Pitts said.
___What the church is seeing is a place where young people are congregating to hear music and are getting a large dose of Jesus. Pitts said 35 people have become Christians through the ministry of the café.
___Dees said the success has been somewhat overwhelming.
___"I can't give a description of how well things are going," he said. "I had no idea there was such a need in the body of Christ for people to have a place to go, drink coffee and enjoy fellowship--not to mention all the unchurched kids we're seeing."
___"I've just been faithful to God, and he has blessed it, but I was not at all prepared for the magnitude of the blessing," he said.
___"One of the most incredible things that has happened was to see the band singing about Jesus and all the kids singing along. I just stopped and said, 'Thank you, God, for being faithful to the vision' and almost instantly it came back to me, 'Thank you for being obedient to the vision.'"
___Not everyone who comes to the Friday and Saturday night events has made it to Sunday School, but Dees said that's ok.
___"I don't care if they ever come to Sunday School or even to church as long as they are here and are being ministered to. The other night after the band had left, I was up on the stage with 15 to 20 kids, and we were all singing dcTalk's 'Jesus Freak' together. The revelation hit me that I was having Sunday School on Saturday night, not in a classroom, but in a gym."
___Dees is quick to acknowledge the support of the church has been a key factor in the success of the ministry.
___"I've seen so many ministries that were of the Lord and reaching people start well but not stay afloat because they didn't have the backing of the entire church. The support here has been great," Dees said. "Also because the church has a history of ministry to the community for many years, people trust the church. I'm constantly amazed when parents drop their children off in the parking lot and pick them back up at midnight--I'm amazed at the trust they've put in me and especially this church."
___Pitts said that while the ministry does have the support of the church, not all like Christian rock music.
___"I don't particularly like Christian rock myself, but if we're only going to play the kind of music I like, we're only going to reach the people who like what I like," Pitts said.
___He's convinced, however, that God is able to use a variety of music to reach people.
___"The other night we counted about 90 kids in there. This guy was playing, and there was not a dry eye in the place. He was ministering Jesus to them. I don't care what kind of music they sing if the Lord can use it to reach hearts and touch them for his glory," Pitts said.
___Pitts said even a few young adults are finding the café.
___"I was talking to a 33-year-old man who said this was the only place he could listen to music, talk to people and not have someone ask him if he wanted to go out for a beer."
___Dees said it all is just a testimony to how God can work when Christians give what they have.
___"All this from four empty youth rooms and a gym that was totally vacant on Fridays and Saturdays. God is good."


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