Alumni Plant Coffee House Church in Pensacola

by Office of Marketing | Apr 25, 2013
Steve '06 and Brooke (Bland) '06 Gagne know firsthand how unexpected life can be – especially when following the call of God. Though the Lord led them out of one ministry to enter another, things did not go as smoothly as one might expect. However, their story continues to act as a testimony to how God uses life’s twists and turns for amazing purposes!
Nearly two years ago, Steve accepted a youth pastor position in Florida and the Gagnes left their Detroit home to begin a new season of ministry. Unfortunately, they never could have seen the obstacles looming in their near future; four months after arrival, the senior pastor of their new church resigned and the youth group dissolved. The Gagnes were ultimately left with no ministry or work, in an area with which they were almost completely unfamiliar.
The Lord did not abandon them though, and Steve quickly received inspiration for a new ministry. His best friend asked, “If you could do anything right now, what would it be?” He knew exactly what that one thing was – to start a coffee house church in Pensacola. So, after attending a one-day conference on church planting, the juices started flowing and the Gagnes began moving in a new direction.
Over the past year, Steve and Brooke have started meeting with a group of leaders and holding small group meetings in local coffee shops. Their goal is to launch Helios Church as a structurally organic coffee house church, with the hope of building community and discipling new believers. Steve wants to plant a church that is not driven by programs, but by relationships. The Gagnes are stripping away all the scheduling and are focusing on connecting people to Christ.  

Steve put it well by saying, “We are so programmed to do programs.” Helios Church wants to move away from church as an event, toward church as a family. For example, rather than separating the children from worship and discussion, the group leaders have started the habit of bringing their kids to discussions with them, so that they can learn about Christ with and through their parents. This is a model that Helios Church plans to use even after official establishment.
Of course, such strategy does not come without challenges. Pensacola sits in the southern portion of the "Bible Belt" – a part of the United States known for its socially conservative evangelical Protestantism - which means that the people of this area are used to the tradition and culture of “going to church." In fact, the Gagnes' community of 52,000 people has nearly 700 churches. Pensacola is, in Steve's words, “highly religious and over-churched." Helios Church must overcome an entrenched culture of program-driven faith and legalism in order to establish a congregation that seeks a lifestyle of faith in community.
As part of their strategy to move away from traditional church culture, the Gagnes hope to establish coffee shops around the city. Not only will these coffee houses host church gatherings, they will also add value to the community (for instance, by adding jobs and increasing real estate). Furthermore, the Gagnes hope to launch these stores as 100% natural vendors, in order to connect with the large organic food movement in Pensacola. Steve believes that the Body of Christ should make an impact on people – so much so that, “if you were to leave, people would know you were gone.”
This is no small task that Steve and Brooke are undertaking. Please pray for the Gagnes and Helios Church, as they move forward in evangelization and discipleship. Steve specifically mentioned that Helios Church needs prayer for provision – that God would enable them to open coffee shops all over the Pensacola area.