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The Common Cup coffee house in Rogers Park, Ill., looks and feels like many neighborhood java joints in the Chicago area. It’s a funky, casual space where hip urban residents sip espresso drinks and check e-mail on their laptops.

It’s also a place where owners John and Ruth Hoekwater hope coffee lovers find Jesus.

Several months ago, the Hoekwaters started Many Peoples Church in the building next door, accessible from their coffeehouse. It’s all part of a plan to bring the gospel to this growing suburb.

Both Common Cup and Many Peoples Church were started with grant funding from Christian Reformed Home Missions and CRC Classis Northern Illinois. It began when the Hoekwaters got involved in the community several years ago, working to revive a greenhouse at Gale Community Academy, among other activities.

“The community development we did created visibility and trust for us in the community,” says John Hoekwater. “Residents saw that we were committed to being here.”

The Hoekwaters continue to offer community activities in addition to the coffeehouse and church. For example, they provide community classes and various programs for local senior citizens.

Both the community offerings and the coffeehouse are working to bring people into the church, which has 35 regular attendees on a Sunday morning.

“People are definitely coming to the worship services because they get to know us through the coffeehouse,” Hoekwater says. “We usually have a new person every Sunday who is there because of the coffeehouse or the nonprofit activities we provide.”

He views the coffeehouse as a front porch of sorts, where residents can gather to interact with neighbors. A bulletin board announces community happenings as well as the prayer meetings and Bible studies that are held in the adjacent church space.

The Hoekwaters also plan to feature local artwork and live music and provide support groups in the small community room/church. Soon they will start holding worship services on Wednesday evenings too.

“That’s going to be a great way to get more people interested in the gospel,” says Hoekwater. “They might be sitting and chatting with friends and then hear what’s going on next door.”

Although Many Peoples Church seems separate from the Common Cup and the community classes, Hoekwater sees them as one entity. “It’s all part of how we’re using community development as a means to share the Word,” he says. “We’re working to create a transformational presence in Rogers Park.”

—Ben Van Houten is a senior writer with Christian Reformed Home Missions.

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