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Pastor launches 'Doubters Club' to challenge atheists, skeptics and others with biblical debate

Posted July 23

A Colorado pastor has launched a "Doubters Club" — a gathering that includes atheists, agnostics and those who are spiritually uncertain.

Preston Ulmer, 29, told The Christian Post that he launched the effort after a conversation with a man named Trax Henderson, the owner of a local coffee shop.

After Ulmer asked Henderson about the type of church that he and the local community might want to attend, Henderson laughed and said he's an atheist.

But Henderson did follow that up with one helpful piece of advice: he said that he'd attend a house of worship where people wouldn't be criticized or pushed out for having theological questions or for disagreeing on certain religious elements.

It was a statement that really got Ulmer thinking, leading him to launch a group called "The Doubters Club." It's a project that the pastor has a deep passion for, as he, too, was once a skeptic before turning back to the Christian faith.

Ulmer and Henderson ended up teaming up to host the monthly gatherings, which started with 10 participants last September and have already grown into around 60 people who meet at two locations.

"Atheist and Christian, and many other worldviews, becoming friends over coffee," reads a description on the group's Meetup page. "Do you enjoy talking about the issues that matter? Come on by and join the conversation."

Members of "The Doubters Club" — which consists of Christians and non-Christians, alike, discuss and debate a variety of theological and philosophical issues, according to The Christian Post.

Ulmer and Henderson recently released a YouTube video discussing their friendship, despite the differences they have on the faith front.

Listen to Ulmer and Henderson talk about the project here.

"What we have is obviously deeper than some of the things that you and I believe or don't believe," Henderson said in the clip, saying that "The Doubters Club" is devoted to creating and fostering "unity and community and friendship."

Most participants have Protestant or Catholic backgrounds but have left their faith behind for some reason, though people also come from a variety of other backgrounds.

"We actually want to model friendship to people. ... we have Buddhist, atheists agnostic, Pagan, Scientologists," Ulmer said. "What we're trying to say is, 'Remove barriers and misconceptions and then be friends, despite your lack of belief or belief.'"

Henderson added that respect is paramount in how "The Doubters Club" operates.

"You can't have an intelligent, coherent conversation if you don't respect somebody," he said.

With the project gaining steam, Ulmer will soon launch The Doubters Church on Sept. 16, in Denver — a house of worship that advertises itself as "family-centered," "founder-centered" and "thinker-centered."

The church's website makes its Christian theology clear, proclaiming that the congregation embraces orthodox biblical beliefs.

"We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit to speak to all generations of believers, including us today," a description reads. "God calls us to immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative communally and individually to faithfully interpret and live out that story today as we are led by the Spirit of God."

Based on what he's learned, Ulmer is urging his fellow Christians to engage non-believers by keeping the focus on Jesus but cautioned that engaging skeptics could end up being a long and complex process.

"When people have uncertainties about God, the most healthy thing we can do is bring it before God in community and not to keep it from God or suppress it," Ulmer told The Christian Post.

The pastor said that he's hoping to see others replicate what he's doing with the club in their own communities.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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