SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash.— When Pastor Zac Minton drove up to his church and found the word "atheism" spray painted over the sign, he wasn't all that surprised. He said his church is the target of vandalism, nasty notes, and theft on a frequent basis.
Rather than call and report it to law enforcement, however, he has a simple request of the vandal: join him for a cup of coffee. On him.
Minton sat down with KREM 2's Rob Harris–a coffee enthusiast himself– to give his pitch.
Q: You get to your church. You see that someone has vandalized the sign. You guys have had vandalism before. And your response is, 'I want to invite this person to coffee.' Why?
A: Well, what we want to do is be a place where people can experience community and explore faith. So this past week we talked about retaliation and how our inner self wants to do that but that’s not necessarily what we should do so we want to prove to our community that we practice what we preach so not necessarily to get back at somebody but just to show that we care and this is why we came to start churches in the Spokane area.
Q: So when you show up and you see ‘atheism’ written on your sign, what goes through your head?
A: What comes to my head is: Jesus loves them, too. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they believe. I mean we have all kinds of people inside our church who don’t believe the same thing, and that’s fine.
Q: Are there things that Christians or other churches should be doing to help those who maybe don’t believe or believe something else still feel welcome in the community?
A: Yes. We want to teach that it doesn’t matter who you are. Most of the people that Jesus hung around weren’t necessarily who most of our church people would hang around, so we want to hang around people that others don’t really want to.
Q: Say that I’m the person who graffitied your sign. I take down your invitation and I sit down for coffee with you. What do you say to me?
A: Hey man, I just want to know your story. Like, what’s your background? And I want to share my background. Maybe to you, vandalism might seem like a big thing but you don’t know what I’ve done. We’re not going to call the law, we’re not going to be here and try to bum rush you... I just want to buy you coffee. I know that’s crazy, but I really believe that if we have a conversation, your mind will be blown by what we think and the forgiveness we’ll be able to show.
Q: I’m a big believer in conversation. I’m also a big believer in coffee. So if the person comes and sits down, maybe you can reach some common ground.
A: Yeah I think that we can talk. And I really believe that we can have commonalities more than they think. We know that we’re in the right community whenever we find drug paraphernalia, and spray paint and letters left on our church.
Q: When you see vandalism and drug paraphernalia, you know you’ve found the right location?
A: Yeah. Most people run from that. Even some people will say don’t start churches in those communities because it can’t sustain itself… those are the places we need to go to, those are the places we need to run to, not run away from.
By the way, if the person responsible happens to see this interview, Pastor Minton says his invite is sincere. Reach out to him.