Michael Patton was just four years old when he first tried to teach theology—while playing on a swing set with a childhood chum. Patton asked the boy if he loved Jesus; the boy said no. When Patton replied, "Then you're going to hell," the boy quickly changed his mind and declared that yes, he did love Jesus after all.

Today, Patton's evangelistic methods are a bit more seasoned and savvy. As founder and president of Credo House Ministries, he has ample opportunity to reach both saints and seekers, primarily through that ubiquitous marketplace of ideas: the local coffeehouse. But not just any java joint. Patton has established what he hopes will be the first of many "theological coffee shops," beginning with the Credo House in Edmond, Oklahoma. The store, built in 2009, seats up to 55 customers and serves up plenty of good coffee, books, teaching, seminars, and lively discussion—much of it led by Patton and executive director Tim Kimberley. (Both have master's degrees in theology from Dallas Seminary.)

Patton calls Credo House a "belief-strengthening events hub" in which clients—ranging from college students to pastors to profs—will find "the walls dripping with theological meaning." He says it is a place "where people can learn, fellowship, study, and just hang out under the banner of truth and grace in Christ."

Question & Answer

What's the idea behind Credo House?

We didn't want to have to ask people to come to a church to have theological discussions; we wanted a more neutral environment, and coffee makes a good bridge for that. We didn't want it to be overtly Christian where you're going to run off the postmoderns and those who hate clichéd Christianity. We wanted a historical element, to put the words on the walls in Latin, theological words so people have to ask what they mean. Credo ut intelligam: "I believe in order to understand." We want a place where people want to ask questions and dig a little deeper.

You're reaching believers and seekers?

Yes. We're an intellectual hub from an insider's perspective, but we also want to show the viability of Christianity to others. We're trying to reach a postmodern, skeptical, disenchanted, suspicious generation—and those people are both inside and outside the church. Everything we do at Credo House, we want to be irenic. That's the big word we use around here, even when discussions turn into arguments. Be irenic. Be peaceful.

Give an example of a recent encounter.

A group of Mormons came in and started asking questions. The conversation turned to the Bible—the history of the Bible and the manuscripts behind it. They had no idea about all of that, and they were just blown away learning it. These are the types of conversations we love to have.

None of it would mean a hill of beans if your coffee was crummy.

Exactly. We want to compete with the best coffeehouses in town. But when we first started, I didn't know much about it. I bought an $800 latte machine, and I thought it was great. But when we hired Tim, he said we needed an $8,000 latte machine, a $1,000 grinder, and all this. I had a lot to learn.

More: CredoHouse.org

Age: 39

Hometown: Edmond, Oklahoma

Family: Kristie (wife); Katelynn, 13, Kylee, 11, Will, 7, Zach, 4 (children)

Church: Faith Bible Church

Reading now: The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, by Michael R. Licona

On Your iPod: The Fray, U2, Matt Moberg

Favorite Bible verse: Galatians 2:20

Your hero: Chuck Swindoll

Hobbies: Playing poker

Related Elsewhere:

Learn more about Michael Patton and Credo House Ministries at the organization’s web site.

Previous "Who's Next" sections featured Bethany Hoang, Bobby Gruenewald, Julie Bell, DeVon Franklin, Shannon Sedgwick Davis, Jon Tyson, Jonathan Golden, Paul Louis Metzger, Amena Brown, David Cunningham, Timothy Dalrymple, John Sowers, Alissa Wilkinson, Jamie Tworkowski, Bryan Jennings, L. L. Barkat, Robert Gelinas, Nicole Baker Fulgham, and Gideon Strauss.

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