For those who find traditional church a little stifling, Sunday morning services at Cork’s Cigar Bar at 425 Old Main St. in downtown Bradenton could be just the place to get a good shot of Christianity.
It’s called the Church of the Faithful Few, and when the preaching is over, attendees can hang around and enjoy a cold one and a smoke, no questions asked.
“We do things a little different here,” said Jim “Cork” Miller, co-owner of Cork’s. “We’re not judgmental.”
Church of the Faithful Few was started by the Rev. John Rogers, the father of an acquaintance of Miller’s.
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Rogers got the idea for Church of the Faithful Few after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in New Hampshire. At the time, Rogers was with the International Evangelists for Heaven’s Saints, a motorcycle ministry started by former Hell’s Angel Charles “Barry” Mayson.
Rogers, known to many as “Biker John,” spent 15 years traveling around the country for Heaven’s Saints, preaching the gospel at motorcycle gatherings in Sturgis, S.D.; Wildwood, N.J., and Daytona Beach before a car broadsided him on his Harley-Davidson while on a mission trip.
“They almost lost me,” said Rogers. “I had no use of my arms for two weeks. I was bedridden for two months.”
While recovering in Tennessee, Rogers said he felt the Lord call him to outreach ministry, and he started Church of the Faithful Few.
The church was patterned after Mayson’s work with Heaven’s Saints and the Barry Mayson Ministries. Mayson died in 2007.
In September, the 57- year-old Rogers returned to his native Bradenton to be close to his children, Joe and Amy. He also saw a need for a Church of the Faithful Few, and approached Miller about a location.
By having the church at Cork’s, Rogers hopes to “win a soul somebody else didn’t.”
“It’s just another way to draw people into the church,” he said. “I feel like we catch them, and God cleanses them.”
The church preaches a “rock ‘n’ roll theme of gospel,” and has a “come as you are” attitude, according to Rogers. Blue jeans, T-shirts and leather are common attire, and there are no qualms about personal lifestyle choices.
“It doesn’t matter who you are; God is for everybody,” said Rogers. “He hears the prayers from the gutter as well as the altar.”
Rogers calls Church of the Faithful Few “unique” in its approach.
“We don’t tell them they can’t smoke or drink,” he said. “We just give them the gospel and God takes over.”
Musicians who play at night at Cork’s perform on Sunday mornings for church. Bikers with names like “Wild Bill” confess how Christ has changed their lives.
Attendees feast on donuts and coffee, while Rogers nourishes their souls with inspirational messages.
“He’s got a pretty good lesson,” said Miller, who has attended several services. “It’s very uplifting.”