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Bethel Seminary student Cesar Castillejos takes the gospel where people already gather.
BEGIN . BELONG . BECOME
A man walks into a bar…and starts a church. It’s not a punch line to Master of Divinity student Cesar Castillejos. It just makes sense. “People my age are very spiritual, but they’re turned off by traditional church experiences,” observes the former Young Life staffer.
So once a month Cesar brings the gospel to patrons of The 508, a downtown Minneapolis nightspot. He calls his outreach The Well—after the Samaritan watering hole where Jesus struck up conversations.
“True church is a community of people,” says Cesar. “It doesn’t matter where they meet. The Well is a community of faith thirsty for something different.”
A band opens with songs “about how God loves us,” Cesar explains. “Not how we love God. That would be a turn-off.” Then Cesar takes the stage to talk about Jesus—how this radical Person answers contemporary problems. As music resumes, people stay and react to what they’ve heard. “It’s low-key. And drinks are served,” Cesar owns, almost expecting some of the heat the Messiah caught for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes.
“God is very strategic in where He places you,” says Cesar, who is living proof of that claim.
In fact, during his undergrad years he poured his passion into spray-painting t-shirts for himself and friends. The hobby turned into a successful clothing line called “1of1” that now partners with world relief organizations. For every shirt ordered, a second one goes to someone in need in South Africa or El Salvador.
The company’s motto? “There’s no one like you. Be who you are.”
It’s no wonder Cesar feels at home at Bethel Seminary, a place known for cultivating individual passions and strengths—and for making the gospel relevant across barriers of all kinds.
“Bethel Seminary has equipped me for this experience, and has given me the credibility to lead,” he says. “I’ve always thought, if I’m going to be a pastor, it’s going to be at a church I start, and it’s going to be at a bar,” Cesar reflects. “I think back to that, and here’s The Well.”