For the Edge Church of the Nazarene in the Atlanta area, ministry means getting outside the walls of the church.
The Edge is a church and thrift store ministry launched from Gracepointe Church of the Nazarene in Loganville, Ga. Led by Trevecca alumnus, Doug Payne, the ministry is a way to serve the community.
“We do Bible studies, we have homeless people here, we have people who are new to faith,” Payne said. “We have a guy joining us now who’s just been in detox for two weeks. We do a lot with people who are disenfranchised.”
Payne, an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene, earned his master’s in religion at Trevecca in 2017, after a career in business, working for a Fortune 500 company. But even while he was working in business, he was serving in pastoral roles in his church. Over the years, Payne served as a children’s pastor, prayer pastor and pastor for adults.
When Payne’s company downsized, he felt like it was an opportunity to fulfill his calling to preach.
“I’m the first to admit that I was called to preach a long time ago,” Payne said. “I felt at that time that was my opportunity. So, I started my ordination work [in the Church of the Nazarene] through Nazarene Bible College and completed that. I had been done about two years and felt like there was more I needed to do.”
At some point, the pastor of Gracepointe Church of the Nazarene at the time, Mark Bane, challenged Payne with a new ministry: a thrift store.
“Make the thrift store the church,” Payne remembers Bane saying. So, Payne did.
The Edge Church of the Nazarene offers weekly worship services but is open Monday through Saturday as a thrift store. Located near the Atlanta Beltline, a redevelopment project connecting 45 neighborhoods along a former Atlanta railway corridor and tied together by trails, streetcar routes, parks and walkways, the Beltway has become a “hub of urban living,” Payne says, adding, “The Church of the Nazarene needs to be there.”
Launching the Edge Church on the edge of the Atlanta city limits was a way to meet the spiritual needs of a growing community as well as reach out to those in society who might be easier to overlook.
“We feel like we’re at the start of what’s going to happen in Atlanta,” Payne said. “The church has got to get outside the church, and we’ve got to be in the community. The cool thing about a thrift store is that the community comes to us. We’ve made huge connections in the community, not only the homeless and addicted, but the businesses around here.”
The beauty of the thrift store ministry, Payne says, is that the community comes to them. And it’s not just shoppers or people who want to donate; sometimes, it’s just someone who needs a friendly face, a place to hang out or someone who will listen.
“People come in a lot of times and hang out,” Payne said. “Charles came in a few times, and one day he came in and said, ‘I need help.’ It was on a Saturday and near the end of the day. We had one customer in here, so I sat down with him and another guy, and I shared Christ with him. He accepted Christ and said he wanted to be a follower.”
A week later Charles returned and told Payne that he needed help with his addiction. Payne drove him to a local detox center, which allowed Charles to find a place in a sober community. He’s been attending church with the Paynes and taking steps to change his life.
“Watching lives change in front of you—that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Payne said.
In addition to the thrift store, The Edge offers community as well as Bible studies, devotionals and a food co-op. Members join for $5, then pay $3 every two weeks when the members pick up the food from the Atlanta Food Bank and bring it to the thrift store. The co-op is a way to provide fresh, healthy food but also human dignity, Payne says.
“There is human dignity in this,” he said. “This is their co-op. They decide the rules, they can amend, and they do all the work. They set up the table, put the boxes out, make sure the freezer is cut off and the floor vacuumed. It’s a co-op, not a food pantry.”
For Payne and his wife, Barbara, the focus is on the person. It’s not about being a hero, but rather restoring dignity to those who it’s been stripped from—listening and treating others the way you’d like to be treated. Payne says the first inklings of the idea for urban ministry in Atlanta began to form while he was completing his master’s program at Trevecca.
“My sister attended a conference where Robert Lupton, who wrote Toxic Charity, spoke,” Payne recalled. “The same week I went to my first two and a half weeks on campus. There was a series on human trafficking—a one-act play on human trafficking . . . Going to Trevecca gave me the idea for the food pantry and urban ministry in Atlanta. The master’s class tied it all together so we could do it all at one time.”
Currently, the thrift store only employs three people: Doug, his wife and a helper. They rely on volunteers and those serving community service to work in the back, sorting through donations and getting ready to bring products into the store.
“We look at the thrift store as a way to connect with the community and not look like a church,” Payne said. “We look at everyone in here as part of the congregation and make a point of connecting [with them]. We don’t see them as retail customers. Everyone who comes in, we want to meet, talk with them, ask questions—we want to know them.”
An urban Atlanta thrift store may not look like a traditional church, but for Payne, there’s holiness in the daily work. The store is a way to minister to and serve those who feel disconnected, a chance to build community in a city and a culture where it’s easier to be isolated. The thrift store allows the church to minister—to step into the daily lives of guests, listening to them, praying for them and treating them with dignity and compassion.
“We want to be a part of their lives as much as we can “ Payne said.
Visit Shop the Edge Thrift on Facebook to find out more about the ministry.