This article was written at the end of last summer.  While Sharon and I were wrestling with what to do our ministry, Livin Lattes, at Lola Lane.  It includes much hope and optimism about the future.  Since its writing and as of today our ministry is still waiting upon God for a space to operate Livin Lattes.  Enjoy.


Surry Messenger Article

Sunday, Sept. 28th

By Angela Schmoll


Looking For a New Direction


Four months after being

forced out of what seemed to

be the perfect location for his

growing business and ministry,

Jonathan Keener is still in business,

but looking for a different

direction for Livin Lattes.

“Now we’re trying to figure out what Livin

Lattes is supposed be, since it’s not a nice little

restaurant and café on Main Street,” Keener

said last week. “We’re a ministry. We’re not

framed as a business. If we were run in a business

fashion, we wouldn’t have time to connect

with people.”

But making the business work is important,

since Keener and his wife and seven children —

two of whom were born here — depend upon it

for income. “We’ve learned to do without a lot of

things we thought we had to have,” he said. “It’s

made us a stronger family.”

Four years ago, Keener and his wife were

looking for a way to move out of New Jersey.

“We wanted to find a place to raise our kids that

was more like were I grew up. I wanted rolling

hills and water and land. I wanted my boys exposed

to nature and for them to learn to take

care of themselves.”

At that time he was marketing systems to

remove diesel exhaust from buildings, primarily

fire stations, and he made a sales call in King.

“I was telling one of the firemen about my idea,

and he told me to check out Pilot Mountain,” he

said. “My wife and I decided this was the place

we wanted to live and the downtown had so

much potential.”

From the beginning, Keener felt led to a ministry,

but didn’t initially know what that might

be. “At first we felt like what we were supposed

to do was provide a haven, just a quiet place for

people to visit and get close to nature again,” he

said. “So much of that first year I spent asking,

‘Why am I here?’ I felt I was not supposed to

go to Winston-Salem to do things, I was supposed

to do it here.”

Out of that search came Livin Lattes, which

opened on Main Street a year after the family’s

move. “Pilot Mountain didn’t need another

steepled church,” he said. “I was inspired by

‘Out of Bounds Church’ by Steven Taylor. In

it he talks about the struggle to reach people

and café-style churches reaching people. We

wanted to do something café-oriented to get

people to talk and share.”

Keener also felt a particular need to minister

to young people by providing a safe, accepting

place for them to hang out. Livin Lattes

became both, holding worship services on

Sundays and two to four

times a week hosting young

musicians with a variety of

musical styles from around

the nation.

“The churches think I’m

crazy because of the music,”

he said. “Now they think

I’m crazy because of my

hair.” He vowed not to cut it

until he could see evidence

that Pilot Mountain is

changing, reconciling its past and its future and

setting aside prejudices.

Three years ago Keener also started “Taking

Back the Streets for Jesus,” which was held

downtown with a night of music. “This year

we held it at Jomeoke Music Park in Pinnacle

and we had 90 bands from all over. They went

on all through the night talking and praying,”

he said. “Livin Lattes is a method of reaching

people; Taking Back the Streets is a method of

bringing people together.”

This May, a year after adding food that

seemed to fill a niche downtown, Keener lost

his lease and had to move his business to Lola

Lane where a tractor supply business had been

located. Now he can no longer offer food, but

has a better space for music and tries to book

bands Fridays, Saturdays and another night or

two during the week.

David Roller played there last week for the

first time with his band, All the Day Holiday,

from Cincinnati, Ohio. He describes their

music as a cross between U2 and Coldplay. “I

like the place,” he said Wednesday as he and

other band members prepared to make the

trip up to Pilot Knob. “We’re on tour and I

had no expectations, but it was a great place.

We had a pretty good crowd for a Tuesday.”

“It was really neat,” Mark Ventura, another

member of the band, said. “I think this place

has a cool vibe. Jonathan

has a really solid vibe. I’ve

been in a lot of places that

didn’t have a great sound

system, but Jonathan has

a good system It was nice

to work with a professional

who cares about the community

and provides a

positive place for people to


“I tell the band guys to

go up on the mountain,”

Keener said. “Every time they do, they have

an experience to bring back. Pilot Mountain

can prosper by bringing more people in, but

they can’t do it without the young people.”

Still missing is an educational component

that Keener would like to add, if he can secure

grants to assist in funding the equipment

needs and recruit volunteers. He’d like to see

some of the space used for after-school tutoring

and as a computer workshop for area youth

who need that extra help.

Livin Latte is open 9-9 Monday through

Thursday and 9-11 on Friday and Saturday

with coffee beverages, smoothies, some baked

items and wireless Internet. Sunday morning

worship service is held at 11 o’clock.

“I want this to be a positive place where

churches will allow their youth to come instead

of doing something stupid,” Keener said. “I want

it to be different and interesting and relevant to

their lives. Here (at his new location) I’m not as

connected to Pilot Mountain, but I can look to

Mount Airy and King and even Winston-Salem.

I have a very strong vision that I can’t let

go. If it works here, it will work anywhere.”