Self-described QC ‘weirdo’ plants churches - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Self-described QC ‘weirdo’ plants churches

September 1st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Self-described QC ‘weirdo’ plants churches

Staff Writer

By his own admission, 51-year Ben Cloud is more than a little bit odd. 

“I am absolutely a crackpot weirdo,” he said. 

Cloud, with his salt and pepper goatee, t-shirt and ball cap, runs a place called The Third Cup coffee shop in Queen Creek across the blacktop parking lot from Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery.

Although you would never know it because the word does not appear on the marquee or storefront anywhere outside, nor anywhere inside the place, The Third-Place Cup coffee shop is actually a front for Amadeo Church, where Cloud is the pastor. 

But this isn’t your typical church, and as pastor, Cloud wears a lot of hats. 

“Community activist, futurist, farmer, bookstore and coffee shop operator, philanthropist, do-gooder, non-profit leader,” is how Cloud describes himself. 

He is part of what’s known as a “church planting movement,” where the idea of the church itself is not front and center.  

“Some churches create a building and then they want to do community center stuff in it,” Cloud said. “Amadeo Church wanted to create a community center that they meet in and I am the pastor.” 

In addition to having been a crisis pregnancy center, homeschool gathering spot, food pantry and a source of help with social services, Amadeo Church also operates King and Queen Creek organic farm just west of Ellsworth Road on Germann Road.

Members of the congregation donate time, expertise, even live animals to the effort.

 Like the coffee shop/church building, which are open for public use as long as the public benefits from it, “if you want to use the farm for good, like if you want to grow healthy stuff, we’ll let you use the spot,” Cloud said. 

“I just always sort of had this idea – how do we serve the community in practical ways because that’s what Christ calls us to do is to love people, serve people, create safe places, family friendly places,” he continued.

“If Jesus washed feet, we serve coffee. If Jesus washed feet, we give free produce away.”

After growing weary of his low paying teaching jobs, Cloud wound up developing warfare software for General Dynamics – and working with the Coast Guard and the Army – so he could start a family and afford to live.  

“All this time I’m involved in my church,” he said. “So, I’m helping build the kingdom, so to speak, the Heavenly kingdom. So, we came out here and planted a community center that a church meets in.”  

Cloud held his warfare software job until he knew whether or not his church in Queen Creek would work. 

When it did, he quit his job, took a pay cut and went to work full time as a pastor. 

Completely funded by what they collect in the offering plate on Sunday morning, Third Place Cup/Amadeo church feels like an old-fashioned “co-op meets modern day gathering spot.” 

And that was by design, Cloud says. Based on research by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, Cloud set out to create a place where people of all backgrounds could come together and be comfortable. 

In his research, Oldenburg describes third places as “the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. 

“In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them,“ he writes. 

That’s where Cloud came up with the name for Third Place Cup. 

Cloud preaches two sermons on Sundays at Amadeo in Queen Creek then heads to Pinetop, where he has opened an 860-square-foot community center/church. Cloud envisions planting 40 churches in 40 years.  

One down, 39 to go.  

“We are trying to find metaphorical ways to wash peoples’ feet. No one wants their feet washed, but everyone will take a cup of coffee,” he said. 

“Really, what they want is conversation. They want community. We are trying to create spaces and show the love of God.”