Stories

Client story: Adam Evers from believr

by Alexis Ocampo on July 22nd 2019

by Alexis Ocampo on July 22nd 2019

Adam Evers is a pretty difficult guy to pin down. I don’t mean to say that he’s deliberately evasive or won’t make time to fit you into his schedule - it’s very much the opposite - rather, I’ve found that Adam’s personal manifesto is based on the stark decisiveness that getting the most out of life is about sticking to your principles and your passions, and his packed schedule is a testament to that. In short, life’s too short to not do what you love. 

Right when we get on the call, Adam’s up and moving, taking a stroll around a lake in Oakland as we chat. Almost a thousand miles north in Vancouver, I’m initially a ball of nervous energy sitting in my apartment, where this familiar space must welcome the unfamiliarity and uncertainty the conversation holds. As I anticipated talking to Adam, I had no idea what to expect, but my qualms are quickly resolved. Adam is charismatic and animated in his speech, happy to satisfy all my curiosities with a bout of thought-provoking answers.

What I most admire is Adam’s resolve. Just as an adolescent, he’d been through all of it and more, and today, he’s turned one of his greatest sources of pain into his greatest source of strength. He speaks with confident conviction about his sexuality, his relationship with God, and how his faith and upbringing have inspired him to create believr.

For Adam, at the pinnacle of it all sits believr: an LGBTQ+ Christian dating app that puts community and connection at the core of all its endeavors. I find believr to be a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief, and an outstretched hand to those struggling to find a place in the marginalized community of LGBTQ+ Christians. Simultaneously, believr is a symbol: the first of its kind, and a progressive flint sparking the crucial embers in pressing forward past dated notions of what it means to be a Christian.

Through interviewing Adam, I’ve learned the extent to which the adversity one experiences can bring life to the most extraordinary things. He’s idealizing and manifesting a more positive, more inclusive future - where progressive Christianity grows hand in hand with the LGBTQ+ community, and where those seeking wholehearted belonging can find a place to flourish and feel at peace. 

Many thanks again to Adam for participating in this interview and giving us a toe dip into the rollercoaster journey that has led him and his team to believr.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Client story: Adam Evers from believr

Thanks so much for doing this! So big question to start with: What’s your story? What brought you to where you are now? 

Adam Evers: [In] my high school years, I was a fairly awkward kid, hard to get along [with] because of all the craziness [happening] in my life. From there, I struggled with depression and suicide in high school too. Then I [became] really involved with my church group and this ministry that I ran called Random Ministries - I ran it for three or four years in high school. I was really passionate and excited about that. I started struggling with my sexual identity in high school a little bit. I never told anybody that I was gay or that I was attracted to men or anything like that because it was very taboo in the culture that I was in - I was in a very conservative Christian environment and so even though my dad was gay, it didn’t really matter. So from there I decided to go off to college.

I went up to [Bethel University in] Minnesota [and] graduated with a degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. I was super involved in ministry while I was there. I was involved with a church called Bethlehem Baptist which was run by John Piper who is probably one of the most conservative Christian pastors in the United States. [Then] I started my career in marketing after I graduated from Bethel. [After a few digital marketing jobs] I moved off to a company called Sprinklr, a start-up based out of New York so that was kind of fun. I moved out [to San Francisco] which was awesome, and as soon as I moved I started dating. I was dating a guy named Lorenzo that year, and then I came out to my family that Christmas, and then I came out to the world that summer, about three years ago, actually. Thinking back, wow, it’s only been three years. So I came out when I was 29, and then from there I went to a company called Dropbox and then from Dropbox a company called Tierion, and from Tierion a company called Scoop. Yeah! How’s that? 

That’s… a rollercoaster. Congratulations on coming out! 

Thank you! I appreciate it. It wasn’t for a lack of pain and heartache… I forgot about this part actually - I was removed from my church actually, they weren’t too thrilled about me coming out.

Is this in San Francisco? 

No no no, in Minneapolis.

Oh okay, wow - really full of ups and downs, but I think the tail end of your story sounds pretty great.

Yeah, I mean so far I own two companies, [one] called Coindera, I work on that on the side, it’s a cryptocurrency alerting platform, and then I work on you know, with Pascal and the Good Kind agency, believr, which is an LGBTQ+ Christian dating app, which is kinda fun! 

Just going back to when you were a child - who were your personal role models? What did you turn to when times got really tough, and you felt like you didn’t belong?

I like to tell this story - when I was in, I think, fifth grade, I was Bill Gates for Halloween, and everyone thought I was crazy… I got a ton of looks, and people thought I was the weirdest kid in the entire world, but I wanted to be Bill Gates! I’ve always looked up to people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, really like titans of industry, mainly because I saw them as people who could change the world, and have changed the world for the better, and have done really cool things. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, impact the world in some way shape or form - make a dent in the universe. So I would say when I was going through all that shit, my role models and things like that, I was actually more focused on business, probably, than anything else. I had a [laughs], I started my first company when I was like 14, it was an online store, which was just ridiculous, but I’m glad my mom let me do it.


So you did have that entrepreneurial drive already when you were younger.

Oh yeah, that’s been a consistent theme of mine for a long time - I’ve had a company basically running in some way shape or form since I’ve been probably 14. But to answer your question - what did I do when [things got hard], I would say my faith was a big one that I relied on. My relationship with God is the most important thing to me, and so for me it was very important that I went to church, and I had a lot of youth groups that I looked up to and people there that I looked up to. One of the men that really became like a father to me in high school was a man named Andy, he kinda took me in as his own son and raised me as his own, cause my mom, you know, she’s great, but she’s a mom. I really needed a dad figure in my life and he was able to do that for me.

So my middle school, high school, even college experience was basically me and God fighting, about whether or not I could be gay and Christian at the same time.”

Awesome - so you mentioned before that you were kicked out of your church when you came out. Did you ever struggle with your sexuality and your relationship with God? 

Oh yeah, 100 percent. So my middle school, high school, even college experience was basically me and God fighting about whether or not I could be gay and Christian at the same time. Part of my process was coming to the understanding of what the bible actually is versus what I’ve been taught it was - I was taught that it was the divine word of God, down from heaven, but when I started actually reading about it and doing some research, there’s so many different ways you can tear it apart - there’s 5-6 verses in the bible called the clobber verses - those verses are used to ‘clobber’ gays, LGBTQ+ folk - and so all of them, if you really read the context of the words and argued they don’t hold weight of water anymore for LGBTQ+ people. That took 29 years of my life of struggling through, but it was a big transition for me - a lot of therapy, to be honest, and honestly, the communities I have in Oakland here - I go to a church here called Oaklife church - a lot of [the] framework that I have actually came from that church, and I’m really thankful for it.


Great little segue into my next question actually - you mentioned the bible and how people use that a lot to back up their bigotry, so - in your view, what do you think really lies behind that lack of acceptance? Is it really just because it’s in the bible? Do you think there’s more to it? Are people just really afraid of what they don’t know?

That’s a really good question… that’s actually a really good question, I’ve never thought about that! Why do conservatives believe what they believe? I think a lot of it has to do with the politicization of Evangelicalism, so [the rise of] Evangelicalism in the United States has been a huge force in the world that I was probably at the center of, when it was happening. I went to a church called New Life Church in Colorado, and they had a pastor named Ted Haggard. [Haggard] was on the board of leaders and elders for George W. Bush for a long time.

I remember a Sunday where George W. Bush just talked in church, literally, on a Sunday. For a political leader to be able to do that, I just don’t think that’s right. So to pull that back in, I think there’s this overarching Evangelical narrative, Evangelicalization in the United States and how it’s been politicized in the last, you know, 15-20 years. Through that, I think a lot of the time these churches, they have this power and control aspect to them, and then through just more conservative leadership, that ideology of hate and less-progressiveness of Christianity has been a threat. If you look at any progressive Christians in general, you can look at like the Quakers for example - the Quakers have been fine with homosexuality for decades. I think it’s just this conservative movement in the United States that’s not the progressive movement, that’s really the ones that are demonizing and weaponizing the bible as a tool to hate people. I think it comes down to a lot of things, partly what you said to some extent. People just don’t know what they don’t know, which, you know, conservative Christian values, if you will, are largely based in the Midwest, and that kind of area is more conservative in general. And so you have the bible which is very impactful. Does that make sense? Sorry, I’m rambling. [laughs] 


Yeah, yeah! No that’s great, I definitely can see just even in the Midwest, the South, compared to the coastal cities, there is a stark difference in LGBTQ+ acceptance, so very valid points.

Yeah!

“For me, believr is a personal pet project, because I want kids to grow up and go to church without worrying that they’re gonna go to hell for being gay. That’s ridiculous.”


So how, segueing into believr now - how important is it for believr to exist, especially with respect to today’s political climate?

[laughs] That is a loaded question. Talking to the founder of a company, why should it exist, there are a lot of good reasons! But I think that believr should exist for a couple of reasons - one, there’s a cross-section of progressive Christianity that is starting to bubble up and flourish - I call it the second coming of the emergent church. I’m building it because there’s a group of people - gay Christians - that don’t have a space right now. They don’t have a spot where they can find a potential partner, or a community in general. That’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about because it’s just important, especially [within] the larger LGBTQ+ communities - we need each other! And [the wider] LGBTQ+ community is constantly attacked and brutalized across the board from a lot of different areas, and so being able to have a community inside of a community that really understands coming out, when Evangelicals are fighting against [you] being gay in this typical Christian community, is fascinating, right? It’s a very interesting dynamic at play when you have people that identify one way as being LGBTQ+ and some other people hate that about them. And so they need people they can talk to and be open with, [to] have conversations with so they don’t feel like they’re hated, worthless. For me [believr is] a personal pet project, because I want kids to grow up and go to church without worrying that they’re gonna go to hell for being gay. That’s ridiculous.


Yeah, definitely. There are divisions and rifts between the LGBTQ+ community and [those outside of it], but also within the LGBTQ+ community, which you touched on. Do you see believr as playing any type of role in bridging these gaps?

Yes, 100 percent. One of the things I appreciate about the Christian community is that we’re all about grace and mercy and love. So I think there’s value there - the core function of Christianity is grace. At the end of the day, Christians should be the most graceful, loving people on this planet, right? If they’re actually following what Jesus said, I think gay Christians in general have a great ability to potentially unite and not solve, but potentially help mitigate some of that pain, between some LGBTQ+ in the larger family. Does that make sense?

Yeah! So you want to unite all these people on this app which is amazing, but I’ve read and I’ve spoken to some of my own friends who identify as [LGBTQ+], and they said that a lot of Christian dating apps are actually used by reactionary groups to target vulnerable teens or youth and actually bait them into going on dates, after which they’re ambushed [and oftentimes] beaten. How are you going to implement or ensure that the platform remains a safe space for your users? 

That’s a great question. So across the board, anything that’s created for a smaller group of people can be used against that people, right? I think for us, we think about this in a couple different ways - one, I never want anybody to feel unsafe on this application, or also if they ever meet up and have a personal conversation, we have a very strict privacy policy and  community guideline, which will be strictly enforced. There’s no three strikes you’re out or anything like that, if you cross the line you’re basically banned from the platform for a while. Part of that is going to be a very strict policy on gender comments, on racist comments, on homophobia - all that kind of stuff. We have a very detailed policy where it says ‘hey, if you say x, if you do x, you will be removed from the platform indefinitely’. I think one of the things I’m sensitive to [as well] is change.

Change happens at a slow rate, but if there’s something that believr can do to help somebody change, I think that’s important. So, depending on the infraction of the user, we might have them go through an hour-long training course and answer a test of questions to verify that they went through the course, and allow them back on the platform at a limited capacity. I can see that happening for a couple different things, depending on how he did it. That’s one layer, right, just our policies and how we do them. I think the second layer that I’m thinking through is the reporting and alerting capabilities - anything within the app you can report or alert on, like ‘hey, this profile picture, this message makes me feel unsafe’. And thirdly, we’re going to do something that I don’t think a lot of apps do which is just identity verification, so part of the process will just be verifying your identity from a third-party. We have a system to be able to verify all of it, and I think that is going to be a big differentiator between us and [another] app. 


Client story: Adam Evers from believr

Affirming churches like Lexington's St. Paul are beacons of change in Christian communities (Credit: WKYT)

Awesome, so-

Can I ask a counter question?


Sure!

I have never personally heard of that happening. So how did this go down? They were on an app, and then they were coaxed into conversation, and show up and are basically yelled at by conservative Christians?


Yeah, so my friend was telling me - she didn’t personally experience it herself, but people will go on these apps [and] you’re basically cat-fished. They ask you out on a date, you meet up [with them], and instead of meeting this one person, it’s a bunch of them who ambush you and beat you up. You’re just ambushed.

...That’s fucking crazy. That makes me angry. I think part of it too is we wanna help people make wise decisions with what people do, so part of that is going to be helping users understand - hey, you wanna meet up, make sure you do it first in a public space, all these types of things to guide users in a safe way that creates a safe space and safe interactions for them in general.


That sounds really great - I think that’s a really basic but important part of it, just safety.

Oh yeah.

For sure. So - sorry to backtrack a bit, but how long was believr was actually in the works for you? What finally pushed you to start really manifesting this idea into reality? 

No, you’re good! So I had been on dating apps before, early on when I was in the closet and just moved to San Francisco. I used the typical ones - Tinder, Grindr, Hinge wasn’t even really around then, and [I] was really just unsatisfied with the experience. A lot of the people I connected with just didn’t share the same values that I shared. Most people just wanted to hook up, and yeah, there’s no shame in that, I like to hook up as much as the next guy, but at the end of the day, I’m kinda looking for a husband and kinda wanna get married, and it was hard for me to find people that had those similar views and opinions on those apps. I realized how much my faith influenced a lot of just who I am, and how I view the world, and how I want to connect with somebody on that level, because it means so much to me. To have some sort of faith or spiritual life and that’s just very non-standard [with these apps].

So, part of it was trying to figure that out and saying, okay, is there an app out there? There wasn’t. [laughs] So the next stap was, how do I meet more gay Christian people? So I decided to go to a gay Christian conference, and I went to the conference and a couple months before that, I thought, I should build an app for gay Christians! There’s a thousand people going to this conference every year - I should build an app for this! So I started building an app, and kinda launched a little bit, did a soft launch and got a couple hundred emails, and was like, okay, this is a thing! And then I did a formal launch this year with Pascal when we did the branding and the logo and the landing page and all that. So yeah!

So I think I big theme in your life really seems to be technology and religion, which can be really two big opposing themes to have in your life. So- 

Can I adjust a word please?


Yeah?

I really hate the word religion, can we say faith instead? 


Faith? Yeah, for sure. Can I ask why?

Yeah! Religion is generally such a dogmatic term that has negative connotations in my mind, honestly. I think religion has been used against people. I think what I have is faith. Faith in humanity, faith in God, faith in something larger than myself. Religion is a set of rules and practices, for the divine or whatever you consider divine, and I don’t necessarily consider my faith in the divine a religious institution or practices. I think it’s a relationship, I don’t think it’s a dogmatic practice that I align religion to, if that makes sense. 


Okay yeah, fair enough - that actually links to one of my more personal questions for you - I was raised Catholic but I don’t necessarily identify or agree with the things I was raised to believe. I’m sure you know a lot of the problems with the Catholic church, so - do you think Catholics, or Christians are so adamant to sticking to tradition for the sake of tradition, is there a need to do everything by the book, and do you think religion can ever progress in the same way technology can or is? 

That’s a good question. How much do you know about the enlightenment period?


Not much, or at all.

So the enlightenment was a time where people started relying on science and not on dogmatic views of people to be able to tell people truths about the world, and part of that was this broad overarching view of like, Aristotle, [etc]. 

Oh, so like secularism. 

Yeah, exactly. The rise of secularism is more the rise of our fundamental understanding of truth and whatever else defines that. That has a tendency to go directly in the face of ‘religion’, ultimately, which is not - I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. If your view in the position of God can be destroyed by a scientific argument, then I think you need a bigger view of God, a bigger view of the divine. I think that that is fundamentally true about science and religion in general, but - sorry, what was your direct question?

“If your view in the position of God can be destroyed by a scientific argument, then I think you need a bigger view of God, a bigger view of the divine.”
Client story: Adam Evers from believr

Campaigns like #FaithfulPride are platforms for social change that make believr more than a simple dating app

Adam shares his story and the struggles and lessons of growing up in a conservative faith community as a gay male and why he decided to create the first LGBTQ+ Christian dating app.

Believr's product focuses on creating deep and meaningful connections between LGBTQ+ Christians with a value-based matching system

Just, do you think religion can ever progress in the same way technology can? 

I think you can, I think it’s going to take a massive movement in culture, and the way we actually understand and interact with religion, faith, whatever you wanna call it. I think in the past ten to fifteen years, there’s been this progressive Christian movement that’s kind of been bubbling up, slowly but surely, in the United States. I don’t think it’ll ever go as fast as technology, mainly because technology is technology, and it’s relentless in its drive moving forward, but I think religion can move up or I guess, advance, far faster than it has already. 


I totally agree, and I think believr really has the potential to, consequently, for being what it is, a symbol of progressive identity of one’s faith. So - do you see it as that? Do you see [believr] as being a voice or a platform for this new movement? 

100 percent. I see believr in general as a massive change, a fundamental move for Christianity, ultimately. The reason why we’re building this is really just to help move the community forward. There’s this massive function moving forward. If believr can be the forcing function that makes that happen, that’s great, and I hope it is. When I think about progression, the progressive Christian movement, the world right now, the United States - I think believr is probably at the tip of the sword, if you will, of that. When we launch, hopefully in September, I have a feeling that it’s going to be a - to put it very bluntly and I apologize for my language - a fucking shitshow. [laughs] We’ve already got a couple of - I’m guessing you’ve heard of that ridiclous religious sect of conservative Christians [the Westboro Baptist Church] that protest and have that sign saying ‘God hates fags’ and stuff like that?


Yeah, I’ve seen the photos.

Yeah. So they know about us already, about believr, and they’ve already started to Tweet about us every once in a while, so I can only imagine what will happen once we go live and everything moves forward.


Oh, definitely - I didn’t know they were tweeting about you guys.

Yeah, they’ve sent one tweet, thankfully it’s only been one. But as soon as we go live, I have a feeling they’re going to have an onslaught for us, so. 


That’s definitely a challenge you’re going to have to deal with in the future, do you have any other big challenges you’ve faced so far, technologically or socially?

Yeah, I mean - that challenge is probably going to be the biggest challenge that I’ll face in my career, to be honest. Launching this application is going to be a very interesting life experience for me, which I’m both dreading and excited for all at the same time. To answer your question though, I think from a technology perspective: I need good developers that can actually do good work. One of the things that I’m passionate about and love and really desire is wanting people to be - some of the team or as much of the team as I can - to be queer or LGBTQ+ in some way shape or form, and finding developers that are queer and LGBTQ+ that are willing to spend the time and energy on an application like this is not easy. Mainly because it’s a ‘Christian’ app, right? There’s been so much hurt and pain from Christians to the LGBTQ+ community that it’s very difficult to find somebody that hasn’t been hurt or in some way shape or form by the church because of it.

“The other thing is that I’m passionate about is just treating people with respect and dignity. So like, the swipe left and swipe right motion on Tinder - you’re literally swiping on people’s faces. And I just think that’s - when you think about it, that’s just kinda weird, right? You would never do that in person.”

Great! So for your community, is there any specific takeaway you want them to get from their experience on the platform? Is it really up to them, is it also for friendship, or platonic connection? 

We are first and foremost about connection. Whether that’s a friend, platonic, a hookup, whatever that connection you want or need in that space, that’s what we’re about. We are branding ourselves as a dating app, but I know plenty of people that use Tinder as not a dating app. Same thing with other apps. I think what we’re really trying to do at the end of the day is build a community and harness a community around an idea that both of these things can be true at the same time, that you can be Christian and be gay. That’s really the idea that we’re centering in on. If other people want to come and enjoy it, I would love that. One of the things I’m really passionate about is that I want people to have good interactions on the application and not close it out of annoyance or malice or frustration, but close it for whatever other reason. That’s really important for me at the end of the day.

One of the things I hate about apps right now is two things: One, most of them have features which I call ‘build-your-own-boyfriend’, right? You’re able to say, ‘I want him to be 6’5”, I want him to be white.’ It’s stupid, to put it bluntly! One thing I’m passionate about is I’m trying to figure out how to make that not true. How to not allow people to do that, but treat other people like humans, where if I walk up to you - I have no idea how old you are, what your background is, or all this important information that gets lost when we try to build boyfriends or girlfriends or significant others online. The other thing is that I’m passionate about is just treating people with respect and dignity. So like, the swipe left and swipe right motion on Tinder - you’re literally swiping on people’s faces. And I just think that’s - when you think about it, that’s just kinda weird, right? You would never do that in person. You would never outwardly just be like, ‘reject you, left, bye!’. It’s such a rude interaction and people lose that ability [to] interacting in general. It just gets lost so quickly when you’re in an application. And I don’t feel like it should. I feel like we can build a system and something that can improve that, so that’s what I’m passionate about. 


It sounds like you’re trying to put the humanity back into these dating apps, and I really like how you’ve considered that for believr.

Yeah, thanks!


So - where do you see believr heading in the next year, 5 years, 10 years? Is the main goal just to grow this community? 

[laughs] That’s a good question - so there’s a couple things. One: believr is more than just believr, it’s a movement. So part of it is just that we’re building more than just a dating app, we’re building a community of people. And so, in our next year, I think we’ll go international, in five [years], I would like to see believr be in as many countries as we’re legally allowed to be in, and then also have a level of ability to give back to the community. So one thing that we’re going to do is, a percentage of our profits are going directly to LGBTQ+ communities, and one [organization] specifically I’m thinking [of] right now is the Trevor Project. I would love, in ten years, to be able to say ‘Hey, we gave a million dollars to the Trevor Project’ through people using believr.’ That, to me, would be a tremendous success. I also think that, like I said, I want believr to become bigger, and part of that is also the growth of our media arm. So you’re gonna start to see more blog posts about particular issues related to progressive Christianity. Video, content, you know, the fact that I have people that, on the app, have no LGBTQ+ sex education. That’s insane to me! In the States, most states don’t teach about LGBTQ+ sex education. It’s just abstinence only, and so being able to understand what that even looks like [would be] insane.

So I want to raise the water level, if you will, in the community for that. You’ll also see us do a whole financial wellness seminar, because the LGBTQ+ community in general make less money, have more money problems beacause of the social issues they face in their life, and have unsafe or unstable family units or family bonds. So helping them grapple with and work through those particular issues is important for me. So I think in five or ten years, ultimately, I want believr to go international, donate a lot of money, have a lot of users, but also I wanna see change happen within the United States, and ultimately within the world as to what people look like when it comes to LGBTQ+ Christians, and the movement, if you will. 


I think that’s great! I think we need people who are idealists, people who want to be inclusive. So one final question!

Yeah! 


Your upbringing has clearly made you stronger and inspired to enact change. What message do you have for other youth or people who may find themselves in the same position you were once in? 

Oh man, that’s a good question, surprisingly no one has asked me that! [pauses] [One], it’s cheesy, but it gets better. It does. I’d also say that two, don’t take yourself too seriously. Three, love people well, and love them fully to the best of your abilities. Four, cut out the toxic people as fast as you possibly can. Cut them out of your life! [laughs] How’s that?


That’s great! Thank you so much for speaking with me and letting me ask you all these questions. 

Happy to help! 


Catch Adam on Twitter, Instagram, and of course check out believr

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