Tag: urban ministry

For a closed urban church, an alternate ending

For a closed urban church, an alternate ending

Disbanded congregation’s old building purchased by Impact Houston, which plans to expand to a second location.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

HOUSTON — Another closed church.

Another lost opportunity to serve wounded souls in the inner city.

That could have been the story as the Lindale Church of Christ — a once-flourishing congregation in the nation’s fourth-largest city — disbanded in December 2015.

However, leaders and supporters of the Impact Houston Church of Christ — which has become a model of urban ministry among Churches of Christ — intend to write a different ending.

In the Lindale church’s heyday, hundreds of worshipers filled the elegant, red-brick building — a landmark near Houston’s busy interchange of Interstates 45 and 610.

Now, thousands of motorists pass a dilapidated structure with boarded-up windows, broken bricks and letters falling off the “Lindale” below the steeple.

On a recent visit to the church property, Impact elder Ron Sellers discovered a side door busted open. Blankets, pill bottles and scraps of garbage were scattered inside the dark, moldy building. The debris indicated that squatters had taken up residence.

Far from discouraged, Sellers said the scene only reinforced the need for bringing hope — physical and spiritual — to this hurting community.

This story appears in the January 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.
‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’

‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’

Kansas church realizes its dream of opening a resource center for former inmates and drug addicts.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Roswell Church of Christ wouldn’t give up.

For years, the inner-city congregation struggled to realize its dream of transforming a one-time dry cleaners into “a one-stop shop for ex-offenders and substance abusers.”

But on a recent Sunday, the church celebrated the grand opening of the Village Initiative Inc. family resource center and re-entry facility.

Thousands of hours of sweat by volunteers such as elder Randy George and numerous donations — large and small — by Christians and community partners made the dedication ceremony possible.

“We started not knowing how we would finish, but God put the right people in place,” said George, co-executive director along with minister emeritus James O. Maxwell.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the November 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

After devastating fire, St. Louis church refuses to lose hope

After devastating fire, St. Louis church refuses to lose hope

Missouri congregation that ‘lost everything’ keeps letting its light shine as it seeks God’s guidance — and funding.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ST. LOUIS — A fire destroyed the leased storefront facility where the St. Louis Metropolitan Church of Christ met for more than a decade.

But amid the charred debris, an imprint of a cross remained on a wall — a symbol of hope.

“God let us know he’s still in control,” member Tywana Thomas said.

The church — which has 23 people on its roll — has clung to that assurance since the Jan. 27 fire. The blaze ignited when the building’s owner fell asleep while cooking.

Total losses — all uninsured — totaled $30,000 for a congregation already struggling financially, minister Christopher Mitchell said.

“I’m still grieving,” member Angelina Petty said. “We lost everything. We didn’t lose our faith, but we lost every physical thing.”

This story appears in the August 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Coming soon: worship at the movie theater

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Coming soon: worship at the movie theater (reporting from Torrance, Calif.): California church planters embrace their Church of Christ heritage but say ‘franchising’ a traditional approach won’t reach lost souls.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

TORRANCE, Calif. — When EPIC Church launches in this Los Angeles-area city of 150,000 souls in August, it won’t meet in a building with wooden pews or a steeple.

Rather, church planters hope to connect with postmodern seekers by conducting services in a movie theater in one of America’s largest shopping malls — perhaps while the expected summer blockbuster “Ben-Hur” plays next door.

“What better place to tell the story of restoration than the temple of our culture?” said lead planter Matt Raines, 38, who previously served as senior minister for the Chula Vista Church of Christ near San Diego.

“It’s the Agora — the marketplace of this little part of the world,” added fellow planter Jeff Brimberry, 23, who grew up in the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas, where his father, Don, serves as an elder.

EPIC — sponsored by Kairos, a church-planting ministry associated with Churches of Christ — will emphasize the importance of baptism and celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly.

“There’s a reason those two pieces are still here 2,000 years later,” Matt Raines said.

But even though the church planters stress their love and appreciation for their heritage, they don’t intend to “franchise” a traditional Church of Christ. They must, as they see it, be open to new approaches to reach a new generation with the good news of Jesus.

This story appears in the June 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Morgan Freeman hears Katrina survivors’ ‘Story of God’

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Morgan Freeman hears couple’s ‘Story of God’: Hurricane Katrina survivors share faith on National Geographic Channel series.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

God doesn’t play favorites.

Charles Marsalis stresses that message at the Hollygrove Church of Christ, the New Orleans congregation he and his wife, Angela, planted in a high-crime neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m just plain ol’ Charles,” the minister said. “I’m not going to treat anybody differently, no matter who you are.”

Not even if you’re an Academy Award-winning actor named Morgan Freeman — in the Big Easy to interview Marsalis and his wife, Angela, for the National Geographic Channel series “The Story of God.”

“Some of the folks, including one of my sons, was watching me to see how I was going to react,” the father of four said, referring to Freeman’s presence at a Sunday worship assembly. “My son said, ‘Pops, you never called this man out one time.’”

Of course, the actor who played God in the box-office hit “Bruce Almighty” and its sequel, “Evan Almighty,” was impossible to miss. So were the cameras that filmed the congregation singing “Shelter in the Time of Storm.”

Marsalis did address Freeman when the star jokingly took money out of the collection plate. “Boy, you about to get whooped in the church,” the minister said he told him.

This story appears in the May 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Thirsty souls: Churches help victims of Flint water crisis

Thirsty souls: Churches help victims of Flint water crisis

With residents angry and frustrated over lead contamination, Christians work to meet physical and spiritual needs.

Third Place, News Story, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

FLINT, Mich. — “Father, we know the water saves us,” North Central Church of Christ member Robert McDaniel prayed on a recent Sunday.

The living water of Jesus Christ washes away sins, McDaniel declared as 150 men, women and children bowed their heads.

But people depend on water, too, to quench physical thirst, he said.

Amid a crisis involving lead-tainted drinking water in this economically depressed city of 100,000 souls, McDaniel’s words resonated.

Twenty-four-pack cases of water were stacked high inside the church building and its nearby storage facility. Outside, the congregation’s marquee sign invited residents to pick up free water between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.

Since this city 65 miles northwest of Detroit declared a state of emergency in mid-December, the North Central church has distributed between 150,000 and 200,000 bottles of water, organizers said.

Church members Javaris Burks and James Greer, joined by fellow Christians, volunteer all day before going to their regular jobs.

“I always want to hear, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant,’” said Burks, a team leader at a General Motors truck assembly plant. “We’re in the middle of a community that can really use our help.”

“We just want to make sure we’re reflecting Christ,” added Greer, a lineman for a cable company. “Because sometimes we are the only Bible that people see.”

This story appears in the March 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.