The latest installment of the NOWLeading Podcast asks animportant question: Do we exist to serve the people who worshipwith us or is our ministry for those who live in the communitysurrounding us? This episode of the podcast features audio fromthe NOW Start Network’s September All Network Call. Rev. Kyle Blake (Church Planting Pastor of The Gathering inLong Beach, California) talked with Rev. Todd Roeske and other members of the NOW Start Network about what it means to truly connect with our communities. This often starts with changing our mindset about which folks our ministry serves. “It’s not the folks that come to our church that are just members and that’s who we seek to serve, but we seek to serve the community around us whether they attend our church or not,” he said.
This is why he and other congregation members spend a lot oftime walking the streets just being present and visible. Pre-COVID they also did prayer walks each Sunday before church — where they would walk around the community and ask the people they encountered if they wanted to join them in prayer or had any specific needs they wanted lifted up. They would pray these prayers while walking (“non-confrontational praying”), but they would NOT invite anyone to church. And for a very good reason:relationships. “Because for us it’s about forming the relationship,” Blake said.”And what’s happened over time is that, because we see the same people, then they ask: ‘So what time is your church service? You guys are from a church? What church are you from?’ And we allow that relationship to develop naturally rather than try to forceit.”Blake also shares stories about ways he’s been able to work with various community partners to help love people well. This includes hosting a Bible study with gang members and organizing a network of local non profits and businesses with the goal of assisting people coming out of the prison system. Engaging inministry from a new mindset often necessitates starting new: anew ministry, a new outreach, a new worshipping community.