I remember the first day I ran a bus to bring the homeless to church. I also remember the first mass exodus. I was told that bringing homeless to church on a Sunday morning would be ministry suicide. The church demographic would not attend a church like this. Temporarily, we paid the price. Nineteen years later, it’s been the key to consistent growth.
First, the word “demographic” in church planting is dangerous. Building a church intent on reaching a certain type of people is not a solid foundation. Here’s why. Demographics change, styles change, trends change. Everyone is our demographic. I lost a lot of people on the first day but it was people who needed to go. Making sure the foundation of the church is right is much more important than instant success.
Today, Angelus Temple/Dream Center is reaching thousands. This is why I announced at church that we must add five more buses by fall. No matter how big the church gets, no matter how many services we have, if we don’t fight for the homeless and suffering we’ve missed the point.
Today, we have an army of people who drive to church from all over the city BECAUSE we bring the homeless and kids from the projects to Sunday morning service.
When we stayed consistent with our heart for the poor, people of wealth started to attend.
Have I lost people? Yes. People who say, “That kind of church is not my demographic.” The truth is I will never compromise the bus ministry or housing the homeless for the sake of a more user-friendly church Angelus Temple/Dream Center. The church in the book of ACTS “had all things in common.” The poorest of the poor and richest of the rich.
My father said something the other day that changed my life. He said, “Nearly every great historical revival happened from the bottom up.” The church flourished when it reignited a heart and passion for the poor. The wealthy came because the poor were reached. They languished later when they lost their heart for the poor. The more established we become as ministers and church members the more we want to ease into a comfortable setting. However, we must fight that mindset with everything in us. We must also include that guy in a cardboard box, who might scare regular churchgoers, as part of our demographic.
Some will quote, “The poor you will have with you always. Exactly, that’s why we must always reach them.