Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Several months ago I sat down with Mark, the Men's Minister at our church, to chat. I shared with him about some of my church experiences and some of the things God's been teaching me over the years. During our conversation I told him about our trip to The L.A. Dream Center a few years ago and how it had impacted my thoughts of outreach and the church's role in the community. Mark's eyes lit up and he began to tell me about Infusion.

Infusion is an outreach ministry that our church has been doing for several years. On Monday nights we send out two teams that are primarily made up of high school and middle school students, we take them to two local apartment complexes. When we get to the apartments there are usually children from the complex waiting for our arrival. It's great to see them running to greet us as we pull into the parking lot.

After Mark explained what Infusion was he asked me if I'd like to go to Infusion with him the next Monday night. That next Monday we met and I rode to Clarkston with Mark. As we rode along we talked in more depth about the people that we would encounter in Clarkston. The Clarkston area has one of the largest Mosques in Atlanta and the population is predominantly Muslim. The apartment complex where we serve is predominantly made up of Somalian refugees, but the cultural mix is amazing because you'll find families from all over the world...Liberia, Bosnia, Asia, Africa, South and Central America.

A typical night for Infusion begins with playing games with the children for 45 minutes or so. Then we have a lesson time for about 15-20 minutes, we have a topic related craft that we'll do with the students for 15 minutes and then we finish up with some snacks...when I first heard about it I was somewhat interested, but it really sounded way too churchy for my taste. I liked the idea of ministering to this culturally diverse area, but the description of what we would be doing sounded alot like Sunday School on the road. The mental image of that made me want to puke!

So what's different about Infusion? Our purpose is to love these children. There are no strings attached, we're not hitting them with a 5 step outline or asking them to make a profession of faith every week. We teach them from the Bible, but we teach them some of the same stories that they read and know from the Qur'an. But for the most part, we're there to love them, to build relationships with them and their parents.

This is not my comfort zone..although I'm coming around very quickly. My outreach experience in the past consisted of prospect cards and the F.A.I.T.H. outline or knocking on doors, visiting with someone for 3 minutes and then asking them to accept Christ. I think what I liked about that down deep inside was that it was efficient...it didn't get very messy because you never really got involved in people's lives, their hurts, their dreams, their past or their hearts.

This kind of ministry takes time, it's not about making converts, it's about building relationships and making disciples. We hope to eventually start a church in that area for all of the people we see come to faith in Christ. But it will take time. There have been MANY churches that have tried and failed to reach the people in this area. Even as recently as this summer, a local church came in to do back yard Bible studies. They were there 2 days before they got kicked out by the management for causing trouble. The problem was, they decided to come into a place they had never been before to show "these people" that the religion they had grown up with was a lie...in two days!!! It wasn't their message that was flawed, it was their strategy. A missionary in the area told this church that they needed to do what we're doing, they felt like it was too much time spent for the return they might see...I'm not kidding. So we continue to love the people in their back yard. I have mixed emotions about that. It's sad that some of these local churches won't take the time to love their community. But, if they did we might not have the privilege of getting to know these wonderful people.

Ironically, I was the interim youth pastor at one of these local churches. When we tried to start ministering to the local apartment complexes, the people in the church were okay with it...until some of the people we were ministering to actually started coming to "our" church! That was the end of that. Even when we started a church very close to this area, a few of us tried to get an apartment ministry going, but there was just no heart for it in our people. It's just interesting to me that God had to take us to a church located in the suburbs to do effective ministry in Clarkston.

Several weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in leading Infusion in Clarkston. It was one of those times that you already know the answer before the question is asked. Interestingly enough, Kenny, the guy who was heading up Infusion in Clarkston, moved to California to finish college. That's also how I became the interim youth pastor of that first church in the same area several years ago. Jonathan, the youth pastor, left to finish up seminary and I was asked to step in. So it seems that things have come full circle in these 5 years of trying to get a ministry started in Clarkston. I'm really excited about the things that God is going to do in Clarkston.


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