McCORDSVILLE – Once the ministry started renting a house in the neighborhood, Mike Wilkins knew it was time to plant flower bulbs.
“We are really trying to act like neighbors,” he said. “I wanted people to know we would be here.
The past few years have been a time of ever-increasing involvement in a neighborhood around 42nd Street and Post Road in Indianapolis: tutoring for kids, a flag football league, a Christmas store where parents could buy toys and gloves for their children at reduced prices. .
Outlook Christian Church volunteers helped organize these events, often working in partnership with Crossroads Bible Church on 42nd Street. They formed a nonprofit ministry, Renewal Neighborhood Ministry, to continue the work of meeting needs in the area.
Now, the McCordsville Church plans to start a church in the neighborhood next year. A team of people from Outlook will commit to being part of the church to be planted there.
Ron Hulet, Renewal board member, is one of them. A year ago, he was among those helping distribute food to the families of 105 students at Charles Warren Fairbanks School when schools were closed to in-person learning amid the coronavirus quarantine.
“I love that the vision for this new church is to expand the relationships we have developed with our neighborhood friends,” Hulet said. “I look forward to worshiping and learning from our neighbors, as well as continuing to develop a holistic approach to meeting people’s emotional, physical, educational / professional and spiritual needs. “
Wilkins, Minister of Missions and Evangelism at Outlook and Chairman of the Renewal Board of Directors, will be the pastor of the new church. He’s previously shared posts at occasional worship nights at the Renewal Building, which serves as a hub for after-school tutoring and other aspects of Renewal’s ministry.
Outlook leaders say that Crossroads Church is supporting a new church planting plan and that Outlook and Crossroads will continue to engage in work that benefits the neighborhood together. They also say the new church in the Renewal neighborhood will not compete with other congregations, in part because of its unconventional approach.
Rob McCord, Premier of Outlook, calls him an embodied or missionary role model.
It is “a larger church… and one focused on service,” said McCord, “not what everyone might think of first when they think of the church.”
Wilkins plans to meet in small groups at the Renewal office. He said the monthly worship evenings were very informal, often with grills and worship music, “a kind of worship service (which) breaks out in the middle of this little barbecue,” he said.
Some neighbors of the Renewal building are bringing their food home. Some sit in their garden and sing; Wilkins can hear “amens” across the street. Still others showed up with a bowl of fruit or a pasta salad to offer.
“It’s a sign to me that people want to get involved, one of the signs to me that we were really well received by the community,” Wilkins said. “When people bring food… it tells me they want to be a part of what we’re doing. “
Outlook’s involvement in the field began several years ago. Church volunteers began tutoring school children through a ministry that sought to twin suburban and inner-city churches for cooperative ministry.
The center of ministry then vanished, but Outlook’s relationship with Charles Warren Fairbanks 105 School – and with Crossroads Bible Church north of it – continued. The churches worked on summer book club sessions for Fairbanks students in a mixed-use building on the Crossroads campus. The Christmas store for parents was installed in the same building.
In 2014, the area around 42nd and Post was designated by then-Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard as one of six areas requiring additional police patrols. When Mayor Joe Hogsett took office in 2016, he continued to focus on these areas.
Meanwhile, McCord and Wilkins printed news articles and maps and mulled over the location within 15 minutes of the Outlook front door.
“We started to dream and pray and think,” McCord said. “Maybe our heart for what might happen there was going to be bigger than the tutoring program.”
The years have been marked by progress while renewal is more and more part of the fabric of the neighborhood. There has also been personal growth for Wilkins, a former lawyer who joined the Outlook staff in 2013 and is now ready to lead a church.
“The whole ministry has been a very long road,” he said. “I like being where God is at work… the more I liked it, the more I wanted more.”
There is no way he was made to do that, he thinks, yet he feels that God has brought him to this stage and he gives in to the idea.
“Now that I am, this is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me – to me, anyway,” he said.
And if the job is to plant flower bulbs and flip burgers, that’s fine.
“We are here because of Jesus,” he said. “I’m happy to sweat for the Lord if that’s what it takes for people to hear the gospel.”