To Reach One More: Indianapolis Innovation adds Excellence to Servanthood
By Kevin Spear
Something exciting is happening at Indianapolis’ Church at the Crossing. It is reflected in their web address—www.golove.org. Pastor James Roberts gives a fair warning. “It’s not a good time to go to Church at the Crossing if you don’t like getting your hands dirty!”
Before the pandemic, it was easy to overlook or not see the needs of our community. However, now their vision to “go love one more” is lived out by meeting the evident and growing needs they see in our community.
Out of the vision came One More Ministries. Executive director Lauren Miller explains. “The name came out of Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety-and-nine to find the one more. When I moved to Indianapolis, I admit I didn’t see the need. But as I got involved, I discovered a diverse population, right down the road, that includes many immigrants and refugees, with specific needs.”
With the renewed vision, the church began three specific ministries. First was a food ministry, followed by pro bono legal services, and then a pro-life ministry for women who have chosen to embrace life. “The goal has been to roll out a new outreach ministry every several months as we learn of the needs,” says Pastor Roberts.
“We had congregants who wanted to give through their company’s matching giving program. But they couldn’t if it went directly to the church,” adds Pastor Roberts.
One More, and all the local outreach efforts, are controlled by the church but run through a separate 501(c)(3). By creating a separate nonprofit, they can work more collaboratively with other community organizations and receive funding that will go to faith-based nonprofits but not churches.
The decision has led to increased donations, grants, and giving from the business community. “We don’t hide our church connection and do not miss any opportunity to share the gospel with those we are serving,” says Miller. “But we have found advantages to having the separate entity.” The nonprofit has its site at www.onemoreindy.org.
The food ministry began a year ago with pop-up pantries. “We did a lot of listening and learning,” says Miller. Recently, the food market moved to a new location in the church’s old choir area. Miller explains the concept behind the new One More Neighborhood Market: “We don’t call it a pantry. Instead, we want a market feel where our neighbors can shop for quality, healthy, and wanted items. When our neighbors enter the market, we want them to feel valued.” The word “market” sounds more dignified than a food pantry.
Pastor Roberts agrees. “Dignity is important. Many immigrants have moved to the area and have felt their dignity stripped. A person can’t experience love from another if they feel degraded. Recently, a Muslim gentleman came to our market. He was astounded and couldn’t understand why Christians would treat him so well.”
The market pairs each participant with a shopping cart and partner. The partner’s goal is to build a relationship with the participant. The participant receives points for each item. Macaroni and cheese cost one point. Diapers have no points. “Families often can’t buy items like cleaning supplies, spices, oil, or diapers with government assistance. So we make an effort to provide those items at low point values,” says Miller.
The market operates on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from 10:00 AM to noon, hoping to be open every week as soon as possible. In addition to store donations, CATC congregants are faithful each week, bringing in bags of food donations and also bringing in contributions from their gardens. “Our neighbors coming to shop love it,” says Miller. “One neighbor took the peppers and tomatoes and held them to his heart, expressing gratitude for fresh produce.”
The market has been a great success and fulfilled the community’s needs while energizing the congregation. “Our emphasis on diversity and the commitment to being in fellowship with our community has led to many new families in our church,” says Roberts. “We see over 150 in attendance at our Arabic-speaking service and have just started a Spanish ministry that is reaching many of our Spanish-speaking neighbors.”
Church at the Crossing has found a creative way to encourage the ninety-and-nine to pursue and love one more.
Kevin Spear worked for Warner Press and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. Today, he is content creator and storyteller for OneHope in Pompano Beach, Florida. He is also a ministry partner with his wife Paula, an ordained minister in the Church of God.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.