Pathway 4: Investing
Pathway 4 involves participating in a targeted, intensive initiative by one’s own congregation to serve a particular people group, neighborhood, or cause in a way that strategically employs our vocational power.
In Pittsburgh, PA, Alleghany Center Alliance Church has decided to focus its outreach on its own urban neighborhood of North Side. It desires a bold transformation of this community and funnels the diverse talents of its congregants toward initiatives to bless this corner of the city.
When pastor Rock Dillaman moved into Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood and saw its pain, he realized that God wanted ACAC to do more than just wishing the residents well. He began studying the scriptures afresh and his eyes were opened to the pervasive theme of justice and God’s heart for the poor. His preaching, he says, enlarged its focus. “If a church like ACAC—situated in the midst of poverty, bigotry, addiction, violence, gangs, dysfunction, and brokenness—isn’t addressing those issues, it’s largely irrelevant and its witness will be extremely weak,” he says.
In bringing about the rejoicing of the North Side neighborhood, Pastor Rock believes everyone at ACAC can use their “gift sets and vocation” to help others and bring foretastes of the Kingdom. “Our people combine two things,” he says. “The Biblical command to [serve], and the clear sense that God has called ACAC to remain here [in the North Side] and be a blessing.”
Over the past twenty years ACAC members have deployed their vocational talents creatively. Two doctors from ACAC helped found the North Side Christian Health Center in 1993. It recently added space to meet high demand (last year it recorded over 14,000 patient visits). Lawyers from ACAC volunteer their services at Christian Legal Aid (CLA), which enjoys free office space at ACAC’s multi-story building in the heart of the community. And when chef Nikki Heckman from ACAC came up with the idea of starting a new restaurant just two blocks from the church, ACAC got enthusiastically behind the venture. The church paid her salary for a year while she built the foundation for Bistro-to-Go. Today the restaurant “employs 23 people at living wages and continues to grow dramatically despite the hard economy.”
The principal temptation to be fought on this pathway is the failure to undertake the work in a “ministry with” paradigm, as opposed to a “ministry to” paradigm.