Under the leadership of Pastor David Franklin, Miracle City Church (formerly known as Miracle Temple) in Baltimore, Maryland has become known for its community involvement. The church sets high goals to reach and transform its surrounding community.
At the launch of 2016, the church’s members and leaders were challenged to make 100,000 service connections by the end of the year. The goal was exceeded with 127,569 connections within eight months. This approach is part of Miracle City’s three-prong strategic plan to put the gospel into practice - Serve the City, Win the City, the Build the City.
The “service connections” were part of the “Serve the City” plan, which laid the foundation to “Win the City.”
“It’s very nice to meet temporary needs, but if you really want to have a long lasting impact on the community you actually need to change the structures that exist within the community,” says Franklin. “That work is longer term and has different complexities to it. [But] It will allow the church to see a visible change in the community.”
For Miracle City, winning the city has involved revitalizing a local library, creating a faculty resource lounge, and developing a community garden. This asset-based community development is also part of the Church’s “50 for 50” campaign to renovate 50 structures in the community in honor of Miracle City’s 50th anniversary.
“It’s been a great journey so far,” says Franklin.
The final component is to build the city. The church plans to “transform certain sections in the city of Baltimore that are impoverished and forgotten,” says Franklin. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty - that’s 10.3 percent higher than the national poverty level.
This community-based approach is believed to be one of the factors behind Miracle City’s high attendance, but that hasn’t always been the case since he began his ministry in Baltimore three years ago. The church lost 75 members when the culture began to change, according to Franklin. While every plan was approved by the church’s business and board meetings, he says many of the members were unsettled because leaders “hadn’t taken enough time … to make sure folks were on board with what we decided."
Out of this reflection, Franklin instituted the “Teach. Expose. Shock.” method for guiding church leaders and members to a community-oriented congregation model.
After a vision is cast, leaders need to “spend time ensuring that the vision is solidified in the teachings of the gospel.” The next step is to “expose” the church to outside models to see what can be learned. Then there’s the “shock.” Franklin says, “you have to take the step forward. Folks won’t always be comfortable, but you have to make the jump.”
“If you’ve done the teaching and the exposing, I believe the congregation and particularly the leaders will be able to absorb the shock, and won’t feel like the church is being changed or destroyed,” says Franklin.
The thread that binds the “Teach.Expose.Shock.” process is listening. After every step, Franklin sets time to listen and check in with his leaders and members. He’ll ask, “How are you receiving this? Are we on the same page? Are there any questions?” “It’s all about quality listening,” says Franklin.
He believes this model can work for other churches, but it is dependent on the pastor’s passion to serve the community.
“If it’s not your heartbeat, passion, then I believe it’s never going to work. The reason why it should be your passion is because it was Jesus’ passion. Jesus met the people where they were, he met their needs, sought their good, then begged him to ‘Follow Me.’ I believe it is a gospel-centric idea to be a community-focused church, and it is our calling as pastors to lead our congregations to do that,” says Franklin.
“If your church leaves its community, would it be missed?” is a common question posed when discussing community involvement. Franklin says if the answer is no, “There should be some heart searching and congregational searching. We all have to do so to ensure that we are making the gospel visible in the communities we serve.”
Mylon Medley is a news writer and producer for the North American Division