Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > 2014 > June > Signs of Life
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

When you visit Life in Deep Ellum, the last word that comes to mind is "church." Directors Joel and Rachel Triska are just fine with that. They describe Life in Deep Ellum as "a cultural center built for the artistic, social, economic, and spiritual benefit of Deep Ellum and urban Dallas."

Housed in an industrial-style building in the heart of Dallas' artsy Deep Ellum district, the center is a veritable smorgasbord of creative culture. Walk through the front doors and you enter a stark gallery with avantgarde art. Turn to the right and you'll land in a coffee shop. This isn't your typical church coffee shop with a donation jar and a few carafes. Think Intelligentsia—dark ambiance, soft leather chairs, with baristas swirling amongst hissing machines.

Past the art gallery and down a hall, at the very back of the building, is an opening with wood floors and a small stage. It looks like the setting for an Indie rock concert (and sometimes is), but this is where their faith community meets at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

Running a center with so many moving parts is a challenge, "like trying to hug a Sequoia," Joel says. But the holistic approach is central to their vision. Drew Dyck sat down with Joel and Rachel to talk about the unique ministry and what the relationship with their community can teach others.

How did Life in Deep Ellum start?

Joel: In the late 1990s and early 2000s Deep Ellum was thriving. The art and music scene were hot. It was the height of the punk and Goth scene. The streets were packed all night long. But around 2008 Deep Ellum suffered an economic crash. Bar after bar, music venue after music venue shut down. I remember a cover of The Dallas Observer. It showed an image of a tombstone with "Deep Ellum" etched in the stone. The message was clear: Deep Ellum was dead.

What was your strategy coming into a dying community?

Joel: We didn't just want to be a spiritual benefit; we wanted to address the community holistically. We saw the name of the organization, "Life in Deep Ellum," as a prophetic call of what we were about—bringing life to a place in desperate need of it.

Rachel: We hit the streets of Deep Ellum and did over 1,000 interviews asking people, "What would you miss if Deep Ellum was gone? What is your favorite aspect of this community?" Then we took all of those responses and narrowed it down to four things that residents really valued. It was art, music, community, and commerce. So we decided to build our cultural center and our faith community on those four pillars. We believed God was already at work and we wanted to get behind what he was doing.

How were you received initially?

Rachel: Some people were suspicious. They would ask, "Why are you doing this? What's your agenda?" We stressed that we didn't have one. Yes, we want people to come into a relationship with Jesus, but we wanted to simply underscore ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

From Issue:Innovation & Creativity, June 2014 | Posted: June 2, 2014

Also in this Issue: June 2014

How Did Jesus View the Bible?

How Did Jesus View the Bible?Subscriber Access Only

A review of Taking God at His Word
Dancing in the Rain

Dancing in the Rain

Erwin McManus on how being "naked and unashamed" led to new faith, new life, and new believers.
Preaching with Wonder

Preaching with WonderSubscriber Access Only

And more helpful tools from Christianity Today
Three Rooms With a View

Three Rooms With a ViewSubscriber Access Only

The right kind of creativity brings clarity to ministry confusion.

Subscribe to read more

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Craig R Johnson

June 25, 2014  10:18am

Excellent article! I appreciate the references to approach a growing a local body as missionary venture. Contextualization is crucial to showing up on anyone's radar screen. We must find the connecting point(s) of our particular people and be fearless in loving them.

Report Abuse

Joel Triska

June 06, 2014  1:47pm

Thanks for coming by and checking out our Cultural Center, Drew! It was great meeting you. www.lifeindeepellum.com

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
Four Unexpected Benefits of a Small Church

Four Unexpected Benefits of a Small Church

You see empty pews. I see community.
Sister Sites
Keeping Your Leaders FreshBuilding Church Leaders

Keeping Your Leaders Fresh