Why Church Partnerships Really Matter in Detroit
Why indeed? Shirock thought. After all, his outreach vision had been inspired by Bekele Shanko, a Campus Crusade director in Africa who led a massive evangelism campaign in 2002. Operation Sunrise reportedly reached 64.5 million people with the gospel in 22 countries.
Several pastor lunches later, Shirock found himself with a movement on his hands and, in time, a Detroit minister at his side. Brooks had seen Detroit's population plummet and its buildings empty over his lifetime. But he also sensed the city desperately needed its churches to step up, and that Detroit's Berlin Wall moment had arrived.
"There were some racial walls that were ready to come down," says Brooks, 36. "We were the generation that was privileged enough to be able to say, Hey, tear down those walls between the city and suburb. What's 8 Mile but a road?"
The city's northern boundary, made famous in the 2002 movie 8 Mile, starring Detroit rapper Eminem, has been more code than road, the symbolic divide between more and less, white and black. North of it lie middle class and affluent suburbs like Birmingham, where Shirock grew up.
With Brooks offering to head up an urban wing, Shirock's vision of one suburban church's outreach grew to hundreds on both sides of 8 Mile. It would be a true partnership, not suburban forays into the city "with photo ops."
"The mission pulled us together," says Shirock, 58. "We [had] a job to do, so instantly we found ourselves unified."
That in itself was remarkable though not entirely new. Since 2006, two dozen city and suburban churches have teamed in the Detroit Partnership (sponsored by the Institute for Black Family Development) to train Christian leaders and deliver neighborhood services. But nothing on the scale of EACH has happened before, local leaders say.
"It is very unprecedented," says Dion Williams, a former liaison to the faith community for Mayor Dave Bing. "It's everyone coming together to build up God's community. I think they're doing a phenomenal job."