Our inner-city church in Indianapolis offered many ministries to the poor: a soup kitchen, a sports ministry, free Thanksgiving turkey dinners. A back-to-school program gave out shoes, coats, and book bags.
We were proud of our reputation as "the church that stayed" instead of fleeing to the suburbs. Nevertheless, something was wrong. None of our outreach programs was leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Residents we touched were not entering into the life of the church. We remained an enclave for affluent, educated whites.
What was wrong? While wrestling with this question, I happened to read Luke 5, the story of Simon Peter, who spent all night fishing without catching any fish. As he sat frustrated on shore, Christ told him, "Put out into deeper water and let down your nets." I was struck by our church's similar situation. Where was the "deeper water" we needed to go? I identified four places.
1. Deeper relationships
Many of our outreach ministries were impersonal, treating people ...1