Dallas has more churches than any other U.S. metroplex, but a significant population is still overlooked and undeserved. We’re here to change that.
We loaded the truck on the hottest day of the year. The sun beat mercilessly down on our backs as we lugged mattresses, furniture, and box after box down three flights of stairs in the South Carolina humidity. Everything we owned was stacked meticulously into the back of a 25-foot enclosed trailer. When all was said and done, I looked at the three flights of stairs and declared, “That was awful! I’m so glad we won’t have to walk up and down three flights of stairs anymore!”
Bishop Ron Carpenter, Sr. once said that the gospel message must always remain the same, but our methods should adapt to use the tools of our times. For our family, that means serving “the least of these” through Mission:M25. We’ve spent the past 10 years building relationships in the 1% biker community, serving veterans on Run for the Wall, reaching kids through Free Camp, and partnering with churches to host community outreach events. Through each opportunity, we have learned a bit more about advancing the kingdom through service. Now, we are adapting to a new method that led us to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Our mission: to help launch a house church as part of the Arise 2033 initiative.
In 1985, D Magazine’s headline read, “Is Dallas the Most Christian City in the Nation?” More than 30 years later, the question is still legitimate – the DFW Metroplex has somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 churches, with more springing up each year. So why plant a church in what seems to be some of the most tilled soil in the U.S.?
The reality is that although there are many churches, there are still people who are unchurched or dechurched, and those who slip through the proverbial cracks. One of those cracks is apartment communities – hundreds people living side by side, yet barely knowing each other. The problem in apartment communities is threefold. First, high turnover means residents are less likely to build relationships within the community. Second, property management groups lose thousands of dollars a month on short-term apartment rentals, empty units, and high turnover. Third, residents who are less established in the community are less likely to “put down roots” with a local church. In short, apartments are a unique harvest field waiting for willing workers.
This is where we are called to serve. Through a series of events that could only be God-ordained, we encountered a faith-based, non-profit organization that has been serving the apartment industry since 2000. They believe every individual is created for community and that they are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Their goal is to live this out while providing strong business value to apartment owners.
As part of an apartment ministry team, we serve onsite at a community with nearly 500 units. We provide a residential service by hosting two community events each month, welcoming new residents, and building relationships with established residents. All of this leads to increased retention, higher resident satisfaction, and better online reviews for the property. But the heart of apartment ministry isn’t getting the most five-star Google reviews or hosting the coolest Super Bowl party. Our heart is relational evangelism, similar to Mission:M25’s BALNAM approach. We are here, first and foremost, to share the gospel. Everything else is simply a tool for the mission.
Here are three examples of the God-ordained encounters we’ve experienced as we serve this community:
*Vanessa works full time and goes to school. She popped in at one of our events and said she just came to grab some food for her “study break.” Twenty minutes later, she was still chatting with us. She showed up at more events, always lingering even as she insisted she needed to get back to schoolwork. Vanessa joined us for a potluck and Bible study in our apartment this past January. As we read through I John, Carolyn Burd felt led to encourage Vanessa in her calling as a teacher. Vanessa sat with tears streaming down her face as she received encouragement and prayer, and she took a Bible home with her that night.
*Shea and her nephew were struggling to move her new washer and dryer into her apartment. Angel jumped to help them, then grabbed his tools to hook up the units for her. Shea exclaimed, “You’re the most genuinely nice man I have ever met!” That encounter opened the door for us to tell her about our church plant and Mission:M25, and now Shea wants to help us feed the homeless!
*Charlotte and Sean have three kids. Our boys developed a friendship over Nerf guns and superheroes. We invited them to several faith-based events, but they showed no interest in hearing the gospel. One evening, Charlotte called us in tears. She was late for her job at the bowling alley. Sean wasn’t home yet, and he had their only vehicle. Could we possibly watch the kids until he arrived? And give her a ride to work? Of course we could! Mégan drove Charlotte while Angel expertly wrangled kids until Sean arrived. That night, the couple who never wanted to talk religion poured their relationship troubles out to us as one sat in our car and the other sat at our kitchen table – a truly God-orchestrated moment that allowed us to counsel and pray for them.
St. Francis of Assisi is credited as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” We’ve used that quote for years; now, as we serve in a new capacity that requires us to adhere to Fair Housing Laws, we find St. Francis’ quote more relevant than ever. The gospel comes alive through our actions first, then through our words as we build trust with residents.
This type of kingdom work is a long-term investment. There is much planting and watering, and no guarantee we will personally see the harvest. Several of the residents we’ve grown close to will be moving out in the coming months. We can only pray that the seeds of the gospel will continue to grow as they move to a new community – hopefully one that also has an apartment ministry team!
Oh, and our new apartment? It’s at the top of five flights of stairs. God does indeed have a sense of humor – and a plan. We’re trusting Him to guide us each step of the way.
*names have been changed to honor privacy
By: Mégan Alba