A short time after moving into the beautiful city of Baltimore, Maryland our family found ourselves rhythmically crossing the pre-established boundaries of race, socio-economics and neighborhood. A difficult task in and of itself, we knew that being rooted deeply in Jesus Christ would have to be our primary focus if we were to actually break down the walls of division and begin to build bridges.
Our approach to church planting is hyper-local and centered around the action of presence. We walk in and around those 20 neighborhoods on the York Road Corridor every day because we believe that Jesus modeled for us a ministry of presence. God’s presence in our lives is making us whole again and so we are on mission to reflect that presence into our neighborhood. We even named God’s Church in our neighborhood “Front Porch” because we have witnessed the power of presence on so many front porches in our community.
When you’re around a lot you meet a ton of people from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. We’ve befriended dual doctor homes and homeless folks in the same day. Being present also exposes you to lessons in different cultures, which has broadened my perspective ten-fold in the last few years. The 20+ neighborhoods of the York Road Corridor in Baltimore’s 4th District have so much nuanced language, memories, and expectations that I am still learning.
One learning experience happened on the York Road Corridor during a familiar rhythm, a prayer walk. I was walking with a friend, Jessie, reaching out to the community in Jesus name, lifting up the addicted, the gangs, those who have lost family to prison and senseless homicide, the poor, the sick, the wealthy, the lonely, the racist, and the oppressed.
Around mid-day on this cold and blustery day, we were stopped by a police officer who was concerned for our safety. Eleven young men had been victims of homicide in this area over the past few months, and the officer asked why we were there. We explained that we lived here and were walking the streets praying for our community. Confused and shocked, the officer pointed out 3 blocks to pray over where the violence is the worst.
As we continued down the street another block, we were soon joined by a man yelling out to the folks on the street “Loose Ones, Loose Ones!” Unaware of the meaning, we continued walking and praying. As we did, people who heard the warning quickly jumped up and headed into shops and homes leaving the street fairly abandoned. We completed our route, passing back by the officer who breathed an obvious sigh of relief, and headed home.
To this day, I still don’t know what “Loose Ones” means despite apparently being associated with them. Many have speculated that the gentleman was warning folks that we were undercover police. We chose to see it as God’s hand of protection. My presence as a white, comparatively wealthy man in some of our neighborhoods regularly begs questions from residents wondering if I am a cop or a priest. I’m then told that those are the only people who look like me that ever walk their streets.
Sometimes in church planting you just have to laugh. And realize that God’s given us our stories to shine light on His presence in our midst, so that our neighbors might experience the beauty of His Kingdom come.
This is the second post in the series “Church Planting Is Funny.” Read related posts HERE.
Andy McNeely, Church Planter
Andy McNeely and his wife, Janet, are planting Front Porch Christian Church in Baltimore, MD, in 2018. Previously, Andy was a resident at Restore Church, a Stadia church plant in Silver Spring, MD. Andy and Janet and their sons invite you to join them on their front porch.
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