A Tapestry of Relationships
My name is Carl Johnson, and I am an inner-city church planter. We first got the dream of Faith City Church on May 29 of 2016. I was sitting in my room watching the footage of 700 men, women, and children drowning. I immediately began to weep. I was running a juvenile justice ministry for our church. I just didn’t know what was going on in my heart, but I started to see that I was broken over broken people. This hurled us into a movement to reach those who are broken and lost. I think that day was the first day Faith City was formed in my heart. I didn’t know what I was actually getting myself into, but I knew God was developing a new heart for the broken in my heart. Faith City Church is an inner-city church focused on ending everyday hunger through the redemptive plan of Jesus. We are a neighborhood-focused church, so we make disciples who live in our neighborhood. We are a multifaceted church that includes socio-economic, multicultural, and multigenerational fellowship of believers. We tend to say we are made up of misfits.
One thing that is has opened my eyes is my identity to the nations. Saint Paul is a growing global city. Organically growing into a town of cross-cultural expansion. We have friends from East Africa to Russia. A beautiful tapestry of relationship is forming seeing the kingdom of God in my neighborhood. We partner with cultural centers for Aztec dance to feeding indigenous people, such as Ojibwa and Lakota people. The beauty is that every missionary on furlough loves to walk and witness in our neighborhood because every country they visit is seen in our inner-city community. We found a great time of engaging people in our Mission and vision for seeing the Kingdom of God come in our community. Faith City Church exists to reach 4500 families in Dayton’s Bluff who represent people in poverty. Our vision is to Change Destinies by Ending every day Hunger. Our Mission is to bring the redemptive plan of Jesus to change lives by reaching families to have access to affordable food through community and discipleship. We will build 500 discipleship relationships in the neighborhood by the year 2021. We will hope to have 250 families transitioned out of poverty.
We have seen a few challenges with working in the inner city. The last new start that was established in our neighborhood was in 1902. We have had new church plants, but they have shut down after a year, merged with another church, or found it challenging to build a base fo followers who are in the neighborhood. We have been in the community for 3 years, and the major challenge for the church in the area is that the neighborhood is unfavorable to life-giving churches because of two significant reasons. The first reason is not many churches have been planted around the block or engaged the community with Gospel for some time. We are in a space where our worship services have to be flexible because we meet out of a recreation center. We have known of four churches that have started there and closed.
It is challenging to know that the neighborhood doesn’t have many new churches, which is a steep path to navigate. The second obstacle that doesn’t work is no one is actually looking for a church in the traditional mindset. 250,000 people in Saint Paul don’t have any religious affiliation. The churches that survive in Saint Paul are planted by other local churches. That wasn’t our story, and being a black church planter that wants to plant a multicultural church, it is difficult for that dynamic to be seen when African Americans are not a massive populous.
We have had to readjust our approach to reaching people in our neighborhood quite a bit. We have seen words that have made people leave our launch team, such as discipleship, disciple-making, sharing the Gospel, evangelism. We have seen one thing work more than anything, and that is prayer. I worked for a church plant in St.Louis, and I learned to pray there. Our church plant has taught us to pray specifically for our neighbors, our teachers, our recreation center director. We have also seen many victories in the 3 years we have been here. The first significant victory happened 2 years ago during one of our annual block parties. I saw a woman and her daughter walking from two blocks away. She took two buses to get our Block Party this year. This was our second year hosting this block party. It was raining, and we planned on doing a Gospel message and baptism for whoever wanted to be baptized.
This day everything was late; we partnered with someone who made our sound. Our volunteers were delayed, and it started raining. Our caterer was not on time. I had contemplated canceling. My wife was concerned because I never canceled anything because we want to remain consistent. Then everything started to come together. I greeted Diane, and I told her to sign up for the giveaways. Diane replied I didn’t come for the giveaways. I came to be baptized! This broke the spiritual warfare that happened that day.
We have been pointing people to Christ in a more significant way. We baptized a whole family this year. We are discipling people on a consistent basis. The time you are reading this article, we are opening a micro grocery store that will reach 4500 people this year who we will build relationships with to fuel this harvest in Dayton’s Bluff Saint Paul. We are seeing the Gospel in our family’s life, but what is even more important that is multiplying in the few families we are encountering.
We at Faith City Church hope this one lets you see God is still given the vision to reach neighborhoods and cities. God wants us to be disciples makers and teach the commands of Jesus. This can happen in many ways, but there is a faithful remnant in Saint Paul sharing the redemptive message of Jesus that will transform our cities.
Carl is a Father, Husband, youth mentor and church planter. This was not always his story he was a member of the 5% nation, a large group of Muslims started by Clarence X that is vibrant in black communities. Carl came to the confession of christianity in 2010. Carl has traveled to over 22 states and over 100 of churches sharing the message “ I am crucified with Christ”.
Carl has a mission to abolish food insecurity in major cities starting with St.paul believing that race and economic justice is tied to food. He is a pastor in the twin cities, and appointed committee member in the City of St.Paul of Food and Nutrition. He is on the leadership team of Mission St.Paul a gathering of St.Paul pastors that promote unity in the city of St.Paul.
Carl’s extensive knowledge of black muslim culture and structures of identities in the black community has propelled his work with racial injustice. Carl often engages in circles and individuals cross culturally to see the body of Christ work in unity.