Not Done With God
Hello! My name is Ricky Brown, and on September 9, 2018, we launched New Creation Church in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. There are 200,000 residents within a 3-mile radius of Hyde Park, but very few Bible-centered churches in the neighborhood. On any given Sunday, 70% of the people who attend our church were not attending a church before we launched. We are a multi-ethnic, intergenerational community, and have become a place for people who are done with church but not done with God. Our goal is to reach at least 1% of the 200,000 people that live within close proximity to our church within the next 3 years!
The biggest challenge I have faced planting a healthy, reproducing church in a city like Chicago is the narrative surrounding evangelicalism in our country presently. This does not at all prevent us from reaching people, but it remains a constant point of concern with how we communicate the Gospel and market what we have to offer our community. In some regards, the Gospel message has been hi-jacked. The idea of church or Christianity that people have in their head is often skewed. Our strategy is to be widely visible while gently vocal. This means that we build relationships and credibility with our community through “repetitive presence”. Whatever is happening, we’re there. It’s just that simple. Being present allowed us to receive 315 contact cards filled out at a beer festival in our neighborhood called the Hyde Park Brew Fest. Being widely visible while gently vocal allowed us to be a vendor of the Silver Room Block Party the first year before we launched, and then a sponsor the next year. The Silver Room Block Party has 40,000 people in attendance. It gave us credibility and exposure, and people were open to accept our giveaways and chances to win prizes because we were a sponsor. Our brand and logo were right beside other reputable companies and non-profits. Combined, we received over 500 contacts cards filled out at the SRBP. The narrative around evangelicalism does not create a barrier to reach people, but it can definitely become a speed bump. So we have learned that through repetitive presence we can create real relationships and then share the Gospel. About 1/4 of our present church membership was initially engaged on the street at a beer festival or the block party.
As I shared earlier, 70% of the people in our church were not connected to a church before launched. What a joy! What an answer to prayer. This is the single most rewarding thing that gets our team excited to keep going. We also have been able to change some of the narrative of what people think attending a church will be like. The Midwest is still very traditional, even in a city like Chicago. For a 15-month time period before we launched, I visited one kind of church all over the U.S – the kind of church that was reaching people who don’t “do church”. They were Presbyterian, Charismatic Pentecostal, Reformed, Baptist, SBC, and non-denominational. But to my surprise they were all very much alike. I knew that there had to be something concerning the vibe of the ministry that encouraged believers to give faith a try. So from that, we adopted a high invitational culture to make people feel at home. There are enough presuppositions concerning going to a church, whether they are centered around, “Can Jesus really be the only way to heaven?” or, “Will I be accepted here?” If we can knock down one wall of hostility with a smile and a handshake or hug, then that’s a win.
The normal story most church leaders share is, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”. What I have found is new believers or un-believers that are new church attenders want to get involved and help. Whether that be setting up, tearing down, passing out flyers, or hanging signage, they actually want to work! They don’t want to sit by and watch you do your thing. They want to be mobilized and contribute in some way. This places the focus on always keeping new people and fresh blood circulating through the veins of the church. We need that zeal and passion. Sometimes it seems as though in the U.S., Christians gather in large rooms to be convinced that Jesus Christ has a mission that is worth giving their lives to, only to gather the next Sunday to be convinced all over again. I have found that new believers go from attending one service, to serving in some form, to attending new members class all in about a month. This is powerful and worth seeing happen time and time again. It will never get old.
Pastor Ricky Brown and his wife Amber reside in Hyde Park and have a passion for seeing lives changed by God. While Amber is a Chicago native, Ricky is originally from Jackson, MS. They met here in Chicago! Ricky has been in pastoral ministry for 14 years, with experience as a youth and executive pastor. He has a huge heart for missions and has preached the Gospel in Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, Jordan, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Ghana, and in prisons and churches throughout the United States.
Ricky is also a proud United States Air Force veteran who served in Operation Northern Watch and Operation Enduring Freedom. He chose to forgo a career as a commercial pilot to pursue pastoral ministry, because he felt a burden on his heart from God for ministry. In his spare time, he is a musician and composer. His primary instruments are soprano and alto saxophone.