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L.A. church planter recounts genesis of outreach to needy

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Don Overstreet recounted his ministry as a church planting strategist in southeast Los Angeles during the June 10 annual meeting of the North American Church Planter’s Fellowship in St. Louis.

Borrowing a line from a country song, Overstreet said people are “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

“They are needing to hear and wanting to know,” Overstreet said.

Overstreet works with Set Free Christian Fellowship, a Southern Baptist ministry seeking to assist homeless individuals, alcoholics, drug abusers and prostitutes.

The principle that guides his ministry, Overstreet said, is that we “pray to the Lord of the harvest” that he might “raise up workers out of the harvest.”

The ministry was founded by Willie Dalgity, a pastor who answered God’s call to assist the poor and needy.

Overstreet learned about Set Free when his son abused drugs. Forced to kick him out of the house when he wouldn’t change, Overstreet said he prayed daily for two years for God to reach his son.

About five years ago, his son contacted him for help and he sent him to the ranch run by Set Free. Overstreet’s son is now the youth pastor at Set Free in Yucaipa, Calif.

In the last seven and a half years, Overstreet said 24 Set Free fellowships have been formed with an emphasis on inner-city ministry to the poor — people who can be found where “Jesus would be.”

In the past five years, 10,000-15,000 people have been saved through the ministries of Set Free Fellowship, he said.

Overstreet now trains people to be church planters.

“These people don’t have seminary educations,” he said. “They just have a love for Jesus.”

About four years ago, Matt Brown walked into Overstreet’s office in Riverside, Calif., wanting to start a “postmodern” church. Following five weeks of training at Set Free’s Pastor’s School, Brown began a Bible study with six people in a small community room of an apartment complex. “They are now running over 700 at a church called Sandals.”

They call it Sandals, Overstreet said, because “‘Blessed are the feet of those who go’ and we need to go all the time.

“Guys who start churches are reproducers,” Overstreet said. “They know how to reach the cities.

“It’s simple,” he said, referring to planting a church. “We need to be broken. We just need to be obedient to God and go. We just need to find where Jesus is working and go.”

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  • John Hannigan