SBC Life Articles

Churches on Mission

When Sojourn Community Church assessed the physical and spiritual need in its neighborhood, one fact became clear — no church could meet such massive need alone.

So the Louisville congregation began to partner with fellow Southern Baptists and other likeminded believers to counter the poverty, racial tensions, and spiritual darkness around it. Sojourn's efforts culminated recently in a free medical clinic that harnessed volunteers from twenty-six churches to provide free medical services to 182 of its neighbors. At least 120 of those neighbors were not Christians and thirty-two requested that Sojourn follow-up with them in some way.

"As we have been exposed to the needs of the city, we have found that we cannot alone carry the weight of the need," Nathan Ivey, director of Sojourn's mercy ministry, said. "There's a need to collaborate with other churches."

As part of that collaboration, the congregation helped organize a conference in March on urban and suburban ministry partnerships. Urban ministry experts spent two days discussing such topics as the hope and fear associated with cross-cultural ministry and the characteristics of churches that transform their neighborhoods. The medical clinic capped the conference by offering four hours of free medical care and a Gospel witness to anyone in need.

"The medical clinic reaches so many unbelievers because there's so much physical need," Ivey said. "We've found in conversations and through relationships that physical needs are often so dominant that they're the focus of life for people in our neighborhood. Meeting those needs gives opportunity to expose people to the reality of their spiritual as well as relational needs."

At the clinic, 175 volunteers coordinated the visit of each family from start to finish to ensure that physical and spiritual needs both were addressed. The waiting area was an auditorium where a band played bluegrass music and young preachers presented the Gospel every thirty minutes.

When they left the auditorium, guests visited a nurse triage area for preliminary exams. Next, a second waiting area included an opportunity for children to learn the meaning of Easter until a doctor could see their family. After doctors, dentists, and chiropractors administered treatment, patients could visit a clothes closet and eat a warm meal on the way out. For children there were games aplenty.

"Some churches are all about God's Word but neglect deeds that match their faith," Ivey said. "Others do good deeds without proclaiming the Gospel. Sojourn desires to be a church that is all about God's Word and good deeds. We seek to follow Jesus, who was mighty in both word and deed."

Prior to the clinic, Sojourn's entire congregation mobilized to advertise the event among neighbors. The church's small groups, which meet throughout the week, were cancelled a week and a half prior to the clinic so that group members could knock on more than four thousand doors to invite prospective guests.

After the clinic, follow-up requests ranged from financial aid to optometrist referrals, food, bus tickets, furniture, and notification of future free clinics. Several people have started attending church as a result of the clinic.

In the future, Sojourn and its ministry partners plan to host two to three free clinics per year with the next occurring in the fall at Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville.

According to Ivey, the free clinic is just one of many ways Sojourn befriends its neighbors and demonstrates the Gospel's life changing effects. Since the congregation established an organized benevolence ministry last August, it has assisted more than fifty families in need.

"We're so blessed that God has given us a heart for the neighborhood, coupled with boldness and courage to share and demonstrate the Good News of Christ's love," he said.

How did Sojourn determine the top needs in its community? They asked.

"For example, we asked government officials, residents, and neighborhood leaders what are some of the top needs in our community, and they said, 'One of the top needs that we have in the neighborhood is to clean up the streets because the neighborhood gets neglected if the garbage trucks get behind in their schedule,'" Ivey said.

"So the city, along with other agencies, has provided us with hundreds and hundreds of bags and gloves, and we have done dozens and dozens of street cleanups. In all of our neighborhoods, when they see a young person carrying a white trash bag, they know that's Sojourn Community Church. This is just one need among many that we are addressing."

Sojourn insists that its community mission efforts are not unusual but represent obedience to the commands God gives every church.

"We encourage other churches to listen to the community that surrounds them and seek ways to pray for and practically show a love for the community," Ivey said. "Pray for their residents. Pray for their neighbors. Seek ways to come alongside neighbors and love them, so that you may demonstrate the power of the Gospel before a lost and dying world."

When it comes to cooperative ministry, Ivey urged strong support of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' cooperative mechanism for funding missions and ministry. In addition, he noted the Gospel advance Sojourn has seen by partnering with other Christians who love the Gospel.

"We are deeply moved and encouraged by the involvement of other Southern Baptist churches here," he said. "But to see the multi-denominational involvement (in the clinic) was a beautiful picture of the unity of the body of Christ. When we rally around the Gospel and good deeds, God accomplishes amazing things for His glory."

For other churches, Sojourn has a radical challenge — meet two needs in your community each month in the name of Christ and see what God does.

"Just imagine if every church in the city of Louisville was demonstrating the redemptive power of the Gospel to their neighbors and was meeting at least two of their needs each month," he said. "There would be a radical transformation.

"It's such a simple concept and it's catalytic. Other churches in our neighborhood see what we're doing and get excited about the opportunities that are wide open."


Dr. Johnny Hunt has invited the SBC messengers to attend a panel discussion hosted by Sojourn Community Church and Baptist 21 during the lunch break on Tuesday, June 23, at Sojourn Community Church, 930 Mary Street, in Louisville. For directions and information on registering go to www. sojournchurch.com. Seating is limited.