By Chris Moon
Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville, Ind., will plant a new church early next year in a vulnerable neighborhood in the Indianapolis metro.
The church plant comes after a five-year journey in which Outlook—located in the outskirts of Indianapolis—invested heavily in serving the needs of the neighborhood (near Post Road and 42nd Street) and the public school located there.
The original plan was just to offer tutoring to neighborhood kids. A church wasn’t in view, said Mike Wilkins, missions and outreach minister for Outlook Christian Church.
But one thing has led to another.
“We expanded the ministry a little bit at a time,” said Wilkins, who will lead the new congregation.
“Through our work there we have come to understand that though the ministry we’ve enjoyed and the relationships we’ve built have been so meaningful, we are missing a super powerful component,” said senior minister Rob McCord, “a church in the neighborhood with a heart for the neighborhood.”
Outlook first reached out to the neighborhood in the far northeast side of the Indianapolis metro after it had been rated as one of the more vulnerable communities in the city. Wilkins said the community is only a 15-minute drive from the church but “a world away socioeconomically.”
Factors like crime, mental health, and poverty are what drove the neighborhood into the spotlight. Wilkins said the area doesn’t even have a name—at least not one that the church has been able to discern.
“From a missional point of view, the people are so unrooted, there’s not even a name for the community they live in,” he said.
The church started with a tutoring program in the local school—IPS 105.
That grew into afterschool, summer, and sports programs sponsored by the church. About a year later, the church launched a nonprofit organization—Renewal Neighborhood Ministry—from which to operate and to attract grant funding to aid in the work.
In August 2019, the ministry rented a house where it could expand its tutoring operation. That led into additional ministry to parents and neighboring residents.
Pretty soon, the church was having cookouts that veered off into worship services.
“The more we served, the more God opened up the door to serve more,” Wilkins said.
A NEW CHURCH
The new church, Wilkins said, does not yet have a name but likely will use the term “Renewal” in its moniker because of the familiarity its nonprofit organization has with people in the area.
And true to form, the church will start small. It won’t have its own building at the start.
“We feel like we don’t necessarily need a location to get started,” he said.
The church initially will be comprised of three house churches that will meet in the home the church is renting in the neighborhood (pictured). Wilkins said the church hopes to grow from three groups to six during the first year—and then double again during the second year.
He envisions a true multiethnic church by the end of the second year, matching the neighborhood that has significant Hispanic and African-American communities.
Wilkins is a former attorney who didn’t enter full-time ministry until he was in his 50s. He said when Christians start saying “yes” to God, then God gives them more and more opportunities to say “yes.”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be pastoring a multicultural church in a neighborhood that deals with the issues this neighborhood does,” Wilkins said.
“This has been an exciting journey both for [Outlook Christian] Church and for Mike personally,” McCord said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.