Street Deacons

The most important central theme of both CPM and DMM is the determination to push ministry out of central control or central leadership to every believer.  Every time I come across another story of a leader who entrusted others with ministry opportunities, it illustrates how embracing the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 always leads to significantly greater impact of the gospel.  This little story comes from the book Misfits Welcome by Matthew Barnett, who started a ministry to street people in Los Angeles.  Obviously this is a very different type of ministry than CPM / DMM, but the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 is illustrated none the less.

Let me tell you about some people God used. When my church finally started to grow, we were hitting an attendance level of around fifty people. The challenge is that more than forty of those fifty were people who came on our buses from Skid Row. Skid Row is a place where people line both sides of several streets in the Los Angeles business district, sleeping around bonfires, cardboard boxes, and tents. Sadly, women and children occupy these cold, dark streets. There are pockets of Skid Row where people line up against walls and practically inject needles until they die— hence the name Skid Row. Many years ago, our church received its first donation of a brand new bus. We were so excited. We took that bus down to Skid Row, and during the course of a few months forty homeless people began regularly meeting us for rides to church. Can you imagine looking out on Sunday morning and nearly every person in the church being homeless? I was a pastor who didn’t understand anything about homelessness, and I had a congregation of homeless people who just came for the free food after every service. A misfit pastor and a misfit congregation. We were all out of place. Shockingly, the people started to come to church and bring their friends. Since 80 percent of the people in our church were homeless, we didn’t have many volunteers, so God gave us an idea for a position called “Street Deacons.” (Don’t judge. You have to work with what you have!) I appointed these guys as church staff to help me get as many people on the bus to come to church as possible. You should’ve seen the smiles on the faces of some of these men. They couldn’t believe someone would love them, believe in them, and give them such a great title. One man cried when I told him that he could be a Street Deacon. Several of the men stopped drinking because they were so honored that they would have this chance. Many of the guys sobered up, dressed up, cleaned up because a pastor had given them a chance to have a role in the church. They went out on the streets and gathered up friends. Every week they would check in with me and give updates on their progress. They lived for this chance and they made the best of it. They just needed someone to believe the best in them. The first staff members who joined me were an interesting collection of individuals. However, they were the seeds that would later grow into the miracle we now call the Dream Center.

According to Wikipedia,

When the church began in September 1994, there were 39 members. The congregation grew from an average attendance of 48 on Sunday morning to reaching more than 35,000 people each week in the Center’s 40 services and 273 ministries and outreaches.”

So giving ministry to skid row “misfits” seems to have worked!