When Shaun King came to Atlanta as a 17-year-old on a college scholarship, the Kentucky native noticed abandoned church buildings dotting many inner-city neighborhoods.
“I realized one reason it was so bad was because the few churches that remained were these isolated, insulated congregations that didn’t even know where to start,” he says.
King began to dream about a church that would courageously reach into places no other churches would go—the most dangerous neighborhoods and lives of people who had no interest in God. In fall 2008, King stood ready to launch Courageous Church in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
“We felt like people would respond positively to an inner-city outreach for children much more than to ‘Come to our church’s grand opening,’” King says.
So from a computer in his bedroom, he used free social networking tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to raise $20,000 for a hugely successful toy and uniform giveaway at an inner-city Atlanta elementary school before Christmas that earned national media coverage.
“When other churches saw what we did, they assumed we spent a ton of money or had a ton of people. Not only did we not have a lot of money or people, we hadn’t started yet,” King says.
Two months after the church’s January 2009 launch, with 100 to 200 people worshipping in a high-rise office building in a downtown business district, King planned another outreach: a free hot breakfast each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Unchurched locals—from Ivy League grads to homeless families—flocked to the eggs and bacon, but many stayed for the service, where they heard a Gospel message and a local deejay spinning worship music for the diverse crowd.
Come April, King coordinated a seven-day “Servolution”—part of an international campaign led by Healing Place Church in Louisiana that encouraged churches to serve their communities. Courageous Church provided lunch to a firehouse, ministered to strippers, distributed food in rough neighborhoods, and visited crack houses to pray for families living there.
Through such acts, the young church attracts people like Jeanine, struggling to recover from a debilitating car accident. She discovered new purpose and brought her whole family.
“That is at the core of what I want our church and community to be about,” King says. “I hope to show churches that are way bigger than ours that you don’t have to be a huge church to have a huge impact.”
FROM THE BEST OF OUTREACH: A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Outreach magazine.
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