As a young boy, Jared E. Michael remembers being frightened of seeing drug dealers and hearing gunshots in Baltimore, where his father, Ed C. Michael, pastored Westside Assembly of God, an inner-city church. At the time, the mid-1990s, Baltimore had the second highest homicide rate in the U.S., behind only St. Louis.
“He used to come into our room at night with his pillow and blanket,” recalls Ed, who for the past 15 years has been pastor of Eastern Assembly of God, just outside the Baltimore city limits. “I prayed, Please God, don’t let the inner city do him in.”
The Lord answered those prayers. Today, at 26, Jared is executive director of CityBeat Baltimore, an urban ministry center that has been operating for two years and is now about to launch a church.
Those seven formative years when Ed pastored in the inner city did more than help Jared to conquer his fears.
“God began to give me a heart for people no one else wants,” Jared says.
For five years ending in March, Jared served as youth pastor at Eastern Assembly of God. But a couple of years ago, he visited the Atlanta Dream Center. Around the same time, Johnny Dockman, Michael’s friend since middle school, toured the Dream Center in Los Angeles. Dockman, a Baltimore native, also served as a youth leader at the time.
The two friends determined that impoverished Baltimore needed a similar outreach.
CityBeat Baltimore meets a variety of needs for the hurting, especially African-Americans. Since starting in May 2015, the nonprofit has conducted neighborhood Adopt-A-Block outreaches every month, provided food and clothing to the homeless, opened a discipleship home for women recovering from addictions, and supplied book bags to children.
Michael, who is executive director, and Dockman, who is executive director of operations, are the only two staff members. More than 300 volunteers from around the country have helped with the ministry, which continues to expand.
The Village, the organization’s foster care ministry, distributes clothes, toys, diapers, car seats, and formula. Breaking the Chains, a weekly outreach to the homeless and low-income residents, offers meals. BeLoved Baltimore has partnered with other anti-trafficking efforts in the city.
Pastor Terry Turbin and the nondenominational Sonshine Fellowship Church in Dundalk, Maryland, have been providing buildings for CityBeat programs rent-free. Ongoing contributions from local churches, businesses, and individual donors support CityBeat.
“By meeting needs and empowering people, we’ve realized there is a need for a church,” says Michael, who studied at James River Leadership College in Springfield, Missouri, and attended a Church Multiplication Network training event in March. The church, in a vicinity with no others, is slated to open next year.
“As you meet needs in a tangible way, you realize there is a need for something more sustainable for the long-term spiritual growth of people,” says Dockman, a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.
Dockman, 26, walked away from a budding career as a producer of reality television shows such as The Last Alaskans and Last Comic Standing.
“I really enjoyed my time in the TV industry, but after I visited the L.A. Dream Center it was hard not to think all the needs in Baltimore and all we could be doing to help people,” Dockman says. His shift from a potentially lucrative career to a ministry with no salary took place in January 2016.
“Jared and I did not fully know what we were doing,” Dockman says. “But when you step out in faith, God equips you.”
Ed Michael, 56, is grateful that his son has a heart for ministry in an area he once feared.
“He has a committed group of young people around him,” Ed says. “He has been able to draw other millennials to work with him. The church will be birthed out of the community connections already established, rather than the reverse of starting the church and then adding programs.”
IMAGE - Jared Michael (left) and Johnny Dockman are planting a church in Baltimore.