Ministry at Your Doorstep
Assemblies of God co-pastors Rich and Robyn Wilkerson urged church leaders not to overlook the outcast in their midst en route to an effective ministry, as the Influence Conference kicked off Monday afternoon.
For the first time, the pre-General Council Influence Conference featured 28 hour-long practical breakout sessions. The Monday afternoon lineup included topics ranging from maximizing church space to developing small group culture.
Over 250 people packed a Hilton Hotel conference room in Anaheim, California, to hear the Wilkersons talk about community engagement.
The Wilkersons have been lead co-pastors of North Miami’s Trinity Church for 19 years. They started with a core of 200, mostly Haitian, churchgoers, quickly realizing it would take more than a series of well-intentioned sermons to engage the community.
Rich had been a Tacoma, Washington-based evangelist before embarking on his first pastorate at the age of 45. Robyn recalled how she had to step over people who spent the night sleeping in the parking lot in order to get inside the church building.
“I had no skill set of what it meant to live in poverty and homelessness in America,” Robyn said. She figured if she and her husband could just rid the vicinity of poor people, then their ministry could really take off.
“I thought those stinking people were the problem,” Robyn said. “But I was the problem — my prejudice, my closed mind.”
Gaining a series of federal, state, and local grants, the church 17 years ago began to address physical needs of food, clothing, and medical assistance, which opened doors for spiritual input to recipients. Since then, Trinity Church has received $40 million in contracts and partnerships with community organizations — all with a spiritual component — to address social service needs, from literacy classes to afterschool daycare.
Rich told how a program implemented by the church in 2006 that allows children to visit with incarcerated parents has vastly reduced the recidivism rate of inmates, as well as kept children facing prison themselves when they grow older. The program has allowed 28,000 children to interact with their parents inside Florida penitentiaries.
“Community engagement gets us out of our offices and out of our comfort zone,” said Rich, who also is part of the Church Multiplication Network lead team.
Today, more than 2,500 people attend the campuses of Trinity Church, and all four Wilkerson sons are active in ministry. The Wilkersons, who have been married for 44 years, are Assemblies of God resources authors. Rich is the author of Inside Out: How Everyday People Become Extraordinary Leaders. Robyn has just written Shattering the Stained Glass Ceiling: A Strategy for Women Leaders in Ministry.