We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

The Current Outreach: A Church Built on Reaching Society’s Forgotten

The Current Outreach Church, where thousands have given their lives to Christ, has become a physical and spiritual place of compassion and restoration for those in the community who are without housing.
One of the nation’s most fruitful AG churches started as an outreach to homeless people. Sixteen years after its first service under a bridge, The Current Outreach Church of Van Buren, Arkansas, is seeing a multitude of people come to faith in Christ, says Lead Pastor Kevin D. Hardcastle.

“It’s been thousands,” says Hardcastle, 52, who gets pastoral help from his wife, Jennifer. “Last year we did 235 baptisms at our main campus, not counting those who were saved at our Friday night or Sunday night services at the other campus.

“It’s all done out of a place of love,” he says of reaching across cultural barriers to touch folks many consider society’s forgotten. “Matthew 25:40-45 is the seedbed for the whole kingdom paradigm. We realized a long time ago that a lot of people would like to minister to the poor but don’t know how.”

Jennifer says the beauty of The Current is that many visitors come because of a desire to do outreach and serve the community, but find that those from a turbulent background have a lot to teach traditional church members.

“They come in and ask questions and they’re brutally honest,” Jennifer says of people without housing. “You ask what they need prayer for, and you have to brace yourself for the answer. But that helps the 40-year-old church member who doesn’t know how to be honest about what’s going on behind their closed doors.”

One reason Kevin has such a heart for the lost is his own experience. Although growing up at Van Buren First AG, as a teen he wandered away from his faith and backslid for two decades. As Hardcastle tells it, he was on the verge of losing his marriage when Jesus came looking for him.

After being “radically saved,” Kevin returned to Van Buren First Assembly. But two years later he and Jennifer moved to Butterfield AG so he could be mentored by Pastor Ronnie G. Gilmore.

Gilmore had known Hardcastle’s cousin (a preacher), father, and Kevin, then earning his living as a barber (Hardcastle still cuts hair a day or two a week).

“Kevin really has a heart for the underdog and somebody who needs a second chance,” says Gilmore, 70, now pastor of First AG of Hot Springs Village, a campus of First North Little Rock. “It lined up with my heart because I got the same thing.

“He loved telling people about Jesus,” adds Gilmore, recalling how Hardcastle started by getting a sound system and conducting services after serving meals under a bridge. “It’s grown to be even bigger; it’s spread out because more people are coming and supporting it. It’s a beacon of light.”

The church’s first permanent home was in an old building given by an anonymous donor. Five years after starting as an outreach ministry, Pastor Patrick Kimberland and Butterfield’s members voted to release the mission as a self-supporting church. The growth has been steady ever since 2013. In 2021, The Current moved into a larger building on the north side of town, where average Sunday attendance is 525.

Washed Clean

The Current has converted its old sanctuary into an outreach facility, with a food pantry, Friday night worship services, and Sunday night “Addicted” services. The latter aim at helping those struggling with addictions. Between 150 and 175 people come on Friday night and approximately 100 on Sunday night.

On Saturday morning it serves a breakfast to between 60-75 people and offers free showers through its John 9:7 ministry, named for the blind man whom Jesus cleaned. Participants can also find clothing and other assistance at John 9:7, which began in early 2023.

“We’re going on 14 months and we’ve had 12 people come off the streets, get jobs, and are leading totally different lives,” Hardcastle says.

The pastor got the inspiration for John 9:7 doing street ministry.

One day he encountered a man without a permanent home who had had two knee replacements. His knees quit working and he wound up lying on the street for three days.

After Hardcastle told God, “You’ve got to do something,” he says the Spirit whispered, “That’s why you’re here. You’ve got to do something.”

Chastened, the pastor found an elderly homeless woman who had accepted Christ the week before. She helped the pastor get the man scrubbed clean. On Sunday, Hardcastle shared the story and how people living on the street told him the main reason they didn’t come to church was that they knew they lacked opportunities for personal hygiene and didn’t want to offend others.

When Hardcastle said God had laid it on his heart that they needed to buy a portable shower unit, people responded that day by giving $44,000, just $3,000 shy of the final cost. The 28-foot, fully-enclosed trailer has four stalls, with about 30 people showering each Saturday.

As touching as that encounter is, the one that Gilmore remembers fondly took place in The Current’s early days. “Charlie” camped often by The Current’s old building; one day Gilmore learned Charlie was in the hospital with cancer. When the pastor went to see Charlie, the man said he wouldn’t live much longer but he had two requests: to get baptized and be filled with the Spirit.

“One I can do,” Gilmore replied, “but the Holy Spirit will have to do the other.”

Several days later, Gilmore brought Charlie to The Current so they could record a video of his testimony before baptizing him. When Charlie asked Gilmore if he would be able to pitch a tent next to the Jordan River when he reached heaven, the pastor replied, “You’re going to have a mansion.”

Looking disappointed, Charlie said, “I was looking forward to camping by the Jordan River.”

“You’re probably right,” Gilmore replied, saying Charlie’s baptism was one of the sweetest moments of the pastor’s life.

“Kevin has had a lot of moments like that because he keeps bringing people in and giving them third, fourth and fifth chances,” Gilmore says. “The Current has been a blessing to that community.”

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.