When we hear about church “outreach ministries,” we often think of food pantries, homeless shelters, and community events. But while these can be powerful channels for service, many churches are beginning to look for new ways to empower individuals more holistically.

For some, this means abandoning traditional charity altogether, focusing their ministry more directly around recognizing the gifts and strengths of others. For others, like Evangel Ministries in Detroit, it involves a mix of many things, but with a particular emphasis on the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and communities.

Hear their story here, in a video produced by Made to Flourish:

For Evangel, it’s not just about meeting immediate needs through traditional channels, but about teaching work skills and financial literacy, teaching congregants on the details of permitting, and even in some cases providing investment capital for particular businesses.

With a 30-year history of focusing on entrepreneurship, Evangel has chosen to focus on the gifts in others, viewing people not as one-dimensional charity projects, but as individuals fashioned in the image of God, created and destined to bear good fruit.

As senior pastor Christopher Brooks explains:

We saw that when you give a man or woman a job, it gave you an opportunity to share your faith with them  — this whole thought that good deeds produces good will that opens the door for the good news. Detroit is a beautiful city, but it’s a broken city as well, so it does present some unique challenges — challenges like poverty, multi-generational poverty, unemployment, hunger, and many, many other things. But what’s great about Detroit is the human capital that’s here. When we change the way we see people, we begin to understand that people are actually the solution and not the problem.

finances-class-church1“The church is here for the flourishing of the community,” he concludes.

Indeed, at a time when many have written off places like Detroit, turning instead to top-down solutions or materialistic fixes from governments and powerful businesses, Evangel is tapping into the bottom-up sources of abundance that God has placed in each of our communities, recognizing the human capital in all of us, and setting people on the course of creative service God designed.

Note: Christopher Brooks will be giving a lecture on the church, city, and urban renewal at this year’s Acton University.