(Image: National Community Church)
National Community Church in Washington, D.C., led by Pastor Mark Batterson, continues moving closer to constructing a community center designed to help an impoverished area of the city with both tangible and spiritual needs. Batterson said he believes the DC Dream Center will be the most significant thing his church has ever done.
"One of our core convictions is this: God will bless us in proportion to how we care for the poor in our city. There is a third-world country in our nation's capital," he wrote in a recent blog post. "The Dream Center is our way of saying: not in our backyard and not on our watch!"
Already breaking relatively new ground in the D.C. area by using coffee shops and movie theaters as places of worship for Sunday church services in some of its six locations, Batterson hopes the Dream Center will be a collaboration with other churches and ministries.
"The last thing we want to do is reinvent the wheel. And we're not coming in as saviors. We're coming in as servants. That is the example the Savior Himself set," he stated.
The $3.8 million vision for the DC Dream Center was announced at the end of last October. By the end of December, the church was just 2 percent or $76,000 away from hitting its goal.
Situated in one of the "forgotten parts" of D.C., plans are for the center to serve a community where up to 43 percent of people use food stamps, unemployment rate is as high as 20.8 percent, and as high as 49 percent of children are in poverty. "Wards 7 and 8 have the highest DC rate of teen pregnancy, unemployment, and poverty," church officials said.
The property includes a vacant and vandalized building "waiting to be transformed into a Dream Center," say project leaders.
"We understand that the DC|DC will not be an NCC thing," Executive Pastor and project leader Joel Schmidgall told The Christian Post via email. "We're not trying to build our church as much as we're trying to be a part of the kingdom of God blessing DC. To be a part of The Church we can't just push our idea or our agenda, but we've got to run in circles with other influencers, we've got to listen and learn before we speak and teach.
"This effort will be effective if we can collaborate and team with other churches and like-minded organizations to reach out to the community," he added.
Ministry work in the community that will be a part of the center is already being done, Schmidgall said.
"From adopt-a-block, to mentoring kids, to building relationship, we're already engaging local community. We understand that Jesus is the cornerstone, that ministry is the building block, and that any physical renovation to a building will only be worthwhile if there's already a spiritual renovation occurring," he said. "It's not about bricks and mortar. We believe the Dream Center can be a physical representation of what God desires to do to spiritually restore the hearts of those that will come through these doors."
Within the building, the plans are to have offices for ministry and counseling purposes, a floor dedicated to arts (dance studio, recording studio, arts area), a recreation area for kids, and potentially an area for short-term teams to come in and stay so that they can invest in the community, Schmidgall said.
"We hope to transform some of the overgrown weeded areas into vegetable garden in the future. Our mentored kids can learn gardening skills and we can use this food in our reconciliation lunches that we have for community neighbors and leaders," he added.
Schmidgall said he prays that the center will be a place "where hope becomes habit and all people are welcome to experience the life changing power of Jesus."
"We also are praying that reconciliation would be at the center of what we do. That we would see reconciliation between kids and parents, leaders, different socio-economic classes, races, but ultimately reconciliation happens through spirit of Jesus. So that's where we rest. We are called to be a presence for Jesus. To do that, we care for the needs of our neighbors," he explained.
On the Web: http://www.dcdreamcenter.com/.