How the Rich Discover They're Really Poor


Mendham Hills Community Church (MHCC) in Chester, New Jersey, has a unique approach to outreach: before inviting their neighbors to church, they first invite them to the dump.

The community surrounding MHCC is affluent, and its people aren’t drawn to traditional service projects used to make connections. So MHCC goes a different direction—to a garbage dump in Guatemala where they build cinder block homes for the poorest of the poor. Amazingly, they have found their neighbors interested and willing to join them. They’ve learned that some people need to be shown the needs of others before they can see their own: "Mission has become our best evangelistic tool to a community that doesn’t have a lot of felt needs,” explains Pastor John Isemann, lead pastor at MHCC. “They might not want to come to church, but they’ll go to Guatemala.”

Or they might take them to an Indian reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest places in the United States. Or sometimes MHCC brings the poor to their neighborhood by opening a house on their property to cook and serve meals and to offer shelter to the homeless from Morris County. The community works together to serve the poor, but more importantly, they make connections with the people they are serving, those they serve alongside, and, in many cases, with the One who can meet their greatest need. Without realizing it, they are doing Christ’s work. They are involved in His story. And often, through these connections, they discover their own true need.

And they discover the family at Mendham Hills Community Church is right there to welcome them.

Their building, however, is not so welcoming. It’s an all-brick structure with solid doors that appears closed to outsiders. Every Sunday, more than 400 people create a mob scene in the foyer. MHCC desires a more inviting space for guests, a nice cafe area where people can connect, something more appealing to the community. “We’ve learned that if you’re going to be a missional church, the building matters. We need to care about what this place looks like,” says Pastor John. They would also like to build an all-glass atrium on the road side of the building to display children’s ministry themes. “We need to change the way we look to the community and how the community looks in at us.” So the church approached ADF with plans for their renovation project, “ADF has been great because they understand what we’re trying to achieve for the Kingdom,” says Pastor John.

These structural renovations fit perfectly with the mission statement of the church: Being changed and bringing change. “We see those two things going hand-in-hand. As we are transformed into the image of Christ, we can’t help but be an agent of this transformation.”

Orchard Alliance