Reaching the Nations Right Next Door
One Halloween night a few years ago, a small inner-city church intended to kick off a Bible study on the Holy Spirit. The building was decorated. Activities were planned. You could bob for apples while learning about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or eat pie while considering the fruit of the Spirit. It was designed to be a fun “in-reach,” a fellowship event for the congregation. But the turnout was far less than they had hoped. Were the young men teaching the class discouraged? Perhaps, but not for long.
Seeing the church doors open and the lights on, the neighborhood flooded in assuming they were invited. Without a moment’s hesitation, the church altered their focus and jumped at this chance to love their community. God had turned their in-reach into an outreach! Each year since, it’s grown and now more than 600 come every Halloween to their annual “Holy Ghost Party.”
Metro Alliance Church in Cleveland, Ohio, is located where worlds converge. In the Midwest, Cleveland’s near west side is second in cultural diversity only to Chicago with more than 50 languages spoken in the local high school. In this neighborhood where poverty lives among wealth, and where cultures from all over the globe intermingle, Metro Alliance seeks to make a difference with the gospel.
“We have the nations on our doorstep,” explains Pastor Juri Ammari. The church can’t be inward focused, it must be Christ-focused. He summarizes their mission statement this way, “You have to love people enough to build a relationship that can handle the weight of the truth, that will bring them to the point of faith whereby they can receive forgiveness and give it away, which will bring them into a common unity, or community with believers and deepen the community with all of the people they know.” Regarding urban ministry, he says, “You have to move into the neighborhood and become a listener and learner for years before starting a ministry.” And that’s how the story of Metro Alliance began.
In 1999, the Central District felt a burden for inner-city Cleveland. So Juri and his wife Karen made the city their home, and began “coffee-shop” evangelism. They carefully surveyed fellow customers and neighbors believing that in order to know the peoples’ need, they needed to first know the people, and to know the people, they had to live life with them in community.
The next step was to establish home Bible studies, and then eventually to meet at the YMCA. As the church grew large enough to move into their own facility, the Lord provided. Working together with ADF and the district, they purchased property which included a 120-yearold building, a fellowship hall, and a parsonage. Metro Alliance has been there since.
Bringing unity as the body of Christ out of the diversity of inner-city Cleveland is the heartbeat of Metro Alliance Church. They strive to love Christ and love others, “Because,” Juri concludes, “when the great commandment is full on, the great commission gets accomplished.” And that means that when God gives them a chance to show the Spirit instead of just talking about Him, they take it.