Inner City

A Vision to Reach All of Detroit

Christians in Detroit unite in an unprecedented evangelistic campaign to give everyone a chance to hear about Christ.

Rita Wright

In 2010, Time Magazine released a 3-page article that revealed the world’s horrible view of Detroit. Michigan native, pastor Bob Shirock remembers, “They opened the article by calling Detroit ‘an icon of the failed American city.’ In ancient times, if a Roman city had a plague, everybody would run away except the Christians, who would run in to try to help and heal the people. And here’s our area that’s been hit by the worst economic plague ever, and people are fleeing and running and laughing at Detroit. What’s the body of Christ supposed to do? The closing line in that Time article says, ‘The world is now watching Detroit with interest – and waiting to see if it finds a way to rise from the ashes.’ This is our chance to show the world that the body of Christ is part of the answer.”

After watching ministry in Africa through his friendship with Bekele Shanko, vice president of Cru’s global church-led movements, Bob started dreaming about what God could do in his native area of southeast Michigan.

In 2002, Bekele lead an evangelistic campaign called “Operation Sunrise.” Involving 22 African nations, the goal was to proclaim the gospel to 50 million people in 50 cities in 50 days. About 500,000 Christians participated, and by the end of that summer, 1.72 million people indicated a decision to believe in Jesus.

While driving the 3-mile distance between his house and his church in 2010, Bob felt like he hadn’t done enough to give everyone a chance to hear about Christ. “I’ve been a pastor of Oak Pointe Church for 14 years. We’ve grown from 60 to 3000 people and we’ve planted a couple of other churches. But when you really get down to it, 3,000 people in a church isn’t enough when there are 20,000 people just between my house and the church who have no clue what we’re talking about every weekend.”

Over the course of that day, Bob and his church staff dreamt up an idea for their church to reach the 250,000 people in the 12-mile radius of their church in Novi, Mich. Bob led the group, saying, “Let’s take a year to prepare as a church to give everyone a chance to hear.” With those words, the acrostic EACH was established.

One man raised his hand, “Don’t you think we ought to talk to the other churches in the area to see if they’d want to join us?” And within 6 months, 540 churches and parachurch organizations -- including Here’s Life Inner City the compassionate urban ministry of Cru -- had linked arms to prepare for the EACH campaign.

“The only person we brought in from outside of Detroit for this movement was Bekele,” Bob said. “I put up some clips of Bekele in the introductory videos and everybody loved that because he is African – the African-American pastors latched onto him immediately. When I, a white guy from the suburbs, said this idea was from Africa, the group cheered!”

Beginning on Easter 2011, this 40-day campaign sent more than 200,000 congregants outside the walls of their own churches to give everyone a chance to hear about Jesus Christ through good news and good deeds.

The “good words” part of this two-pronged strategy centered around each believer’s 2WordStory. Ron Risher, who shut down his consulting business for the year to serve as executive director of the EACH campaign, was often asked to explain the meaning of his 2WordStory t-shirt which read: “Blessed? Blessed.”

“We taught Christians to lead with their own story, and then to ask other people for their story because everybody has a story. We were taught the idea of a 3-minute testimony when we joined the staff of Cru [in 1977],” Bob remembers. 

After one Saturday night service at Oak Pointe Church during the EACH campaign, a man approached Bob. He said, “I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but no one has ever asked me to explain the hope I have in Christ.” He continued, “In the first week of this campaign, four people approached me in response to my 2WordStory t-shirt. I had four chances this week to share my faith!” After leaving church that night, he was invited to share his testimony with his waitress – his fifth opportunity for evangelism that week.

Detroit residents were intrigued by the 2WordStory bulletin boards, t-shirts, bus ads, coffee sleeves, buttons, car decals, and yard signs plastering Detroit, creating countless opportunities for Christ-centered conversation.

“The 2WordStory campaign required each of the believers in Detroit to do some self-reflection,” said Ron. “They had to prepare and pray about their story, so I believe those who participated were strengthened in their beliefs.”

The second part of the EACH campaign focused on good deeds. Gathered statistics show – at a minimum – that 2000 people received free dental treatment and 2000 people received free medical treatment from 200 volunteer nurses, doctors, and dentists. 200,000 meals were given away, 50 condemned houses were refurbished, and one house was built from scratch and given to a single mom with her four daughters in Westland, Mich.

Hoping not to lose the momentum, unity and excitement of the EACH campaign, Detroit area pastors are now clamoring for next steps. Ideas to create a permanent EACH movement are being established around these four aspects: support among pastors, a region-wide prayer movement, 2WordStory evangelism, and a website to connect churches with service opportunities.

“A lot of great things happened through the EACH campaign: the unity of the body of Christ, the serving of the Christians, sharing the gospel, the mutual support of pastors,” Bob reflects, then looks to the future. “We certainly didn’t hit it out of the park, but I do know that we laid a foundation for a different kind of living around here.”

Bob rejoices over the unity that was established through the EACH campaign. “People were so excited to get out of their own churches,” Bob said, “and to be with other Christians – serving and praying together. It was fun for them to get out of their little boxes and see their pastors rubbing shoulders with pastors from a completely different stripe. Nobody around here wants to go back [to doing this alone].” The body of Christ in Detroit – led by pastors linking arms across historical, geographic, and racial barriers -- is expectant that by seeking God with a unified voice, Detroit will rise from despair as a beacon of hope.

“Detroit is the city that is [viewed as] the fool, the scum of the earth. But amazing things have happened,” says Bob. “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

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