“Jesus ministered to needs and always looked for ways to work with what people already had in place. For example, when He fed the famished multitudes, He used the community’s available assets: bread and fish. Often when we are confronted with the needs in our communities, we fail to see what assets and tools they already have in place, and instead we look to provide solutions from outside the community. But we must honor our neighbors, their stories, and their knowledge. We thereby recognize that even in the midst of plight, the solution is often staring us right in the face.”

Stevan Mirkovich has served as an urban church planter and currently pastors the Cornerstone Seventh-day Adventist Church in Vancouver, Canada.

“Young people in Kinshasa have been distributing books, visiting door to door, and serving old people by drawing water, finding them firewood, and collecting clothes to give them from local churches.”

Ambroise Fumakwa is president of the West Congo Union Mission, based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Health ministry is an entry point to reach urban people. It allows us to mingle, show sympathy, and minister to needs. Jesus used health ministry to attract people’s attention, win their confidence, and then bid people to follow Him. It’s an essential element in fulfilling Christ’s method of comprehensive evangelism.”

Rusli Heince was the leader of the Chinese ministry in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, and currently is studying at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS).

“Some people who might otherwise be hostile to the message of Jesus Christ become open to it when their felt needs are addressed and met. As part of the ‘Mission to the City’ initiative in New York City, churches organized soup kitchens, hot meals, a food pantry, and a health van ministry. Pathfinders and young people organized compassion rallies—going out into the community to do acts of kindness, distribute gifts, and clean up the streets.

“Ministering to needs helped bridge the gap between church and community as both came together to effect positive changes. Panels of pastors, community leaders, teachers, and police officers discussed social concerns. There were also special prayer sessions for the mayor of the city, police officers, and civic leaders.

“Urban areas are full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture, and countries of origin. These examples of ministering to needs show how we can help bridge what is often viewed as a hostile space between community and church.”

Alanzo Smith is ministerial director and family ministries director for the Greater New York Conference and has extensive experience pastoring in urban areas.