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Qusai Mahmud sits at a table near a window in a small coffee
shop on the north side of Chicago. As he listens to a new Chicago church
planter share what he’s learning about the city, he takes a few sips from his
coffee. With his thick, bushy goatee, shaven head and dark-rimmed glasses,
Mahmud’s look fits right into urban Chicago.
It’s home for the lifelong Chicagoan. Yet Mahmud’s life
isn’t just tied to the city of Chicago. His life and ministry is also tied to a
working-class Lower West Side community known to everyone in the Windy City as
Sixteen years ago Mahmud—‑whom everyone calls “Q”—and his
family moved to the neighborhood from the other side of town because it was one
of the few places in the city where the father of seven could find a place for
the whole family on their budget. Yet God was up to something even bigger when
he brought the family—which didn’t know Spanish or have a Hispanic
background—into one of the most culturally Mexican communities in the city.
“We definitely felt God’s call to invest in this community,
this neighborhood—in every aspect that you would do so,” Mahmud said.
In time, God began to lay on Mahmud’s heart a call to plant
a new church in the community. He says that in a two-mile by four-block neighborhood
of 35,000 to 40,000 people, there may be only one other English-speaking evangelical
Leading different ministries at his church had demonstrated
to others—including his pastor—that God had gifted him as a leader. He saw his
neighborhood’s great need for new churches and longed to see it reached with
Yet Mahmud resisted God’s call at first. “It was then a
matter of whether I was going to yield to God’s call,” he said. “He had been
making it very clear. I did the typical. I kept making excuses.”
Mahmud’s excuse number one: he had no time. He owned a
messenger business that was just beginning to take off. It was taking all of
his time and energy. That’s when, according to Mahmud, God began clearing his
schedule. At its height, the business had 90 employees. Today, it has 15.
Mahmud’s excuse number two: he had no formal theological
training. So God opened up an opportunity to go back to school at night.
Finally, about four years ago, Mahmud ran out of excuses.
Realizing with certainty that God was calling him to start a church. He went to
his pastor and shared the vision. Excited about what God was doing through
Mahmud, he pledged his total support—and even gave the planter-to-be permission
to share his vision with other church members and let them join him in the
“We all talk kingdom,” said Mahmud, noting that the church
had about 80 in attendance most weeks. “But it’s a whole other thing to live it
out. My pastor was a kingdom guy.”
By August of 2011 Mahmud’s five-member core team had already
moved to Pilsen. Even before that, they had started holding Bible studies
together. With everyone now located in Pilsen, they held a series of six
“preview services” in Mahmud’s backyard. Despite the fact they were still
small, the church wanted to continue meeting in Pilsen. Itching to get started,
Mahmud rented a place to meet and moved his messenger service in there to give
it weeklong occupancy.
Since Mahmud planned to continue running his business on a
full-time basis, the young church could afford to handle its small budget in a radical
manner—splitting it 50/50. Half the church’s budget would go to internal needs
and half would be given away to a variety of causes—including the Southern
Baptist Cooperative Program offering, local church planting efforts and local
and international ministry projects.
“We’ve got a great sense of sacrifice and generosity going
on,” Mahmud said. “For not a very big church, we’ve been able to do some pretty
incredible things, in terms of financially blessing people and ministries.”
As an example, Mahmud pointed to a destitute girl with
cancer in Indonesia the church had heard about through an in-country
missionary. She needed only about $1,000 to get treatment. The church was able
to help her with those expenses.
“For our church it’s been very encouraging to realize that
you don’t have to have 2,000 people in the church to really impact and make a
difference and be Christ to people,” Mahmud said.
In addition to its Cooperative Program and help for other
local church plants, the church feeds more than 80 homeless people every week
by partnering with a local ministry to the homeless.
Mahmud believes bivocational ministry is the key to reaching
urban areas like Chicago. The expense of living in the city and the small size
of many urban churches makes full-time vocational ministry tough—and may limit
the number of churches that can be planted in the city.
“You now have a fertile witness field where you work,” he
added. Mahmud noted that he’s led several of his employees to Christ—including
at least one couple that’s attending his church now.
Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 10/12/2012 12:22:36 PM
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