By Tobin Perry
WICHITA, Kan. – The members of City Life Church in Wichita, Kan., don’t just talk about helping at-risk children—they’re doing something about it. By partnering with a nonprofit community organization, members of the church plant not only bring children from troubled families into their homes but also mentor the families and seek to re-unite them.
Church planter Casey Casamento (@ccasamento) admits it’s tough and often messy work. Some parents want little to do with mentoring. Others struggle to make changes that’ll lead to their children’s return. But, Casamento adds, it has also led to new people experiencing the gospel.
“Ultimately, we do this for the sake of the gospel,” Casamento said. “We care for their children, but we also share the love of Christ with their families and extended families.”
Casamento points to a 19-year-old man whose child was put into the care of a church family. Both the man and his mother now attend City Life Church. Casamento says eight families in the church care for 14 children. Another family runs a “mentor house” with three additional girls. The ministry demonstrates two of the church’s core values.
“We exist to bring glory to God and for the good of our city,” said Casamento, a Wichita native.
Casamento started City Life Church in 2011 after 12 years in youth ministry, including serving for the prior six years in Wichita. He then sensed God’s call to a new ministry as involvement in local community groups opened his eyes to the city’s physical and spiritual needs.
“I didn’t know what that burden meant back then, but I just knew that I had a huge burden for Wichita,” Casamento said. “So when I felt led to plant a church, I knew that it was in this city.”
According to census data Wichita’s population has grown by nearly 12 percent since 2000 to almost 400,000 people. The city isn’t hostile to the gospel, but Casamento noted—at the time of the church’s launch—more than half of the residents were unclaimed by any religious group. He sees high spiritual apathy in the city.
“We have to go to them and build relationships with people in the city,” he says. It takes time to reach someone for Christ. They need to trust you and see that you love them.”
After deciding to plant a church in February of 2011, Casamento began developing a core team with weekly vision meetings and Bible studies. He launched weekly services that September. City Life now averages 350 in attendance and has baptized 100 in less than two years.
The church meets Sundays in a downtown Wichita theater, near a variety of popular clubs and restaurants. The location helps draw people who wouldn’t consider attending another church—including the homeless. The church will be moving to the historic Orpheum Theatre, also in downtown Wichita, in August.
But the church’s main focus isn’t where it meets but mobilizing members to become missionaries where they live.
“Our vision is for those in our church to understand that we have the gospel and now we have a responsibility to carry that gospel out into our city—to exemplify the gospel through good deeds, to be—as it says in Matthew 6—a City on the Hill,” Casamento said. “But it’s also to communicate the gospel, to know that God is leading us and calling us to present His good news to everyone.”
That doesn’t mean only Wichita either. Less than two years old, City Life is heavily involved in global missions. Casamento’s goal is to involve every person in an international missions experience every three years. Last year the church sent teams to China and Haiti.
With the help of North American Mission Board scholarship funds, Casamento recently returned from a vision trip in May to explore a partnership with the International Mission Board to reach an unreached people group in East Asia. The scholarship pays up to $1,500 for plane tickets for any Send North America Support Network planter and additional leader to take such trips.
“As we make disciples and assist others in making disciples around the world, our church will develop a disciple-making culture,” Casamento said. “We also come back with new eyes and see our city and our neighbors differently. I think it drastically impacts for the better how we live our lives here.”
To get involved in church planting in North America, as a planter or a partner, visit namb.net/mobilize-me.
Southern Baptists will celebrate LoveLoud Sunday on July 21. Through that day the North American Mission Board seeks to raise awareness about a movement of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention that are demonstrating God’s love by meeting significant human need while sharing Christ. For more about what other churches are doing in this regard and to get ideas for your own church, visit namb.net/loveloud.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published July 8, 2013