SCUPE’s CityVoices A resource of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education
Maranatha Assembly – Building Relationships on Chicago’s Southwest Side
(Rev. Larry Peak is a pastor of Maranatha Assembly of God located in the midst of Chicago’s southwest side Gage Park and Chicago Lawn communities. The old Lithuanian business district near 59th and Kedzie has seen lots of changes in the past 20 years, becoming predominantly Mexican with lots of renovated and new housing. Founded in the mid-1980s, Maranatha’s future remains missions-focused.)
Q. - What are the changes that you see happening during the last five years in your Gage Park / Chicago Lawn community?
Economically, everything is going well. The last few years have seen a property boom around here with our proximity to Midway Airport. Home ownership has become increasingly Hispanic. Population has gone from 55 percent ethnic Anglo in the 1980s to nearly 80 percent Hispanic today (primarily Mexican).
Q. - Maranatha Assembly has a big outreach to homeless people. Where does that come from?
We just started that four years ago. The first Sunday of each month is a “friends and family Sunday.” We set up dining tables and a buffet line in the church. We eat first, have fellowship and then church follows. We’ll get more than 30 homeless people coming for those “friends and family Sundays.” Then we also offer a good meal for homeless people each Friday evening at the church.
Everything we do has to be community-oriented and relationship-oriented...We want to establish redemptive relationships with people that will point them to Christ.
Q. - How are you responding to the majority of Latino people in your community?
We just started a Spanish service at 6:00 pm on Sundays. We’ve had over 30 people the last three weeks. It’s not a separate church, it’s part of Maranatha Assembly. I preach in English, and someone translates my sermon into Spanish. We’ll do it that way until God raises somebody up from right within the congregation to preach and lead the entire service in Spanish.
Q. - Dream ahead. How do you envision the future for your church and community in the next five or ten years?
Our church has turned around in the five years I’ve been here. We’ve gone from 30 people then, to about 100 now on Sunday mornings. God established our church here in 1986 with a specific vision, and we’ve worked to rediscover that vision in recent years. I don’t believe God changes his vision, though there may be different methods on how to get to those goals. Everything we do has to be community-oriented and relationship-oriented. I don’t believe that old evangelism methods work anymore. You don’t go door-to-door anymore where people are resistant to that. We want to establish redemptive relationships with people that will point them to Christ.
Q. - As an Assemblies of God congregation, what gifts do you bring that enable you to really minister to this community?
Worship at our church is lively and exuberant, and that lends itself to a Hispanic culture. People enjoy our style. We believe in the gifts of the Spirit – signs and wonders. We hear people who respond to our message say, “This is what we’ve been looking for.” If we’re going to reach our community, it’s going to happen one-by-one – through relationships.
One of the incredible things God can do at Maranatha is to provide the mix of ethnic groups. Even though our church is about 70 percent Hispanic, about 20 percent of our people are African American and others are white. On Sundays, we’ve got a big mix of people who are getting used to worshipping together in a multicultural setting. This is happening as the result of building personal and spiritual relationships with two African American men. Right now there’s the potential for more African Americans coming to our church, even though our community is primarily Hispanic.
Contact: Pastor Larry Peak, Maranatha Assembly of God, 3542 W. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60629, (773) 505-8550, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright 2007 SCUPE, Chicago, Illinois
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