Scottie Long is not just from Little Rock, he is Little Rock. He grew up there. Little Rock’s story is his story. While many would say that, “A prophet is not welcome in his hometown,” Scottie couldn’t think of planting anywhere else. Ben Arment, author of Church in the Making explains we often encourage planters to “parachute” into a context they are not connected to in any way. Arment did just that, and it didn’t go well. He says instead, we should encourage planters to engage the contexts where they are most connected. Scottie has done just that in planting The Mercy Church 3 years ago.
Being brought up in church didn’t prevent him from being exposed to so much early in his life. This led him away from the Lord for a season, but when the Lord got ahold of his life again, he knew where he wanted to minister. But Scottie wasn’t just interested in “doing church,” he wanted to transform his community. “We are so good at church but not many churches actually want to do ministry. If our church’s influence doesn’t extend past our worship services, then we are doing it wrong. The worship service is part of the ministry of the church, but it’s not the only thing the church does.”
But this isn’t just a catchy phrase for Scottie. In Episode 78 of The Grind, he explains that it goes deeper than vision or strategy. This is The Mercy Church’s identity. They have several community initiatives that they lead. One is called Read and Feed. “At our local school we read to the kids, and we feed the teachers. It’s a great way to connect and minister. We take prayer requests and even do gift card giveaways.” He advises planters, “If you want to impact your community through your church plant, go get involved in your schools. Join the PTA, ask the leadership what they need, and then do it! It’s not hard, it just takes time and a willingness to listen.”
Not only is The Mercy Church involved in the schools in their area, but they are also engaging other community needs. “We work with ex-cons to get their records expunged. It’s hard to get a job if you have done time. I wanted to help guys with a similar story to mine get a fresh start. We also do job fairs for them. It’s amazing what can happen for someone who gets a second chance. I’m living proof of that.” All of this came out of a simple question for Scottie, “What are the needs of the community?” And when they see those needs, they engaged them, and they are reaching people in their community because of it.
We need more planters like Scottie. We need planters who are willing to step off of the platform and into their community, who are willing to go beyond the church and embrace "real-life" ministry. We need planters who are willing to plant where they are connected, to plant where they have roots. We need the approach of Jesus who, “Took on flesh and dwelt among us,” or as The Message says, “Moved into the neighborhood.” What would happen if we simply moved back into our neighborhoods?
We also need more planters who are willing to ask, “What are the unique needs and opportunities in our community?” Planters who are more concerned with their neighbors than their platform. It’s not that our community doesn’t have needs, it’s that we often don’t take time to see them. And once you see a need, act on it!
Lastly, Scottie’s story shows us we need to connect our plant to our own stories. He has a heart for guys who have a story like his. He is having a major impact because of this. What is unique about your story? What ways can you connect that to your plant or ministry?