A Mega-Church Takes on Urban Problems: Fellowship Bible Comes to South Midtown
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Twenty five years after its founding in members' homes, the non-denominational, evangelical Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, Arkansas had become a "mega-church", holding worship services on a 25-acre campus in one of the best locations in booming West Little Rock and attracting a combined 5,000 congregants on any given Sunday. But as the Fellowship congregation had grown, its leadership had come to believe that the Christian life must go beyond individual salvation and the responsibilities of family, friendship, and individual acts of charity and that church members must strive to be "socially responsible". In its effort to become a church of irresistible influence, Fellowship Bible had taken the lead in organizing a massive citywide day of volunteer projects. In addition, ministries that had originated in small groups of church members--such as a sexual abstinence education program held in dozens of public and private schools--had taken on an independent life as well known free-standing organizations. Such efforts were made possible, in part, by charitable contributions made by Fellowship which totaled more than 25 percent ($3 million-plus) of its annual spending. This case tells the story of the next stage in church efforts to ameliorate social ills in Little Rock an external ministry known as the one church, one school, one neighborhood project, announced in August 2004. Fellowship hoped that its assistance would demonstrably and measurably improve life in one of the city's most troubled areas a 130-block area of central Little Rock. The project would include intensive mentoring of students one school in Little Rock's predominantly black South Midtown area (Fellowship itself was an almost entirely white congregation), efforts to work with African-American churches to encourage marriage in an area dominated by single-parent families, and an initiative to build new housing in the area.
The case is designed as a vehicle for discussion of the motivations, appropriateness, and effectiveness of religiously-motivated (so-called "faith-inspired") efforts to aid those in need. It can be used to discuss the proper relationship between government and churches (Fellowship is permitted to work in Little Rock's public schools and assisted in its efforts to build new housing in South Midtown) and, more broadly, the evolving role of evangelical congregations in American life.
- Case Author:
- Howard Husock
- Faculty Lead:
- Brent Coffin
- Pages (incl. exhibits):
- United States
- Funding Source:
- Pew Memorial Trust, Leadership Network