If you ask Kim Pitner—senior pastor along with his wife, Cheryl, of Connect4Life (Waxahachie Foursquare Church) in Waxahachie, Texas—about his experience at Foursquare’s international convention in Israel in 2007, he will say it was life-transforming.
On the last night of the convention, he stood on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He gazed down on the black dome of The Tear Drop Church that was built to commemorate Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41). In this moment, Kim experienced an epiphany that pierced his heart. With deep conviction, he faced the realization that he couldn’t recall the last time he had wept over his own city.
Kim took an honest look at himself and admitted that he had become a professional pastor, one who went to his office every day for 20 years but had layered himself out of the harvest field and out of relationship with the city God had called him to serve. He knew God was asking him to weep over his city and find a way to serve his community with the heart of Jesus.
Heart for Children
Impacted by the story of Moses at the burning bush, where God told Moses that He had heard the “the cry of the children of Israel” (Ex 3:9, NKJV), Kim began by simply asking one crucial question: What was the cry in the hearts of the people he pastored? He called a meeting of his congregation, during which he discovered that 85 percent of the people were deeply concerned about the high percentage of neglected and abused children in his city.
From that point forward, Kim initiated a movement to renovate the vision of the church he shepherded. He started to connect the heart-cry of his congregation to the real needs in the community, and even changed the church’s name to Connect4Life. As a first step, he made an appointment with the principal of the Wedgeworth Elementary School, located adjacent to the church.
Sitting across the desk from the principal, Kim offered repentance. He asked the principal to forgive the past nine years, during which time the church had ignored and neglected the needs of the school. With his humble approach, a relationship blossomed between Connect4Life and Wedgeworth Elementary.
The church began blessing the school with small acts of service: a winter coat for a needy child; cookies and coffee for the teachers; orange juice and muffins for moms; and volunteers to read to the children. Connect4Life has been voted Business Partner of the Year by the elementary school two years in a row. Kim emphasizes that this kind of trust did not develop overnight, but over time.
“It has taken three years of intentional relationship building,” the pastor tells Foursquare.org, “but the consistent, dependable acts of love and service are laying a foundation for the church to have a voice in the community.”
Pastor Kim has redefined himself and his church, completely changing the congregation’s philosophy of ministry. Instead of relying on outreach events and big programs, he is asking a different and possibly more pertinent question: How can the church be in the city every day of the week?
A typical week for Connect4Life includes multiple community connections. The church wants to live outside the walls on a daily basis, pastoring the city, becoming a resource for all people, spreading the love of God to the people Jesus died for.
The church recently made an agreement with the Waxahachie Independent School District to pioneer an after school program that promotes literacy and character development. In addition to the classes, the church also fills up the backpacks of needy children with snacks every Friday afternoon to take home for the weekend.
The dean of the local community college asked Kim to start a Christian club on the secular campus. When he surveyed the students, Kim learned that 80 percent of the student population expressed their desire to have a pastor to talk and pray with. So he sends nine local pastors to act as volunteer student advisors every week.
After hosting an outdoor Easter party for a neighborhood apartment complex, the apartment owner asked Connect4Life to come and pastor the whole complex and assist in building community among the tenants, even going so far as to donate one of the apartments exclusively for the church’s use. The church utilizes the apartment to offer free lunches for kids, to host after school programs, to cook meals for the needy in the community, and to run a free soccer club for children.
Kim’s congregation creates a communitywide fall festival, leads city cleanup projects, and establishes food distribution programs. He and his church find almost anywhere to serve the community.
“Everything we do, we just get out of the box,” he explains. “We don’t stay inside our own church walls.”
Serving the City
Kim is convinced he doesn’t need a megachurch to reach his city. None of the acts of service he describes come out of his church budget. Nearly all of the funding comes from outside sources: donors and congregants who make personal investments in the kingdom of God.
“I don’t think I’m anybody,” Kim says with emotion that moves him to tears. “I just had a powerful encounter with God, who got my attention! I am so thick-headed, but when I finally stepped out in obedience and moved into the harvest, the Lord helped to resource it.”
What is the key to so much favor in the city? To Kim, it’s simple: “Just share what you have all the time. Every time you connect, you create an opportunity for life.
“When we give consistently and without any criteria, people know we care about them,” he continues. “We merely create places where we can sit at the table with people. That’s when people let us tell them about Christ, and that is how we can change lives, one person at a time.”
By: Amy Swanson, a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministry at New Life Church in Santa Barbara, Calif.