Church Based Justice Ministry That Doesn’t Drift from a Firm Faith-Based Foundation with Aaron Graham

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Aaron Graham, the lead pastor of The District Church in Washington, DC. The District Church was started in 2010 with the desire to be a church for the city, impacting it for Christ one neighborhood at a time.

In an area where young people come to pursue their dreams of changing the world, fighting against injustice, or entering the political arena, The District Church continually connects those desires of making a difference to Christ, emphasizing how change can only happen through Him and with the partnership of the local church. Listen in to hear as Aaron shares how the church is putting its faith into action in practical ways to bring God’s kingdom to earth.

  • Being missional. // There are 3 M’s that are distinct to The District Church’s calling and DNA, and those are being missional, being multicultural and being a multiplying church. These aspects are core to who The District Church is in their city and everything they do flows out of these values. They want their people to recognize that everyone is a missionary, whether in their workplace, social sphere or in their own family. A lot of the church’s discipleship is focused in this area, and so are their two major justice ministries: DC127 (which focuses on foster care and adoption) and Just Homes (which focuses on meeting the housing needs of the District).
  • Biblical justice. // Social justice is a popular catchphrase right now, but at The District Church they believe justice ministries have to be rooted in biblical justice. Biblical justice is defined as seeing God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. While biblical justice includes social justice (like lifting up the poor) it also pushes beyond the political and partisan. Ultimately the goal is to go beyond short term interventions to see real life change in the city. As difficult as it can be, as pastors we need to speak to the issues of the day without reflecting the culture. How can we speak in a way where we are transforming it and transcending it?
  • Aim at the right mission. // When addressing issues, it’s important to understand the biblical role of the government – what the government is to do and not to do, as well as the role of the local church. There is a biblical role for the government to restrain evil and promote justice. More often than not, good honest Christians come at these issues from a political perspective more than a biblical perspective because we are discipled more by the media than the word of God. As church leaders, think about how to create language that is not so polarizing and still aims right at the mission. The church is the hope of the world, but too often we outsource outreach to the government or don’t do it at all. The church has to get out there when no one else will; that’s what separates the church from the government or businesses.
  • Partner with other churches. // It’s important for churches to be present in the communities we are in whether we’re engaging in outreach or something else. Too often people don’t know the church even exists. Church-based justice ministries should be done to open the door to life change for the recipient. This type of ministry can’t be done on the side – it needs to be central to the church’s mission. One way to do this is by partnering with other churches in the area to tackle some of the big issues in your community. We can do so much more together than we can individually. District Church invests very heavily in affordable housing and the foster care/adoption crisis in the city, but they don’t do this alone. They partner with other churches because these are such monumental problems. Maintaining these as church-based justice ministries keeps the mission from getting watered down, and allows God to get all the glory.
  • Being multicultural. // More and more churches today are becoming multiethnic, but The District Church has also felt called to be multicultural. Being multiethnic is often described as when twenty percent of your church is of a different racial demographic than the dominant group. But being multicultural is about the cultural diversity in the church (ex: what languages are spoken or sung in worship, how different tasks are approached, or what food is eaten at gatherings). For The District Church, being multicultural reflects God’s desire for us to make disciples of all nations and ultimately connecting people to Christ is the goal. Don’t let Jesus become a means to an end; is your goal justice and diversity, or making more disciples who have had their lives changed by Christ? These are questions we must constantly be asking ourselves as we are aware of the broader cultural trends in our society.

You can get in touch with Aaron and learn more about The District Church at www.districtchurch.org.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.