A couple of years ago, our San Francisco ministry assumed leadership of World Impact's Oakland CA site. The site had been planted some 20 years ago, and it continued to actively serve the community in a variety of ways. Saturday breakfast, weekly computer lab hours, job search assistance and summer youth camps had become a valued part of this West Oakland community - thanks to World Impact. However we noticed that although the Oakland residents had accepted World Impact, they had accepted the ministry as "outsiders." A cultural gap still remained at times. We asked, "How much more effective could World Impact be, if their "outsider" persona was eliminated?"
Our local board and staff prayed for an urban church planter - someone who could serve as a World Impact Associate. As it turned out, God had already been preparing Rev. Curtis Flemming for this role, and it wasn't long before they both met. Pastor Flemming had a history of pastoring and planting multiple churches in Brooklyn, NY., so we asked him speak at a World Impact neighborhood block party. Immediately, we noticed a reaction from the local residents. Rev. Flemming's instant connection to the community and their acceptance of him was evident with everything he said. He even spoke on issues World Impact staffers were "culturally bound" from discussing. The crowd listened, and for the first time many were being pastored. We began to make major changes. The World Impact building was rebranded into Bay Community Fellowship Church. Rev Flemming now had a church to plant, and World Impact provided the building and the support. The neighborhood took ownership and began serving their neighbors through Bay Community Fellowship.
Today, Curtis is more than a World Impact Associate. He is pastor of our alliance church plant, he leads our Oakland Leadership Training Home in Oakland, (where future urban pastors are being trained), and he has become a recognized leader among pastors in the region and especially in the city of Oakland.
Through this process, we learned that the ideal World Impact Associate must exhibit these four things: 1) They are someone who shares the same values as World Impact. 2) They are experienced in church planting. 3) They can get a community to take ownership of a ministry, and 4) They are culturally credible and chosen by God to have favor in that community.