Church offers safe space for new Americans to explore Christianity

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication

The people who ask Drew Zuehlke to play basketball or take a walk don’t want to exercise nearly as much as they want something else. 


So why would his Minneapolis neighbors, who grew up in least-reached nations, ask for what they don’t want? 


“People want to meet privately because they could get disowned,” he said. “So they ask to play basketball and then ask to go for a private walk and want to ask questions.” 


Related: An Iranian man once defined by blindness is now devoted to helping churches spread the good news of Christ among Iranians in North America. 


Hope Community Church’s Columbia Heights campus, which Zuehlke pastors, has developed solid relationships with many new Americans from dozens of unreached people groups. Those who started the church with Zuehlke emphasize mercy ministry as a bridge into relationships. 


“This is how it works,” he said. “We get to know them, build relationships and pray that God would turn their hearts.” 


And God is doing just that.  


Christ’s message is so gracious and loving 

A woman recently started attending worship services at Hope’s Columbia Heights campus, which launched in 2020. She expected Christians to be an American version of the faith practiced in her home country. 


“This is so gracious and loving,” she told Zuehlke of Christ’s teaching in the Bible. “I had no idea this is what Christians believed.” 


Sadie Berg, a core Hope member, joined the Columbia Heights location because she was eager to do cross-cultural ministry. Berg grew up an hour west of Minneapolis and started worshiping at another Hope Community Church location in 2015.


She said God has given the young Converge church ample opportunities to get to know their neighbors and be friends with these people. Berg said Columbia Heights is a small enough community that Christians can serve new Americans in the morning and see them at Target in the afternoon. 


“You’re getting to know people in your community,” she said. We’re rubbing shoulders with unreached people groups.” 


Related: From Scattered to Gathered equips American churches to serve the world's people who’ve come to us. 


Every place needs more gospel churches 

Berg said Hope Community Church is essential for this town in Minnesota because every place needs more gospel-centered churches. But Hope offers something else: humble collaboration with other churches and organizations. 


“We like to partner with what’s already happening,” she said. “People are doing really good things, so how can we come alongside one another and join in that.” 


Related: A larger British church adopted a similar approach to help start or strengthen churches. 


How can we make our city smile? 


Zuehlke and the team planted Hope Community Church in Columbia Heights for neighbors far from God. It’s these people who have spiritual questions.  


“We’re having a lot of great spiritual conversations with people,” Zuehlke said. “If we can help them a little bit, then there’s this door that’s open.” 


Related: Converge can help your church build and strengthen a culture of evangelism. 


So, as Zuehlke and others from Hope Community Church near Minneapolis build relationships, the requests for basketball, walks and workouts keep coming. But it’s faith, not fitness, these least-reached people seek. 


“We’re following Jesus together so that we can bring joy to our city,” Zuehlke said. “We get to carry that grace and joy and him to other people and pray that our city would see joy, real Jesus-changing, capital-J joy.” 


Converge's 10 districts have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene