New Castle News

September 4, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: New church eyes street ministry

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Mark Bupp knows one thing New Castle doesn’t need.

“New Castle doesn’t need another church,” he said. “There’s practically a church on every corner.”

Bupp, by the way, is starting a new church in New Castle.

Wait, what?

Bupp and his wife, Shelia, are indeed in the process of creating City Reach Church in a 76-year-old house of worship at the corner of Cunningham and Long avenues. It is one of six congregations that City Reach Church — a national church-planting network — is launching Sept. 15.

But here’s the thing.

“We’re not looking to become just another church,” Bupp said.

“We’re looking,” Shelia Bupp added, “to activate people who believe in the Word, who believe that it still applies in the present, and activating them to go out and do what the Word says to do; not just coming in on Sunday mornings, punching their spiritual time clock, and they’re done until next week.”

Mark Bupp, who is the son of the Rev. Dennis Bupp, retired Jameson Health System chaplain, described his vision as creating “a wall-less church.”

“That’s really our heart, is that this church will be in the streets,” he said. “Ministry happens in the streets. This is just a place where people can come to be equipped and trained, then sent out to do the work of the ministry in the streets.

“I really see us feeding the poor. I see us even helping education with kids. We have become too dependent on the government, because the church doesn’t do its job. I really feel like this is the type of church we want to be.”

The City Reach network, which has a goal to plant 50 churches by 2022, also exists to start Hope Homes, residential programs that offer a nine-month, Bible-based drug recovery and rehab program. In addition to their church, the Bupps also look to establish one of these facilities in New Castle.

 But most of all, the Bupps want their congregation to be known as first and foremost as neighbors, in the way that Jesus described the Samaritan who helped a desperate man that others had willfully passed by.

“We really want the community to know the church and us and our people,” Shelia Bupp said. “We want them to feel like ‘That’s my church,’ whether they’re a part of the house or not; that those are my pastors, whether they’re here regularly or not, because we’re in the streets talking with them, praying with them, helping them with life issues.

“ ‘My car broke down, I can’t get it fixed.’ Well, hey, we know a guy in our church; he’ll come down and take a look at it for you.’ It’s helping each other in doing life.”

Many churches, Mark Bupp added, are concerned primarily about getting people into the church as opposed to sending them out.

“I have prayed to the Lord, ‘Lord, give me 50 disciples over 200 spectators,’ he said. “We’re not looking to build a mega-church. That’s not our heart. We don’t want to grow beyond what we’re ready for. We want to be able to take care of who we have, not just be worried about filling seats.

“If we concentrate on blessing and ministering to the community, our church will be filled.”