Twenty-Five Years
Dear Heart of the City Friends,

This Summer, we marked 25 years since we founded Heart of the City Ministries! It's so hard to believe it's been that long! It's a strange life really - when your life sort of flows from concert to concert to concert for decades. It all becomes a bit of a blur... We've held so many events, in so many settings for so many years. It's amazing that we survived even one year - and even more so that we're still here and busy 25 years later! But we are grateful and excited for what God has allowed us to do and for what's still ahead for us in this ministry.
In this SPECIAL EDITION extended newsletter, I'd like to give an abbreviated overview of this journey that includes photos from various events over the years.
It was in January of 1995, when I was leading a once a month event called a "Celebration Service" at the Church of the Open Door where I served as the Worship Pastor, that I felt led to start Heart of the City Ministries. The gym we met in was packed with about 1000 people. People were beginning to attend these evenings of celebratory worship music and testimonies from other churches and there was a mixture of young and old in the events as well. As I looked out over that packed room that night, I thought, "I need to find a bigger space for these Celebration Services". But I felt the Lord say to me, "Don't think this small (for only this one congregation), but use your platform to help bring unity to the Church in the Twin Cities as a whole". At that period of time, I had also been working part-time, for the national men's ministry, Promisekeepers, and the issue of Biblical unity and racial reconciliation was really on my heart. So, although this felt radical, it seemed right to me.

After that event, I went home and told Sandy what I felt the Lord was saying and amazingly, she agreed and felt we should move that direction as well! We felt we should establish a non-profit Christian ministry that would hold regular multi-denominational, multi-ethnic gatherings of worship and prayer in the Twin Cities in order to attempt to break the patterns of division between Christians and build bridges between us, without starting a new Church that might threaten that unity.
Fast forward through lots of chaos and challenges, we pulled together a multi-ethnic band we called the Heart of the City Worship Band and held our first four "Heart of the City Worship Celebrations" at the Minneapolis Convention Center in August, September, October and November of 1996.

They were exciting and powerful events! We had thousands of people show up for those events, but unfortunately, not as many thousands as we had expected or needed, to pay the expenses we incurred. We lost a great deal of money on every event and I couldn't even be paid a paycheck! We were really overwhelmed and scared that we had maybe made the worst move of our life! Clearly, so many fewer Christians carried a shared passion for Biblical unity and for gathering outside of their own congregations than we thought did.
Through it all, we still believed in our calling and God kept moving us forward with just the "manna" that we needed to survive and carry on. Somehow, we made it through 1996 with Heart of the City Ministries - as well as the Adler family - with almost no money, but still in the black financially. It wasn't much, but it was sort of miraculous even so!

A NEW LOCATION - The Gangelhoff Center
After meeting our contractual commitment for the first four events at the Convention Center, we began to meet at the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia College near St. Paul. About a thousand people still came out for these events each month at this new location! We had to hire sound companies, haul and set up equipment, learn lots of new songs with a new band - and it was exhausting.

But we pressed forward believing God was calling us to this and that the need to pursue Biblical unity amongst Christians was vital (John 17). We lost money on the first 17 monthly events that Heart of the City held, yet somehow, we survived and just kept pressing forward with our vision! These were unique, joyous, celebrative events led by a multi-ethnic band with diverse styles of music. They were filled with worship, dancing and prayer and we believed this vision was birthed by God. And the wonderful unity of purpose and joy in leading worship together that we shared with our band members helped us find great joy in the journey!

ANOTHER NEW LOCATION - 1st Covenant Church
After renting the Gangelhoff Center once a month for quite a while, we were suddenly offered the opportunity to use the huge sanctuary at 1st Covenant Church right next to the Metrodome! 1st Covenant ended up being a great home base for us, right in the heart of the city, and we held many monthly events there for several years.

MORE LOCATIONS - Crystal Free & Woodland Hills
Eventually, the door closed at 1st Covenant for us, though our attendance at these events remained quite high. So we began to hold twice a month events, one at Crystal Free Church in New Hope and the other at Woodland Hills Church in East St. Paul. These two locations allowed us to impact people from both the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. These twice a month events continued for another season of our ministry.

A NEW APPROACH - Celebrations in the Churches!
Once Woodland Hills Church and Crystal Free Church were no longer available to us, we decided to start holding our Worship Celebrations at various urban ethnic churches each month instead. Even though this strategy could accommodate less people, we were now not only having people hear about urban ethnic pastors and their congregations, we were bringing people to those places and building more bridges between congregations and racial groups in the process!

God continued to lead us forward - though always upstream with many challenges and difficulties - as thousands of Christians took part in those many Heart of the City Worship Celebrations over the years!

An important part of each one of those events was what we called the "Urban Pastor Spotlight". During these years of Heart of the City Worship Celebrations, in the middle of our events, we would typically pay a different urban, ethnic pastor one hundred dollars to just come up for about five minutes and tell us about his church - where they are located, what they're about and how we can pray for them. Then everyone in the room would lift their hands and pray for that church and then break up into small groups and pray for unity in the Church and for the lost. It was always enlightening to build this bridge to a new church and pastor that most who attended had never heard of before and to pray together for that specific church and the Church as a whole!

How beautiful it was to see Christians across generational, ethnic and denominational lines joining hands together in prayer for unity amongst Christians and for the salvation of those who don't yet know Jesus! Oh, how that is so needed right now!

After years of holding these monthly and bi-monthly events, we saw attendances begin to wane as trends changed and even many churches had trouble getting people to come out for anything but Sunday morning services. Christian unity and racial reconciliation had been made somewhat trendy through organizations like Promise Keepers for a time, but sadly, that trend seemed to be fading. Our original hope and dream was that these worship celebrations would truly impact the Church culture and we would see them grow and grow, having the idea of gathering with Christians across racial and denominational lines on a regular basis catch on in a big way. Although many thousands of people attended our gatherings over the years, most only came once. They would express, over and over, how it was like a taste of heaven, but it clearly wasn't going to become a routine for most people.

As we observed this happening, we felt led to begin to hold less and less of these big worship celebrations and to focus more on bringing our "Message, Model and Experience of Multi-Ethnic Worship and Biblical Unity" to many individual churches in their Sunday morning services. The reality was that most churches were (are) still very segregated and the idea of unity between congregations wasn't really even on their radar! We felt that bringing the multi-ethnic Heart of the City Band to individual congregations for their regular Sunday morning services, could help us more effectively cast a real vision for Biblical unity and for reaching out to diverse peoples in their communities. We also found God leading us to do more and more evangelistic outreach events where we could share the Gospel with those who haven't heard it! With that focus, we have been led to perform on Reservations, at casinos, in jails, on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul and many other settings. We have carried on this new direction for the Heart of the City Band for many years now.
OUR OWN VENUE - The Music Factory!
2015 was a very discouraging Winter with very few Heart of the City Band events. I was even wondering if we were nearing the end of the road for this ministry. But that Summer, we took our first trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. While on that trip, we received a call saying that the building that housed the donated office space we were working out of, had been sold. But amazingly, the owner offered us two spaces in another building across the street! Over the next two and a half years, through many amazing provisions, volunteers and lots of hard work, we built out that space into what is now the Music Factory. Since the Summer of 2018 (except for the Covid's 2020 and half of 2021), we have hosted great, diverse concerts from both local and national artists! It's become a great place for ministry, family friendly entertainment and has also served as a revenue stream for the rest of our ministry!
Heart of the City Summer Picnics at the Fairgrounds!
In 1997, we were a part of the local Christian AM radio station, KKMS's Twin Cities Summer Picnic at the Minnesota State Fair grounds. We loved that event and the next year, we took over the leadership of the event and brought a vision to it of being literally a giant Church picnic! We invited churches from all over of Twin Cities of different ethnicities to - instead of having just their own church picnic - come join other churches and have it together on the State Fair grounds. Throughout the day, on the Baldwin Stage on "Machinery Hill", we would feature different church worship teams or choirs performing every hour. It was a joyous and uniquely unifying time where all of these churches across racial lines and denominational lines, who would never interact otherwise, came together in a unified, family-oriented, worshipfully joyful event!

We carried it on for several years until KTIS began holding their big Joyful Noise Fest and it became clear that we couldn't afford to hold this event anymore.
Passover Easter Celebrations
With the help of our longtime friend and board member, Messianic Jewish Rabbi, Ed Rothmann, we held for a couple of years, what was, when looking back, one of the more significant events we ever held! In the Bethel College gymnasium, over the Easter weekend, we decided to bring together a celebration of both the Passover, the Lord's Supper and Easter. The evening featured an abbreviated Seder ceremony led by Rabbi Ed, then, with the basins and towels set up all over the gym, we, as Christians across racial lines, washed each other's feet and prayed for one another as Jesus did at the Last Supper. The multi-ethnic pastors in attendance also washed each other's feet as an act of repentance and servanthood to one another. Then we ended the event with joyful praise and worship as we celebrated the Resurrection of Christ. What powerful events those were!
911 Sacred Assembly at the Metrodome
It was a shocking and frightening event that shook the world - and it shook the Church! Just one week after that terrible day, the Church was so sobered and shaken, that we were able to easily gather over 24,000 people at the Metrodome, only on a week's notice, simply to pray and seek God together! We were honored to be able to lead worship for that event and work alongside Rev. Steve Loopstra and a wonderful racially and denominationally diverse group of pastors and ministry leaders that had already been meeting and praying together for some time.
One of the great joys of performing with the diverse and talented Heart of the City Band, is writing for and recording so many diverse songs together. What an amazing group of singers and instrumentalists we have been blessed to serve with in the band for all these years! Many have come and gone over the years, but each has brought their own unique personality, life experience and musical gift in a united effort to help make this band and ministry what it's been. Hundreds and hundreds of hours were spent in the recording studio recording the 8 CD's we've released so far featuring 80 original songs! Our songs have spread all over the world through YouTube and several of them have been published in successful choral arrangements by various publishers over the years. Mostly, however, they have served as vehicles for worship representing our Biblical vision of diverse cultures coming together in united love for Jesus and one another.
I don't have time to talk about the Union Gospel Mission Choir singing with us for 7 years, the big Taste of Minnesota Christian Music Tent we put together, the 25 years of leading worship at the State Capital for the National Day of Prayer, city-wide Church gatherings in Elk River, and the many road trips to Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado, North Carolina, and around the Midwest. There are too many more photos and stories to tell of all that has happened over these 25 years! But amazingly, we are still here, still full of passion and vision to keep moving forward!

We don't know what the future holds and how long the Lord will enable us to carry on. But as we have for all of these years with every new challenge, obstacle and twist and turn in the road, we will seek Him for His guidance, His mercy when we fail and His power and will to be done in our lives, the lives of our band members and all that we touch along the way!

Thank you to all of you who have attended events, sent notes of encouragement, prayed for us and financially supported us through this long journey. You are truly our partners in this mission and we wouldn't be here without you!
Heart of the City Ministries
PO Box 284
Osseo, MN 55369