50 Years of World Impact
How should we understand the past and its influence on our present and future? That depends. We tend to hold uneven views about the past and its role in the future. Some have described it as a stepping stone to a new future, while others as a millstone that weighs us down and hinders what we are meant to become. Some have described it as a kind of prison that binds us in unhelpful assumptions and practices. I’ve heard the past described as clear eyeglasses that help us understand where we have been and what direction we are meant to proceed ahead. Which of these models makes best sense?
This year World Impact is celebrating its 50th anniversary of ministering in the inner cities of America. Our origins were modest and straightforward. An aggressive group of young, naïve, and spiritually-hungry college volunteers, mostly white and suburban, began teaching Bible clubs in inner-city Watts of LA. Over time their simple efforts grew into what we have become today—an aggressive missions enterprise equipping partners across America and worldwide to plant healthy churches and train Gospel workers to serve some of the poorest neighborhoods.
The different themes of our past helped shape the kind of ministry we are today. During the 70s, we focused on hosting Bible clubs, teen classes, and adult studies in the very communities where we lived and served. In the 80s, we added our commitment to social justice by starting thrift stores, medical clinics, Christian camps, and Christian schools. In the 90s, we affirmed our status as a full-fledged missions organization—planting churches, equipping pastors, and training church plant teams to minister in unreached neighborhoods. And since the 2000s, we’ve partnered with local churches, denominations, and church and ministry networks to plant a healthy church in every community of poverty.
Our five programs—Church-based Seminary, Church Planting, Trauma Healing, Prison Ministry, and Retreats—draw on the wisdom of our past experiences while preparing us well to equip a new generation to reach cities and communities around the world. Our wonderful staff, donors, volunteers, intercessors, and friends over the years shaped us well for an exciting future!
I seriously doubt if the college students teaching Bible club on vacant lots in Watts 50 years ago could have imagined what we would become today. For us, our past was God’s seed for an amazing harvest of churches and workers we expect in the next 50 years, if the Lord tarries. How will God unite our efforts with his people to see a healthy church in every community of poverty? Only time will tell!
January 7, 2021 | Darla
I was one of the college students that cared for people and worked in a Bible Club in a city. What I loved about World Impact was that World Impact cared about the whole person and carried that out in the ministry with living in the community, improving the education by having the schools, having inner city people the chance to be in nature with the camps, providing a place for retreats, a way to help those who need help by the stores. To see that be taken away. . . my heart hurts.