Michael Johnson is no stranger to addressing community issues. Whether it’s gun violence, education, poverty, even disaster response as far away as Texas, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO is usually in the mix.
And he thinks a new organization can help marshal some already-existing resources to do some real good.
“I believe our faith-based institutions are some of the strongest institutions in our community,” Johnson says. “I think it’s important for them to play a collaborative role in helping to address some of these issues. In the meantime, faith-based institutions operate in silos, just like non-profits, but they (now) have a group like Selfless Ambition who can help coordinate efforts between faith-based institutions, are important.”
Selfless Ambition, a new nonprofit intended to help churches in and around Madison connect with each other and connect with other community institutions such as schools, will formally launch at the Faith Immersion event at Goodman Community Center on September 23. The event will include networking, discussion and a panel featuring Johnson, Madison Alder Maurice Cheeks, Madison Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Cheatham, former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon.
“This is our official launch event where we’re going to bring people in to know more about and details about what Selfless Ambition our goals, what we plan to accomplish for the next three years within the organization,” says Selfless Ambition founder and CEO Henry Sanders. Sanders is also the founder and CEO of Madison365. “We’re going to discuss many things with that panel. One of the bigger things is we want them, I want the panel and the people in the audience to hear some of the main issues going on in each of their sectors, and once we hear that we can talk about how the Christian community can best engage to help some of these key issues going on in the community. Our goal is to immerse ourselves into the community and really dig in and start to help where some of these problems are, where some of these issues are that we want to be part of a solution to help to solve some of the issues.”
High Point Church Executive Pastor Mike Beresford will also present at the event.
He says he hopes to “just to come alongside other brothers and sisters who are like-minded that Madison needs to know who Jesus is and that the church needs to step outside of its walls and engage the community. Then, as a presenter, to encourage churches and people to do that.”
The effort is necessary, he says, because people of faith definitely want to do good in the community — but often lack the means to get it done.
“I think there’s a lot of desire, but I’m not sure that people necessarily know how to go about going on past their own routine, or relationships, and churches, while they’re busy inside their own walls,” he says. “We’re called to go out and to be sent. That means, sometimes, just walking across the street. Getting involved with people that, they may not know, may not look like them, or just sure if they’re believers, follow Christ followers, and getting involved in people’s lives. I think it’s lacking in the Christian community. I think there’s desire, I just don’t think they know what the pathways are.”
Mt Zion Baptist Church Pastor Marcus Allen agrees.
“I’m very impressed with it,” he says. “I’m a pastor, so whatever way in which the gospel can be spread or taken throughout the world, I’m down for it. (Sanders) has this venue in which he’s opened it up where Christians can speak towards the issues of society from a Christian point of view. It helps those who may not know the principles of Christianity, or the doctrine of Christianity, but to be able to look at it from the lens of a Christian, not always just from the lens of someone who is not religious or spiritual.”
Allen says he expects the launch event to represent diverse points of view looking at the same goals.
“You just don’t have the big Baptist, you don’t have the big Evangelical, you don’t have the big Protestant,” he says. “You don’t have to be part of a particular denomination to be a part of it. I think that unity is what also is going to make it work. That’s what I just want to see, more of that, people coming together, of Christians coming together, different races and creeds, and just to see that at the event and just hear more about what’s going on.”
Breanna Illéné, pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church, is also excited to reach across denominational divides.
“I’m excited about the fact that it’s about connecting the churches together,” she says. “I think that often we kind of get in our little silos of, ‘this is my church and I’m going to do my thing’ or maybe, ‘I’ll work with a church that is similar to me, I’m United Methodist and I only work with other United Methodist churches.’ But I’m excited about the possibility of reaching out and branching out. There’s kind of a vast array of theologies that exist in our community and I’m excited because I think we often don’t connect together with people who believe (differently). We’re all Christian but we believe different things. So I’m excited about that idea of connecting together and doing stuff together and kind of uniting across different theologies.”
Sanders says “people who are Christians or people of faith who are looking for an action plan” should plan on attending the event. It will especially appeal to people “who are looking to have a road map of how they can actually get involved in the community and looking for real means, more tangible ways to make a difference in a strategic way. Those people should come. It could be a pastor. You don’t have to be a pastor you could be someone who goes to church. It could be someone who doesn’t go to church but, who believes and has faith but also wants to use their faith to actually help the community and serve and just wants to know how. We are really gonna be laying out an action plan of next steps .”