By Jim Wright
Not many Indiana pastors have been stabbed, caught in a shootout, and had someone attempt to mug them in the middle of the day after leaving a coffee shop, but those incidents are part of church planter Dwayne Gibb’s story. Pastor Gibbs and his family moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to the Indianapolis near northside neighborhood known as “SoBro.” So named by musicians and artists, this area became a hub of punk and new wave culture in the late 1970s. After a downturn in the 1990s, the area reemerged as a cultural hotspot due to an influx of investments in the 2000s, which drew young people, students, artists, and young families.


Launching The District Church was a family effort. To build relationships in the neighborhood, the Gibbs family would walk around and look for natural ways to meet people. They would visit yard sales, introduce themselves, and chat with residents about how long they had been in the area. They hosted game nights, invited neighbors to their house for board games, dinners, and barbecues, and slowly built relationships. When Dwayne’s wife Kelsey was expecting their second child, she met another pregnant woman in the neighborhood and formed a bond. The family began attending the church plant and continues to serve there six years later.


Satan’s opposition to God’s work was evident early in the history of The District Church. For the first three years, the newly formed church met in a warehouse converted into a coworking space called The Refinery. Inside The Refinery was Black Circle Brewery, which hosted the satanic temple chapter of Indianapolis. Unsurprisingly, the satanic temple always seemed to coordinate its events with The District Church. For example, when the church hosted an Easter Sunday event with an outdoor egg hunt outside, the satanic temple would simultaneously host “A brunch with Beelzebub” or a death metal yoga session on the lawn.


Opposition did not deter Pastor Gibbs and The District Church from continuing their mission to reach the community. They leveraged their relationship with The Refinery to create community events like partnering with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Since the Satanic temple was also a renter in the facility, church members worked alongside them at these events, giving them more avenues to share the Gospel.


Due to growth, the congregation moved from The Refinery and leased space from a struggling church in their building. However, the move once again displayed Satan’s displeasure with The District Church. When The Refinery notified fellow renters the church was leaving, several people commented they were glad to see the church go because they were not affirming the LGBTQ+ community. Known for its left-leaning political and social views, Pastor Gibbs expects criticism from those in the SoBro community; however, that does not deter him from sharing the Gospel with residents.


Although the location change gave the church more worship space, the growth of the children’s program during the last two-and-a-half years has the congregation searching again for a new location. At least four or five babies have been born recently, and they expect three or four more babies to be born in the next few months. While most churches are aging, The District Church is experiencing a baby boom due to its young demographic of mostly 20 to 40-year-olds. Pastor Gibbs noted, “We’re sticking kids in coat closets, a board room, and the conference room. [The current location is] not feasible for kids’ space.” The biggest challenge right now is space for children.


As a relatively young church in a lower-income area, the congregation does not have the means to purchase a building, so they are praying and waiting for God to supply in His time and way. In addition to facility needs, Pastor Gibbs requests Indiana Baptists pray for the congregation to see the vision and play their part. Please pray for Pastor Gibb’s wife, Kelsey. She was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and is dealing with fatigue and other symptoms from the effects of surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments, so pray for her strength and health. Also, pray for them as they raise their three boys.