As a child and teen growing up near Belton, Missouri, Adam Brown had no concept of God as a loving Heavenly Father, and would never have dreamed of teaching that concept to others. His own father died from HIV complications due to drug use when Adam was 3 years old. While his mom did the best she could, Adam became involved in illegal drug use and abuse himself. At 16 he went to prison after being tried as an adult for drug dealing.
Although Brown met Christ in 2005, but with no discipleship he soon returned to drugs. Brown’s romantic entanglement with a non-Christian woman resulted in the birth of a son, Isaiah. But Brown landed behind bars again and missed the opportunity to know the young child.
Brown knew that as a Christian he needed to change his behavior, but he had no idea how to go about it. In 2010, walking around the penitentiary pod one day, he felt overwhelmed by a heartbreaking sense of loss for never having known his young son. He sensed God speak to him as he returned to his cell: Now you know what it’s like to lose a son. In that moment, he realized God understood that same sense of loss.
“It started a totally new understanding of fatherhood and of God’s love,” Brown says.
Released in 2011, Brown attended Crossroads Assembly in Harrisonville, Missouri, and felt called into ministry. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and Church Planting from SUM Bible College and Seminary. He also met his wife, Kathryn — recovering from her own past difficulties — at Crossroads. Her first marriage had ended after abuse, she had misused prescription pills, and following a cancer diagnosis at age 19, she had attempted suicide. Adam, who is now 36, and Kathryn, 31, married in 2013.
The couple felt led to start a church in a rough neighborhood northeast of downtown Kansas City and joined a church planting network for training and funding. Through those efforts they became mentees of pastor John Alarid of Freedom City Church in Springfield, Missouri.
“John has an anointing that paves the way for guys like me,” Brown says of Alarid, whose life likewise included drug use and an encounter with God in prison.
With Alarid’s encouragement, the Browns persevered in their calling and partnered with the Reach Missouri Network, led by pastor Jerry W. Harris. After being renamed Reach Kansas City, the church purchased a building and started outreach, including a summer food program and a mentor program at a neighborhood elementary school.
With the network motto of “ordinary people in overlooked places doing extraordinary things,” Reach KC has been the site of more than 700 salvations since 2017 through its Sunday services and outreach events. Over 100 converts have been baptized.
From experience, Brown knows the importance of spiritually training and equipping men.
“Studies show if a father accepts Christ, there’s a 93 percent chance the entire family will, compared to only 17 percent when the mother is the first believer,” Brown says. He estimates that 80 percent of the pre-COVID regular 200 attendees had no active father involvement in their lives. The church builds connections with incarcerated fathers to encourage church attendance once they are released.
Brown is also thankful for God’s grace in his personal situation. In 2014, he gained visitation rights with his son and has built a good working relationship with the boy’s mother. Isaiah, 12, attends church frequently with the family, which now includes Bella, 5, and Addilyn, 3.
In addition to pastoring, the Browns own and operate Kingdom Tree, a tree service company. Not only does the business provide financially, but the seasonal need for extra employees also helps build résumés for formerly incarcerated men in the church.
“We really need second-chance employers for guys who want to work hard and be responsible,” Brown says.
Alarid is glad the Browns are now serving the Lord.
“Adam and Kathryn have done an amazing job in a hard-to-reach neighborhood,” says Alarid, an endorsed AG U.S. missionary chaplain. “Not everyone can successfully plant a church in tough urban centers. It takes an apostolic calling, entrepreneurial spirit, and the hard-headedness to keep going in spite of the obstacles.”