Within Reach holds training events focusing on topics such as leadership and evangelization. WITHIN REACH

Equipping Disciples

Omaha religious leaders set aside differences to work on spreading the Good News

Groups of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers are working together across denominational lines to try and help more people know Jesus.

Regardless of their religious affiliation, they all agree it is time for an all-hands-on-deck approach to bringing Jesus’ love and message of hope to the world, said Jed Mullenix, the CEO of Omaha’s Within Reach, a city-wide effort to transform people, neighborhoods and communities through the Good News of Jesus.

According to a 2022 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll, the number of Americans who believe in God has fallen to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017 and significantly lower than in the 1950s and 1960s when almost every American professed a belief in God. Church attendance, membership and confidence in organized religion are also seeing steep drops, even by those who believe in God.

Like the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Journey of Faith, the goal of Within Reach is to renew a focus on spreading the Good News to others.

Mullenix said Catholics and Protestants alike have been encouraged by the collaboration.

Jed Mullenix, CEO of Within Reach

“It’s like having brothers and sisters in the family that you haven’t seen for years and you’re realizing how beautiful it is when you get together and how much depth and richness there is,” he said.

Where it started

The genesis of Within Reach can be traced back about 30 years, when a handful of leaders of Christian Churches and organizations wanted to bring unity between these Christian organizations and positively impact the city.

However, there was no formal structure until 2015, when the pastor of Christ Community Church, Mark Ashton, gathered a group of leaders to reimagine this movement with a focus on the mission of Jesus. That was the beginning of Within Reach as it stands today. Mullenix became its CEO in 2016.

When Within Reach got started, there were few, if any, Catholics participating. But that is changing.

In 2019, Father Dan Andrews was named the pastor and director of the JPII Newman Center in Omaha. Father Andrews made it a point to meet with leaders in the area as he does wherever he is assigned. He can’t remember who put him in touch with Mullenix, but when they met, they quickly understood they were both trying to do the same thing, reach more people for Christ at a time when fewer people have a relationship with Him.


“Bottom line, there are a lot of people out there who are hurting and lost, and there’s an answer,” Father Andrews said. “There are a lot of people who agree that Jesus is the way, right? So the more we can encourage each other and spread that, the better. And I think that’s the point of Within Reach: let’s get moving together.”

Today, Father Damien Zuerlein, pastor of St. Francis Cabrini, Father Ryan Lewis, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and others have become involved in Within Reach.

Moving forward – together

Within Reach’s “State of the City” conference this October is designed to bring churches from across the metro area – including Catholic Churches – to identify the most significant challenges Omaha faces. It also hopes to begin on a path to transform struggling neighborhoods and communities through the goodness of Jesus.

While Father Andrews knows there are obvious theological differences between Catholics and Protestants, he also knows that doesn’t mean they can’t work together for the greater good, especially when they work together so well.

“Without exception, these pastors are very open to having Catholics involved,” Father Andrews said. “They’ve been wanting that. They realize that we have a widespread presence right now, not only in the city but in the state, and I think they really want to know more about us.”

For his part, Mullenix has been “deeply and joyfully surprised” with the Archdiocese of Omaha’s commitment to the mission of Jesus and desire that all people hear the Good News.

“What we’ve realized is not only do they (Catholics) have a similar commitment to ours, they’re actually being much more practical and innovative in how to get it done,” Mullenix said. “For example, what’s taking place within Alpha. Whether it’s their work in the prisons or with youth, we’re seeing the Good News of Jesus taking root.”

Alpha is a program that introduces Jesus to people and answers questions such as why did Jesus die and what does it mean for my life?

Jodi Meyer is the network director for Nebraska for Alpha USA. Meyer, who is Catholic, met Mullenix about a year ago and has become very involved in Within Reach since that time.

Jodi Meyer ALPHA USA

“God sticks me in places where I connect,” Meyers said. “The archdiocese was already doing this great work trying to move towards missional, right? That’s the heartbeat of what Within Reach is trying to do. In my work with Alpha, I knew many people who had many of these things in common but didn’t know each other. I felt like the Lord was asking me to bring these people together.”

Meyer and Father Andrews introduced Jim Jansen, the director of pastoral services at the Archdiocese of Omaha, to Within Reach.

Jansen echoes what other Catholics have come to realize about Within Reach.

“We don’t have to share everything in common to fruitfully work together to share the Gospel,” Jansen said. “It’s our common mission that seems to help establish unity.”

Click here to learn more about Within Reach and upcoming events.


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