A Model for Community Focus

By Kristin McAtee

had the pleasure of joining a group of college students recently on a trip to NYC to participate in the ministries of Metro Baptist Church and the Rauschenbush Metro Ministries. I had long heard of RMM and heard stories during my seminary years from a church friend who spent time working in that very ministry. At a recent CBFO meeting, Steve Graham mentioned a few spots had opened up at the last minute and I jumped at the chance to go. I wasn’t disappointed in what I found there.

RMM is a wonderful example of the church being more than just inward focused. It is a place where Kingdom comes first, where the building is a tool that enables them to feed and clothe people, to minister to the needs of minority groups seeking a place of refuge and hope, a place where the beauty of art is allowed to thrive. Most of the week, the building is full of the community and multiple programs that make the community feel this is their home. The congregation comes together on Sunday to worship and celebrate all that God is doing in their church and their lives. I was blessed to see a vision of what church can be when it truly embraces God’s call on it to build the Kingdom.

I was not the only person blessed by RMM. We were invited to attend a production of “Company” on Sunday night. The show was a birthday gift of one church member to himself. It had been his dream to stage the production on his birthday and the church has so many talented actors and singers, that the production was made up nearly entirely of church members. It was a beautiful production, but what struck me the most happened at the end of the show. This talented young man who celebrated his birthday in this amazing way stood to greet his family and friends. He told them about his church and the amazing work that it does in the after-school program, the urban farm, the food and clothing distribution, the ministry to LGBTQ homeless youth, and then he invited them to be a part of that ministry. He asked, in lieu of gifts, that they make a contribution to the ministry.

I was reminded yet again how powerful Kingdom work can be! Jesus went around doing good, and people were drawn in as they saw the Kingdom being manifested before them. RMM and Metro Baptist go about doing good, and people are drawn in. Church is never to be just about us and our desires to be comfortable and filled. It’s about sharing this amazing Kingdom with those who struggle and feel a need for release, for justice, for food and clothing, for a place to call home. Our churches would do well to pray and ponder on this model of church.

One of my biggest joys was to spend time with young people who were passionate to learn about this Kingdom work. I loved working alongside each one of them and being welcomed. There were three of us “old” people in the group, but we were embraced and made a part of the team. It gives me such joy to watch the Kingdom and its effects become real to young people, to see them touched by Kingdom work and begin to dream of how they can be a part of something so powerful. It is encouraging and uplifting to see that your own dreams and hopes are shared by young people who will take the dream forward and make it more alive as they go. That was probably the most impactful part of the trip to me. Thank you, my dear new friends, for giving me hope for the future.

Of course, we had some fun in NYC as well. Several of us saw “The Band’s Visit”, the show that swept the Tony Awards this year. It was so beautiful, the story of Israelis and Arabs getting along, just being human together, with no thought of political divide. A story like that should be front page headlines, every day, a story in which people find common humanity and celebrate that connection. We visited the 9/11 Memorial, a sad reminder of just how difficult it can be when people forget their common humanity. And we saw the Statue of Liberty, a beautiful reminder of how our country was built on welcoming refugees and immigrants, eager to build a new nation.

Thank you, CBFO, for sponsoring this trip and for allowing me to join in. It is one I will not soon forget.

Kristin McAtee is an ordained minister and former Minster for Administration and Children at First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City. She will soon begin work with the Good Shepherd Clinic, a free medical dental clinic started by FBC OKC in the late 1970s.