Two local church pastors are leading their congregations to live out “kingdom culture” as expressed in the Lord’s Prayer — “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“Kingdom culture, I believe, is what we as Christians are to bring to the community around us,” Carl Ratcliff, pastor of United Faith Community Church in Valley, Neb., said by email.
The church has a long history of cooperative effort, and is the merger of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations originally established in the small community near Omaha.
The phrase from the Lord’s Prayer means to bring heaven’s culture to today’s world. “I don’t think we need to wait until we get to heaven to experience it,” Ratcliff said. “Jesus said, ‘The kingdom is among you.’”
“Kingdom culture is when ‘down here’ looks a lot like ‘up there,’ noted Blake McKinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
“For example, Revelation 7:9 tells us that heaven includes people of ‘every nation, tribe, people and language.’ God wants that same reality to be on display here and now,” McKinney said by email. “Part of kingdom culture is that we are defined by our relationship to Jesus, the King, and not by factors such as race, economics or earthly politics.”
Both congregations serve as the primary means to bring heaven’s culture to their communities.
First Baptist partners with Westview Elementary School in Lee’s Summit. Some volunteers tutor students, while others serve as “lunch buddies.” Church members often provide special meals for teachers, do small facility and grounds projects, and provide clothing and school supplies for some students. They also collect money for funding field trips for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go.
Members participate in a frequent local missions emphasis called “First Serve,” in which they do some outreach or service ministry in Lee’s Summit. Among projects was a picnic for residents of a nearby transitional housing unit. Small groups and Bible classes also do community service projects.
First Baptist youth distribute bottled water and bacon to students and teachers when the high school uses the church parking lot as a staging area for parades. And each Christmas Day, members serve a turkey dinner in the fellowship hall for the community, and deliver meals to those who cannot travel to the church.
Ratcliff draws a quirky comparison between the church and Santa’s workshop: Each elf — and member of the body of Christ — has specific tasks; Santa — God — makes the decisions; and all needed supplies come from Santa’s workshop — God’s kingdom.
“I believe he [God] gives each of us tasks to do…sometimes through his special gifting. I believe he gives us all the resources we need to do the job. We may not see an endless supply, but as we need it, it appears for us to use,” Ratcliff explained.
“The supplies are to be used generously to help God bless the children of the neighborhood and world with exquisite gifts…. He expects us to use his supply generously and not sparingly, and he does not expect us to hoard any of it for ourselves.”
Four years ago, United Faith Community members committed to give to and serve their community, “expecting nothing in return,” the pastor said.
The church purchased an old circus tent and started providing a meal every week. The ministry started with $140 and a few volunteers. Today, the church feeds from 80 to 100 people each week, even though it has never included the outreach in the church’s budget.
“I honestly don’t know where the money comes from, but each week we serve another meal,” Ratcliff said. “Someone brings a case of spaghetti noodles; hamburger and pork loins and turkeys show up in the freezers at church; bags of potatoes and fresh produce appear as individuals come across a sale.”
Church members minister in several other ways, including among the elderly and in public housing units, in the economically diverse neighborhood.
They don’t count the amount of activity as much as they count the blessings to the community and the changes in themselves.
“We have honestly tried to give ourselves away and see if we would ever run out of money and supplies. Try as we may, when we are giving to the community, we never seem to run dry,” Ratcliff said.
He added that in the past, they focused on having enough funds to last to the end of each year. Now, they watch God provide. “Well, we don’t have enough to get to the end of the year, but we do have enough for today,” he said.
The pastor acknowledged that the church has grown numerically and people have come to know the Lord as a result of ministry efforts, but that growth was not the reason for obedience.
“We were just motivated to give because God called us to. It has changed our hearts more than the hearts of others. We no longer fight at board meetings. We have given up on trying being in control and we work more on being obedient. We spend most of our time figuring out how we can do more, love more and reach more,” Ratcliff said.
“We focus less on buildings and more on people, less on money and more on ministry, and we have a joy in our hearts that just won’t go away. We are blessed.”