Re-thinking the Meaning of the Local Church in Inner-City Baltimore
Matthew Kinsey has been involved in public service throughout his life, first as an EMT, then in emergency medicine where he worked in inner-city and suburban emergency rooms. This work led him to become a firefighter and paramedic in his home town of Baltimore, Maryland. Later, he became a pastor in his community after he retired from emergency medical work due to a hip injury. He now serves at Grace Redeemer Community Church, and recently planted a church in the inner city of Baltimore. Matthew credits The Global Leadership Summit and the GLSnext app for equipping him with the skills needed to bring his dream for his community to life.
Realizing the powerful need for hope in Baltimore.
If you work in emergency medical response in the inner city, one of the things you learn, if you do not become blind with apathy toward human suffering, is the powerful need for hope.
Baltimore has consistently ranked in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the US. There is so much fear here—a constant, pervasive, epidemic level of fear. Our community is an amalgam of several neighborhoods. It’s also fenced off—one way in, one way out—it reminds you more of a prison yard than a community. As I went deeper into getting to know our community better, I heard horrific stories, and God called me to build community here. Throughout my life, he was preparing me to do just that as I lived out my dream of serving Him.
God moved in my heart to re-think what it meant to be a church in a local setting.
One of the equipping stages I went through was to attend the National Church Adopt a School Initiative through the Urban Alternative, in Dallas, Texas. And honestly, planting a church wasn’t first on my list of things to do. My heart was set on working in the community, and I had already begun efforts to move out into that work. But the Gospel and people God put in my way had a way of gently, but firmly pressing us into the direction Jesus would have us go. My wife encouraged me to think about it more, and I accepted an invitation from my pastor to submit an application to the North American Mission Board. I was accepted, and am now in the process of planting a church in a community in great need of both hope, and leadership.
The particular location I chose is in a section 8 community where folks do not have regular access to private transportation. My heart ached to see that even though sincere invitations were being made to join other “local” congregations, there was still no real sense of care for the community itself.
My dream is for the church to be in the community and for the community.
I want to see a Christ-centered community of disciples who seek to impact their neighborhood for Christ. So many churches have become commuter churches, not necessarily community churches. Whenever Christ is in a community, He transforms the community for the greater good. I believe the Gospel is as much about human flourishing as it is about salvation. Because God’s salvation through Jesus is so great, you cannot help but see humans flourish when Jesus is present in a neighborhood. I don’t think you can have one without the other.
The Summit encourages and equips us for the mission ahead.
In order to build a hope-giving, flourishing, Christ-centered community church, I realized there were some leadership gaps that needed to be filled both in my own leadership and in others in my community.
For the last two years I’ve had the GLSnext app on my phone and I loved all the excerpts. So when I found out there would be a local GLS satellite site in my neighborhood, it meant I didn’t have to incur the expense of traveling to the location. I was also able to bring two young men with me who had never before been exposed to leadership training, and had never been seen as leaders.
Each of us were reminded of the value of grit, empowerment through trust and viewing people as children of God. I’m applying what I learned to my church plant and how we serve our community.
I was most excited about what happened in the two young men I brought to the Summit.
These men were in two different places in life. One was a 30-year old facing court-related issues. He had been a certified auto mechanic prior to an episode in his life, which threatened to land him in prison. As you might expect, the prospect of prison was soul-crushing. After the GLS, he took a serious turn toward creating change in his life. Since then, he’s been liberated from a lot of fines and a looming sense of doom. He is now an independent auto-mechanic and is striking out as an entrepreneur.
The other young man is in his early 20’s and had been living a life that many inner-city young men have experienced. Even though he was a good student in high school, he was charged with possession of controlled substances. His growth in the workplace was hampered. After hearing Bryan Stevenson, something clicked. Shortly after the GLS, his focus turned toward applying for expungement and getting a steady job. His hope for the future became achievable. The following winter, he was awarded expungement, got a full time job and started new chapter in life.
Go to the Summit, and bring someone with you!
Take someone who you would never have thought to invest in before. Much of the leadership talk calls us to invest in those who are investing, which is often sound advice and a safe, smart choice when it comes to establishing and building a business or organizational structure. But, I would encourage pastors and potential attendees to the GLS to get out of the office, and spend some time building margin in our lives to find those one or two guys or gals who need the boost.
I hear the voice of Paul when he says, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (though they are powerful, necessary everyday things of everyday life—like running our organizations and businesses well) but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Think of a diamond that’s still in the mine—not just in the rough. That, my friends, is adventure, excitement, a conviction of the basic holiness of people and joy in the Holy Spirit. Make a commitment to do it. There is someone God has already placed on your heart!