These articles are meant to strengthen the capacity of all faith-based organizations to live out their faith-based missions. If you are already a Sacred Sector participant, log into the Participant Portal to access the toolbox resources. If your organization is interested in becoming a Sacred Sector participant, click here.
When a local church is featured in the media, it isn’t usually to highlight its thriving ministry. Media consumers are more interested in church controversy than in the important work of small groups or outreach programs. Media organizations aren’t the only ones missing out on the important work of local churches; in fact, society often perceives the work of local churches as primarily taking place on Sunday mornings. However, many churches contribute extensively to their local communities and are vital to the flourishing of civil society every day of the week.
Churches are commonly understood as responsible for cultivating people’s moral and spiritual lives. Yet Sacred Sector participant First Rock Baptist Church believes in a holistic approach to ministry that cares for all aspects of an individual. First Rock’s sacred mission compels it to actively meet the needs of its community, including healthcare and job training needs. By serving the comprehensive needs of its congregation and neighborhood, First Rock demonstrates how faith-based organizations’ distinct missions can equip them to tangibly impact disadvantaged communities.
Advancing Sacred Missions through Organizational Practices
First Rock Baptist Church has been living out its sacred mission in Southeast D.C. since 1957. Its ministry has an emphasis on community impact and transformational, Kingdom-advancing work. One of the ways it hopes to be an instrument of change in its neighborhood is by converting some of its church space into a health clinic.
The health clinic would serve seniors in the seniors’ center First Rock helped establish, and would also provide regular health exams. Anthony L. Minter, Pastor of First Rock Baptist Church, said, “I think it is an opportunity to elevate the healthcare presence in the immediate community. We don’t necessarily have a quality hospital nearby, and the whole challenge around health insurance and healthcare in general is a major issue for underserved communities.”
The clinic will be started through a number of partnerships, including collaborations with doctors eager to support the community in Southeast D.C. and with Hadley Memorial Hospital.
“I have always said that if you look at the ministry of Jesus, he always ministered to the whole person,” said Pastor Minter. “So sure, he preached the Kingdom and explained the way to salvation, but he also healed the sick and fed the hungry [...] I believe we have a responsibility, to the best of our ability, to be able to minister in those areas that Jesus himself did. We think that a holistic, lived Gospel requires it.”
Another project First Rock is working on is potentially purchasing what used to be the property of a nearby school. The church hopes to use this property to host adult education in collaboration with some local unions. The trainings would equip participants with marketable skills and empower community members to be employed in industries such as hospitality and construction.
Pastor Minter described his motivation for such a ministry: “I believe God calls us to be able to live with dignity. I believe jobs are directly related to people being able to live with dignity, and I think it is part of the whole-person ministry that we are called to do in the name of the savior. When people are employed, it impacts their whole quality of life. It impacts not only them but the whole community, and it gives them an opportunity to give back.”
First Rock’s successful community development work is a result of its external practices being directly linked to its sacred mission. To equip faith-based organizations such as First Rock, Sacred Sector provides resources on key issue-areas. One toolbox, the Nondiscrimination Laws Public Policy Toolbox, says:
It is imperative that FBOs be intentional about articulating the linkages between their internal and external practices and the faith commitments driving them. This is true regardless of whether they find themselves in widespread agreement, or disagreement, with major points of social consensus in our present moment. FBOs need to help our society and its government leaders discover a larger and more accurate picture of the practices, commitments and roles of FBOs in our pluralist society. Doing so will serve to communicate the practical importance and benefits of preserving religious freedom.
First Rock is an example of a faith-based organization whose religious beliefs inform its external practices. In addition to living out its beliefs about holistic care, First Rock believes that sexual acts should only occur between a man and woman united in marriage; this belief shapes its approach to community engagement.
First Rock is committed to serving anyone in need, but will not accept funding from sources who want it to change its stance on the sanctity of marriage. Pastor Minter said, “With our health clinic, we will serve everyone who comes to us, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation and will gladly do so. We are who we are. We are not going to compromise what we believe or teach, and if you can accept that and receive what we have to offer then God bless you.”
Altogether, First Rock demonstrates how faith-based organizations can live out their sacred missions by integrating their religious convictions into their interactions with the local community. To learn more about how faith-based organizations can consistently apply their religious beliefs to both internal and external practices, see the Nondiscrimination Laws Public Policy Toolbox.
Although the public may be more enthralled by church mishaps than church successes, First Rock Baptist Church exhibits how faith-based organizations, including local churches, can substantially impact their local communities. Churches can and should be called to far more than Sunday-morning ministry; they are called to embody Christ’s ministry and to care for individuals, families and communities in a holistic manner. When churches do become engaged in their local communities, it is imperative that they connect there sacred mission and religious convictions to the work they do beyond church doors. Whether it be their beliefs about Jesus’ ministry, human dignity or sexual ethics, First Rock Baptist church exemplifies how faith-based organizations can do just that.
If you are not a Sacred Sector participant and would like access to resources on public policy, organizational practices and public positioning for faith-based organizations, sign up to become a Sacred Sector participant here.
Kathryn Mae Post is an intern with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ). She contributes to two different initiatives at CPJ: Sacred Sector and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA). She is graduating from Calvin College in May of 2018 with a BA in both political science and English.