Sixty years ago, when Bishop George D. McKinney was in the throes of his theological education, he was certain that his life’s calling was to be a missionary in Africa.
“I sent out applications to the mission boards, and I was rejected,” McKinney told students, faculty and staff at Regent University’s weekly University Chapel service on Wednesday, Feb. 25. “I went back and I said, ‘what now, Lord?'”
There, in his seminary dorm room, he received a distinct calling, what McKinney calls an “immediate knowing.” His work as a minister would be in California. He heeded the call with his wife, uprooting themselves from their comfortable life in Toledo, Ohio and settled in San Diego.
“I have to say, when God said that my work would be in California, He wasn’t exaggerating; it has been work,” said McKinney.
Nearly 55 years have passed and ever since, McKinney and his family have been ministering to the urban sprawl near the Mexico border. Since then, he’s witnessed a phenomenal change in the United States culture: the shift from rural to urban life.
As the world continues to morph and grow, so does the dynamics of family life and its integration in the church, according to McKinney. And these social paradigm shifts present significant challenges to the church communities.
“We know there are many gospels being proclaimed: There’s a decline in church attendance; there’s deterioration to education to the point of bankruptcy,” said McKinney.
But, Jesus gave the world a Great Commission, not a “great suggestion,” as McKinney explained. It is with this passion for the Church and its mission that he considers urban ministry a “great privilege and joy.”
“God says the city has significance; it’s important because there’s a concentration of people there,” said McKinney. “People are important to God, Jesus taught us that.”
He compared his ministry to the “reluctant prophet,” Jonah, who was wary of traveling to Nineveh at the beckon of God’s calling. Over the years, McKinney has been a live-in witness to hardships and confusion of the nation’s major cities.
“Confusion abounds in the cities, because people are trying to build their lives apart from God,” said McKinney.
He made a plea from his audience to proclaim the Good News of grace in the cities. To preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.
“We cannot simply be concerned, but we need to respond to the needs and the suffering of the people who need God,” said McKinney. “We must share and we must do it.”
Learn more about Regent University’s Campus Ministries.