We love Kansas City! It's our Home and we think it's Beautiful.
Kansas City is known for jazz, fountains, barbeque and the boys in blue. It's a city of wonderful diversity, culture and a growing attraction to industry and young entrepenuers from all over. There is a history and deep redemptive root system below the surface, anchoring all these things we see and enjoy. Through several years of research and digging five key "Redemptive Roots" for Kansas City were found. We believe that these are things that God has purposed and promised for the good of the people of KC and beyond. Below is a summary written by Jon Petersen (the leader of our Oversight Team).
Kansas City was founded by many Godly pioneers, entrepreneurs and men and women of natural and spiritual vision. A number were committed to Native American advocacy, church planting, health advocacy, child education and even a surveyor commissioned to designate a five-state territory to be given to the Native Americans as their own sovereign nation.
Others were committed to the social transformation of the exploding city population. They were involved in health services, immigrant advocacy, racial peace-making, street level ministry to the poor, social entrepreneurs, single tax policies, labor unions and public ownership of utility companies. One newspaper publisher advocated the cause of the poor in the Kansas City Star. The newspaper was the engine of widening spiritual and social change in the city.
Business and civil leaders along with many educators founded schools, seminaries and universities and banks, and were credited for founding Kansas City, Westport and Shawnee Mission. They were often considered forerunners in mill technology, railroad and steamship enterprises. One Christian leader, who helped to establish safe working environments and set up teachers pensions, was also crowned by President Roosevelt as the father of “timberland reforestation” policy. The City Beautiful Movement, inspired by a pastor and a landscape architect, was responsible for the city’s park system, boulevards and laws requiring art pieces or fountains be included in all commercial building plans.
Other Christian entrepreneurs established the first banks, hotels, theaters and real estate industries. Others were able to convince Boston rail companies to run their rails through the city, which eventually linked the East and West coasts through Kansas City. The founder of the Pony Express was a Kansas City visionary dedicated to live his life and perform his business “to the glory of God."
Most all of these men and women performed their labors “in the name of Christ” and viewed themselves as partners in the work of God with many of their contemporaries. With all the human vision they exhibited, it was the vision of Christ that they preferred to credit for the legacy of their contribution to Kansas City.
2. A Launching Pad
From its inception, Kansas City was a convening and sending city. From the original 26 families of the Chouteau Trading Company to the railroads that connected the nation together, the city has received and sent many goods, people and ideas beyond its borders. The traders and Native Americans traded in the two-river confluence and exported their wares and ideas beyond the young outpost's borders. The Westport district, where the city was birthed, became the eastern terminus for the western expansion on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails. Millions of people were outfitted on their way to the West. John Sutter, the founder of Sacramento, California and instigator of the Gold Rush of 1849, was equipped and aided in his dream by the good residents of Westport.
Training institutions were originated in the city and students prepared for ministry into all of society. One institution, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 1968, was able to boast that over 10,000 students had been prepared there and 3,500 were serving globally in 60 foreign nations. Kansas City was also the host of the largest Christian Businessman’s Bible Study in the United States. At one gathering, including mayors and governors, over 52,121 were present in 1921. There it was pronounced that “peace cannot come until the world commits itself to Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man.” Exporting the Gospel was a focus for the church community as Billy Sunday and DL Moody spoke to large gatherings of believers. It was the last sermon Moody would ever preach.
The railroads, the cattle industry fueled by the Chisolm Trail, the breadbasket mentality of the agricultural community and the influence of the jazz community all contributed to the convening and sending spirit of the city.
Over the decades, Kansas City has seen a number of spiritual movements birthed and released into the national and global arenas.
3. Championing the Outsider
Well-loved city father RA Long once declared, “Let us treat the persons right who come to visit or live here, whether they be very rich or very poor, and they’ll bring their neighbors and will without knowing it, and at the same time, have the firmest foundations municipality can have for our growth.” RA Long, along with other city-builders, attributed their success to their faith and the kindness of God.
Describing the treatment of the Native Americans in the United States as a “dark spot,” the history of the missionary labors is the one bright spot on that dark record. A number of pastors and missionaries ushered the host people West into the Kansas City area, loved them, lived the Gospel among them and advocated their issues to the United States Congress. Shawnee Mission, Kansas was founded by these benevolent leaders who established the first church amongst the Native Americans that was famous for drawing whites and colored servants in the boisterous gathering where the presence of God caused the congregants to vibrate and shout their praise, “overcome with ecstasy.”
Another deciphered three Native American languages, put them into phonetic form, translated the Bible and brought the first printing press to Kansas City to print the Bible and other Christian literature for the hungry-hearted tribal peoples.
Racial advocates hosted a migration of post-Civil War African American slaves into the “Promised Land.” Unwilling to receive these immigrants, the local government tried to expel them from the city, giving rise to one man, a former slave, to intervene and convince the city leaders to allow them to remain.
The Church was given to advocating the stranger, the outcast, the poor and the immigrants pouring into America. The spirit of reconciliation was woven into their DNA from the inception of Kansas City.
4.Hearts of Mercy
The template was set by the 26 French Catholic families on the banks of the Missouri River. The charity, benevolence and generosity they showed the Native Americans included ministering to cholera patients, the reverent burials of their children and the hospitality and honor of the Native American cultures. All this contributed to an imprint of mercy in the city’s psyche. One 15-year-old girl cried out to the Lord, “When can I do something to relieve the oppressed of our land?” She was later responsible for ministering to the flood of slaves coming through the area and sought to bring justice to their plight and sanctuary, along with many believers in the city.
The churches in the city were among the first in the nation to combine regular church services with street-level acts of mercy to the poor. Clubs were started, the sick were visited, day nurseries, pure milk stations, juvenile courts, sewing and cooking classes and mothers meetings were offered, aid for the “beggars and tramps” as well as summer outings for the poor were planned. Nurseries and ethnic assimilation strategies were developed for the new immigrants. Clinics were established in the name of the Lord and wealthy Christian business leaders founded new agencies which worked together for the good of the city. Between 1888 and 1906, over 35 agencies were partnered to extend this merciful heart to the residents of the burgeoning city.
A well-known “woman of the night” came to faith in Jesus and turned her bordello into a home for street people. She became a force in the moral fabric of the besieged city. People came from all corners of the city to hear her preach the Gospel and talk of the mercy she had received from her heavenly Father.
The 19th century Church in Kansas City laid an astonishingly vibrant foundation of mercy for the generations to come. They loved and cared for the city with the love and mercy they had received from God.
5. Strategic Partnerships
The spirit of partnership was birthed in the onset of this new outpost on the river through the city's first pastor, a Catholic priest. In the years following, church leaders partnered across denominational lines, while in Westport four separate churches formed the Union Church – one church in the new township, with different parts. Some churches even helped other churches pay off their debt.
There was a unique partnership between business and church leaders. As the city began to spread below 59th street, developers approached a number of pastors to help them find properties for the building of churches in the new communities. Business and church leaders took on various projects that aided the arts, beauty, societies and community projects with the mantra, “A good Christian is a good citizen.”
The spirit of partnership and unity spread to the charitable organizations that were covering the city with acts of mercy. It was the community that conspired to take care of the weakest members of the city, and they did it in a collaborative effort. When the government decided to get involved in establishing a welfare system in the second decade of the 20th century, the league of charitable organizations were eventually absorbed into what became one of the first welfare systems in any American city. The direct involvement of the churches and Christian leaders began to give way to governmental control.
Today, the church is beginning to re-engage these five redemptive roots in unity to see the renewal and restoration of the city we love.