What does it mean to be an apostle? Does such a calling exist in the church today? Apostle Ray Mabion shared his ministry with Faith Horizons.
After graduating from seminary in 1984, Ray felt called to minister but not to pastor. He wanted to reach people, but in a fresh way. “I wanted to see change in ministry,” Ray told Faith Horizons. “Why? I don’t know. It was just in me. I never wanted to preach … but I wanted to see change.”
He followed this calling by starting a ministry in downtown Kansas City.
“The Lord sent me after seminary to an apartment complex,” Ray told Faith Horizons. “I didn’t know that it was an apartment complex with prostitution, drug addiction, whoremongering, lying, and stealing.”
Ray had always longed for an unconventional ministry, but the apartment ministry felt challenging, even for him. In these early years, overwhelmed by the high crime rate around them, he considered moving the ministry to a safer location where people understood church.
Although Ray balked at ministering in such a crime-ridden area, he soon realized how much the community needed the Lord. “This [was] the best place to start a ministry—right in the middle of the people,” Ray said. “Coming out of the seminary, I was taught to be church-minded. I was looking for a church where I could minister, but God took me in a different direction.”
A New Kind of Ministry
People from the apartment complex and around the neighborhood attended Ray’s Bible study and regularly gathered for praise and worship. Within seven years, they had built what they called a prayer dome, now Bethlehem Kingdom Center—a dome-like structure a block away from the apartment complex.
Ray describes Bethlehem Kingdom Center not as a church, but instead as an apostolic center or kingdom center. “A kingdom center solves the problems of society,” Ray told Faith Horizons. “For example, if I go into a mechanic’s shop and he says, ‘I’d love to work on your car but I’m two weeks behind because I don’t have any mechanics,’ our job from the kingdom center is saying, ‘How can we get mechanics trained?’”
Bethlehem Kingdom Center aims to impact the surrounding community in seven different areas: education, religion, business, media, entertainment, government, and family. The center provides programming to impact all seven spheres. They hold services on Sunday morning, but they are busy the rest of the week as well. Their programming includes parenting classes, vocational training, broadcasting, after-school tutoring, and many other avenues of improving the community.
“This is an apostolic ministry,” Ray says. “We don’t build buildings; we build people.”
Ray sees apostolic ministry as part of the gifting described in Ephesians 4:11-12: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service…” Just as God has gifted some to be pastors and teachers, so He has also gifted some to be apostles.
“The fivefold ministry … is for the perfecting of the saints, which is for the work of ministry,” Ray told Faith Horizons. “In other words, the perfecting comes like a broken bone that’s been knitted back together, for the work of the ministry, until we all become unified under the headship of Jesus Christ.”
Find out more about Bethlehem Kingdom Center.