The following is a talk given by Jennifer Chan (Missional Church Director, City to City NYC) at Movement Day NYC 2021 and broadcast to leaders in over 150 host sites throughout North and South America. We are thankful to Movement.org, LEAD.NYC, and their ministries to connect, equip and transform leaders to make a spiritual and social impact in their cities.
Can’t say gospel
Here’s a little secret: I find it hard to actually say the word “gospel” out loud.
For me, there’s just too much burst-out-laughing wonder and impossibility wrapped up in those six letters that make me uneasy about using it in everyday conversation.
What I can always talk about though, is how the news and power of what Jesus has done for us is throwing back the curtain on a new New York City from the Boogie Down Bronx to Sunset Park. It’s the New York City you’ve always wanted to live in, with the kinds of people you’ve always wanted to be with, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.
A Renewed New York City
Evidence of the new New York is all around. You can hear it as Jessie conducts performance appraisals in her midtown Manhattan office. Remembering who her Dad is, Jessie is free to reverse the age-old workplace curse of “kissing up and kicking down.” You can see it in Queens where Charlie willingly gives up part of his plot in the community garden to an unpopular elderly neighbor. Because of the staggering generosity he has received, he cooks and cleans for her too. It’s baffling to the other gardeners, but it catches their attention.
Yes, a new city breaks through as followers of Jesus speak and live out the news that because of His death and resurrection, we no longer have to navigate life as friendless orphans scrounging and jostling to secure our next meal.
Because the reality is that every moment of every day we are the favorite daughter of the Dad who throws the best parties around. Even more incredibly, our Dad is the Chair of every committee that runs the new city of New York, and He’s inviting us to work with Him to make streets safe and schools vibrant, to drive out hunger and hostility, and create lasting opportunities for everyone—not just those born in the right zipcodes–to flourish.
So the new New York tastes like jerk chicken and sno cones served at Friday night dinners in the church backyard. Come as you are. It’s the feeling of a solid handshake at the end of a police and youth roundtable meeting where trust and understanding are being forged against all odds.
Making the Renewed New York Visible
From the moment the angel Gabriel tells an unsuspecting Mary that she has found favor with God, that she has his smile of approval in Luke’s biography of Jesus, we watch as God’s favor on all of humanity bubbles up, springs forth, and rushes out over Galilee, Judea, and into all the world.
Will we, who in Christ will always and forever enjoy God’s smile, join in the slow but sure work of making his new city visible?
We can get started, and continue this work today:
- Love the basics. As Tim Keller often reminds us, we must never tire of the gospel. Let’s embrace the basics of telling and re-telling the gospel story in faithful yet fresh ways. Let’s pay attention to how the acts of the gospel story (creation, fall, cross, new creation) are unfolding all around us and share what we observe with friends as we go.
- Stay near Jesus personally and as a church family. Read and re-read the gospels with those who follow and don’t follow Jesus alike. Join Him in crossing boundaries, going into places of discomfort to speak and live and good news. Just wait and see how He meets you and stretches you!
- Pray without ceasing for the city and people He’s placed in your lives. Doing this in committed groups of 3-4 people can be transformative for an entire church community. Together, thank Him for what’s good and beautiful, grieve with Him over sin and brokenness, and pray to Him your hope in Christ. In sum: talk to God all the time about the beauty, the brokenness and hope in Christ for the people and places you engage.