The call to start a church is unique. And in a city like New York, it is a calling that requires much risk, discomfort, and faith.
God loves cities. And in New York, we’d like to think our city is no different.
Whether it’s the financial institutions of Wall Street, artistic innovation in Brooklyn, the global representation in Queens or the rich cultural history of Harlem, the richness and influence throughout New York is incalculable.
As ministry leaders in New York City, God invites us into His redemptive work. We see expressions of His character throughout the city and we hear story after story of how He is bringing about redemption and renewal to people, neighborhoods, systems and the city as a whole.
At the New York Project, we have a goal of seeing 250 new churches planted in the New York City area. And as we’ve been meeting with leaders, coaching and resourcing those who feel called to ministry, we’ve seen God’s heart for the city – not just the city at large but for every corner of New York City. We are catching glimpses of how God is calling and growing leaders in neighborhoods of all kinds who reflect the uniqueness and diversity of His character manifest in our city.
A church planter in Yonkers shares, “When I think of Yonkers, three words come to mind: resilient, diverse, and flourishing. Why? The fact that it’s still here is the result of its resilience…People in Yonkers are very hard-working. There is a huge value on work and making it out here on these streets. The New Yorker in Yonkers is slightly progressive but at the same time conservative. They are culturally in tune and awake to the needs in the community. And they are eager to meet those needs.” Knowing their community, rather than immediately launching services, they spent a year in the community. This approach was an intentional decision to build a foundation of listening to and serving the neighborhood before anything else. And that’s what the last year has been – showing the neighborhood that they care – and God does too.
In Queens, a ministry couple moved to Maspeth. As they were settling in their new neighborhood trying to meet people and connect. God opened their eyes to opportunities beyond anything they could plan for themselves. “When we first got to Maspeth, we thought we were in the wrong place.” They looked everywhere and they could not identify with the community. However, God sent them there with a purpose. As they immersed themselves into the needs of their new community, God began to show how He wanted them to live out the incarnational love of Christ to their new community. “At first, we didn’t know anyone, business owners would look at us strangely because we were protestant and Hispanic, but little by little we gained their heart. We started by sweeping the streets and painting the graffiti off the walls. And we started a food pantry and people began to accept us as a church and [in] community.”
In Chelsea, a neighborhood in Manhattan, a church planter reflects on his first two years. He describes the complexity that development and gentrification has had on the community and how that dynamic shapes the vision of his church. With the development of the Highline and the extreme wealth this brought to the neighborhood paired with the two government housing projects just around the corner, Chelsea residents live in the tension of extreme wealth and extreme poverty living side by side. “We want to figure out what it looks like to be an incarnational presence in this divisiveness. In the same way that Jesus says, “I will draw all things to myself” – to be safe and loving – to push into the conversations happening in our time in a way that is approachable and accessible. We hope that Jesus becomes the magnet.”
In trainings at CTC, we walk with leaders on their church planting journey. We have the unique perspective of walking with men and women as they love their home – their community – and build and strengthen churches for the good of neighborhood. We hear their hopes, laments, and prayers for their communities.
What’s your prayer for your neighborhood?
A pastor in the Bronx shares his prayer: “That churches of all denominations would come together to participate in the rebuilding of the ruined blocks of our neighborhood and that people outside the church would see this as a sign of God’s love for them, and their community.”
God is at work.
A pastor in Queens shares that she “sees God at work and answering prayers in increasing the number of believers and those experiencing homelessness receiving help beyond the spiritual but in their earthly needs too. I see God at work showing a transformed community.”
The city releases our greatest human potential.
In the Old Testament, we see God’s creation of human beings and how Adam and Eve were made to be creative. We are to create and be productive – to build, enhance, elaborate. After the garden, cities were created. Cain built a city and those who came after him continued to build cities. And from this place, came the advancement of craftspeople, musicians, merchants.
Today, cities are places of renewal.
And God invites all of us into this narrative.
At City to City, we work with leaders across the city who live in the complexity of the city’s brokenness and great potential. We see God renewing the city and in His kindness, He enables us to walk alongside leaders called to their communities being agents of love, compassion, mercy and justice. Over the next few months, we’ll be highlighting leaders from across the city and inviting you into the creativity and vision God has for renewing the city. In the meantime, pray for the city – for the leaders called to start, grow and strengthen churches throughout the New York City area.