Incarnational Ministry in Downtown Brooklyn

In 2018, Garrett and his wife Gabby asked themselves, “If we knew we had God’s blessing, what’s the boldest, most meaningful thing we could do?” Around that same time, Garrett happened to be reading Why God Made Cities by Tim Keller. He was a pastor in Texas in the town where he grew up with a tight knit community of friends and family. To consider a move to New York seemed to bring more questions than answers. Yet, here they were feeling a missional tug to the city with a dream to start a church to connect people with God and to each other. 

The next year, they moved to the city and immediately started connecting with people. Friends of friends, those connected to people they knew from home, neighbors and anyone they’d come in contact with. At the beginning, their church was a collection of people from different pockets of the city. However, Downtown Brooklyn was the most central to those in their community so they decided to officially plant themselves and their church in that community. In thinking more strategically about their location, Garrett shares that they wanted Mission City Church to be as local as possible. They wanted to walk the same side walks as those in their church and in their community. They wanted to be incarnational, so in that sense, Downtown Brooklyn chose them. 

“Our mission is to connect people to God and to each other. A lot of problems in life are linked to disconnection with God and with each other. If you have a disconnection with God, you are going to feel a disconnection from many other things — to self, others, work, the created order — ultimately disconnected from your purpose. For so many, a disconnection from God is the problem behind all problems. Our hope is to show people that you can recover through relationship with God.”

The uniqueness of Downtown Brooklyn has reframed what ministry looks like for them. Being in such a diverse context, there is no one size fits all. Those who live and work in Downtown Brooklyn reflect a vast range of age, income, industries, race and ethnicity. Doing ministry in this context has created an interdependence between churches. 

We need each other – all languages, cultures and styles in order to show Christ to our neighbors. 

Considering their neighborhood, Garrett shares that one of the most common spiritual needs he sees in his community is that of connection. 

“It’s so easy to hide in NYC, to blend in. If you are a transplant, it is so easy to build a life with no connection to other people.” 

The belief that success will satisfy is also a constant battle. 

“People need to know there is an identity in God. There’s a need for an identity from God, a purpose from God. There is a story that is bigger than our experience. We have been sold a narrative that our small personal story is the only one that matters. Until we take a part in the grand story of God, we will never be whole no matter how we present ourselves.”

At Mission City Church, there is a culture of viewing any kind of relationship with the church as good. No matter your relationship with God, just choosing to show up implies a counter-cultural interest and curiosity. 

In a city like New York, people can be anywhere else and choosing to show up at church often means saying no to something else. 

Mission City wants to be a safe place for people with curiosity looking for connection.

Garrett and Gabby continue to listen to the needs within the church. But the needs outside the church have also tugged at the heart of their members. A few members wanted to figure out a way to meet a few of the needs around them. So, they started promoting Care Portal, a portal used by social service agencies in the city to post needs of foster families or those at risk of going into the foster system. From ipads for school to clothes, school supplies or even utility bills for families, there are now 55 people at Mission City Church who have formed a response team to these posts. Now, anytime a need is put out there, the church gets to respond. 

Starting a church in a new city just before the onset of the pandemic was challenging. But in and through these challenges, they have seen God go before them as He brings renewal to Downtown Brooklyn.  

“None of the reasons that caused us to start have changed. In the last 4 years, He is still risen. He is still seated at the right hand of the father. He still said make disciples and I’ll be with you until the end of the age. Cities are still places of great influence across the globe. This city is especially still a great city of influence across the globe. This is still a key spiritual battleground. This is still a place where there are great needs. This is still a place where people’s needs are sometimes hidden under great pride. All the reasons we started are still intact. So we keep going.”

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