In 2010, Forbes Magazine named New York the city with the largest global impact and influence in the world. With more than 8 million people in New York City and more than 22 million in the metro area, it is the largest city in the United States and the third largest metro area in the world. Imagine what the nation might look like if its most influential city found its greatest influence in Christ.
This is the motivation driving Southern Baptist church planters to reach New York City for Christ. The North American Mission Board is launching its first Send North America city emphasis -- Send North America: New York City -- Sept. 30.
Send North America is NAMB's strategy to mobilize and assist churches and individuals in hands-on church planting in 27 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Through Send North America, NAMB will come alongside Southern Baptist churches that are not directly involved in church planting and help them become more hands on. And NAMB will partner with Southern Baptist churches already planting churches to help them increase their efforts.
"Planting in New York City holds tremendous potential for impacting the advance of the Kingdom worldwide," said Steve Allen, NAMB's lead church planting catalyst for the NYC Tri-state area. "Church planting here enables us to reach people who influence the rest of the world. That's huge for the spread of the Gospel."
But church planting in New York City is no easy task. The city is marked with diversity, as 36 percent of the population is foreign born. These people bring with them their own cultural and religious backgrounds. Though 83 percent of New Yorkers living in Manhattan are affiliated with some form of organized religion, only 3 percent regularly attend evangelical churches, according to a recent study by the Values Research Institute.
There is a disconnect from Christianity in New York City, and as a result, church planters face the difficult task of breaking into these diverse cultures and presenting the truth of Christ to a skeptical population.
"Receptivity toward the Gospel is not lower in our region -- just slower," Allen said. "Church plants in the area will typically require more time to develop."
This slower receptivity is perhaps the greatest challenge for planters in the Northeast. They have come to see that building relationships is the key to evangelism. In order for this to happen, however, planters have to make a more arduous commitment to dig in their heels and be patient in the slow process of church and community growth.
Freddy T. Wyatt, pastor of the growing Gallery Church, planted in 2006, echoes this sentiment.
"It's tough. The Northeast often requires years of investment to draw the same size crowd that a really good mail campaign might draw in the South," Wyatt said. "But on the positive side, this means that churches planted in the city are usually the result of solid evangelism and relationships -- not marketing."
Though the population is dense and the streets are crowded with people, there is a chronic sense of loneliness plaguing the city.
"People wake up alone, commute to work very early, work in a crowded office, and commute home late at night, only to repeat the cycle the next day," Brooklyn church planter Nathan Tubbs explained. "Rarely do they find a deep, meaningful sense of community.
"The church in New York City has an opportunity to provide people with a place where they can build meaningful relationships," Tubbs said. "Hopefully, they will no longer feel isolated but rather feel that they belong."
Send North America: New York City is NAMB's response to the growing need for solid evangelical churches and Christian community in the city. NAMB has established a partnership coalition made up of state, association and local leaders as well as pastors from other states to help lead the NYC initiative. NAMB's leaders and coalition members recognize the potential of harnessing the influence of the area and working diligently to move the needle back to Christ.
"Dozens of SBC churches have already been mobilized to help plant churches in New York City," said Aaron Coe, NAMB's vice president of mobilization, "but many more are needed.
Through Send North America: New York City, planters will find a network of partners and support to come alongside them as they serve the city. Established Southern Baptist churches are encouraged to partner with planters in the city and work with them as they strive to bring Christ into the hearts of New Yorkers.
Churches can partner with planters on a number of levels, from supporting them prayerfully or financially to sending teams to work in the field alongside them to multiplying the church by helping plant new ones just like it.
"You can be a church of any size and participate in planting a church in New York City," said Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and chairman of the partnership coalition for Send North America: New York City. Wood and his congregation already are working alongside church planters in the New York metro area.
"A part of the beauty of Send North America is that it gives every church an opportunity to combine their resources with other churches to make a new church plant a reality," Wood said.
Churches that want to partner with a planter through Send North America can start the process by visiting www.namb.net and clicking on "mobilize me." Churches that sign up to participate in Send North America are taken through an assessment process and connected to the city coalition.
"This is not just a two-year or five-year emphasis for us," said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. "This is how we do our work from now on and if your church is ready to go to the city, we want to come alongside you and help you do it."
Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board.
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