The North Carolina Baptist board of directors affirmed a partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) during action Jan. 26. The partnership potential was initiated in December, with a visit by MNYBA representatives to Raleigh and a presentation by N.C. Baptist Men, which coordinates both their partnerships and collaborations with the Baptist State Convention (BSC).
The MNYBA covers parts of three states and includes 20 million people. New York City is the most intensely urban setting in America, in what many consider the world’s most important city. Southern Baptists planted their first church in New York City in 1958. Currently 260 SBC related churches are at work to win their city to faith in Jesus Christ, including 200 ethnic churches.
Vision trips are planned in February and March by BSC and N.C. Men’s leadership to explore ways North Carolina Baptists can help in New York. Leaders emphasize this will be a true partnership as New York Baptists will come south to help North Carolinians become more effective in urban ministry.
“Probably the most important city in the world is New York City,” said Baptist Men’s director Richard Brunson. “What happens in New York shapes so many things in the world.”
Brunson said with 500 people groups identified in New York, Baptists there “have a vision for reaching not only New York City but the world for Christ.” New York Baptists have been doing urban ministry for 50 years and with North Carolina rapidly becoming an urban state, the opportunity for learning “is a great opportunity that God has laid before us,” Brunson said.
MNYBA Director of Missions George Russ is a missions product. A native New Yorker, he greeted the board in Spanish. Then he told a true, but atypical story of what it is like to minister in the city.
Years ago after teaching a class late at night he went out to his car to find the battery had been stolen. He sought help from a nearby pastor on the 25th floor of an apartment building. The pastor loaned Russ the battery from his church van. Russ went back upstairs to call his wife, since it was now 1 a.m., and he asked the pastor to wait for him in his car.
While the pastor waited in the car, a man tapped on the window and offered to sell him a battery!
Russ, who has been led the MNYBA since September 2009, said the association has three primary initiatives the North Carolina partnership can enhance.
- Brand new churches.
“We need churches in New York City,” Russ said. The newest church in the association constituted Dec. 27, 2009 as the New Revival Church. Members speak four languages and the pastor drives a cab during the day.
- Community transformation.
Russ wants New York Baptists and their partners to share the gospel on the streets in practical ways, conduct servant evangelism and “least of these” ministries. Cultural centers reaching out to language groups offer a great venue in which to teach English as a Second Language classes.
- Work within the context toward worldwide impact.
Just as cities were New Testament centers of evangelism, “we feel we can be too,” Russ said. He said the biblical strategy was to reach the cities and then “everyone in the whole region” became a Christ follower.
Russ emphasized that participating North Carolina churches would reap tangible benefit.
“You’re going to meet family members you haven’t met before,” he said. “There is a big family waiting for you in New York, and you will be encouraged about what God is doing.”
He said North Carolina Baptists would be able to worship with the world as one in the body of Christ. The 12-member worship team of Ebenezer Baptist Church, he said, has members from every continent.
Additionally, those who work in New York “will have the world on your heart all the time” and the partnerships churches establish “will be long lasting.”
“You’ll be humbled, stretched and broken,” Russ said. “You’ll pray more and deeper and your witness will be improved and your desire to be like Jesus and take up your cross and follow Him will be enhanced.”
Mike Sowers of N.C. Baptist Men will be primary contact for the partnership. Contact him at [email protected]. Already specific needs are being posted at www.ncmissions.org for teams as early as this summer.