Receptivity to the gospel is low in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., where many people are disinterested or really do not want to talk at all about the gospel.
In Forest Hills, where Nathan Creitz is planning to start a church this year, the population is 110,000 for an area that is only about four square miles with few evangelical churches.
Creitz’s vision extends beyond Forest Hills, as he prays that the new church plant will help start other churches throughout New York’s most ethnically diverse borough. Queens residents represent dozens of people groups unreached with the gospel. People from all over the world call Queens home, with about 125 different languages spoken in the area. Nearly half the population was born outside the United States.
“Jesus Christ told us to make disciples of all nations. My heart is for the nations, and I can’t think of a better place than Queens to pursue that mission,” Creitz said. “The goal is to not only reach Queens, but for some of the people here to take the gospel back to wherever they are from.”
Although receptivity is generally low, Creitz has met people open to the gospel, and that gives him hope.
“We want to spread the gospel as broadly as possible, and saturate the area with the good news,” he said. “It takes an act of God to start churches. If anyone is going to break through, it will be God.”
In 2004, after graduating from the University of Mobile in Alabama, Creitz moved to Boston to help a friend who was starting a new church.
After four years in Boston, Creitz began seminary at Gordon-Conwell. After graduation he served as interim pastor for a church in New England.
Creitz, his wife Kim and their two children live in east Queens and are preparing to move to Forest Hills early this year, with a goal of launching the church this summer.
Creitz is using the months leading up to the launch to begin laying the foundation for the church plant. He is making the two and a half hour round trip to Forest Hills several times a week to try and meet people and begin building relationships. He is also working to raise financial support and prayer support, and is forming new partnerships with churches such as Dudley Shoals Baptist Church.
Dudley Shoals, in Granite Falls near Hickory, N.C., is committed to a long-term partnership with Creitz.
“We wanted to partner with someone who is just getting started, so that our church could walk through the entire church planting process with them,” said Randy Smith, ministries director at Dudley Shoals.
“We made an immediate connection with Nathan and Kim. They have spent quite a bit of time trying to understand where they want to go with this new church.”
Smith, having served as an International Mission Board missionary for 18 years, has been on the receiving end of mission teams and appreciates ongoing partnerships.
“Over time you become so much more effective. You don’t have to take as much time learning the ropes or learning logistics. You are able to understand the target group and build relationships,” he said.
“Church planting can be a long, hard struggle. You don’t get that sense of how difficult it is when you pop in for a week and you don’t see them again.”
Volunteers from Dudley Shoals are already involved in New York, as they spent several weeks last summer remodeling office space for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA). Through the Baptist State Convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, North Carolina Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with MNYBA churches and church planters.
Smith and Creitz expect their partnership to include opportunities for servant evangelism, such as cleaning up local parks and hosting cookouts, for the purpose of building relationships, making connections and sharing the gospel. “My wife and I can go deep in our relationships with our neighbors, but with 110,000 people in one neighborhood, we can’t go wide. Mission teams can’t go deep, but they can go wide. They will have the opportunity to meet people, pray for people and get the word out that there is a church that loves them,” Creitz said. “Together, we can go wide and deep. Just because I am the church planter doesn’t mean I’m the most important person in the process. We need each other.”
Smith looks forward to Dudley Shoals becoming involved in missions in a context different than their familiar rural setting. From the much higher cost of living to ethnic and religious diversity, “New York is really different,” he said. “Especially working with someone starting at the ground level. You don’t have a single believer.”
Creitz encouraged churches to not let New York’s urban context or great spiritual needs overwhelm or intimidate and hinder them from developing partnerships.
“Anyone can show love to people,” he said.
Whenever Creitz experiences times of frustration he thinks back to how God called him to serve for Kingdom purposes.
“When the tough times come, we look back to our call and our burden and that has sustained us,” he said. “From the beginning our calling was so clear. We’ve never doubted our calling to Queens.”
To learn how to get involved with partnerships in New York City visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.
About the New York Partnership
With 8.5 million inhabitants who speak nearly 500 languages, New York City is one of the most diverse and influential cities in the word.
Metropolitan New York is larger than Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Miami and Las Vegas combined. One out of every 16 people in the United States lives within a 75-mile radius of Times Square. All the nations of the world live in the neighborhoods of New York.
Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) is about connecting local churches for global impact. MNYBA helps churches plant new churches, serve in their communities and advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world.
The churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) are partnering with MNYBA to help advance the gospel in an area where only 3 percent of the population has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
How to connect your church
• Church Planting – Existing churches are a vital resource in the strategic church planting efforts in New York City. The BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships can help your church or association work with the MNYBA church planting team to help plant an effective New Testament church in New York City.
• Kingdom Prayer – Kingdom-focused prayer is the heartbeat of Great Commission Partnerships. They ask that your congregation consider adopting a church in prayer.
• Assisting Churches – MNYBA can help connect your church with an existing church in New York to assist the church with a mission project.
Contact the Office of Great Commission Partnerships to get connected today. Visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.