MANHATTAN — Several years
ago the “Influentials” issue of New York Magazine described Manhattan’s Redeemer Church pastor Tim Keller as one able to meet young
professionals living in the city on their “own terms.”
To do this, to figure out
what it means to meet this demographic on their “own terms,” Keller moved into
the city. He found New Yorkers greatly value knowledge, and intellect goes a
long way in connecting with them. “When you communicate in a way that touches a
person’s heart culturally, you get growth,” he told New York Magazine.
Because he lives there
Keller knows the culture and concerns of New Yorkers. As Keller learned about
the city he quickly saw a city painted with idols.
“There is an enormously sick
pressure to perform and do well and make money,” he told New York Magazine.
People turn good things, like family and work, into bad things because they
elevate them to a position of greater worth than their relationship with God.
While that temptation may be
greater in New York, Keller said New York itself isn’t the problem, it’s the
culture; a culture that values the idols. So Keller shoots straight with his
church and doesn’t try to hide the truth. His sermons get to the heart of why
these idols are so prominent and what New Yorkers can do about it. To a crowd
full of people who came to New York to advance a career, he preaches against
living just to make more money or climbing the corporate ladder of success.
Preaching with such acute
honesty may not typically grow a church. But Keller wants to do more than draw
a crowd — he wants a movement. He is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and
pleading with believers to see the gospel as the power of God to change lives,
to change cities and to change cultures.
Keller was one of several
leaders who spoke at the recent Movement Day conference about
what it will take to see a gospel movement sweep across cities and change
culture in cities. More than 800 pastors, church planters and ministry leaders
from 34 states and 14 countries gathered for the one-day event. From church
planting networks to leadership development and prayer, these leaders learned
how to better reach the urban areas they serve.
Half in 40
In the United States the 40
largest metropolitan areas represent 170 million people, or more than half the
total 2000 census. The most recent issue of Foreign Policy includes its 2010 global cities
index ranking, with New York taking
the top spot. The rankings represent cities with “sway over what happens beyond
its own borders.”
Urban areas are the centers
of culture-making, and what happens in the cities can have global consequences.
To change the world, the gospel must penetrate into the depths of the cities
and impact every area of life, from entertainment to business to education.
In the last 20 years in
Manhattan the Christian portion of the population has tripled, moving from one
percent to three percent. Twenty years ago Manhattan was home to 100
evangelical churches, and now it is home to about 200. Movement Day leaders
shared that their prayer is to increase that percentage to five percent in the
next 10 years.
Gospel movements take time,
but they are happening. Gospel movements are about more than one church or one
mission project; the goal of a movement is to bring believers and churches
together to impact a culture. While the church needs to understand culture to
impact it, Keller warned Movement Day participants against “capitulating
to the culture” and “adapting to worldliness.”
Keller advised leaders
wanting to make an impact to begin with a biblical, gospel theology, noting
that the gospel is not about moralism and legalism, nor is it about liberalism
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, challenged leaders to pray for a gospel movement.
Without prayer, a movement will never happen. He challenged leaders to be like
Hezekiah, who in 2 Kings 19:19 prayed for God to deliver His people so that His
name would be made glorious. “Are you praying ‘so that’ prayers?” Hybels asked
leaders. Hybels shared that gospel movements happen by the power of the Holy
Spirit so that the gospel will go forth and Jesus Christ will be known among
The Metropolitan New York Baptist
Association (MNYBA) is praying for a
gospel movement in New York City. Association leaders met with area pastors,
current church planters and those interested in becoming church planters the
day before Movement Day to dialogue about what it means to minister in New York
City and how ministry can be more effective. George Russ, MNYBA Executive
Director, shared that those coming to live and serve in New York must be ready
to “segmentize and exegete the city.” In other words, to live in New York City
means to understand the neighborhood you live in and how it is different from a
neighborhood across the street.
The Baptist State Convention
of North Carolina (BSCNC) is coming alongside Russ and MNYBA leaders as they
create a strategy for advancing a gospel movement in one of the world’s most
influential cities. Earlier this year North Carolina Baptists entered into a
partnership with MNYBA, and churches in North Carolina are partnering with New
York churches to help reach the city.
The new BSCNC Office of
Great Commission Partnerships coordinates the New York partnership. This
office, created to help North Carolina Baptists develop, implement and maintain
an effective holistic missional strategy, also coordinates a partnership with
the Baptist Convention of New England. That Convention is tasked with reaching
Boston, which according to the global cities index, is the 19th most
influential city in the world.
North Carolina Baptists and
New York Baptists are already seeing the positive results of partnership
for the sake of advancing a gospel movement. To learn how you can get involved,
visit the Great Commission Partnerships web site.