Gospel movements needed to transform cities
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
October 20, 2010

Gospel movements needed to transform cities

Gospel movements needed to transform cities
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
October 20, 2010

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

and relativism.

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 nations.

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.