After living in any one place for a long time it is easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t look like home.
If you get used to traveling certain routes and shopping at the same places and seeing the same faces you can forget that not everyone drives to work each day; some take a train then the subway and then catch a cab.
It can also be easy to forget that the church scene is not as popular in other places. While an estimated 5.5 million people in North Carolina do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, spirituality, which is a broad term, is popular. A recent Gallup poll reports that just over half the state’s population attends church, synagogue or a mosque.
This year the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) entered into a partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA), an association affiliated with the Baptist Convention of New York. The BSC serves a state of nine million and has about 4,200 churches. The Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) serves a state with three times the population and just over 400 churches.
In New York less than five percent of the population is evangelical and 27 million do not go to church.
The BSC has been around since 1830, 139 years before the BCNY began in 1969 with 70 churches. This 31st Baptist state convention included churches from New York, western Connecticut and northern New Jersey.
While North Carolina includes 80 Baptist associations, the New York convention includes only eight, the largest being MNYBA. Twice as many people live within the boundaries of this association as live in North Carolina. With 260 churches in the association, MNYBA serves more than half the churches in the state convention. These 260 churches represent 500 people groups.
North Carolina is a diverse state, but few places in the world can compare to the diversity of New York City.
Eighty percent of the churches in MNYBA are ethnic churches. Within a 50-mile radius of Times Square live 20 million people. More Jews live in New York City than in Jerusalem and more Muslims live in New York City than in Bahrain. Hispanics are the largest minority group; one million Asians live in the city and in the past two decades African immigration has doubled.
A few more statistics and comparisons:
- Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, with a population of 687,456 in 2008 (according to US Census data). The Metrolina association, which serves the Charlotte area, has 115 churches, or one church for every 5,798 people. By contrast, MNYBA has one church for every 76,923 people.
- Brooklyn is New York City’s most populous borough, with more than 2.5 million residents. Brooklyn is home to 33 association churches, or one church for every 77,473 people.
- Wake County, home to North Carolina’s second largest city, Raleigh, has 866,410 people. The Raleigh association includes 130 churches, or one church for every 6,665 people.
The need in New York is great, as is the ability of North Carolina Baptists to help. Helping New York churches reach their communities is an Acts 1:8 kind of task.
As a convention that has from its formation been committed to fulfilling the Great Commission, a partnership to assist MNYBA churches is not a new idea. The theme verse for the 2010 North Carolina Missions Offering, Acts 1:8, continues to challenge North Carolina Baptists to work in local, national and global mission efforts.
The MNYBA has sounded out the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:6-10) and specific requests for help are already coming in. To learn how to get involved, visit www.ncmissions.org.
Listen to podcasts with MNYBA leaders and pastors at www.ncbaptist.org/index.php?id=1596.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lilley is a researcher and writer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)