Native son prays for change at home
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 10, 2010

Native son prays for change at home

Native son prays for change at home
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 10, 2010

George Russ is someone

people can’t help but like.

Spend a little time with

Russ and you will walk away feeling life is great. When Russ gets excited his

voice gets louder and his eyes widen and those listening get even more excited

about the subject. He knows where the great restaurants are and though he’s

probably done the tourist thing a million times he still gets excited sharing

about it. His energy seems endless.

It’s a good thing Russ is

energetic, because as executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist

Association his work is cut out for him. The association serves 20 million

people within a 50-mile radius of Times Square. About 500 people groups are

represented and every Sunday morning congregants in the 260 association

churches speak more than 20 languages. In the largest borough, Queens, the

Flushing Meadows zip code alone includes people from 133 nations.

Cultural and ethnic

diversity is just the beginning. The association works among economic and

educational diversity. Some areas they serve are poor while in others, such as

Greenwich, Conn., (the wealthiest county in the United States of any county

with more than 50,000 people), an average home sells for $2 million. The Bronx

High School of Science is one of the top in the country, while another school

in the Bronx saw an incoming class of 1,400 graduate only 24.

Even with the

facts laid bare, Russ is not discouraged by an enormous task. “The whole world

is here,” he said. “Whatever happens here affects the world. In the providence

of God He has us here. I have seen so much to be excited about, to rejoice in

by just visiting these churches that I’m not discouraged at all. I’m really


BSC photo

George Russ, right, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, talks with Mike Sowers of North Carolina Baptist Men, who is coordinating the New York partnership, and other leaders about working in a large mission field.

Russ has only been director for

six months but has served New York all his life. He was born in Jamaica,

Queens, and his wife grew up in Brooklyn. They met on Long Island and still

live there.

Russ never really thought

about full time ministry in his home state until he heard a Christian leader

say this: New York will never be won to Christ until her native sons are

leading the church. “That never left me,” Russ said.

Russ took this challenge

seriously and after seminary pastored a church on Long Island. This church of

12 had never had a full time pastor. Russ learned he was “called to shepherd a

community and not just the people in the church.”

Before coming to the

association Russ served 26 years with the Baptist Convention of New York and

worked in areas of evangelism, including community ministry. He wants to target

community transformation as the association enters a partnership with the

Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He wants to “turn the church inside

out and serve the community. Love the community until they ask you why,” he


Opportunities to serve are

endless. Just focusing on the New York City public school system, which is the

largest school district in the world with 1.1 million children, is a task in


The partnership will be

reciprocal, as North Carolina Baptists and New York Baptists learn from one

another. Russ identified three areas where New York may be able to help North

Carolina Baptists: urban church planting, reaching international students and

pastoring multi-ethnic churches. “It’s one thing to say this is what heaven

should be like,” Russ said. “It’s another thing to pastor people who have very

different expectations of what a church is and what a pastor does and what

worship should be like.”

Thinking long-term, Russ

noted several “glaring places” of need. Long Island is one, so is the Bronx.

“We have 600,000 Hispanic speaking people in the Bronx and we do not have one

Hispanic congregation in the Bronx,” he said. The Jewish and Muslim populations

continue to grow and “Russian speaking people are coming by the thousands to


A key scripture for Russ as

he ministers in the city is Jeremiah 29, when Jeremiah tells the exiles in

Babylon to make their home in the city and to seek the peace and prosperity of

the city. This native son is doing more than that — he is praying the

prosperity of one city will change the world.

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Translation needed from Ky. to Queens