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Planting N.Y. churches for the nations
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 09, 2010
5 MIN READ TIME

Planting N.Y. churches for the nations

Planting N.Y. churches for the nations
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 09, 2010

After a few days on the job

Steve Allen already knew one thing: a guy from Oklahoma would not be the reason

a church plant in a Polish community in Buffalo, N.Y., succeeded.

“For this to succeed it needed to be an indigenous church

plant. It needed to be native to that soil,” Allen said.

His plan was to

disciple new believers in Jesus Christ and equip them to disciple others.

Allen remembers looking

around one day at the congregation and realizing he was the only non-Polish

person in the room “I realized God had answered my prayer and it was time for

me to move on and do it again.”

Allen joined the staff of

the Frontier Baptist Association of western New York as the church starter/strategist

and since 2003 he has been with the Baptist Convention of New York on the

Tri-State Metro New York church starting team. If there’s one thing he has

learned about church planting, it’s that relationships are crucial. From

attending family events to joining the volunteer fire company, Allen got to

know people in his community.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Richard Brunson, left, director of N.C. Baptist Men, speaks with Steve Allen, who works with the Baptist State Convention of New York planting churches. Baptist Men is coordinating a BSC partnership with New York for mission opportunities.

Joining the fire company

gave Allen “credibility with 75 men in the community who wouldn’t have given me

the time of day on their doorstep.”

Allen helps recruit, assess,

train, coach and resource church planters. He helps assess areas for new church

plants but wants planters’ own input in how to reach their community. He sees

his role as helping to mobilize and equip churches and planters ready to engage

in the community.

Allen helps church planters

think and pray through this question: Why New York?

“It’s easy to become infatuated with New York or even have

your heart gripped by the need and the potential of New York,” he said. “But

really and truly, not everyone is called or equipped or prepared to come into

an environment like this.”

Allen helps planters “affirm

and discern a sense of calling that goes beyond infatuation that really

grapples with the reality that this could be hard. Harder than you might

think.”

“When you walk the streets of this city, three people out of

every 100 you meet will identify themselves as evangelical Christians,” Allen

said. In five metro counties, more would identify themselves as Muslim.

New York City is a

laboratory of sorts for learning and experimenting with urban church planting

and urban ministry. The city offers unique factors that force planters to

acknowledge “that founding a church in the city may take a little bit longer

because we’re reaching into first generation immigrant people groups,” Allen

said.

About 260 Southern Baptist

churches make up the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. “We’re the

largest Protestant denomination in the world but that’s quickly forgotten in an

environment like this,” Allen said. “We’re a tiny, tiny fish in this huge

ocean. We are still very fragile in our denomination identity.”

Allen said more time must

lapse before “people begin to think of Southern Baptist churches as not an

import from somewhere else but as part of the spiritual fabric of the city.”

“The fact that we are thinly

spread in this area does cause us to value and affirm, just like international

missionaries would, the fact that there are other missionaries from other

tribes working among us,” he said. “That’s a great, great thing. We don’t see

ourselves in competition with them at all.”

One way North Carolina

Baptists can come alongside churches in New York is by building a relational

connection with them and helping them affirm and celebrate what God is already

doing in their church and community. Some days, the most valuable thing Allen

does is help connect churches in the Metropolitan Association and help them

realize they are not alone.

Allen still remembers one of

his first flights into the city, looking out the window and seeing all the

different neighborhoods, and thinking about the vast unreached potential for

the Kingdom of God that was represented.

“That’s the thought that gripped my

heart. What could be.”

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