Translation needed from Ky. to Queens
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 10, 2010

Translation needed from Ky. to Queens

Translation needed from Ky. to Queens
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
March 10, 2010

For his first sermon at the

new church Tom Richter wanted to do his best and seeing people whispering to

one another while he spoke didn’t exactly evoke feelings of confidence. Not

until after the service did he realize they were not being rude, but were

translating for family members.

“That’s when it hit me – we

aren’t in Kentucky anymore,” Richter said.

Richter first left his small

Kentucky town when a campus minister at Murray State University advised him to

“step out of the bubble” for seminary. He went to Princeton Theological

Seminary in New Jersey and because New York City was only one hour by train and

visiting the city was the “cool thing to do,” Richter did.

By the time seminary was

over, Richter had his fill of the northeast and was ready to go back to


Then he met the pastor of a

church near Atlanta, Ga., who asked him to consider leading their church plant

in Jamaica, Queens.

“I told him he was crazy,” Richter said. But he went to see

and never forgot what he saw, nor what he heard.

“When you walk through my neighborhood you don’t just hear a

little Spanish here and there. You hear countless languages,” he said.

BSC photo

Tom Richter, center, pastor of New Hope Christian Church, shares about his congregation with Mark Gray, left, Baptist State Convention church planting team leader, and Richard Brunson, right, director of North Carolina Baptist Men.

For seven years Richter has

lived in Queens and pastored New Hope Christian Church. The church, like its

community, is diverse. His wife is a first grade teacher and one year the 26

students in her classroom represented 26 different nations.

“No two children were from the same country and not one child

could say he had a grandparent born on U.S. soil,” Richter said.

Richter’s associate pastor

grew up Hindu and married a woman who grew up Greek Orthodox. Both are now

believers in Jesus Christ. The church is so diverse Richter joked that they

considered changing the name to “New Hope Jewish and Gentile followers together

of the Jewish Messiah Jesus Church. But who could afford the signage?” he said.

Being a church of great

diversity means “no one is going to be completely comfortable with every kind

of worship style,” Richter said. “And I as the pastor am often the least

comfortable. If it were up to me we’d have hymns and an old organ.” He knows

some people may not come to New Hope because of choices they make, such as

music style, but that is not what really matters. “The gospel is the point.

That’s what transcends,” he said.

New Hope meets Sundays at 6

p.m. in a Lutheran church. The Lutheran congregation meets Sunday mornings and

New Hope rents the building Sunday, Tuesday and Friday nights. Before that they

rented space in a YMCA, storefront and Chinese church. “It’s pretty common for

churches to meet in and use the space of another church,” Richter said.

Living in Queens and being

among the nations means living among religions of the nations. Almost overnight

Richter has seen entire neighborhoods go from Catholic to Muslim. Evangelism

among Muslims is one of the greatest needs for his community. “I’m not sure

everyone gets the urgency,” he said. “This is not 50 years away from Raleigh.

This is not five years away. This is here.”

Evangelism is only going to

happen when the church owns its responsibility to the Great Commission.

“I don’t think the

attraction model will work in our neighborhood,” Richter said. “That really

doesn’t impress someone if they’re coming from another cultural background. The

only way to do it is for each church member to take seriously their circle of


To equip his congregation

for this task, Richter takes discipleship seriously. “No program has ever made

a disciple,” he said. What does work is “the Holy Spirit working in the lives

of people as people pour into people.”

In his seven years serving

in New York City Richter has learned to rely on God’s provision and to stop

praying for things that “work God out of the equation.” Instead of praying for

his daily bread, Richter often found himself praying for a huge budget so the

daily bread would no longer be needed. Now, this pastor has learned that God

provides when he prays for daily bread.

Richter said his purpose in

being at New Hope is to continually point the church to the Head of the Body.

Their vision is clear: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all

your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

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