Monday, July 24, 2006

NYC: Four Reasons why New York is a crucial investment [Monday]

I'm reading the Redeemer Presbyterian Church Planter's manual. It cites 5 facts about New York City, which I quoted last week. And then it cites 4 reasons NYC is such a crucial investment for the broader evangelical church.

So, you’ll be offered one reason a day this week. Ponder these and pray for us.

REASON 1. The Cultural Influence Factor

“There is a lot of bemoaning the fact that, while there are millions of born again Christians, they seem to be having no impact on the culture. The reasons given are usually complex and unconvincing. Nobody notices that evangelicals are totally non-urban. Homosexuals, while only 2% of the population, are nonetheless highly influential. Why? One answer is that they live predominantly in the largest urban areas, where they work in places that control social discourse. But evangelicals, who are 15-20% or more of the population, have fled the cities. This is a recipe for complete cultural irrelevance.”

An interesting possibility. To explore more: Read this article from Christianity Today.

I always believed that NYC is an important city in the world. But I hadn’t thought about the idea that Christians moving to the suburbs might possibly impact the influence of the gospel. [I'm wondering if it as true for Australia as it is for the US?] Still, it makes me think again that for a Christian, the only factor in choosing where to live ought not to be simply ‘where I’d like to live’. I reflected on that tension on a previous post HERE.

By the way, have I ever said ‘church shopping’ are two words that should never be placed together? Click here for a video of "Maybe we should try the new Mega church".

Disturbingly funny.

Love, Justin.


byron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
byron said...

And a bonus for those who prefer superurban to suburban...

(last post had typo)

Justin said...

No Bonus for saying that the pic is central park. But 10 points for saying which direction it is facing!

PS I'm not dissing on the suburbs, and neither is Redeemer. But the point they are making is that some might intentionally live in urban areas for the sake of Christ.

Justin said...

An example: I reckon that some could intentionally to live in Ashfield (Sydney), simply to work with St John's. The possibilities for growth under Katay there are enormous. But we buy or rent, then look for a church nearby. I think that we need to be more intentional and gospel-minded about where we live.

byron said...

But 10 points for saying which direction it is facing!

East (or maybe ENE?): I have an almost identical shot from basically the same point in Central Park (probably along with most tourists who walk through it).

The Borg said...

That's uncanny Byron.

But maybe there's a little plaque on the side of the lake that says "For best shot, take photo here."

I wonder when the shift from Christians in the cities to Christians in the burbs occured? Along with "secularism"? (whenever that was!) Maybe when the arts became associated with godlessness, and so evangelicals fled the cities for safer pastures? Or maybe when univerisities became centres of leftist political movement in the 1960's? Or maybe Christians just wanted to get away from all the soft-pr0n billboards?

In some urban centres in Australia, there are lots of Evangelicals (although we are still a minority). Newtown (Sydney) for instance. Or anywhere near a unichurch, were Christian students sharehouse while attending an urban university. But I guess they eventually get married and have kids and move out to the burbs. On a normative note, I'm not sure that there is a necessary connection between having kids and having to live in the suburbs.

Whoah long comment. Sorry.

chelsea said...

I'm loving these posts about NYC - not only cos I love NYC but also cos its challenging to consider how the gospel is impacting the city (or how it isnt) as well as knowing more about where you and the fam are living and working! All good things! hehe

Anyway, the problem with the Christians moving to the suburbs thing is they are obvisouly still needed i guess, as you said, there is a simple need for people living in or considering living in NYC to think about that and where they are most needed...

In reading this post I was reminded of words by Bob Briner in his book Roaring Lambs (recommended by Nath Scoular, you may have heard him or i talk about it sometime...). For those who dont know, the book basically deals with how Christians can be a light in the media/arts industry, and in exploring this idea Bob brings up the fact that as Chrisitans (as a body and individually) our lives and what we do and believe needs to impact our community and culture - not just the 'Christian community' but the broader community we are apart of, and thus its culture - hence the involvement in cultural acitivies such as film/TV/radio/writing/advertising/etc.
Ok, so this connection to your blog may be a little hazy...but i guess what made me think of it is this discussion of cultural influence. NYC is one of those 'cultural hubs' with art and entertainment being a large part of its culture and economy - which is one of the reasons why i love it so much - just think art galleries + broadway plays! - and so i guess my point being, with a city such a lively place in that regard it is definately a necessity as well as a great opportunitiy for lambs to roar (using Briner speak) or rather, for Christians to shine as a light into the city through those much potential in this city!

I hope my long ramble actually makes some sense! I could actually speak about this topic for quite a while...but i'll stop now hehe...

looking forward to the next installments!

Anonymous said...

Justin, we ate your wife's chicken casserole tonight. Thank You to her from us. It was gud!
Bless you guys in the ministry God has you in.

toodles ... never said that before, and, on reflection I think i probably won;t be saying it again ... rhea

Kate said...


Some ideas on this most interesting post.

1. The popular perception here in Oz is that the "religious right" (whatever that means) is highly influential in American policy formation, and is centred in non-urban areas, such as the mid-west and the suburbs.

2. There are practical reasons why couples with kids live in the suburbs and gays (often without kids) live in the cities. Land per metre is so much more expensive in the inner cities and people do want backyards for their kids.

3. In terms of evangelicals affecting public policy, I wonder if many christians see their role as influencing people at a micro, community level rather than a macro, policy-making level?

Justin said...

Bryon -- 10 points. Scary.
Borg -- I don't see a necessary condition either. I can see its temptation.
Chels - may the lambs roar in this city.
Rhea -- It’s a great little casserole!
Kate -- I want to make a distinction between policy and culture. I think that Xns in the States have a lot of policy clout (some, of course, would argue too much). The issue in the Redeemer stuff is cultural clout, rather than policy clout. MTV, rather than Focus on Family.

kate said...

Fair point, Justin.

CraigS said...

You are right of course Justin - only unreconstructed pagans would go "church shopping".

I prefer to call it an "ecclesiastical discernment visit".

Justin said...

Craig -- lol

Kate -- I still think that you have a point. I do think that people think locally, if they think at all. I think that most people [and most Christians] do not think that their choices matter too much. But where you live, who you have for dinner, who you talk to after church, whether you travel, even whether you simply ‘turn up’ matters enormously!

The stuff in this manual is meant to be macro-thinking stuff.

Justin said...

By the way -- did anyone look at the YOU TUBE?

I wish it were far from the truth... But I'm not sure it is for some.

But very funny anyways...

David said...

justin - i watched it (i'd already seen the first half b4)
what would this look like in sydney?
someone spoke about newtown.
there are obviously a decent bunch of Christians there...
but do they really have much of an impact at all in shaping their community??
are there enough of them?

Chelsea Grainger said...

haha just watched it justin - thats classic!

and yes, scarily true methinks...
but as you said, still funny hehe

ah yes...the way television deals with chrisitanity...always interesting!

Justin said...

David -- Maybe, maybe not. That's what Redeemer is asking, and their point is -- stay might intentionally stay in Newtown. Rather than move to ...

Redeemer is not saying -- hey, theres not enough of us to make an impact, so lets move to the suburbs and consoliate our efforts there. They take the lack of impact as a challenge.

Justin said...

By the way, the whole 'intitial goal of 10% in Bible believing churches' had this kind of thinking at its formulation. When you reach 10% you become a significant minority. But if that 10% were in the heart of Sydney...

Thats the thought here in this quote from Redeemer.

Roger said...


I have the Redeemer Church Planting manual. I have been reading bits of it but find it confronting (perhaps a little discouraging) as a suburban church minister in an established church (I am not giving up yet -God is good). Of course Tim Keller is writing from a completely different context. He essentially founded a church in an urban context.

Still thinking through the whole city thing - God seems to have called people to minister in the suburban areas (I know Tim acknowledges this). I agree with some of his observations -I have found that established churches in suburbia have little desire to influence the wider community in the sense that the Tim Keller is referring to:

“We must live in the city to serve all the peoples in it, not just our own tribe. We must lose our power to find our (true) power. Christianity will not be attractive enough to win influence except through sacrificial service to all people, regardless of their beliefs.”

However, if as Tim is suggesting, this is influence is a biblical mandate for the church –my question is: What stops us achieving this in the burbs? and perhaps what is the difference in strategy?

I would be interested in your views.

Justin-I must admit your blog is increasing my desire to visit-but well with kids doing HSC next year and the year after –it is not looking like any time soon.

BTY Stuart and Isabella Harrison have just had a baby boy Timothy Paul 4.02kg -all is well.

The Borg said...

I guess the message is "Don't forget the Cities".

Justin are you affected by the power outage in Queens, hence no blogging?

I guess you can't really answer that question if you are...

But if you are, I hope your wife and kids are coping with the heat without air-con!

Justin said...

Borg -- Nah. We have power. AC is running as I type.

Two reasons I haven't posted:
1. Time.
2. I'm not sure about the next two. They smack of that US kind evangelicalism thing going on.

I'll bite the bullet tommorrow.

Justin said...

Roger --

Thanks for commenting. I got your email on Monday. Monday is day off. Full day Tuesday. I'd like to respond tomorrow {wed]. But I'm hearing you...

Two+One said...

Okay, I tak a risk here to question Tim Keller, and I will do it twice:

1)“We must lose our power to find our (true) power": -Mh, have heard that before in secular self help seminars in NYC. So where is Jesus here?

2)"Christianity will not be attractive enough to win influence except through sacrificial service": -If becoming a christian depends on my love for someone, I am in deep trouble and forever guilty to the 7.5 Mill people of New York and should not even write here.

Am I right to assume that you do have a lot of sheep from the city who moved because of their own reasons but not because the Lord gave them a new place to be a member to and labor hard?
I woudl assume that if they have not gotten the idea of picking up the cross in the city, they will not get it by moving into the subs. Sluggishness will be less visible though in the subs...

About living in NYC:
NYC has been the hardest test for me (I grew up on the bach in a village of 50 houses).
NYC constantly forces me to love people I find so unatractive, to be faced with suffering, anger, indifference and intellegent arguments about everything.

I had to give up control over whom I meet - ASA I step out of the door, people surround me & no hiding in a car bec MassTransportation gets me around the city; I had to learn to pray for physical strength daily - I can not sleep because of the noise; I needed to learn to be focused - there are too many options; I had&still have to give up to hold onto past memories - there is just no no room for it in my small NY place. It's hard bec. it's nothing I want to do; it's freeing bec. it's takes away what's inbetween me and the Lord.

Heike <>{

PS: Justin can you remind me the next time I complain?

kevin beck said...

Great post. in may ways as NYC goes, so goes the world.


Justin said...

For my non-Christ Church NYC readers, Heike and her husband are from Germany [him West, her East]. They live in NYC by conviction of the gospel.

Their preference would be backyard, BBQ and space for their (sweet) dog to run around. They are a wonderful example of intentional (urban) living for Christ's sake.

Heike, Re complaining. I will, if you do the same to us!

Any responses to Heike?

Justin said...

Kevin - I do not get many random visitors. What or who are your connections? Thanks for dropping by.

Roger said...


Thank you for your very challenging, insightful and encouraging comments. Sorry Justin for taking over your blog with such a long post.

• because you remind me with the use of the word "sheep" that I have a privileged position as a under-shepherd. The people I minister with are God’s sheep and I should not complain for I too am a sheep (often as dumb as one too).
• Because you Justin and others are clearly people who have sacrificed much in your service of the gospel and taken up your cross to follow Jesus.
• Because you help me consider Tim’s words in a new light –its hard from a distance to get the context right.
• “it's takes away what's in between me and the Lord” it reminds me that in the grace of God I still have far to go.

• I think you have identified exactly a problem we in the burbs grapple with.

“moved because of their own reasons but not because the Lord gave them a new place to be a member to and labor hard?” Praise God there are some people in the suburbs who have.

“I would assume that if they have not gotten the idea of picking up the cross in the city, they will not get it by moving into the subs.” Of course my hope is that by God’s grace the suburban church may be a place where people might get the idea.

Sluggishness will be less visible though in the subs...” I would add perhaps even more entrenched because I/we have fewer reasons to be unsettled and we are more defensive about our comforts.

• You have reminded me of the reason I was called to minister here.
• Your honesty is refreshing and humbling -this morning I have prayed for you and Justin and the others who have been called to minister in NY. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. Rom 1:8

nfloridonker said...


thankyou for all of your honesty - it sounds like NYC needs someone like you!! also thankyou for your generosity in letting me stay in your apartment when i was in NYC in 2003 (do you remember? you were away)! Are you still in Battery Park?

I will always remember your amazing wedding story...

Natalie Jonker

Two+One said...

Hey Nat, of course I do remember you staying with us & you gave us a CD we still enjoy soo much! Our new flat (same building)is smaller, but has a great number: "4J-Four Jesus" great to start/or end conversations :-) How are things?

Hi Roger, I can not say much but Thank you! You remind me the way I should see God's people and if sowing a seed is all we do so you in the subs can pick up on that - I will go and do that dilligently without waiting to see fruits.

And in the end "What's between me and the Lord" is simply and plainly sin. So I have to repent holding onto what the Lord calls sin. Thank you brother for you encouragement & challange!

Hi Justin, Dirk and I really enjoy meeting your friends from St. Ives! Makes us wanna go there :-)

Jim said...

Where is the J-man?

byron said...

Borg: Or maybe when univerisities became centres of leftist political movement in the 1960's?
Why would/should this be a reason for Christians to move out?

Jsutin: you there?
They smack of that US kind evangelicalism thing going on.
Would love to hear your thoughts on the US kind evangelicalism thing going on! Deserves a few posts of cultural observations from an in/outsider.