Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NYC: Three Last Reasons why New York is a crucial investment

The Pic is Manhattan in 1782 -- before Sydney Town was settled by Europeans...

OK -- It’s been 3 weeks since I have posted.

A couple of reasons for this are:

  • My boss has been away, so I've been pastoring this church without the rector. (More work... )
  • Family takes precedence over a Blog. (More family...)
  • And I have wondered how to process these next three reasons. (More thinking...)

Here are, according to Redeemer, the next 3 reasons why New York is a crucial investment for evangelicals:

2. The pluralism factor
"Most analysts foresee an America in which the European/Anglo population becomes a smaller and less influential factor in the country, while Latinos and Asians and others become greater in numbers and power. History should teach us a lesson. America was a Protestant nation until 1880-1920, when a massive wave of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe came, mainly through NYC. It was mainly Catholic and Jewish. WASPs in New York neither welcomed these newcomers nor sought to win them into new churches. Instead they fled the city. The newcomers eventually took power in the cultural institutions within the city. Now a third wave of immigration is coming, and NYC is again a focal point for it. Will evangelical Protestants fail the challenge again?"

3. The minority factor
"Though smaller, only LA can rival New York as a way for the Christian church to get control of America’s cultural and social future. But the Evangelical church in LA is far stronger than in New York City. While Los Angeles has several major evangelical seminaries, many organizations and institutions, and scores of mega-churches, New York City does not. Also the great majority of NYC evangelicalism is black and Hispanic. These vital churches are this largely cut off from the power and resources (financial, political, and educational) enjoyed by Anglo churches; New York Christianity is fragmented, immature and weak theologically, corporately and spiritually."

4. The spiritual revival factor
"For people who recognize the importance of sound theology for long-term viability and spiritual health, the surprising growth of Redeemer must be seen as a once in a life-time opportunity for spiritual harvesting in NYC. In less than 6 years it grew to roughly 1500 people, and it has the opportunity to grow far larger over the next 20 years. If it does, there is a possibility of planting 30 or 40 daughter churches (churches made up of Redeemer members/attendants) and 50-60 sponsored churches. That would create a permanent, widespread movement that could change the face of the city.

But Redeemer has already unearthed far more opportunities to plant new churches and ministries than it can meet. If it seeks to meet them alone, without help, it will weaken the development of our own leadership resources. That, in turn, could mean fewer new churches in the future. Therefore, we need partners."

--- Redeemer Church Planting Manual

A couple of initial thoughts:

All of this comes out of a paradigm that a lot of Sydney people may not feel the weight of. It comes from a view that God's people ought to engage with culture in a way that effects culture for the common good. The regular question asked is this: "How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?" It comes out of – amongst other places -- Jeremiah 29:7. It’s Augustine. It’s Bruce Winter’s Seek the welfare of the City. And the things you’ve just read, I believe, has been most immediately influences by James Montgomery Boice’s, Two Cities, Two Loves: Christian Responsibility in a Crumbling Culture.

I’ll be honest: I’m still trying to process the whole approach. I'm looking forward to understanding the position. And I'm in the right place to do that. I certainly do believe in 'seeking the welfare of the city' -- Christians are to be good citizens. Although I'm not sure if this means that our mission is changing the culture. I do get nervous with ideas like finding “a way for the Christian church to get control of America’s cultural and social future.” Hmmm.

I know that they are not, repeat not, advocating moral majority stuff.

Help me to understand...

Re Redeemer partners. Our Church was was initiated by Redeemer. We are proud to be a Redeemer affiliate. In many ways, we are the Redeemer vision. And, with partners, our dream is to be a church planting church here in Manhattan. There is a lot more to say about Redeemer’s place in New York. Redeemer’s leadership has a large vision. My prayer is that the leadership’s vision is shared more and more by its actual members and attendees. That’s surely the only way that 30-40 Churches can be planted!

What do you think?

Love, Justin.


Drew said...

Perhaps - just a tight distinction - it can be stated like this: engaging the culture in order to win some.

But it doesn't necessarily imply that it matters what the outward face of the culture looks like. Thus, changing the culture does not necessarily follow. But if it does change, then it's a new culture to engage with...

It's a case of being pragmatic about history, rather than triumphalist, perhaps.

Justin said...

Certainly the things I've heard are driven by a reflection on history --

History shows -- so I'm told -- that changing the urban centres and cities are how to effect and change culture in a whole nation. 'Captures the cities and you eventually win the rural areas'. I'm told that the 'pagans' and the 'heathens' originally are literally people from the country. And I'm told that when urban areas became Christian, the country areas took decades and centuries to follow ['hence, we need to go to the Heathen'].

But the simple idea is this: Seek the welfare of the city [i.e. form Christian communities in neighbourhood areas and live there as a force for good and change] and you'll change the nation.

Something like that.

It is quite different to the simple: 'go ahead, I dare you... simply tell the gospel to the person sitting next to you'.

Chris said...

I think that I disagree in their basic assumptions:

2. America was never a protestant nation. America was a nation formed by a bunch of protestants and calvanists, yes, but never was it a "christian" nation, nor will it ever be. I think it's a mistake to try and assign religious identity to a nation unless the entire nation is behind the religion, and unless the government is entirely made up of that religion. Example: Israel is a Jewish nation, but only by heritage. Many of those in power do not practice their religion anymore. The same can be said for America. JFK was "catholic" but also reknown for his many affairs; I imagine he didn't take it all that seriously.

3. I rather imagine that the New Yorkers resent the implications of this particular resolution. I mean, if they read it, they'd read "our culture sucks and the christians want to replace it with their own culture." It's like cultural warfare. If anybody ever says "the Christian church should get control of American culture" ever again, I'm going to scream. It's NOT the point! We are not here to control the world; we are here to be an influence on the world. This means not letting the culture dictate what we do (i.e. being "relevant") but it means we are to be right and true, even if that righteousness and truth goes against the culture - but keeping with it if it happens to be praised by the culture as well. We do what we do because it is good, not in response to the world. Subtle difference. And if the world thinks we are trying to control it, it makes any sort of job we have that involves them so much harder.

4. This is the one assumption I DO agree with. Partners - stepping outside the denomination - is probably the best idea to cross anybody's mind. But not only should the church be partnering with other churches and other denominations, but also with other organizations - Habitat for Humanity, among others. Just because an organization isn't "Christian" doesn't mean they're not worth working with.

I keep wondering, why is it that we feel that unless somebody hears the gospel, they won't see it? Why must we stay boxed into the rules we've set for ourselves (instead of the principles set forth in scripture, which aren't often the same)? If a church has to be in a building, we limit potential growth. If a church has to have a certain sort of staff, we limit ourselves. If THE church only exists in the presence of God, and God is in a building, we limit ourselves. If we alter our perceptions - that the church exists independent of structure, but as an organism that traverses the world - we alter how we approach everything! If a church can exist as a bunch of guys in an alleyway in the slums, I think we should go for it and to hell with the consequences to our "structures."

Sorry, I get passionate about this stuff. Seriously though, what do you think?

Justin said...

Chris, Thanks for chiming in. Welcome.

The claim that America was a ‘Protestant nation’ is worthy of
debate. However, I think that Redeemer’s point is simply that the nation changed a whole lot as Protestants fled the cities and failed to engage their new neighbours. I'm not sure that Redeemer would go to the wall saying, "America was protestant". They are making another point, really.

You say:
We are not here to control the world; we are here to be an influence on the world. This means not letting the culture dictate what we do (i.e. being "relevant") but it means we are to be right and true, even if that righteousness and truth goes against the culture...

I think that this is exactly what Redeemer is looking for! You are agreeing at that point, not disagreeing.

I do get your subtle different. But they just want Christians to live in the cities [not always the suburbs] and start changing the world by their actions and in smaller neighbourhood communities. That’s the theory, anyway!

Not sure why you are passionate against structures. Everyone has them, don’t they?

Roger said...

"How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?"

Some random thoughts about this paradigm:

Van Til in The Calvinistic Concept of Culture pg 223 suggest that “Paul urges all to work with their hands and to live soberly in their various vocations ….Therefore the Calvinist does not become one-sidedly Christological and Soteriological in his interpretation of man’s Christian calling, but he continues to make the doctrines of creation and providence part of his working capital. He does not believe, as some other Christians seem to do, that God now excuses believers from their cultural calling due to the urgency of the missionary mandate” … “As creature and image-bearer man is called to replenish the earth to subdue it and have dominion over it; as a new creature in Christ the Christian is called to make disciples of all nations…”

Christian image-bearer’s on a mission from God?

Is this one way one way to understand what Redeemer is advocating?

Justin said...


Great stuff! I think that this is right. Redeemer is PCA, and van Til is Westminster etc. It would fit that Redeemer has been influneced by Van Til.

Have you got some more thoughts, then? You apppear to have a grasp on this. Is good? Is not-so-good to you?

Jeff Hoppa said...

Hi Justin,

You might be interested in last night's (08/17/06) Charlie Rose program featuring Greg Boyd, pastor and author of "The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church." I found his comments helpful and the profile in the NY Times illuminating (click on Boyd's picture on the Rose site to access a link to the article). Go to http://www.charlierose.com/ for more.



Jeff said...

Sorry, click on Boyd's name BELOW his picture, not his picture...

Megs said...

wow!! i love the thoughts on your blog and discussion they inspire. one thing i've been thinking about, which relates to the current train of thought, is that i can't relate to jesus in a 'pure', 'objective' void - culture is inevitably involved in my every interaction - i'm just realising that this is OK. So when it comes to the church changing or relating to culture, i think it's important to remember that the church, as a community, and as individual people, has and is culture too - and that's not a bad thing, just an 'is' thing.
i think, back in my sydney uni eu days, i thought the ideal for me as a christian was to relate to potential christians from a culture-less place, presenting a pure, undiluted, culture-less gospel ... an impossible ideal ... even for Jesus?!

Roger said...

Hope all is well. Still wrestling with "Is it good not so good" I guess I am not sure. All my training and upbringing pushes me towards the mission mandate that van Til refers to.

On the other hand John Dickson's idea of Promoting the Gospel seems to produce the same result but with a different theological frame work?

"But perhaps the best kept secret of Christian mission is that the Bible lists a whole range of activities which promote the message of Christ and draw others to him. Neglecting this range of activities can make those who do not have a flare for speaking feel inadequate in their contribution to God’s mission. Perhaps more worryingly, it can make those who do have the ‘gift of the gab’ feel they are fulfilling the mission just by talking, when the reality is, the Lord wants far more than our lips in the service of the gospel." John Dickson (Paper )PROMOTING THE GOSPEL Congregational mission-commitment in the New Testament and today.

In the end both van Til and Dickson raise the question that continues to concern me. How can I as a church leader equip those who work in secular fields. I dislike the common practice of seeing people as either money earners for the church and or evangelism robots for our events and or people who’s real job is with us and their other job is just to support all of the above. Dickson and van Til (Banks-as well), at least are grappling with the issue.

I do like this quote from Wesley:

"Let your light so shine:" -- Your lowliness of heart; your gentleness, and meekness of wisdom; your serious, weighty concern for the things of eternity, and sorrow for the sins and miseries of men; your earnest desire of universal holiness, and full happiness in God; your tender good-will to all mankind, and fervent love to your supreme Benefactor (God the Father).

Have you got any further with your thinking?