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

    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 not.”

    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 said.

    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 itself.

    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 Brooklyn.”

    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


    3/10/2010 9:20:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments




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