Planting N.Y. churches for the nations
    March 9 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    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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    3/9/2010 5:37:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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