Gospel movements needed to transform cities
    October 20 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    MANHATTAN — Several years ago the “Influentials” issue of New York Magazine described Manhattan’s Redeemer Church pastor Tim Keller as one able to meet young professionals living in the city on their “own terms.”

    To do this, to figure out what it means to meet this demographic on their “own terms,” Keller moved into the city. He found New Yorkers greatly value knowledge, and intellect goes a long way in connecting with them. “When you communicate in a way that touches a person’s heart culturally, you get growth,” he told New York Magazine.

    Because he lives there Keller knows the culture and concerns of New Yorkers. As Keller learned about the city he quickly saw a city painted with idols.

    “There is an enormously sick pressure to perform and do well and make money,” he told New York Magazine. People turn good things, like family and work, into bad things because they elevate them to a position of greater worth than their relationship with God.

    While that temptation may be greater in New York, Keller said New York itself isn’t the problem, it’s the culture; a culture that values the idols. So Keller shoots straight with his church and doesn’t try to hide the truth. His sermons get to the heart of why these idols are so prominent and what New Yorkers can do about it. To a crowd full of people who came to New York to advance a career, he preaches against living just to make more money or climbing the corporate ladder of success.

    Preaching with such acute honesty may not typically grow a church. But Keller wants to do more than draw a crowd — he wants a movement. He is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and pleading with believers to see the gospel as the power of God to change lives, to change cities and to change cultures.

    Keller was one of several leaders who spoke at the recent Movement Day conference about what it will take to see a gospel movement sweep across cities and change culture in cities. More than 800 pastors, church planters and ministry leaders from 34 states and 14 countries gathered for the one-day event. From church planting networks to leadership development and prayer, these leaders learned how to better reach the urban areas they serve.  

    Half in 40
    In the United States the 40 largest metropolitan areas represent 170 million people, or more than half the total 2000 census. The most recent issue of Foreign Policy includes its 2010 global cities index ranking, with New York taking the top spot. The rankings represent cities with “sway over what happens beyond its own borders.”  

    Urban areas are the centers of culture-making, and what happens in the cities can have global consequences. To change the world, the gospel must penetrate into the depths of the cities and impact every area of life, from entertainment to business to education.

    In the last 20 years in Manhattan the Christian portion of the population has tripled, moving from one percent to three percent. Twenty years ago Manhattan was home to 100 evangelical churches, and now it is home to about 200. Movement Day leaders shared that their prayer is to increase that percentage to five percent in the next 10 years. 

    Gospel movements take time, but they are happening. Gospel movements are about more than one church or one mission project; the goal of a movement is to bring believers and churches together to impact a culture. While the church needs to understand culture to impact it, Keller warned Movement Day participants against “capitulating to the culture” and “adapting to worldliness.”  

    Keller advised leaders wanting to make an impact to begin with a biblical, gospel theology, noting that the gospel is not about moralism and legalism, nor is it about liberalism and relativism.

    Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, challenged leaders to pray for a gospel movement. Without prayer, a movement will never happen. He challenged leaders to be like Hezekiah, who in 2 Kings 19:19 prayed for God to deliver His people so that His name would be made glorious. “Are you praying ‘so that’ prayers?” Hybels asked leaders. Hybels shared that gospel movements happen by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the gospel will go forth and Jesus Christ will be known among the nations.

    The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) is praying for a gospel movement in New York City. Association leaders met with area pastors, current church planters and those interested in becoming church planters the day before Movement Day to dialogue about what it means to minister in New York City and how ministry can be more effective. George Russ, MNYBA Executive Director, shared that those coming to live and serve in New York must be ready to “segmentize and exegete the city.” In other words, to live in New York City means to understand the neighborhood you live in and how it is different from a neighborhood across the street.

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) is coming alongside Russ and MNYBA leaders as they create a strategy for advancing a gospel movement in one of the world’s most influential cities. Earlier this year North Carolina Baptists entered into a partnership with MNYBA, and churches in North Carolina are partnering with New York churches to help reach the city.

    The new BSCNC Office of Great Commission Partnerships coordinates the New York partnership. This office, created to help North Carolina Baptists develop, implement and maintain an effective holistic missional strategy, also coordinates a partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England. That Convention is tasked with reaching Boston, which according to the global cities index, is the 19th most influential city in the world.

    North Carolina Baptists and New York Baptists are already seeing the positive results of partnership for the sake of advancing a gospel movement. To learn how you can get involved, visit the Great Commission Partnerships web site.     
    10/20/2010 10:22:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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