They love their city. That is part of the mystery. Like the wonder of the feminine form, this brazen city has many lovers. Her dwellers speak of her with affection and intimacy. What was once an arrogance, seems now to be replaced by a quiet confidence - "this city shapes the world... and we are part of her". And new suitors are flooding to her beauty and mystery.
I loved meeting new friends. Aaron Coe is a young passionate Southern Baptist pastor who has been drawn to the NYC story. Meeting him in a very cool hip cafe, I listened with delight as he told his story of the evolving affection of New York drew him from the safety of the south to the intrigue of the north. Having planted his church, that he has now handed over, to starting SendNYC- a catalytic call to plant 100 churches in the next 10 years. There is no arrogance. A simple confidence in his God who loves this city, permeates and leaks out of his growing passion. He is a very good man, with an eager heart and hungry soul.
It was my honor to lunch with JR Vassar. Formerly a teaching pastor in Dallas, he too left the privilege of a career laid out for him, to journey into unchartered waters. Supported by 12 partner churches he set off to the Big Apple. His confident humility settled him at the doors of Redeemer Church where he engaged in the conversation of postmodern urban church planting. Our Texas BBQ lunch had us engaged in the story from Southern styled ministry to the evolution required to serve Manhattan. His "Apostle Church" is gaining traction and it is easy to understand. He is a leader who is humble in his questioning, yet confident in his calling - a leader with a hill to die on and an army that will follow him. This is a very good man.
Just before we flew out M and I met with Mark Reynolds. As one of the architects of the Redeemer planting movement, this is a man loaded with knowledge, discernment and strategic thinking. In honest humility, Mark is a wealth of resources, yet chooses to engage you in your story first. A strong and very capable man, yet one who has chosen to invest his life in the shadowlands of training and coaching rather than being a platformed player in his own right. I am looking for many a future conversation learning from this gift to the body. We really did like him and appreciated our time together.
Lastly, we spent much time with our dear friends Deryck and Cathy Barson and their community. From the amazing Sonia who moved out of her apartment so that we could have a little space, to meeting some brand new, hot off the press Jesus lovers, we love this very brave community, Landing on these shores 12 years ago with little besides a love for Jesus, a word from the Father and a dream, they have given their all. Initially planting "the model", they expected God to fill their church, many tears and prayers later, the kindness of the Father broke in on them "You don't plant a church, you plant a message - the Gospel, and watch God plant the church". This is a very courageous community. When others may have been tempted to give up, they have persevered. They are emerging from the ashes of their journey with gems of believers and jewels of truth. Their story will be told, their discovery will empower many. I am so proud of them and love them deeply.
Next year, we will stand amazed again as we will find ourselves in that city of mystery. God is there. His mercies are new every morning. They are there, palatable, real and growing.