Why New York City?


Some of you might have already heard about the possibility of starting a HMCC LIFE Group in New York City this summer, which will hopefully turn into a church plant one day. One thing I value very highly is the dissemination of information. To be more exact, I value the dissemination of correct and timely information. In this way, there are less misunderstandings, as well as less assumptions, which often times can ruin relationships and cause things to be blown out of proportion.

In this blog post, I want to lay down the facts and also ask you to join me in prayer as we are trying to discern God’s heart and His will for us as a church.

Back on October 10th, 2010 (10/10/10) I presented HMCC’s 2020 Vision. Part of that vision entails planting ten new churches by the year 2020. As I have been praying for this vision, God placed various cities around the world in my heart. One city that has always been on my heart is New York City.

There are 3 things that stick out for me:

1) It is a city with various NEEDS. NYC is the largest city in the United States and is a significant global city. A lot of what happens around the world has its beginnings in this city. The impact is felt in various sectors of society such as commerce, arts and media, entertainment, fashion, and education. There are close to 8.2 million people who are spread out over a small area of 305 square miles. It is the most densely populated city in the U.S. With so many people, there is an array of needs that has to be met. The most significant need is the need for more life-giving churches. According to an October 2010 Barna report, it shows that New York has one of the highest percentage of unchurched people. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life also gives a similar picture of the religious landscape of NYC. A single church cannot reach out to every unchurched person in NYC. There needs to be many more new churches starting, so that more people can experience transformation through the power of the Gospel. Below is a quick picture of the religious situation according to Gallup:

2) It is a city with many NATIONS. It is just breathtaking when I found out that there are as many as 800 languages spoken in New York, currently making it the most language-diverse city in the world. One particular ethnic group that has a large representation is the Chinese people. The Chinatown in NYC is the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Also, with a lot of colleges and universities in NYC which are ranked high globally, it attracts students from every nation around the world. The future leaders are coming to NYC to study. With the nations coming to NYC, the opportunities are tremendous to influence the next generation of world shakers and history makers. Even having the United Nations Headquarters in NYC speaks to the importance of being a hub for international affairs.

3) It is a city with our NETWORK.
Over the last 14 years of doing college ministry in Ann Arbor, we have seen many students graduate and go to NYC for work and graduate school. Recently, we had the largest freshmen class this past year in the history of our church in Ann Arbor; therefore, we are expecting that many more people will be heading out to NYC in the future. Already, we have been in contact with some graduating seniors who will be heading out to NYC and also with some graduates who now live in NYC. As we are trying to connect the dots with our greater vision to reach the nations, we are seeing more people who want to be a part of what God is doing in the context of HMCC. Many of the freshmen from New York and New Jersey area are back home and we want to still connect with them throughout the summer with what God is doing in HMCC.

With the 3rd point, I want to elaborate a little bit more because this has been a major factor in the decision to step out in faith to start something in NYC.

In the last 14 years, whenever our members were graduating and getting ready to head out to NYC or NJ, they have asked me if I knew of churches in that area. Since there are some friends who are pastoring churches out there, I would always recommend those churches first. Then, there are some larger well-known churches, which I try to recommend so that they have a variety of choices.

Some of these former members would get plugged in quickly with the recommended churches, which is a huge praise; but others have had a hard time finding a church that fits with the vision and values that God has placed in their hearts. Due to our strong emphasis on the importance of the local church, many of the former members would eventually find a church they can fit into and build community.

As I have been examining the various groups of people who come and go through Ann Arbor, I have realized that there are 5 groups of people that would be interested in being a part of what God is doing NYC:

1) People who have served as a leader in our ministry context. Over the years, there have been people who were very involved in our ministry and then placed in a city where they couldn’t find a church right away. They would share with me how it would be awesome to have a HMCC community in their city. One thing I want to make clear is that there have been many leaders who have gone to different cities and found a church that suited them better in their lifestage, which is awesome. Hopefully, we are humble enough to realize that HMCC will not meet all the needs of people. Therefore, I am just addressing those former leaders who have expressed their desire to stay connected to what we are doing globally.

2) People who came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior and those who have had their lives transformed by the ministry in HMCC, but did not serve as a leader. I am realizing that the context of a person’s first experience with Christ is very significant. As we have seen many people’s lives transformed through our church, many of them want to continue in their involvement with our vision and mission. In the past, since we did have not any plans of starting something in NYC, we would encourage these people to write down a list of values that they wanted to see in a church. Then, we would advise them to visit various churches (via recommendation of other alumni and friends). Afterward, they were encouraged to narrow down the list of churches to a few and then make an informed and discerned decision. Even after all these measures, people were still trying to find a community that they could be a part of in the city. We even had some students who went to NYC for summer internships and within the short time there struggled to connect with the recommended churches.

3) People who are coming to NYC for the first time, but they have a relationship with someone in our church network. It was exciting to hear recently that a high school student from Indonesia was going to New York University. With all the great universities in NYC, many people are coming to the city for undergraduate or graduate studies. For some of them, it will be their first time being away from home and for others it will be another transition of trying to find a new community. But what would it be like if there was a church community there for them before they arrive? Especially for the international students. If they come to NYC and find community through our church and then they go back to their country, they will have an international church that they can be a part of when they go back (vis-à-vis HMCC of Jakarta and HMCC of Singapore).

4) People who have friends and family members who are not yet part of any church community. I am finding out there is a large group of people, who are connected relationally with some of our members, who do not have a church community. Some of them are pre-Christians, therefore, they have no interest in attending a church, while some are people who stopped going to church for various reasons. This is a huge harvest field of people that we want to reach out to. One thing I have learned from the business world is that the best advertisement or marketing strategy is not a flashy commercial, but a recommendation from a trusted friend. As our members have experienced genuine transformation, their friends and family have noticed. This is why when our members encourage their friends and family to check out our ministry, they are more open due to the trust that is interwoven into their relationship. We have a passion for this group of people and we want to reach out to them.

5) People who are still students at the University of Michigan or any of the universities where there is a HMCC church, and after hearing about our 2020 Vision, they are interested in being part of the vision in the future. This past year’s freshmen class will be the class that would have had the most exposure to the 2020 Vision. They heard it first as freshmen and hopefully throughout the four years of college, they can develop a greater heart for church planting in the future. I am confident that as God leads us to various cities, many of the current students will one day be a part of the greater movement in all our churches.

In light of these five specific groups, we are in the process of praying and planning for a future church plant in NYC. Honestly, we don’t have all the specifics down. In fact, I think we like it this way because with the last several church plants, it has been exciting to follow God’s lead rather than trying to strategize and plan too much.

When I think about HMCC of Jakarta and HMCC of Singapore, I can truly say that it was really a God thing. The encouraging thing about all that is going on is that when we look at the Book of Acts, we see that when the Spirit of God moved powerfully, God was the One who started different communities of faith to reach that particular city.

As many people have been asking me about our church plant movement philosophy, I wrote some things down in another blog post. You can check it out here.

This is what we know so far:

1) Even with all the great churches out in NYC, the needs are still great and the harvest is plentiful.

2) We have a handful of believers who want to see a HMCC community start in NYC.

3) Pastor Pete and I will be heading out to NYC this Sunday, May 15th to meet up with our current students and alumni to cast the vision and talk about starting a LIFE Group.

This is all we know so far. It is pretty scary at times, but we believe that God is Faithful. If he started the other churches to meet the needs of the community in that particular city, we are confident that God will do the same thing in NYC. We have to remember that things are never boring or routine when we are following God’s leadership. In fact, it is an incredible adventure and I signed up for this when I fully surrendered my life to Christ when I was in high school. I have never been the same – all the glory to God!

Here is a time lapse video of New York City. Let’s continue to pray for God’s will to be done in this great, global city that God is concerned about.

“But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, NIV)


Spiritual ENTREPRENEUR, Church EQUIPPER, Leadership EDUCATOR, Ideas EXPERIMENTER & Global EXPLORER who is trying to transform lives and transform the world.
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