--Posted by Steve Laufer--
If you’ve followed our global missions involvement at UBC for any length of time, then you probably already know about former UBC staff member Sterling Edwards’ church planting efforts in Long Island, NY. Crossroads Church of Long Island has gone from being a brand new church plant to a two-campus church that reaches several hundred worshippers in the communities of Farmingdale, East Islip and their surrounding areas. (You can learn more here or by following them on Facebook.)
UBC, along with a handful of other churches, has been instrumental in helping Crossroads Church acquire facilities, staff and ministry resources for almost a decade now, and we continue to watch and partner with the church family of Crossroads in assessing how we might continue to work together in the future. In the past couple of years, our staff and missions leadership have watched as the Lord has slowly and methodically broadened our ministry horizons in New York to include a broader section of the area reached by the greater NYC Baptist Association (Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, or MNYBA).
The contributing factors have been numerous, including: Sterling’s influence as a church planting consultant for MNYBA and the 50 church plants currently affiliated with them, our staff’s developing relationships with the ministry staff of MNYBA, our investment in and partnership with our own local association (Union Baptist Association) and their shared relationships with MNYBA personnel, and the gradual learning process that has made us aware of the many similarities between our mutual ministry contexts. This has coupled some strong areas of difference in which we feel like UBC can both learn from and contribute to the variety of ministries represented by both organizations.
As Houston residents continue to adjust to becoming one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S., we are intrigued by ministries in NYC that have been working in a similar cultural environment for many years. UBC’s calling to the neighborhoods in which our church members live means that we must continue to learn how to do Christian ministry in multi-ethnic, multi-religious contexts. Toward this goal, our friends in ministry both at UBA and MNYBA have much to teach us. And many of the relatively new church plants, international churches, and traditional churches struggling to survive, all a part of MNYBA, are seeking opportunities to gain theological education, leadership training and development for church members, and someone to walk with them through the process of being a Baptist church in a ministry context that demands progressive thinking and application. To these goals, we hope and believe that our staff and church membership have skills to offer.
MNYBA churches are located within a 75-mile radius of Times Square, an area that includes approximately 22 million residents, only 6% of whom recognize themselves as Evangelical Christians. There are many countries all over the world with fewer people and a greater percentage of Evangelical Christians than NYC alone. Couple this with the fact that people from all over the world land in both NYC and in Houston, and their experiences here affect their relationships with family and friends in their home countries, and you can begin to understand why both cities provide mission opportunities the likes of which are extremely unique. We hope that a partnership in ministry, founded on and continuing to include our work with Crossroads Church of Long Island, and expanded to the family of churches served by MNYBA, can benefit all parties involved, enabling us to share in Kingdom work in a highly influential, global city like NYC, while at the same time equipping us and teaching us how to do the very same in our own highly influential, global city.
This past week, a portion of our church staff had an invitation from MNYBA, over a three-day span, to visit their facility and a number of their church-planting pastors. I’ll be asking them to share some of their observations and experiences on this blog forum over the next couple of weeks. I hope you’ll take time to read their entries, and even engage them in conversation about what God is doing in those ministry environments and how they connect with what we are doing here at home.
Paul’s sensitivity to the Lord’s work is challenging and instructive for me, and I hope it will be for our church as a whole: “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Cor. 16:8–9). Please be in prayer for the ongoing conversations and developing work between UBC and MNYBA, and be in prayer also for how the Lord might want to use you and your unique spiritual giftedness to play a part in this expanding opportunity that the Lord has set before us.
With Great Expectation,