In recent months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked religious institutions to help with his expansion of prekindergarten in New York City. Who benefits the most from this arrangement? Should churches be serving the city in this way? Or are there better ways to help?
On September 4th, 53,000 four year olds in New York City walked into a classroom for the very first time. Some of those classrooms are in community-based or faith-based organizations, including churches. By next year the mayor has promised an additional 20,000 openings. In an effort to generalize the UPK experience across such a diverse array of facilities, the NYC Board of Education has published a set of guidelines that are to be used by religious schools and other faith-based organizations.
Queens County is recognized by many demographers as the most diverse county in America. As a result, there are hundreds of languages, peoples, and religious groups represented.
The following list of the top 20 religious groups in Queens reflects the diversity of Queens County (according to the 2010 ARDA report).
Top 20 Religious Groups in Queens, NY
- Catholic – 677,520
- Muslim – 81,456
- Orthodox Judaism – 80,000
- Non-denominational – 33,325
- African Methodist Episcopal Church – 28,085
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – 24,250
- Traditional Hindu – 16,775
- Assemblies of God – 13,989
- Seventh Day Adventist – 13,507
- Buddhism, Mahayana – 12,957
- American Baptist Churches in the USA – 12,003
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 10,463
- Episcopal Church – 9,241
- National Baptist Convention, USA – 7,261
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 7,210
- The United Methodist Church – 6,932
- Conservative Judaism – 6,235
- Presbyterian Church (USA) – 5,092
- Southern Baptist Convention – 4,694
- The Christian and Missionary Alliance – 3,585
- The top 20 religious groups account for 47% of the population in Queens or 1,054,580 adherents.
- Only 5 of the top 20 religious groups are evangelical protestant.
- Evangelicals account for 3.8% of the population in Queens.
What are the implications for evangelism and church planting in Queens? What are the challenges and opportunities that this information presents?
I’ve never been able to remember what an “Ebenezer” is. It always bothered me when a song leader would say something about “raising an Ebenezer” in the middle of a worship set and confuse 90% of the congregation (much less the outsiders who are visiting that day).
I don’t think I’ll ever forget what Ebenezer means again.
Samuel and Ebenezer
I want to briefly share two stories. One is a recent experience of God’s faithfulness to us and one is a story of God’s faithfulness to a group of Israelites who were huddling together in fear in a town called Mizpah nearly 3,000 years ago.
With the threat of attack by the Philistine’s, Samuel the prophet reminded the Israelites to abandon their worship of other gods and to worship and serve the One True God.
…if you’ve got money to waste. My family doesn’t really have that problem. 😉
We live in New York City but I’m not too worried about my kids being spoiled. We’re more Madison, WI kind of spenders.
[Infographic by Simon Kerr]
Starting a church is like starting a business.
The only difference is that in this “business” the “business partners” won’t be getting a financial return; the “employees” pay (tithe) the company for the privilege of working for free; “customers” are asked to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus; and the “product” is a message that is offensive to 90% of the people who hear it.
That’s why I’ve come to a few conclusions about what it takes to start a church:
- It takes an act of God to start a church.
- That act of God always involves the people of God.
- It’s up to God to get the right people in the right places at the right time.
- God mobilizes some people to go down into the mine and some people to hold the ropes.
An Act of God
Our journey to start churches in New York City proves that it takes an act of God to start a church.
The Apostle Paul traveled 13,000 miles on his missionary journeys and according to the NYC Department of Transportation there are 12,750 miles of sidewalk in New York City.
If Paul could travel 13,000 miles to bring the gospel to those who had not heard, is it crazy to think that we could walk 12,750 miles to do the same in New York City?
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
There is no more strategic place in the world to “go” and make disciples than New York City.
To begin with, there are people speaking 800 languages from 500 distinct people groups living in Metro New York.
So, pursuing Jesus’ mission in New York City literally involves walking across the street or down the block or to the store and interacting with people of all nations “as we go”.
With that in mind, I’m inviting you to join me on a Sidewalk Missionary Journey.
The Sidewalk Missionary Journey is a walk down all 12,750 miles of sidewalk in New York City to see the city, pray for the city, serve the city, and preach the Gospel.