NEW YORK – The Big Apple is the latest addition to the North American Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative. The effort would direct Southern Baptist prayer, volunteers and other resources toward reaching the nation's largest cities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"The significance of New York cannot be overstated," said Rich Carney, a Strategic Focus Cities planning coordinator for NAMB. "If we can reach the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, we affect the whole world. That is what's so exciting -- and it's also very humbling."
Dave Howard, city coordinator for New Hope New York, said that despite the challenges of reaching such a complex and diverse city, the 11 staff members of the ministry have focused on seeing where Southern Baptists can make an impact -- and working in partnership with other evangelicals with similar goals.
"We realize that if God is going to bring a mighty spiritual movement to New York City, no entity is going to be large enough. So we need to look for those specific things that God wants us to do well -- and then he will raise up others to do their part," Howard said.
Over the past two years, in partnership with the 214 churches of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, New Hope New York leaders have developed a five-pronged strategy of prayer, church planting, church strengthening and leadership development.
The key to implementing much of the strategy, Howard said, is partnership -- churches and associations from across the country working directly with either new or existing churches.
"A lot of people want to do short-term trips, and we recognize the value of that," he said. "... But we believe that churches connecting with churches is a more powerful relationship than churches connecting with an organization such as New Hope New York."
Volunteer opportunities include doing door-to-door surveys, helping with Vacation Bible Schools, block parties and other evangelistic events, prayer-walking neighborhoods, or construction to improve church facilities.
"Certainly the partnerships with the new church plants are critical because of their infant status, but the existing churches are certainly very eager. ... We've probably got more opportunities with existing churches than we do for the new startups by virtue of the sheer numbers,” said Howard.
Since its inception in 2000, the Strategic Focus Cities witnessed 45,000 life changing decisions to accept Christ. More than 300 churches have been started in Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia and Miami. Future efforts already have been announced for Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, and several other major U.S. cities are in preparation stages as possible future Strategic Focus Cities candidates.