Tag Archives: Christ Tabernacle

The Challenge of Planting a Church in NYC – Part 2

You can check out Part 1 of this series here.

In many ways, the challenges I will discuss in this series are issues that most church planters/pastors face in any context.

Living in NYC simply exacerbates some of these challenges (for instance the disproportionate cost of living here, as mentioned in Part 1).

For instance, when it comes to the financial pressures of any start-up, these anxieties exist for any entrepreneurial endeavor.

However, the pure financial costs are higher here, simply put.

One could talk about the “greater risk, greater reward” mantra to describe the merits of planting a church in NYC… but it’s exceptionally difficult to quantify the great “reward” of planting a church in NYC vs another city/context when ministry “success” entails so many different elements.

If one were to speak purely of numbers of people when it comes to church “success”, there are significantly larger churches and church plants around the country, a fact that can easily cloud the merits of investing significantly more money to plant a church here rather than say, South America.

But I digress…. (although you’ll see how church size will come up later in the post).

The next challenge I wish to write about is one that is ubiquitous regardless of context… and yet there are some peculiarities to NYC.

Here’s Challenge #2: Planting a Church in NYC is Awfully Lonely. 

Church Planting in NYC can be an isolating experience.

Church Planting in NYC can be an isolating experience.

Non-profit management guru Peter Drucker once said that the four most challenging jobs in the US are the President of the US, the CEO/President of a Hospital, a University President, and a Pastor.

It’s already hard enough being a Pastor and navigating the different “hats” one has to wear (which, along with the other 3 vocations Drucker mentions, is why being a Pastor can be one of the most challenging jobs), but adding the element of being an entrepreneurial Pastor can make the task of Church Planting profoundly more difficult and complicated.

Both Pastor and Entrepreneur are inherently stressful positions, and adding NYC to the equation makes for a particularly combustible context.

I believe this to be true of most pastors/church planters I meet in NYC, but what makes the feeling of loneliness more acute here is the feeling that I’m never quite measuring up.

This goes back to the discussion about measuring ministry “success.”

If one were to go purely based on Sunday attendance (which is generally the standard measurement across time/place in church planting in the States – as much as people would hate to admit), then “success'” is difficult to come by in NYC when compared to one’s previous context (usually a mega-ish church in the suburbs of middle America) or even in the shadows of more established churches in the City (so many great, longstanding churches to name).

The above paragraph reveals even more nefarious messages that I often tell myself as a church planter – I’m measured against other Pastors/Churches.

All in all, the stress of financial worry, family adjustments, and the inescapable cloud of comparisons to peers or my past can lead me to isolate myself from feeling what is reality to so many of us:

Church Planting in NYC is financially taxing, a stress on my family, and not quite as glamorous as the big city itself.  

Yes, I’ve been there.

I suspect most of us have.


Thankfully, the above news is something that many have reflected on before, and as a result, ministry heroes of mine have tried hard to keep Pastors/Church Planters in NYC from isolating and growing cynical.

Here are a few folks I’d like to highlight:

1) Redeemer City to City & NYC Leadership Center – I link these ministries together not because of any official connection but because these organizations have long been advocates of resourcing and connecting church planters for decades now.

I’ve written about the spirit of leaders like Tim Keller and Mac Pier before, and I truly think these guys have been forerunners to much of the camaraderie and friendship enjoyed by Pastors in NYC today.

Also, shout-out to Parakeleo, a ministry of mutual support for church planting spouses that I’ve heard great things about.

2) Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – I can’t emphasize this one enough.  My heritage obviously comes from New Life Fellowship, so it’s no surprise that I want to advocate for every pastor to learn from Pete & Geri Scazzero and Rich Villodas in living an emotionally healthy life that allows my marriage and family to flourish.  Church planters especially can use a healthy dose of EHS.

3) Christ Tabernacle – Ever since I’ve known the CT guys, I’ve been amazed at their hospitality and willingness to serve/connect church leaders in NYC.  Pastor Michael Durso is part of that wave mentioned above, and Adam Durso and the rest of CT are some of the most generous folks I know.

4) Recovery House of WorshipTrinity Grace Church & “Network” Church Planting – I LOVE the RHOW folks. They are a church planting movement doing amazing work in the city and beyond, and are some of the most mission-minded church planters I know.  I learn so much from them about mission and discipleship whenever I’m around them!

TGC is another family of parishes all around NYC.  Their kingdom vision is really genuine and inspiring, and the ways they plant churches by 1) empowering/contextualizing and 2) serving with a Central Office is something that many church plants and churches have learned a great deal from (including Hope).

I LOVE how these folks fight against the isolationist spirit of church planters by creating a network of mutual support.


And helpful.

5) So many Pastors/Church Planters in NYC who now embody the Kingdom Spirit – Reach out to any of us.  I think you’ll realize we’ll share the following:

– Church Planting is Hard in NYC

– Church Planting is Rewarding in NYC

– The City is Too Big to be Thinking So Small

– I Don’t Have to Do This Alone

– I Desperately Need a Gospel-Centered Approach to My Identity, Our Church, and Our City.

Together – and only together – can we be part of something significant in this Great City.  


Churches in NYC

UPDATED: Saturday, November 26th, 2011

I often get asked about churches in the NYC area, and I thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of churches that I’d recommend.

Now, keep in mind that I have not visited all of these churches – I simply know people who are in leadership (or attend), OR I’ve worked with them in the past in some capacity.

Each local church is different in its own way, which I think is really cool.

If you’d like specific details about a church, please feel free to email me (e.g. worship styles, etc).

This is not an exhaustive list by ANY means, so if you know of any other churches you’d recommend, please feel free to comment!

**Also, this list is primarily for people who are moving to NYC (or moving within NYC) and looking for a church community.  If you’re committed somewhere, I’d encourage you to remain committed there, and if you have inclinations to leave, please begin processing with someone in leadership at the church.

Borough – Queens

1. Hope Church NYC – (Astoria, NY)A new church plant that we’re starting in 2012.  We’d love for you to take part!  Lord-willing, we’ll be an honest, diverse community that’s experiencing and inspiring hope everywhere.   http://www.hopechurchnyc.org

2.  New Life Fellowship (Elmhurst, NY) – An incredible church that I’d highly recommend.  I worked here for ten years! http://www.newlifefellowship.org

3.  Christ Tabernacle (Glendale, NY) – I’ve really had a chance to get to know some of their leaders in the past year – notably Ariel Nieves, Pastor Adam Durso, and their Senior Pastor, Michael Durso.  This group has been extremely hospitable, kind, and God-centered.  I look forward to more partnerships with CT. http://www.christtabernacle.org/

4.  The Greater Allen AME Cathedral of NY (Jamaica, NY) – Allen is a historic church that’s done immense work to impact an entire community.  The  Honorable Reverend Floyd Flake is the Pastor, and his wife, Reverend Elaine Flake, is the Co-Pastor.  I’m hoping to connect with some of the leaders there more often.  http://www.allencathedral.org/

5.  Queenswest Church (LIC, NY) – I know their lead pastor, James Kim, from seminary, and we’ve had a few good conversations.  He’s one of the warmest pastors I know. http://www.qnswest.org

6.  Bethel Gospel Tabernacle (Jamaica, NY) – I had an opportunity to have a fortuitous breakfast with Pastor Roderick Caesar (and a few others) one morning.  I was so blessed by his thoughtfulness, humility, and commitment to God’s work in the city and around the world. http://bgtfi.us/

7.  Living Faith Community Church (LFCC) (Flushing, NY) – A close pastor friend, Peter Ong, is a pastor at LFCC.  Peter’s a tremendous guy, and I’ve met some folks from LFCC throughout the years.  Pastor Stephen Ro is the senior pastor, and we’ve had brief, but positive interactions.   http://www.lfcc.net/

Borough – Brooklyn

1.  Clarendon Road Church (Southeast of Prospect Park) – I’ve never visited the church, but their senior leader, Pastor Charles Galbreath, is a stellar leader and speaker.  He recently started at Clarendon! http://clarendonroadchurch.org/

2.  Resurrection Church of NY (Brooklyn, NY) – One of my good pastor friends, Kristian Hernandez, is a leader on staff with a ton of responsibilities at the church.  I’m a big fan of Kristian’s, and so automatically, I’m a fan of their church.  Pastor Joseph Mattera is the senior leader.  http://www.resurrectionchurchofny.com/

3.  Christian Cultural Center (Canarsie, NY) – We had Rev. AR Bernard come speak to NLF’s leadership a few years ago, and it was so great to learn from his wisdom and experiences.  CCC, and Rev. Bernard, have also had an enormous impact on their community and the city.  http://cccinfo.org/

The Bronx

1.  Promised Land Covenant Church – I recently met with Michael Carrion, the lead pastor at PLCC, and this is a thriving, growing church in the South Bronx that is serving the community in so many powerful ways.  I love the church’s diversity and service to the poor and marginalized. http://www.promisedlandcovenantchurch.com/


1.  Redeemer Presbyterian Church – Redeemer has sites all throughout Manhattan, and their church-planting network is quite extensive (I’d recommend any of their church plants simply because I know they’re affiliated with Redeemer).  Tim Keller is the senior leader, and I’ve been greatly influenced by him and his preaching.  Tim also came to NLF a few years ago to speak to our leaders, and he gave a memorable talk and q & a session.  Of their pastoral staff, I know Abe Cho and Mike Keller, both exceptional people.  Redeemer just named four new lead pastors, so it’s cool to hear that they’re planning ahead.  http://www.redeemer.com

2.  Times Square Church (Times Square, NY) – Tina used to attend Times Square, and she loved it there, particularly the Tuesday and Sunday prayer and worship experiences.  The senior pastor is Carter Conlon, and the founding pastor is David Wilkerson.  http://www.tscnyc.org/

3.  OCM (Overseas Chinese Mission) (Chinatown Manhattan) – I’ve spoken there a few times, and they have a really sweet congregation.  I went to seminary with one of their pastors, Austin Woo (great guy), and I recently met Pastor Grace May, whom I’ve heard wonderful things about.   http://www.ocmchurch.org/English/home_eng.html

4.  Morningstar New York – I’ve known people who have attended MSNY throughout the years, and they’ve been really cool people.  I’ve exchanged phone messages with one of their pastors, Adam Burt, a couple of times, and we were once thinking about doing a singles gathering together.  Maybe that’ll still happen someday!  Ron Lewis is their Senior Pastor. http://www.msny.org/

5. Grace Faith Church (Chinatown Manhattan) – I’ve spoken to their Young Adult group before.  It was a lot of fun, and they have great, warm people.  http://www.gracefaithchurch.org/

6.  Remnant Westside Church (Upper Westside, NY) – I’ve never met anyone on their staff, nor have I gone to any of their services, but I’ve met people who attend, and they are a terrific bunch who are passionate about their faith and community.  Pastor Bruce Yi is their senior leader, and they are a church plant of another Remnant church in midtown, which is where a good friend was once a pastor.  http://www.remnantwestside.net/

7.  The River NYC (Downtown Manhattan) – Another best bud goes to this church, and the people I know there are really tremendous people.  One of Tina’s best friends, Chris, used to go there with her husband who was in leadership there before they moved to Chicago.  They are a vineyard church, and their senior pastor is Charles Park.  http://rivernyc.org/

8.  Trinity Grace Church – I’ve never attended TGC, but I’ve exchanged a few emails with Jon Tyson, their lead pastor.  Jon is the real deal, and I love his passion for the city, building community, and encouraging other movements.  They have locations all around.  http://trinitygracechurch.com/

9.  Metro Hope Church – Led by Jose and Mayra Humphreys, I have not had a chance to visit just yet, but I recently met with Jose and I love his passionate, creative heart for God and others.  I’m excited to visit this diverse, artistic community sometime. http://metrohopenyc.org/

10.  New York Chinese Alliance Church – One of my seminary friends, Aaron Chan, is the English pastor there, and he’s someone whose Biblical insight and wisdom I greatly admire.  Plus, he’s a really great guy whose life and character I respect. http://nycac.org.p4.hostingprod.com/english/

11.  Hillsong NYC – Hillsong NYC is relatively new (their official launch was in Jan or Feb of 2011), but they have some incredible momentum going.  Tina and I visited them for their Good Friday service, and we were really blessed to see so many people attending and connecting with this young congregation.  The atmosphere is great, and the people there really seem to love Jesus passionately. http://www.hillsongnyc.com/

Long Island

1.  Shelter Rock Church (Manhasset and Syosset) – I know one of their campus pastors, Josh Moody, and he’s a quality leader and pastor whom I appreciate and admire very much.  I’d highly recommend this church.  http://www.shelterrockchurch.com/

New Jersey

1.  Metro Community Church (Englewood, NJ) – I recently met their senior leader, Peter Ahn, and he’s one of those guys I would love to hang out with more.  He was introduced to us by Brenda Slater-McNeil, and he really impressed the folks on our staff who met him.  They seem like a really cool church. http://emetro.org/

2.  Renaissance Church (Summit, NJ) – I’ve connected with the folks at Renaissance a couple of times, and I’ve been blown away by their hospitality, heart for their community, and innovative/artistic bent.  Steve Young, their Worship and Creative Arts guy, has been a wonderful guy to get to know, and I’d love to visit their church myself on a Sunday! http://www.renaissancechurch.org/

3.  Bethany Well (Fort Lee, NJ) – Richard Lee is the lead guy at Bethany, and he’s a terrific leader/speaker/pastor.  I have a great deal of respect for Rich, and I also appreciate his passion for the Mets.  I spoke at Bethany a few years ago and it was a fun time! http://www.bethanywell.com/