Tag Archives: church plant

We’re Launching A New Church in Midtown Manhattan

Hope Midtown Launches October 2014

I’m really excited to announce that Hope Church NYC will be planting our third church in Midtown Manhattan in October 2014.

It’s hard to believe that in September 2012, we launched this church not knowing what to expect, especially with the challenges of starting anything new in a city like New York.

We hoped to become a movement of diverse, small/medium sized neighborhood churches where God could move throughout faith communities, and 20 months later, we’ve been able to start two growing churches (Hope Church Astoria & Hope Church Roosevelt Island) in remarkably diverse contexts.

Of course, we’ve had our challenges too, but in many ways those challenges have allowed us to press deeper into trusting that God is doing the work, while we’re along for the ride.

For the past year and a half we’ve had a group of folks journeying together in Manhattan, and this crew is now preparing to help us launch this church in the Fall.

I will be leading this new venture along with James Chi (you’ll hear more about James soon) and a host of awesome people that comprise our Midtown Community.

In addition, Craig Okpala will be overseeing the worship experience in Midtown while still being significantly engaged in Astoria.

I will also remain significantly engaged in Astoria (I’ll still be attending and preaching at Hope Astoria regularly, for the most part) as Hope Midtown will gather in the evening.

One of the clearest ways this has all been possible has been because of the standout leadership of people like Kristian Hernandez (Hope Astoria & Preaching Team Lead – Kris will be a regular preacher in Midtown), Dan & Amanda Sadlier (Hope Roosevelt Island), and our Transitional Leadership Team (Darryl Romano, Christine Okpala, & Tony Thottukadavil), and a stellar staff team at our churches.

They, along with so many of our leaders, volunteers, and attenders – have been a joy to serve alongside.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my wife Tina is as supportive of this as she’s ever been.

I’m excited about all that God is doing in NYC, and I’m so glad to be along for the ride.

Hope Midtown has begun meeting weekly on Friday Nights in Manhattan as we prepare to launch in October, 2014.  If you’d like to find out more or if you’d like to get involved, you can email me at drew@hopechurchnyc.org.    


Asian American Church Planters

A few months ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, and in a moment of simple honesty he told me, “Drew, I have to admit, I thought you were going to fail as a church planter.  It’s amazing what God has done, but I thought for sure you were going to fail.”

He added, “It’s nothing personal, but the church plant statistics are brutal.  Moreover, they’re even more brutal for Asian-Americans.”


As harsh as those words sound, I actually wasn’t offended, because I don’t think Hope would exist anything short of a miracle.  Moreover, many have reiterated the high stakes of church planting at various times over the year.  I’m well aware of the dire statistics when it comes to churches that survive, let alone thrive.

I was surprised though, when my friend mentioned statistics for Asian Americans.  I didn’t even know they kept statistics (and I didn’t bother to ask where the statistics came from).

As I’ve been reflecting on the past year where God has graciously allowed us to make it through year one (with plans to help start another church on Roosevelt Island led by a remarkable guy named Dan Sadlier in 2014 – shameless plug for your support), I realize there have been many Asian-American church planters who have paved the way for people like myself.

I’d like to highlight some of these folks here as a way of recognizing their influence on me, as well as to encourage other Asian Americans who may be considering a call into church planting, or many who are just starting out.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means – these are just friends of mine OR people whom I’ve met through different connections in the city or in other cities.

Caveat #1: This list is woefully narrow as these planters are all Far East Asian and male, mostly because these are the folks I’ve connected with (and many of whom are in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the denomination I am proud to be part of).  I’m certain there are many SouthEast Asian and South Asian brothers and sisters and Far East sisters I’m missing because of my limited social network.  Feel free to comment with other great Asian American church planters you know or have heard of.

Caveat #2: Language of “success” and “failure” when it comes to church planting can sometimes be disturbing, and really worth another blog post.  Usually success is associated with size and longevity, and for what it’s worth, I don’t know the size of most of these churches listed and I personally don’t like calling churches that have closed a failure because I know Hope is benefitting from the immense spiritual investment of church plants that have since closed.  These churches are listed because they’re people I know about or because there has been sustained fruitfulness (I can define in another blog post what fruitfulness might look like, although I’d just be stealing from Keller’s Center Church) that has allowed me to follow them from across the country for a few years.

Caveat #3: I’m sure all the planters would admit that these congregations have been fruitful despite their shortcomings.  It’s easy to learn this as a church planter.

Moreover, it also becomes obvious to a church planter how so much of what happens is due to great leaders aside from the planter, another easy lesson I’ve learned as so much of Hope’s “success” is due to so many others.

And so here are some Asian American church planters whom I’m happy to highlight:

1) Dave Choi – Dave planted and pastors Church of the Beloved in Chicago.  They’re just about as young/old as we are, and God has done amazing things in birthing this mulit-ethnic church that’s already in two locations.  I remember different phone conversations we had as we were both about to embark on starting churches, and it’s amazing to see what God has done a few months later.  I love Dave and he actually preached an awesome message at Hope a couple of Sundays ago.

2) Peter Ong – Peter planted and pastors King’s Cross Church in nearby Flushing, NY.  They’re just about as young/old as we are (a few weeks after us), and Peter is one of the best leaders/communicators I know.  We both made it through one year, and it’s been a privilege to share ups and downs with a brother so close to us regionally.  Along with Dave, I also remember different meetups when we talked about the dream of starting churches, and I’m so excited for him and the King’s Cross community.

3) Peter Ahn – Peter planted and pastors Metro Community Church in Fort Lee, NJ.  Peter was one of the early encouragers for me to give church planting a go (over a Korean soondooboo lunch), and I couldn’t be more grateful for his counsel those pre-church planting days.  Peter and Metro are some of the godfathers of ECC (our denomination) church planting in the NYC area, and although it’s funny to call such a young church “godfather”, they’ve really established themselves as a large, growing church that’s making a significant impact in NJ, NYC, and beyond.

4)  Ryan Kwon – I’ve never personally met Ryan, but I had a chance to connect with him over the phone a couple of years ago and he planted and pastors Resonate Church, a church that’s absolutely blowing up in Fremont, CA.  They’re a multicultural church that continues to serve Fremont and reach many for Christ, and Ryan’s story of planting the church is pretty cool to hear.

5) Kevin Haah – I briefly met Kevin once after visiting New City, the church he planted in downtown LA.  New City is one of the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse churches I’ve ever visited, and I love that my friends love being part of that community.

6) Eugene Cho – I briefly met Eugene earlier this year, but I’ve followed him online for awhile and he’s been such a pioneer in planting Quest, founding One Day’s Wages, and writing a great blog and twitter feed.  He’s really inspired me and many others from afar, and on top of it all, his love for Seattle sports is awesome.  Awesome and misguided.

7) Dave Gibbons – What can I say about Dave?  He planted Newsong in the 90s and they’ve been a church that’s influenced so many other churches throughout the years.  Dave’s been a great model of church leadership and championing the dreams of others.  Dave’s half Korean and I’ll count him as Asian American because the brotha looks Korean as heck.

8) Peter Sung – Peter planted Highrock in Boston (Dave Swaim is now the pastor and I have mad respect for this man) and Queenswest in Long Island City back in the day, and now he pastors a church in the Seattle area.  Peter has helped plant many other churches in his prior role with the ECC as Director of Church Planting.  I actually got approved for church planting at an assessment that Peter led, and his wisdom and counsel are words that I still refer to from time to time.

9) Daniel Lee – I met Daniel through different functions in New York City, and he planted Compass Fellowship in the Upper Westside.  I’ve loved the interactions I’ve had with Daniel and I admire his leadership and wisdom.

10) John Teter – John is the new Church Planting Team Leader for the ECC, and he planted and pastors Fountain of Life Covenant Church in Long Beach, CA.  I’ve heard awesome things about the church, which is remarkably diverse and has been a real model for urban ministry for me.  I’m not sure if John is Asian but the brotha looks Asian.

11) James Yim – James planted and pastors Living Way Community Church of Los Angeles, and he’s one of my earliest mentors.  I love this man and much of my formation as a teenager came through him.  Love this man.

12) Soong-Chan Rah – Soong-Chan is now a scholar/writer/professor, but he also planted and pastored Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, a church that I’ve loved following through the years (Larry Kim is now the pastor and someone I greatly respect).  Soong-Chan really paved the way in creating a church community that valued social justice and multiethnic ministry.  Ever since attending seminary in the Boston area and hearing of Soong-Chan, I’ve learned so much from him.

13)  Ted Law – Ted planted Access in Houston, and Tina and I had a chance to visit once a couple of years ago.  One of Tina’s college friends goes there, and we really loved the vibe when we visited.  It’s been cool to run into Ted at various ECC functions.

14)  Dan Hyun – Dan and I have only corresponded over social media, but I’m really excited for him and Village Church in Baltimore as they just celebrated 5 years.  They’re a multi-cultural church and I’ve heard so many great things about Dan, and although we’re not related, I wish we were.

15) Duke Kwon – I knew Duke from seminary, and he’s an extremely bright, winsome, and thoughtful pastor/preacher.  I have great respect for him and I remember when he was starting out in planting Grace Meridian Hill.  I hope to visit sometime I’m in the DC area!


I’m sure there are countless others to add to this list (Dj Chuang could probably add a few, I imagine), but I wanted to say thanks to these folks for paving the way.  And if you have a chance to check out any of these churches, do so!

Feel free to add more Asian American Planters in the comments below.  Some of the people that I’ve never met personally but hear good things about through different channels include Peter Hong in Chicago, Bruce Yi in the Upper Westside, Gideon Tsang in Austin, & Stephen Um in Boston.

Church People

“All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him…” – 1 Samuel 22:2

A friend of mine joked the other day that this will be the theme verse of Hope, the church we’re planting.

In this verse, David has the odds stacked against him, running from the powerful king and his army.

David’s trying to lead a movement, and these are the folks who show up.  Those in distress, in debt, and discontent.

Sure sounds like a church to me.


Lately I’ve been walking around Astoria, specifically around the area that we’ll be having our Sunday gatherings for Hope.  I’ve been praying that God leads me to the right people to talk to, guiding my steps and my conversations at every turn.

Yesterday, I happened to walk outside of a dry cleaner, and there were three people gathered, two gentlemen and a woman with a young child.  I knew immediately that I was supposed to talk to them.

So I introduced myself.

“Hi, my name is Drew, I’m a pastor and I live on Roosevelt Island with my wife.  We’re starting a church in this neighborhood.  Would you be interested in being part of it one day?”

The three of them looked at each other, bemused perhaps by my gumption, searching for a way to respond without laughing out loud.

“We’re not church people,” the woman said, with the others nodding in agreement.  Then they laughed.

I laughed too, because it was funny that they thought the question was funny.

Then I asked, “Why not?  Do you think this neighborhood could use another church?”

“Oh for sure this neighborhood needs churches!” The woman responded.  “But we’re not church people.”

One man (I’ll call him Brian) chimed in, “I’m not gonna lie, I like the bottle, and I’ve been drinking since I was a teenager.  I really don’t want to change.”

The other man (I’ll call him Tom) said, “I haven’t been to church.  I was locked up for 20 years and there really hasn’t been a reason for me to go to church.”

The woman (I’ll call her Cynthia) laughed and said once more, “We’re not church people.”


One of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with church planting is because it’s an opportunity to reach and serve more people, a way of revitalizing the Church’s mission to speak and demonstrate the good news of Jesus in tangible ways.

If you check out this article by Tim Keller, you can see why church planting is an important dynamic for continual growth and advancement of the gospel, particularly for very people who are “not church people.”

Lyle Shaller puts it this way: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”

For those of you put off by the word “evangelist”, it’s a word that literally comes from the greek words “good”, and “news” or “messenger of”.

I think we could all use a little more good news in this city.  I think we could all use more good messengers, too.


“What if I told you that you are church people, but you just didn’t know it,” I said.

They looked at me skeptically, but interested.

“Because here’s what I believe about you.  I believe that deep down you’re willing to give God a chance if he showed you he was real and powerful.  I believe that if he revealed himself to you in such a supernatural, life-giving way, you’d follow Him anywhere.”

“What if I told you that despite what you’ve done in the past, God has something new for you?  What if I told you that ‘church people’ are just messed up people with broken pasts and presents who believe that somehow, God is in our midst and inviting us into a new reality, a new life?”

“What if I told you that we’d also have free donuts and coffee at our church gatherings in homes and on Sundays?”

We all laughed.


We talked for over 30 minutes.  People passed by and said hello, almost every person asking Brian if he had some beer, to which he would reply, “No, but let me introduce you to this Father.”

“Just call me Drew,” I would say.

We spoke of the suffocating grind of the city, the broken families that we see and experience ourselves, the need for hope where this is none.

We spoke of Jesus and how He gives life.  We spoke of how our neighborhoods need something, anything to revitalize us.

As our time came to a close due to errands that needed to be run, I asked, “Can I pray for you?”

“Sure,” they responded.  “Why not?”

One by one, I prayed for them.  Brian who was a self-described drunk.  Tom who was the self-described ex-con.  Cynthia who was the self-described “just trying to survive” person. I even prayed for the young 2 year-old grandson of the woman.

I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but I knew I was asking God to guide my lips and my words, to speak truth and love over these kind people, and communicate whatever God wanted me to say.

I know one word that I continued to pray was “Hope.”

As we finished praying the Cynthia was in tears and the men were smiling.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Brian said with the others nodding in agreement, “We’d love to come to the church.  When does it start?”