Tag Archives: church planting

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.

Solutions?

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.

Brilliant.

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.  

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The Challenge of Planting a Church in NYC – Part 1

Now that my wife and I have been involved in church planting in NYC for almost 3 years (while living in the city for 15), we’ve had a chance to reflect on a lot of the unique challenges of planting a church in NYC.

As cliche as this sounds, God’s truly worked miracles for us to be where we are, especially as I reflect on my own folly and the other dynamics that make planting a church in NYC difficult.

Here are some reflections on the challenge of planting a church in NYC:

Everyone wants to live in NYC nowadays.

Everyone wants to live in NYC nowadays.

Challenge 1: Planting a Church and the Cost of Living in a Neighborhood 

Um, I don’t think I have to comment further on the exorbitant cost of living in NYC, but I’ll comment on what’s ideal for church planters in NYC and how it’s immensely difficult to meet that ideal.

What’s ideal for church planters is to live in the neighborhood in which you’re planting.

There seems to be a new wave of literature celebrating a parish approach to planting – one that is incarnational, neighborhood-based, and local.  I’ve found these books and perspectives to be quite helpful for ministry, especially in NYC where there are so many unique neighborhoods.

The idea of incarnational ministry is not a new one by any means, as heroes such as John Perkins and others from Christian Community Development urged Christians to live in the neighborhoods in which they were doing ministry long ago.

In my observation, the difference between Perkins and the newer voices engaged in an incarnational approach to ministry is that Perkins was advocating for Christians to move and settle into neighborhoods that no one wanted to move into.  

Back when Perkins and others were writing, people (and Christians) were fleeing the city.  John Perkins and Ray Bakke were prophetic voices in their call for Christians to root themselves in neighborhoods while the vast majority of people were leaving.

This reminds me of what Rodney Stark wrote about in the early church, when in counter-cultural fashion, Christians stayed in the cities when plagues hit in order to serve the needs of the sick and needy.

Today, it’s en vogue in church planting world to advocate living in the neighborhood in which you’re planting a church, especially if you’re an urban minister.

Of course this ideal, but I think the call to live in the urban neighborhood in which one is doing ministry has grown less prophetic and less realistic in our day and age.

1) Less Prophetic (in Christian-speak, I mean less counter-cultural)

The call is less prophetic than Perkins and Bakke and others because of urbanization and gentrification.

As a church planter if I say, “I want to plant a church in Midtown East (where our Midtown church gathers on Sundays) and I want to put down roots there to be an incarnational presence”, I’d be making a sensible and ideal statement of “moving into the neighborhood” (as Eugene Petersen translates John 1:14).

The thing is, in today’s day and age, the whole world wants to move into Midtown Manhattan. My statement above wouldn’t be all that prophetic.  Moreover, only the .001% actually get to live in Midtown Manhattan.

Please don’t misunderstand, the urge to do incarnational/neighborhood ministry is biblical and ideal.  

deeply desire for all of our pastors and church planters to live in the neighborhood in which they’re planting.  

Moreover, I want to lead a church in Midtown because I love and cherish Manhattanites (yes, especially the .001%).

However, doing urban ministry this way is not quite as prophetic a call as it once was because saying “I love this neighborhood in NYC” or “I want to put down roots in this neighborhood in NYC” is a statement that I hear from Non-Christians in equal proportion.

In NYC in particular, I’d love to hear church planters talk about moving into neighborhoods and starting churches in places like East New York or Corona Queens as much as I hear folks talking about starting churches in Manhattan or gentrified areas of the five boroughs.

I should add though, there are plenty of churches and pastors serving and living in places like East New York & Corona Queens – they’re mostly the platform-less, servant hearted immigrant and ethnic Pastors who are truly living out their prophetic call in neighborhoods that aren’t quite cool enough yet for the .001%.

The above section may sound like a critique, but I have to share that every church we’ve planted is located in a gentrifying, up-and-coming neighborhood (Astoria/LIC, Roosevelt Island, Midtown East, & Nassau County).

I personally live on Roosevelt Island in what locals on the Island jokingly call “the rich part of town”.

I’m simply making an observation (and a self-critique) of the call to incarnational ministry I’m hearing in church planting circles nowadays, and I want us to also be part of a prophetic call to go where people generally don’t want to go.

2) Less Realistic

There are so many native New Yorkers who wish they bought brownstones in Park Slope 20 years ago.

Or better yet, Williamsburg.

The challenge of planting a church in NYC is that the ideal is to live in the neighborhood in which you’re planting, but if you want to plant a church anywhere in Manhattan, most parts of Brooklyn, growing parts of Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, the cost of living is unbelievably high.

And if one wants to plant a missional, incarnational church (the two buzzwords that are most ideal for church planters today), the onramp toward financial sustainability is truly a miracle.

Unless a church planter has access to significant funding (either through fundraising or personal wealth), the feasibility of living in a neighborhood can be unrealistic in the long run.

Some have spoken of the merits of bi-vocational planting, but bi-vocational church planting is increasingly difficult in a place like NYC, especially if my money-earning vocation is one that can net a hefty salary but also demand the kind of time and energy for me to net that salary.

Hence, I think it’s often unrealistic for church planters/pastors to live in the neighborhood in which they’re planting.

We should aim for living in the neighborhood (and I truly covet those who are able to do this), but I’m not sure how long-term and sustainable this can be for a family that is interested in being in NYC for the long run.

Conclusion

In conclusion to this point, if you can live in the neighborhood in which you’re planting a church and 1) have the financial means to do so and 2) your family feels called and 3) can be there for the long run, then by all means, do it!

However, if 1, 2, and 3 are not feasible, then do whatever you can to live in a neighborhood that fulfills all three of the above, and build a sense of Christ-centered community and family on mission amongst people in the city (hopefully near where you live, but it doesn’t have to be this way), and be part of what God is doing in this great city.

So if you’re thinking of planting a church in NYC, it’s okay if you don’t live in the neighborhood.  It’ll be okay.  I promise.  It can be done.

Why I’m Thankful for Redeemer Presbyterian Church

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for awhile, but it seems most appropriate to write this following a weekend in which Redeemer Presbyterian Church celebrated its 25th anniversary.

As someone who has lived in NYC since 2001 (and first visited Redeemer in 2000), it’s been really cool to get a first-hand look at how Redeemer has impacted our city and world for 13 of those 25 years.

Much has been said of Redeemer’s influence over the years, and I thought I’d write my own list of things I’m grateful for from the perspective of a pastor/church planter in NYC.

1. I’m thankful for the ways Redeemer has resourced, blessed, and celebrated other churches in NYC – I sat down with a friend of mine in the Bay Area a few months ago, and he mentioned that the pastors in NYC all seem to know each other, which was odd to him.

But more than that, he mentioned that the pastors seem to speak highly of each other.

He asked me why this was the case, and I was taken aback by the question because I thought that’s how all cities worked together.  He assured me that this isn’t the case in other cities.

Much of this unity can be attributed to the tireless and prayerful work of Mac Pier, Concerts of Prayer, and the NYC Leadership Center, and I think that Redeemer embodies this so well.

This general positivity toward other churches has filtered down to all the church plants that Redeemer has had a hand in resourcing, and it’s truly a joy to see church planters/pastors celebrating the work of all churches around the city.

As a church planter I can’t articulate how beneficial this is.  Redeemer really does embrace the idea that it takes a movement (and many churches working together) to bless a city, and I’ve been greatly resourced by the folks at Redeemer City to City (Robert Guerrero & Mark Reynolds & their team come to mind most readily) and Redeemer without them asking for anything from me.

Love it.

Sounds like grace to me.

2) I’m thankful for Redeemer’s theological vision for all-encompassing urban renewal – Back in 2000 when I stayed in NYC for the entire summer, I was extremely refreshed to witness a church that had a vision for serving the needs of the disadvantaged in the city (Hope for New York), as well as the wealthy upwardly mobile class (Center for Faith and Work – although this center speaks to all classes).

Back in 2000, when people referred to “Urban Ministry”, I’m pretty sure people were referring to the ‘hood.

This makes sense because in 2000, cities were just in the beginning stages of becoming attractive areas again, so most of the models of urban ministry had to do with working with the least of these while so many had fled the cities.

Fast forward to 2014, and Williamsburg is now Williamsburg.

Redeemer has really introduced a new way of thinking about “urban” ministry as including service to the disadvantaged and service to “Center City” folks (I believe Tim is the one who first used the term “Center City” when referring to the large upwardly mobile urbanites that now largely inhabit spaces like Manhattan).

3) I’m thankful for Mike Keller – Mike currently leads City Campus Ministry in NYC, and he’s also a PCA Pastor who preaches at Redeemer from time to time. Mike grew up at Redeemer.

The I first met Mike in 2001 on a car ride to Nyack College.

We’ve been friends ever since.

Mike truly lives out what’s outlined above.

Not only does Mike LOVE this city, but he’s extremely supportive and generous toward other churches and works in the city.

He’s someone who thinks deeply about people in every sphere of society, and he has this unpretentious way about him that allows him to connect with people from various diverse backgrounds.

I love the guy, and I love watching the guy do ministry (especially when he has no shame playing basketball on asphalt courts while being good for 25 fouls/game).

He married up with Sara, too. 🙂  It’s really neat to see how much they BOTH love this city and want to see it flourish.

It makes sense that Mike and Sara possess so much of Redeeemer’s DNA, and they’re first-class people that I’m proud to know.

——

As a church planter, I would not be where I am without Redeemer.

As a church, we would not be where we are without Redeemer.

Thanks for the ways you’ve impacted all of us, Redeemer.

Solideogloria.

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.    

Some Pastors/Leaders You Should Get to Know

There are tons of great pastors/leaders that you should know, and I really appreciated this blog by Donald Miller about why pastors are important.

I wanted to introduce you to three relatively new Pastors/Leaders at Hope (they’ve been around since the summer), three of whom have made a significant impact in our community already.

Many of you have already met these folks, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them on my blog.

1. Kristian Hernandez – Kristian is a good friend whom I’ve known since 2006, and he’s one of the warmest, funniest, preach-like-nobody’s-business pastors I know.  We were so blessed to have the great folks at Resurrection Churchbless Kristian and his family to join our church plant, and he’s done an amazing job preaching, pastoring, and leading in our community.

Find out more about Kristian here:

2.  Dan & Amanda Sadlier – Simply put, the Sadliers are awesome.  I love this family.

Dan is leading Hope Roosevelt Island, a new church on Roosevelt Island that I’m absolutely giddy about, and he’s added so much in terms of leadership, strategic missional thinking, wisdom, and fabulous teaching/preaching.

Amanda is leading our Hope Tots/Kids Environments, and she’s done a phenomenal job with them.  Amanda is a catalytic leader who Joseph Longarino described by saying, “she could be president.”  She’s really a stellar leader as well.

On top of it all, the Sadliers have five great kids.  Meet them all below.

New York City is blessed to have pastors/leaders like these folks!

Personal Reflections After One Year @ Hope

If you haven’t heard by now, Hope turned One a few weeks ago (September 22), and it’s been a milestone for us as a church.

I’ve shared some personal reflections (and lessons) I’ve learned as a church planter before here, here, & here, but I thought I’d add to the list now that we’ve made it through one year.

1.  “Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.” – John Ortberg

I’ve been in vocational ministry for just about 12 years now, and never before has my leadership (particularly its flaws) been under as intense a microscope as it has been during church planting.

Seriously, the folks at Hope have been super gracious, and I know I’ve disappointed a lot of people (some more than others, unfortunately) – hopefully it continues to be at a rate that people can stand.

2.  “In Ministry You’re Going to Disappoint Someone, Try Not to Make it Your Family” – Lynn Hybels

Ah yes, ministry is full of disappointing people, and it’s hardest when the ones we disappoint are our spouses and kids.

I’ve been very mindful of this during this season, and I’ve tried my best not to disappoint Tina and David too much.

We regularly practice Sabbath, and we take frequent trips outside the city as well.*  This has really helped us maintain a sane pace in this church planting endeavor.

Obviously, I fail more than I’d like to admit, but it’s good to keep this statement as a compass for us moving forward in church planting and vocational ministry in general.

Feel free to ask Tina how it’s going, and if you ask David, he’ll probably tell you that he wants to watch Nemo.

While you’re at it, register for this conference to help lead from a healthy marriage and inner life.

*The caveat here is that regular Sabbaths and vacations have only been possible because 1) We have an awesome team.  Seriously, these folks can easily lead and shepherd without me, and it’s been unbelievable working with a dream team.  2) We have the been blessed with resources to go away.  I’m not going to pretend that resources don’t matter when it comes to vacations/development/pulpit-supply for pastors, and I’m a big advocate for pastors being funded. 

We can talk more about this but I realize there are many out there who have neither a team nor resources yet, and that’s where networks and denominations like ours can be so helpful.  

3.  I’m More Mindful of the Question “Should We Do This?” rather than “Can We Do This?” 

I think for any entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s easy to dream about endless possibilities without taking into account reality.

In the entrepreneurial endeavor of church planting, I think it’s easy to dream about endless possibilities without the very fuel that runs it all – the Spirit.

This is where prayer is so important… specifically, the following prayer:

“Your Will Be Done, Your Kingdom Come.”

4.  In Any Missional Church, a Balance of Risk and Safety is Needed. 

If there’s too much risk, then people get burned out, community and quality suffers, etc.

If there’s too much safety then there’s little movement and vitality, and an insulated culture is created.

I believe Jesus modeled this for us, too, but that’s worth another blog post.

Hopefully we continually find ourselves between these two extremes.

5.  As Somewhat of a Careful Planner, I’m Consistently Surprised By How Things Turn Out Differently Than I Envisioned, and Yet Sorta Similar.

This definitely reminds me Who’s in Control.   

5.  I Was Made For This.

I can’t believe I get to do this.  It’s such an honor to exercise faith in this way!

I recall all my fears about church planting, and I realize I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

As a result, I am so unbelievably thankful to everyone who’s supported us on this journey.  It’s been such a thrilling ride, and despite going through some of the hardest times of my life, it’s been so reassuring seeing how God has orchestrated it all.

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.”

Ouch.

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!

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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.