Tag Archives: emotionally healthy spirituality

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.  


More thoughts about the Leadership Summit – Part 2

More General Thoughts from the Summit…

1.  Every Reader is not a Leader, but every Leader is a Reader.

There were so many remarkable sound bites, especially from Gergen’s session.  This one hit home, because I’ve found it to be so true!

Well, at least it’s been true of the mentors I’ve been around, namely Pete Scazzero, Ken Shigematsu, and Leighton Ford.  I also hear that Tim Keller is a voracious reader – there are books and bookshelves all around their apartment to prove it.  Rich Villodas and Mike Keller are like mini-mes of these guys.  Grace Yu also comes to mind – she’s a walking encyclopedia.

I don’t think this quality has to do with nerdiness (actually, I take that back.  There’s a hint of nerdiness here).  Instead, I think it speaks more to an appetite for learning, exploring, etc.  Gergen had another incredible quote about how someone who can see far into the past, can see far into the future.  That just oozes of wisdom, doesn’t it?

I would probably add a comment from the wisdom of Good Will Hunting – just because I’ve read Oliver Twist doesn’t mean I can understand what it’s like to be you.

Experience helps inform and sensitize knowledge.

2.  Some pains can be Re-Named “Valleys of Insight”

This was from the interview with the Heath brothers.  I must admit, I was fading by the afternoon of Day 2, but this was a takeaway that I think was reiterated several times in different ways.

Bill Hybels talked about the lessons learned through this painful transition of the economic crisis.  The scars are probably still being felt (100 people let go at willow in one week, I believe he said).  Dave Gibbons mentioned the pain of going through his pastor mid-life crisis and all that it taught him while the numbers went down and to the left.  Keller spoke of criticism being a revealing catalyst for when it comes to how well I believe the gospel.  In all of these examples, pain led to progress… it’s true for organizations, people, relationships, etc.

I was so mesmerized by this point.

Then I realize it’s all over the Bible (James 2 comes to mind).  And then I realized it sounds a lot like the cross.

That’s a great book, the Bible.

And that’s a great principle, the cross.

3.  I was Glad to see Minorities as Speakers

Harvey Carey was super-inspiring, as were Rugasira and Gibbons.  Jackley was really cool.  She’s like a poster-child for the up and coming generation of young leaders – articulate, fun, hip, crazy, & good with technology.

Normally I would have wanted more minority representation… but I learned so much from each presenter!

*Plus, Stafford is a black man trapped in a white man’s body.  If you heard his testimony you know what I mean!

I’d still like to see some more representation of the Next Evangelicalism, so perhaps they can get Barack and Michelle Obama next year.

4.  I’m a big fan of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and apparently, so is the Leadership Summit

A theme that appeared everywhere was being a contemplative and replenishing one’s soul.  Keller’s talks always have a contemplative theme too, because they’re so darn insightful.

I’m not talking about the binder-contemplative type a la Carey’s comments, I’m talking about thinking, praying, or going fishing, as Gergen would say.

I’m so glad to be at New Life and to have learned from the Scazzeros… they really have ntroduced principles and practices that I believe will help shape the soul of leadership in our frenzied generation.  There are many others who are leading the way in introducing emotional health and contemplative spirituality, but none in the context of a church that is multi-cultural and serving the urban poor in the heart of a city.

I’ll probably post more reflections as they come later…

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference April 30th – May 2nd

April 30th – Pre-Conference for Married Couples

May 1st – 2nd – The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference for Pastors, Leaders, and Spouses

Mini-updates via Twitter:

Here’s where you can find mini-updates via twitter.

Blogging from the Conference:

Paul Kuzma – Paul will be live-blogging.  Paul is the senior pastor of New Heart Foursquare Church in Simi-Valley.

Kevin Martineau – Kevin is the pastor at Port Hardy Baptist Church on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Jeremy Dowsett – Jeremy is a church planter/pastor at Blacksoil, in Lansing, Michigan.

Father Henry Jansma – Father Henry pastors the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Haddon Heights, NJ.

I’ll post more blogs as I hear about them.