Tag Archives: new life fellowship

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.  

Hope Church NYC Launches This Sunday, September 23rd

It’s hard to believe that September 23rd is finally here.  After months of wrestling with God about what our next steps were, Tina and I came to the conclusion that God was calling us to stay in NYC and plant a church in Astoria, NY.

Less than one year later, Hope Church NYC officially launches.  I am so humbled and grateful as this church planting project is born.

Solideogloria.

As we head into this Sunday, I wanted to recognize some folks whom God has graciously allowed to have a hand in planting Hope.

1)  Tina and Our Son David – This has been an unbelievable season for our family, and one that has taken precedence over what’s happened at Hope.  David has been such a gift, and Tina has been the best mom and wife I could have ever asked for.

My wife and son have been a gift from God.

With all the stresses of a newborn and a new church, Tina has been a steady and faithful rock throughout the process, even putting up with my shenanigans with good-spirited aplomb.

And David has been a true champ.  I love these two!

2) Launch Team –  What makes a church is the people, and Hope is full of some incredible people.  I can’t thank these folks enough for their commitment, their volunteering, and most of all, their presence!

There have been some funny, “that’s church planting” moments for sure, but I’m so grateful for the willingness to go with the flow as we’ve had so many stops/starts & twists/turns.

This community has also shown me so much grace through my own mistakes – many of which have been painful but necessary to see.

Launch team and new regular attenders – thanks so much for being part of what’s happening at Hope!

PS Special shout-out to our other pastoral staffers – Craig Okpala and Joe Longarino.  Studs.

3) The Evangelical Covenant Church – It’s been such a joy to be part of a larger movement, and the Evangelical Covenant Church has been super supportive and encouraging throughout.  Jason Condon, the Director of Church Planting for the East Coast Conference of the ECC, has been so helpful and insightful in this process, and learning alongside other church planters in NYC, NJ, and New England has challenged and encouraged me in so many ways.

We’re so lucky to be part of this family of churches!

4) Family and Friends who have Supported Hope – So many friends and family have supported this church plant with their prayers and their financial support, and it’s been so humbling to hear stories of people fasting and praying on our behalf, while others have given sacrificially so that we could launch.

Seriously humbled by all these folks who are literally all around the world. Thank you so much for your friendship, mentorship, and generosity.

And a very special thanks to the Hyun and Park families.  Tina and I are so, so grateful for you and your support.

5) New Life Fellowship – I’m so grateful for all the friendships I’ve made at New Life over the years, and the incredible people I’ve learned so much from. Obviously Pete and Geri Scazzero have had a significant part in that journey, and I’m so, so grateful for all they have deposited in me over the years.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without New Life, and Hope wouldn’t be the kind of church that it is without New Life.

6) Other churches in NYC – There have been so many pastors who have voiced their support of what we’re doing, and to know we stand side-by-side with so many churches is an amazing feeling.

There’s something stirring in NYC…

Why I’m Leaving New Life Fellowship

Beginning empty-handed and alone, frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are God is with them. – A Tale of Three Kings

*Update – The above sermon was preached on my last Sunday at New Life Fellowship, April 17th. I shared how painful, but hopeful, it’s been for me to leave.

As many of you know, this week is my last week at New Life Fellowship.  I’ve been a part of the staff team for the past ten years, and it’s been quite a remarkable journey.

Here’s a timeline of my roles there:
2001-2002 – Intern
*2002-2004 – Outreach Director
*2004-2005 – Young Adult Pastor
2005-2008 – Community Pastor
2008-2010 – Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor
2010-2011 – Senior Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor

*I was also in seminary during this time.

Heres a picture of me at the Bowery Mission during the summer I decided to move to NYC.

I’m so grateful for so many of the people I’ve met and served with along the way – everyone from former and current staff, elders, deacons, volunteers, and small groups folks. You guys are heroes to me. As with any church, it’s not really about the building, it’s the people. And at New Life, it’s full of incredible people – children, youth, young adults, families, marrieds, singles, and the elderly. It makes me tear up just to think about how meaningful these relationships have been for me.

As an attempt to clarify what’s happening.  I wanted to write this post to answer many questions I’ve fielded over the past few weeks. Please keep in mind these are my responses alone – I simply wanted to share from my perspective. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

1. Why are you leaving?

Ultimately, Tina and I felt like this was the right time to leave as God was stirring something new in us.  The NLF staff team is more than capable (along with some tremendous volunteers that include our elder board), and we felt like God was stirring us to move forward in other ventures.

In some respects, this decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – I’ll be unemployed and I’ll be leaving an incredible team and church.  However, I think this decision-making process over the past year has been a result of really trying to discern and follow God’s lead.  It’s crazy enough that it must be God (or, at least I sure hope so)!

Here’s a timeline of our decision making process:

May 2010 – I first mention to Tina the possibility of moving on.  We begin praying.
Sep 2010 – I first mention to Pete Scazzero the possibility of us moving on.
Jan 2011 – Meeting/speaking with different coaches, consultants, therapists, and mentors about this pending decision.
Mid-Late Jan 2011 – I meet with elders to share with them how Tina and I are leaning toward leaving.
Feb 15, 2011 – I give my final decision to the elders and lay out a timeline for informing folks about my departure.

2.  Where will you be going?

We’re not entirely sure just yet, but we’ll definitely be in NYC in the Fall.  I hope to visit and learn from other churches.

From May-June we’ll be in Korea, and from July-August we’ll likely be outside of NYC as well (likely Houston).

We hope to use this summer as a time of discernment, rest, and prayer.  There are a couple of opportunities before us in Fall 2011, and we want to prayerfully consider what to do next.

3.  Why leave when you are uncertain about your future?  Why not wait until you figured that out first?

I must admit, this was largely due the advice we received from different consultants at the time (around January).  Now that we’re leaving, we can see the wisdom in leaving earlier rather than later.

First, on a personal level, since God was working in me and allowing me to dream about other possibilities, I would not have brought my best energy to our team and our church if I hung around any longer.  Now that I’ve been in this “goodbye” period, I really see how this is the case!

Second, on an organizational level, the longer I stick around, the more awkward and difficult it is for others to move forward and step into leadership.  The sooner I leave, the earlier people can step into all that they’re called to do and lead.

I originally thought May would be a good time to leave and hand things over, but logistically, Tina and I had already planned a trip the first week of May to Asia, and so we thought it would be weird to go on vacation, come back, and still be saying “goodbye”.

We wanted to go through this season of Lent at NLF though, a very appropriate time for grieving.  Easter could have been our last Sunday, but as silly as this sounds to me (because this departure can in no way “take away” from the unsurpassing power and joy of resurrection), we did not want to be a distraction on Easter.

4.  Are you starting a church somewhere?

No, not yet.  Although we’ve given church planting some serious thought and it sounds really exciting (and part of our future someday by supporting at the very least), it would take some time before it was actually launched.

You will certainly hear about it if we decided to start a church.      

5.  What’s happening at New Life to fill the void?

The leadership team (elders and staff) are going through their next steps right now.  I’ve given recommendations, but now that I’m leaving, I haven’t been a part of some of these larger decisions.  It’s been difficult for me to dis-engage, but I know it’s best for the organization.

You can trust that many committed and godly people will continue to serve New Life Fellowship.  If you’d like to find out what’s happening next, I believe Rich, Jackie, or Pete would be the best ones to contact.

6.  Did the leadership team have anything to do with your departure?

No and yes.

No, in that this was our decision alone.  Everyone else wanted us to stay.

Yes in that leadership was part of the discernment process… I had been talking it through with key folks since September, and these discussions helped me process what God was doing in us.

7.  You seemed so excited about the future of New Life.  What happened?

I’m still excited about many of the good things happening at New Life.  It’s actually quite painful to grieve that I won’t be part of it this next season.

In some respects, I’m proud that I was able to really pour myself out the last year while we were pondering this decision.  We care so much about the church, and I’m glad that that shone through to others.

Again, this is a big faith step for us, and we’re trying to listen to God’s call as closely as possible.

8.  Can we still keep in touch?

Yes!  You can hit me up on facebook (www.facebook.com/drewhyun) or twitter (www.twitter.com/drewhyun).  I will be taking a break from social media for the summer (May-July), but you can still add/follow me there and on this blog.

Some have asked if I even have an email address not associated with New Life, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure yet which one I’m going to use.

When it comes to pastoral stuff like weddings, funerals, counseling sessions, visitations, and the like, I’m taking an indefinite break from those types of things.  I’m not sure how long the break will be (because those are elements of being a pastor that give me life), but yeah, for now you can contact New Life for those things.

9.  Will you be preaching anywhere?

I’ve gotten this question from a few folks, and the short answer is that I will be preaching and speaking at different venues, but not at a regular place for now.

I’ve turned down a lot of engagements over the years because of Sunday commitments, but I’m much more open to accepting some of those requests now (I’ve already accepted one engagement in DC in August and then another in the Ithaca area in September).

Tina and I are coming up with some expectations and boundaries when it comes to speaking at different places, so it will likely be in moderation.  And, as usual, we’re partial to anything in the NYC area (or Hawaii – lol).

We are looking forward to visiting other churches around NYC, though.

10.  How’s Tina doing?

At the risk of speaking for my wife, she’s doing quite well, considering I’ll be jobless and we’ve had lengthy discussions about kids in the near future.

She’s excited about this new season for us, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the strength, courage, and faith that Tina has modeled and demonstrated to me over these past few months.

She is as lovely as ever, and that’s a hard thing to say considering she’s been as lovely as lovely can be the past three years that we’ve been married.

Highlights from February

It’s been a fast and fulfilling month.  I have much to be grateful for as you can see in the following list.

Some friends who joined us in watching the Packers beat the Steelers. So gratifying.

1. The Packers Winning the Super Bowl – If you were to ask me at the beginning of the season which team I’d root for to win the Super Bowl, I would have said the Packers.  I know, I know, I’m still working on the Jets being my team, but Aaron Rodgers and Jahvid Best (former Cal players) are easily my favorite players in the league.

I was so happy for Aaron Rodgers and Packer nation, including Carl and Chris Park.

2. Extraordinary Seminar with Ron Vogt on “Bearing the Cross: Being Real and in Relationship. Ron has influenced me greatly, and to hear some of his latest reflections felt like drinking from a deep well.

3. Seeing Peter, Jenny, and Eli on President’s Day Weekend.  I couldn’t be happier to see them.  Seriously.

4. Reading Tim Keller’s newest book, King’s Cross. The book is quite splendid – I simply pause, ponder, and soak in the beauty of Christ at the end of each chapter.

5.  Seeing Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Kenneth the Page (I don’t know his real name) filming an episode of 30 Rock in Long Island City. NYC is the coolest city in the world.

It was quite random to see them filming, so I just parked and Kimberly Jones and I kept inching closer and closer until one of the crewmen asked us to go to the other side of the street.

I’m pretty sure Tina Fey said “hi” to me with her unassuming glance.

6.  Retreat-ing with 43 others last weekend. Highlights included: Worship in Singing times (thanks Craig and Heriberto!), Shaming Shame rituals, Bearing One Another’s Shame, Taboo (Unlimited Passes, Stool, Menus or “Men use”), Raw and Honest Conversation, Hitch, Conversations about Awkward Christian Dating, Sweet Clementines, and quite simply, Connecting with some really wonderful people.

Good Times in Bloomingdale, NJ, minus a few friends who missed the picture.

Special shout out to Dr. Jay Feld, therapist extraordinaire, retreat speaker, and dear friend.  It’s hard to believe we’ve partnered together for this retreat  for six years straight.

Thanks for sharing, Jay.

10 Reasons You Should Come to NLF’s New Year’s Eve Bash

I’ve written before about our New Year’s Eve Parties here and here, and I’m obviously a big fan of getting together, eating delicious international fare, then working it all off with dance lessons, singing, playing games, listening to good music, singing some more, dancing some more.

Doing all of the above in the name of “cultivating a deep spirituality with God” is always a good thing.

Anyhow, I thought I’d add 10 more reasons (in no particular order) you should come out to our party tomorrow.

1)  Where else can you get to eat bulgogi, samosas, fetticini alfredo, jerk chicken, and spanish rice and beans in the same meal? And THEN, eat some pad thai to round out the meal…

Worship at New Year's Eve - easily my favorite part of the night.

2)  We have a stellar lineup of performers this year at our Coffeehouse – New Life’s very own Judea Costes, Henn Sie, Cate Song, and Abbey Hoffman. They’re worth the admission price alone!

3)  We can all do the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle again, led by the hip-shaking Mike Park and Rich Villodas. Does this ever get old?  Probably.  But probably not.

Where else can you experience the Cupid Shuffle led by Mike and Rich? It may not be synchronized, but it will be fun!

4)  Our Hip Hop Lessons will be given by talented and experienced instructor Susan Maysonet (one of NLF’s very own). She will also be leading our Family Dancing time as well!

The dreaded dancing circle actually works on New Year's Eve at New Life!

5)  The dreaded dancing circle, found in most wedding parties and impromptu dance parties, are actually a chance to showcase some of NLF’s extraordinary dancing talent.

6)  You’ll have a chance to join in the longest dancing train you’ll ever experience.

Seriously, will you ever be part of a longer dancing train anywhere else?

7)  The worship experience is incomparable. There’s something about ringing in the New Year with family and friends singing at the top of our lungs about the faithfulness of God that is unlike any other feeling in the world.

8)  You never know what interesting characters and costumes you’ll see now that it’s 80s night.

By popular demand, it's 80s night tomorrow night.

9)  We will likely have a time of silent reflection during our meditation time. Who says it’s loud and rowdy the whole time?

10)  It’s a chance to hang out with kids, youth, parents, grandparents, singles, couples in a fun, delicious, and warm atmosphere.

Fun times for the whole family!

——-

Doesn’t this all sound so spiritual?

You can register at the door tomorrow night.  More information can be found here.

Feel free to invite family and friends!

Sidenote:  If you’re in Manhattan and would prefer another party, I’d highly recommend Restore’s New Year’s Eve Gala to support a fantastic cause.

One of the Privileges of Being a Pastor at New Life Fellowship

In the flurry of Christmas parties and potlucks, I was called in for jury duty last week.  Interestingly enough, the interruption to my schedule felt like a respite from all the usual December end-of-year activities.

In my prior experiences with jury duty, I’ve never been called in beyond the waiting room, so I was surprised and anxious when I got called into a courtroom with a number of other potential jurors.  In fact, I was in the first group sitting in the jury box, and it was certainly an honor to hear from the judge about our legal system and the role we would play as jurors.

If you’ve ever been on jury duty, you probably know that there’s a vetting process that each juror has to go through under the watchful eyes of the prosecutor and defense attorney (as well as all the other complementary participants in a courtroom).

Potential jurors are asked to answer a litany of questions, some of which are similar to the following:

What’s your occupation?

Are you related to or know anyone involved in law enforcement?

Have you ever been the victim of a crime?

Do you know anyone who has been accused of a crime?  What’s been your experience with people in law enforcement?

First off, it was so cool hearing about the disparate backgrounds and occupations of my fellow potential jurors.  NYC is definitely a melting pot.

Despite the ethnic differences of our jury group, it was customary to hear others answer “no” to a majority of the questions related to knowing people who have been in law enforcement or been accused of crimes, etc.  Usually, the answers were “yes” to one or the other – do you know more law enforcers or more criminals?

When it came time for me to answer questions about my job and various relationships I have with people, I shared that I was a pastor who had a broad range of relationships with people from different walks of life.

Unlike most of the other potential jurors, I was one of the few people who said “yes” to almost everything.  Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney narrowed their questions to me specifically after the general questions were asked.

The two sides asked me (not in exact terms):

– Can you tell us about your interaction with police officers?

– Can you tell us about people that you know in law enforcement?

– Can you tell us about the trials of accused people that you knew?

I didn’t realize how odd it was to have such varied relationships, but in the course of the questioning everyone discovered:

– As a pastor of a church community, I know cops, defense attorneys, prosecutors from the DA Office, and other legal and security professionals.

– As a pastor of a church community, I also know people who have been victims of racial profiling, accused of armed robbery, accused of selling drugs, etc.

Of the groups mentioned above, they’re all folks I’ve met through New Life Fellowship.

People prosecuting and representing the state, people defending and the people being defended – they’re all friends and families who attend New Life Fellowship.

At some level, this might seem like an awkward dynamic.  At another level, it’s also quite beautiful.  Messy, but beautiful.

I count it a privilege to being a pastor in this community, and although some tend to think that religious people see the world through black-and-white, right-and-wrong lens, being part of such a diverse community has shown me that there are more shades of gray when it comes to the problems we all face.

And at the end of the day, these problems remind us that we are linked not by our perfection or our rightness, but by our common weakness, a weakness that calls for a better way, a better truth, a better life.

In other words, we all come together – prosecutor and prosecuted – because we’re all longing for advent.

I think that message will preach.  I think that community will preach, too.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus Christ

Reasons to Celebrate

Here are some reasons for me to celebrate lately…

1)  Alpha Retreat – These retreats never get old.  This past season was a trying one for our leadership team (it seemed like we were all going through tough days every week), and yet God still met us in profound ways.  This is less than half of our group, but we’re the lucky ones who got to experience a beautiful day full of the most meaningful connections.

2.  Adventure Kids – Tina and I have been working with 1st-3rd graders at NLF for the past few months, and it’s been a really exhilirating time.  I’m so, so, so grateful for our volunteers who show up week after week to share some love with these kids.

32 kids raised their hands yesterday when an invitation was given to them to trust Jesus with their whole lives.  Awesome.

3.  Eli – Tina and I had a chance to take a weekend road trip to Virginia to visit Pete, Jen, and Eli.  It was a glorious time, and I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I saw Eli say, “Uncle, Auntie” with his sweet, sweet voice.  We foolishly didn’t take pictures, but I have enough pics to remind me how much I love this family.

4.  New Life Fellowship Baptisms – Baptisms are so cool because of what they symbolize – new beginnings, new ways, new life. The Christian story is captured in this brief act – uncertainty, death, resurrection, celebration.

It’s a sacrament of ultimate hope.

The fact that this moment can be celebrated with the closest of people is what makes the event all the more special.

Awesome again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Blake Griffin – I couldn’t resist adding this one, as trivial as it might be in light of the others.

But man, did anyone see Blake Griffin highlights against the New York Knicks?

I’ve watched about 10 Clipper games this season (my one “splurge” this year was to get NBA League pass so I could watch my beloved Clips and Jeremy Lin)., and although the team causes me such immense grief, the anticipation of one of Griffin’s extraordinary plays gives me reason to keep watching throughout.

Once Baron Davis comes back healthy, watch out!

Nasty Griffin Dunk on 7'1" Mosgov of the NY Knicks