When I moved to New York to start our church, the great question everyone asked me was, "What are you going to do to reach New Yorkers?" Though I wasn't exactly sure what approach to use, I was sure of this, there wasn"t just one kind of new Yorker, there were several.
In his outstanding essay, Here Is New York, E.B. White categorizes the New York's like this.
"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter--the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last--the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York's high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company."
After living here for several years, I see the truth of his observations. There are the locals, the locusts and the settlers, and reaching each of them has its own challenges.
But upon reflection, I would add a fourth kind of New York, the Resume Builder.
The Resume Builder is a modified version of the commuter. The Resume Builder comes to the city for 1-3 years, lives here, enjoys the benefits of the art, culture, business, surrounding areas, social scene and nightlife, while never committing to build the culture of the city, only consume it. It's not that they are opposed to this, they are simply not conscious of the opportunity around them.
One of the great opportunities that exists for church planters is the ability to transition a Resume Builder into a settler. To take someone who is a consumer of the city into a creator and contributor. How does one go about doing this?
With three essential components.
1. An unexpected, yet robust spirituality.
2. A diverse, loving community,
3. A holistic, missional vision.
Our goal is to plant communities that offer these realities for those in the city.
1. The intense, challenging nature of the city causes people to revaluate ultimate things, and a clear, compelling message of the gospel is appealing to the newly spiritually open.
2. Cities can be a lonely place, even though people are surrounded by literally millions of others. When the church shows hospitality, love of neighbor, outreach and concrete acts of hospitality, the lonely can find they have a place in a new kind of family. This new kind of urban family often acts as a real relational force that functions as a family tribe, that gives meaning and coherence to the urban life.
3. People are living more fragmented lives than ever. The beauty of the Christian story is that God is making all things new. Individual hearts, communities, art, business, commerce, entertainment, families, neighborhoods, and even the world. Being able to integrate a career with gospel mission, community with acts of justice, and personal transformation with a balanced view, people get swept into the story that is larger than themselves.
Ultimately we would love to hear, "I simply cannot leave New York, I could never give up the spirituality the city offers me, the deep relationships I have formed in this community, and the holistic vision for city renewal that pulls me into a larger story."
In cites all over the world, this resume builder lands each year, and it's our job to give them the vision, mission and community that compel them to stay and join God in the renewal of the city.