Rich Perez is a pastor in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan.
It can get a bit overwhelming. Louis says, “When we get discouraged, we sense God asking, ‘Will you trust me? I’ve promised to build my church. You’re doing your part. Will you trust me to do the rest?’ And then I remind myself that this is not me building the church. It’s God. Church planting is really hard, but we have 100% confidence that we are doing the right thing.”
Last September, City to City (CTC) piloted the Apprentice Program, which was designed to partner with New York City pastors and church planters to develop young leaders for the gospel movement in the city. On June 11th, 20 young men and women completed this nine month experience and became the first graduates of the program.
The Apprentice program consists of five Saturday morning learning sessions, a church plant visit, and a visit to a mercy ministry in the city. Pastors supervise an apprentice during a church ministry assignment and meet with them for coaching. This dual approach helps apprentices integrate what they learn into their daily life and ministry, gives a lift to the churches they serve, and prepares graduates for ministry in the city.
The program is the first stage of the leadership pipeline we are developing in New York City and equips participants to engage the city with the gospel and identify their calling. Some of these leaders have begun to sense a call to church planting and will move into seminary, Fellows, and Incubator programs as they prepare to launch new congregations. Others are marketplace leaders committed to supporting church planting efforts as they bring the gospel to bear on their work.
The Apprentice Program will officially launch this September with a cohort of 80 from over 30 churches! It is our privilege to work alongside pastors and planters as God raises leaders and laborers for his church in New York City.
City to City (CTC) has long faced a conundrum: How do you take our model of deep mentoring and transformative in-person trainings for church planters, and multiply them around the world? How could we replicate the experience and wisdom of CTC facilitators in a classroom of young pioneering pastors in Bogotá or Hamburg that would create the same rich gospel-centered theology for a global city, yet allow for and encourage adaptation and contextualization?
As part of the answer to this question, we’ve recently launched our very first online school. We are using a software called Pathwright which allows teachers to customize every aspect of the learning process for their students. Last November we published three courses based on the book Center Church to help pastors and church planters apply the core concepts of Gospel, City and Movement. This summer we will launch more advanced courses on Gospel Renewal, Ministry Design, and Missional Ministry.
This online school is intended to help any urban ministry practitioner, from the pastor or church planter to the parachurch worker to the Christian entrepreneur seeking to reach their city with the gospel. Courses are offered at a lower price if they are taken in groups, which is a part of our learning philosophy - that we can have more impactful and transformative learning experiences through the intersection of content and community.
Not only are we offering these courses as a plug and play resource for any pastor or church planter to use, we are putting more and more of our in-house flagship church planter training programs online as well. Pathwright is allowing us to organize our content, make it more accessible, and make sure our content is edited and all permissions received before sharing it with new staff and network leaders who can lead this training in a new city. With this school we hope to expand our reach, generate revenue, and still offer a deep and wide body of content to the world.
In late April, 13 church planters participated in the International Church Planting Intensive in Singapore and Hong Kong. This group reflected the widest array of cities and cultures of Asia Pacific's five Intensives to date with church planters from Bangalore, Bangkok, Canberra, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo.
This year we made several key changes to the Intensive. We condensed it from four weeks to seventeen days, visiting two cities rather than three. More importantly, we empowered local leaders to teach the Intensive, rather than bringing all the main trainers from the US. These local leaders have been through our training and shadowed past trainers.
We certainly felt your prayers and support throughout this Intensive as we encountered many hurdles, including multiple staff members getting sick and some visa issues with a participant. Still, God was faithful and created time for rest and help to clear up the visa troubles. With the training of local leadership and the diverse group attending the Intensive, we were reminded of all God is doing in Asia and are thankful for the strong support that each of you provide through your giving, prayer and friendship.
This April, over 250 leaders from across Europe gathered in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon for a three-day meeting hosted by a local church. In an effort to strengthen the network and draw more people into connection with our work, City to City (CTC) Europe hosts a gathering in a different major European city every 18 months. Thus, holding the conference in Lisbon served to catalyze efforts in cities across Portugal and Spain in new and exciting ways. Three years ago, there were a mere 30 leaders from the Iberian Peninsula at a similar network gathering. This year, we had over 100 leaders from the region, which continues to show that hosting gatherings in geographically diverse locations helps draw people into the movement who may not have been connected at all.
Church planters from Europe led both the plenary talks and the breakout workshops for the gathering, which provided a wealth of perspectives and material for all in attendance. The main sessions addressed developing a theological vision and challenging the cultural narratives of a city. Workshops covered topics ranging from how to develop training programs to examining your prayer life and urban discipleship. For many, the opportunity to network with other church planters from similar contexts was the most valuable part. It is a joy for us to witness the way that co-laborers in Christ have been drawn together over the years through CTC Europe.
In many ways, this gathering has revealed CTC Europe’s new horizon. What was once a small network centered on a few specific individuals has grown to include second and third generation church planters. These planters have joined the network through a church planting friend, mentor, or colleague. The over 100 new participants we met this year confirmed our thoughts that CTC Europe is now seeing a new generation of leaders rising up across the great cities of the region. We are excited to see the network enter a new phase, where there is continued ownership by leaders in Europe, and excitement about church planting extending far beyond our reach.
The talks on the conference are really helpful, because they touched on the discussion we are having right now about the future of our church. I also saw that people in different cities have the same issues, that a movement is more and more becoming reality. A lot of plants are now 5+ years old and have different questions, so it was a good mixture of gospel churches between plants and grown up churches.
– Dennis Viehoff, Hamburgprojekt in Hamburg, Germany