NEW YORK - The vision-casting alliance of Greater New York brought together nearly 100 church heads and planters in a collective effort to reach the unchurched and impact the world.
In just the last couple of years, members of the Church Multiplication Alliance planted hundreds of ethnically and denominationally diverse churches in New York and the momentum that began two years ago continues to propel forward.
"We're being one body," said Joel Rissinger, senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Meridan, Conn. "That's what makes us attractive."
The Rev. Dr. Marcos Rivera, senior pastor at Primitive Christian Church in New York City, birthed two churches just last year with one urban congregation already looking toward an overflow in its current facility on Avenue D.
"So far, so good," said Rivera during a quarterly Church Multiplication Alliance meeting on Mar. 17 at the American Bible Society headquarters.
Amid rising rental rates in an already pricy real estate market, however, the church plants were not a quick and easy move and came with years of strategizing. Once a former corporate businessman, Rivera developed four key elements essential for church planting in the city.
"It's hard work," he said frankly to a crowd of fellow planters who came from the local area and as far as the West Coast. It requires long-term commitment and investment, he added.
"[Church planting] is not an impossible or easy enterprise, but it's very possible."
"Second, we have to have a systemic kingdom mind set," Rivera continued, with the grassroots needing to inform the bigger kingdom picture. Rather than being systematic, planters must consider the social context when spreading their seeds - "Madison Street versus Madison Avenue."
Listing the third element, Rivera said a holistic organizational partnership must be developed.
"The kingdom will become beautiful as we join together. [And] meetings like this can help us expand our vision," he stated.
Rivera's own church plant on Avenue D, called The Mission, was funded through partnerships with such groups as the Assemblies of God and Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Lastly, planters must be intentional in leadership development.
"That's my story. It's been working," said Rivera whose own church is a 50-year-old congregation.
It's also been working for Charles Park of The River Church. His second church plant, made one year ago in Greenwich Village, has grown from 20 congregants to 200. His philosophy - culturally relevant, spiritually powerful, biblically thoughtful.
The Rev. Charlie Albertell took a much different approach to reaching the city. His church plant - Forgiven at Union Square - draws a younger crowd with services held at a bar. The monthly services just recently became a weekly gathering.
While seeds of all sorts are being scattered throughout the city, each is being planted with a unified vision on the commonality of the gospel.
"The main thing is Jesus is proclaimed," Rivera told the Alliance.
The Church Multiplication Alliance was established through the joint efforts of Redeemer Church Planting Center, Concerts of Prayer Greater New York and local churches. In November, 2002, the Alliance was officially launched through a Church Planting Retreat and in 2004, 16 denominations committed to plant 700 new churches over the next 10 years.
"I believe church planting starts in the city," said Rivera.