NEW YORK On Thursday, two speakers captured the imaginations of an estimated 120 pastors who gathered to learn about how to plant multiethnic churches in the New York metropolitan area.
"I believe in the multiethnic church. I believe that's what God wants to see," said Dr. David Ireland, who spoke during the quarterly pastoral gathering on church planting held at the American Bible Societys New York headquarters.
As a black pastor of a multiracial congregation, Ireland said that sustaining a multiethnic church requires sacrifice. He has had to forego faster growth because of his desire for a church that reflects the community.
"When you plant a church, think about the different people that are there, said the senior pastor for the 5,000-plus membered Christ Church in Montclair, N.J.
And are you willing to make sacrifices to reach them?"
Also urging pastors of local congregations to think about planting other churches was the Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. During his talk, Keller said the world today is more similar to the first century world than at any other era since that time, and that church planting is as much a necessity today as it was back then. He also emphasized that the first century world was multiethnic.
"Antioch, for example, was really a United Nations, with Asian, African, Jewish, Greek, and Roman section," Keller stated.
Judy Singh, who attended the event on Thursday, said she believes the church planting movement must be multiethnic, in agreement with the events speakers.
"God said we ought to reach the nations, and that's what we ought to do," commented Singh, who serves as senior pastor of a West Indian congregation Beacon Tabernacle Ministries.
Thursdays seminar was one of several events part of the Church Multiplication Alliance - a partnership between Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA), the parachurch prayer ministry Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, and denominations and churches in New York. The alliance seeks to plant 700 new churches in the next ten years in New York. Since 2002, 85 new church planters have come on board.
According to Beverly Cook, communications director Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, New York is in a unique position to plant the rest of the world with the gospel.
"As home to the millions of immigrants and unreached people groups from around the world, NYC is poised as never before to make a global and historic contribution to the advancement of the gospel," she said.
In addition to being the most populous city in the United States, New York City is one of the world's global cities. The city includes large populations of immigrants from over 180 countries who help make it one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth.
To some observers, New York, with its large immigrant population, seems more of an international city than something specifically "American."
Some also say the church planting movement in New York mirrors larger world movements such as the Billion Soul Campaign, which seeks to plant five million new churches in the next ten years, and Table 71 a group of seven missions organizations that encourages American pastors to adopt one of the remaining 639 unreached people groups with populations of more than 100,000.