The beginning of June, 4 Young Adult members of Second Baptist Church headed to New York City with Leslie and I to experience and learn what church planting and missions looked like in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Leslie and I had an absolute blast with this team. We partnered with Christ Crucified Fellowship, a 2014 missions partner of Second Baptist. During this week, we did less "busy" ministry (although we had mission projects to complete during the week, including serving the poor, prayer walking, etc), and spent a great amount of our time coming to understand what it meant to be a Christian in a culture that has zero affinity or desire for it. As one of our team members stated so well...
"The people of CCF...completely lived out the "people are the church" statement to me. When they left the building (worship gathering), nothing changed. They have jobs, they have lives, but they still live out God's Word through everything they do. They welcome everyone into their tiny apartments; it didn't matter that they were cramped, and sitting on stools and even the floor. All that mattered was learning more about the Lord and fellowship in Him. They hid none of their struggles from us, leading us to share with them! When they prayed over us, you could tell God was there. They were so passionate about helping us through prayer, even though they knew none of us until a few days previous"."
Another part of our trip included prayer walking in communities that could be described as very different than those in Springfield, Missouri. We gathered with members of CCF to walk the communities of Harlem and Washington Heights that they grew up in. As we walked, they showed us where they went to school, lived, and grew up. We prayed. We asked God to do a mighty work in the communities. We came, expecting God to do something. God did some amazing work during this time.
First, at the exact moment we were praying, very close to the community where we were praying, one of the largest Gang busts in NYC history happened. Over 100 leaders were busted. Amazing. Read all about it HERE. Secondly, I believe that the Lord really revealed the great need of Hope is in the lives of people. A team member shared...
"People need love. My prayer walking team encountered a mother of three children on the street. Pastor Rich said she was probably a single mother just trying to make ends meet. The mother was beating her child right on the street corner...there were no words to describe what I felt at that moment..."
This team came back to Springfield with a better understanding of the Gospel than when they left. The team came back to Springfield understanding that the Gospel is real, and our only hope. We spent a week with a group of people who, if not for the Gospel uniting us, we would have never come into fellowship with. I'm convinced we need to think less about strategy and more about the Gospel. There is certainly a place and need for strategies...please do not misunderstand me. However, our first and strongest strategy is the Gospel. This is what the Gospel does-it unites people from every race, ethnicity, social class, etc. Each one of us are on the same ground when we claim Galatians 2:20:
Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me"
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.