Vision 2019-2020 (Part 3): Future Picture
Note: For greater context, see the previous post on the current reality of our church. Today's post is on what I believe the Lord is leading our congregation in regards to the future.
Given our current situation, we must also look to a future picture; given where we are NOW, where would we like to be LATER? What are some things we'd like to be and do in the future? Here are a few things:
1. We should seek the flourishing of Lower East Side/Chinatown
Jeremiah 29:7 says, "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." We remark that living in Manhattan is getting more and more expensive~ and it is. We say the neighborhood is changing; more Chinese people are moving out and new kinds of people are moving~ and that's true. HOWEVER, even in these things, we shouldn't passively resign ourselves to that reality. Instead, we should be grateful that people actually want to live and hang out in Lower East Side/Chinatown.
The truth is that some of our older members have been around long enough to remember a time when very few people wanted to be in our neighborhood; Lower East Side and Chinatown were known for drugs, gangs, and other types of crime. In fact, our church building was an old city bath house that our founders ended up buying because all other prospective buyers backed out. And yet~ 30 years later~ here we are, The Church of Grace to Fujianese Manhattan, in a bustling neighborhood with our own church building. In a city where most churches these days can't afford their own properties, we should be grateful that the potential harvest is plentiful. In addition, we should pray earnestly that people continue to come to this area and that the neighborhood remains a relatively safe area.
2. We must reach more non-Fujianese/Chinese people for Christ
In Luke 14:12-24, Jesus tells a parable of a man who set up a great banquet, inviting lots of people nearby. However, when those people were invited, they gave various excuses for why they couldn't or wouldn't attend. Because of this, the man invites people from the "highways and hedges"~ essentially anyone and everyone~ in order that his "house may be filled". The lesson of the parable is that the good news of the kingdom is available to all people~ people close and similar to us, as well as people who are unlike us.
For the last thirty years CGF has faithfully reached a huge portion of Fujianese immigrants that have come into New York City. Our overall impact has been so huge that my wife's coworker~ another doctor in New Jersey~ knows of CGF because he and his wife are Fujianese and attended the Brooklyn branch several years prior. However, as Lower East Side/Chinatown is changing and as an increasing number of Fujianese immigrants and their children move to other boroughs or out of state altogether, we simply cannot do ministry in 2019 and beyond the way we've done ministry in 2009.
It is time we also reach out to people who know nothing about God but live and/or work in this neighborhood. It is time we also reach out to people who know nothing about God, nor are Fujianese or even Chinese. It is time we be a church FOR our Manhattan.
I know that a common objection to this is such an emphasis would detract from reaching those who no longer come to CGF~ specifically, those who have "wandered away" from the faith or church altogether, and we want to reach them with the gospel. However, the truth is that we already have reached them, and we will always be here if they want to find us. This should not be a reason we neglect to reach people who have no religious or church background. In addition, because we are an English-speaking congregation that do church not too dissimilarly from many other English-speaking congregations in America (Chinese background or non-Chinese background), we truly have no excuse as to why we shouldn't try to evangelize and reach our neighborhood.