Living in New York City isn’t easy. Before I moved to New York in the summer of 2006, there were a lot of things in my life that were “givens.” It was a given that my grocery cart and myself would fit down every aisle. It was a given that Mexican restaurants would serve white queso dip. It was a given that newcomers would immediately be recognized and embraced at any and every church, and a community would be thrust upon them.
New York City doesn’t recognize most of my givens.
Walking into the East Side evening service of Redeemer for the first time, I was overwhelmed at how many people there were. Throughout my first year, I regularly attended services and enjoyed the sermons and the music, but also felt that there was something lacking. I missed the community, the fellowship, the feeling of belonging that had been such a palpable part of every church I had attended outside of New York.
Though I felt like I was growing in spiritual intelligence, I also felt that the city was starting to consume my life and that I was lacking any semblance of a real community of believers. It became harder and harder to feel excited about Sundays as my disconnect from the church seemed to get deeper. I struggled with my faith, finding myself trying to tackle problems on my own, without other believers to depend on for prayer and support.
I left New York for the summer of 2007 and it was during this summer away that the Lord began to really work on my heart and open my eyes to my own spiritual laziness. Reading through the Gospels, I realized that Jesus had not, in fact, said “Go to church for 75 minutes a week and thy cup shall be filled.” Indeed, what Jesus said was “Come, follow me.” What He required was pursuit; He mandated active faith. When I returned in the fall of ’07 energetic and active faith was my goal.
My first stop was the Redeemer Connect event. It was there that I met Sharon Chan, one of the youth group staff of Redeemer, and discovered the need for male leaders for the junior high youth group. Just a few weeks later, I was baking hundreds of pies with a bunch of energetic Jr. & Sr. High students, loving life and loving my city. I also joined a Beta group and met other believers who would regularly pray for me and my specific needs. Since then, Redeemer has gotten infinitely smaller. There is an opportunity to hang out with close friends, an opportunity to worship, and an opportunity to rest in the peace and love of Christ.
New York isn’t an easy city to live in, but there is a reason that the Lord has called believers to this concrete wonderland. For me, the first reason was to show me that community is not a given; that faith that is stagnant is faith in trouble. The only true way to grow in one’s faith is to be active, to seek out opportunities to serve, and to find a community. For people new to Redeemer or who attend on Sundays (but do nothing else), the 2008 Connect event on September 25th is the place to start serving the city, find a sense of belonging and join a caring community.