Why plant a church?
Harlem in short is home. My wife and I both went to High School in Harlem, and I was born and raised here. In short we get Harlem. We love the people, understand the culture, and are conscious of the changes. Harlem is home and like the old adage goes, home is where the heart is. My wife and I not only feel called to plant the gospel in Harlem, but we also feel called to give the rest of our lives to this community. I’ve always said to her, “I want to die being a hometown hero, not a national celebrity.” So that’s the work that we’re committing our lives to.
Harlem has a rich history of Christianity. The black church and black America in general has seen some of it’s greatest leaders and movements come out of Harlem. But Harlem is also changing. It’s being rapidly gentrified and with the influx of newer, more affluent residents, native Harlemites are being pushed out of their own community in record numbers. Many of the black churches in the area were under-equipped for the seismic shift that gentrification has brought to Harlem's demographics and economy. Now the results have been disheartening and eye-opening. Harlem is now more divided than it’s ever been along the lines of wealth, class, and race. Gentrification has created proximity amongst minority and majority people but it hasn’t created more empathy, more understanding, and more unity. Instead it’s led to greater divide.
This is why we’re planting this church. We see the gospel need for reconciliation in Harlem. Harlem needs a church that will lead people to vertical reconciliation with God and then horizontal reconciliation with one another. Our vision is a Harlem where everyone is dignified and unified, because justice, love, and mercy are present. We envision this church to be multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and yet unified around the reality that Jesus is Lord. This church will be for the gentrified and gentrifier, the block and the brownstone, and we will care about the salvation of souls and bodies. Harlem needs this church plant, but America also needs this church plant. Our nation’s racial wounds haven’t healed, they’ve only been exasperated in the past couple of years. I believe that it’s the church's responsibility to mobilize and unify people around a vision for shalom and justice that's Gospel Centered and Kingdom driven. That's how we believe that our church can not only serve Harlem, but other communities wrestling with the same tensions all around the country.