The Glamor of the City & our Churches

The glamor of the city is over with the Covid19 onslaught that dispersed many middle upper classes New Yorkers from NYC especially Manhattan. We used to have churches clamoring for midtown, etc., because Manhattan seems to be so hot with many young professionals, young families, dynamic, energetic, aspirating for career dream in this Big Apple. The density of population in New York is staggering. 27,000 people per square mile!  Example: Over one-third of the population 25 and over in New York City has a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30 percent nationally. The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the 4th largest city in the United States; Queens would also rank 4th nationally.[1]

With that kind of density, in the rush hour of Manhattan, literally people are rushing almost shoulder to shoulder, and the subways can barely keep up with the amount of traffic. With the recent advent of Covid 19 pandemic hitting the world, with especially New York city among the hardest hit in the world, the scene got ugly and scary. Morgues with freezers were set up barely 6 months ago in certain parts of New York like Queens, because there is just not enough morgues. It gets to that stage, hospitals were running out of space or beds to treat patients, lack of doctors and nurses who were bravely tirelessly sacrificially in the front line fighting the disease and trying to save lives. It was a very tense moment that lasts for almost half a year when New York peaked with Covid 19 more than Wuhan of China, Italy, etc. It’s just astonishing and downright scary how all these happened to such a beloved city at such a quick pace.

Now almost all offices have been having their staff working remote from home to avoid transmission of viruses for over 6 months now and growing. With that many middle upper classes professional living in New York are moving out or moved out already of New York to suburbs to get away from this congested city with #1 spread of virus in the world. Many have moved to the Hudson, CT, Long Island and many are not returning to New York city anymore. First they really have a much bigger space and yard to breathe than being jammed into an apartment with many other residents sharing elevator daily, fighting traffic on the roads, and subway. Now they begin to experience a fresh breath of air they never had a chance to, and now saving tons of dollars. Why? Because houses out there are much cheaper than in Manhattan, Brooklyn, UWS etc. And on top of that,  they don’t pay the city tax of New York, because they don’t work in the city anymore, but in the suburb. And the fact that they can work remote from their suburb, what’s the point of staying back in the expensive congested vulnerable to virus disease city?? NY Governor Cuomo said, “In the old days we used to talk about people leaving Manhattan if the situation got bad, if taxes went up, if quality of life deteriorated,” Cuomo said on a call with reporters Thursday. “They left. They left because of COVID.”[2]

Piled up on top of the problem is the problem of violence viz. gun shootings killings in New York city recently. With the racism uproar recently of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some protests of Black Lives Matter has turned violent and , without going into details, NYPD New York Police has been defunded with a billion dollars been shifted from their budget in other social welfare depts in the city. The Police depts need reformation, retraining to prevent police brutality especially towards the blacks on the streets, but not defunding. The respect for Police has hence dropped to an all-time low, and cops struggled to really combat violence, crimes, etc., because they struggled with all the above reasons. Recently there have been 40-50 gun shootings in New York city over every weekend, something never been heard before. NY Times reported, “The city surpassed 400 shootings in the first half of the year for the first time since 2016, with 528 by the end of last month; the 205 shootings in June were the highest for that month since 1996, the police said.”[3]

It’s really a no brainer. So, what does that mean to the churches in NYC? I used to hear how much churches wanted to jam into the midtown of Manhattan as it’s the central strategic spot with professional, hip millennials all jamming in there. It’s a glamor to have planted a church in midtown. And now looking back, people have left, and many are leaving, and not coming back for the foreseeable future now.

I am in favor of spreading out the population outside of the hotspot of a mega city to decrease the density of population, giving more space to all and families with small children, and give more space for all for a healthier less hectic lifestyle. When so many people crammed in one hot spot, it’s a fertile ground for any virus to spread, and in future, there may be more! So let’s plant churches outside of the ‘mega city’ to the suburbs and smaller towns and cities too. It will be healthier lifestyle to all.

City is not our goal, it’s a means

Remember city is not our goal, it’s a means. The gospel for the people and the Kingdom of God is the goal. As much as much urbanization has happened for the last few decades, round the world, the trend most likely will reverse to a sizable extent for a good reason, and the institution of the gospel must follow suit.  

This will also resolve the tension of raising families with young kids in a congested metropolis city with high costs of living, with poor public schools, and very expensive private schools. When families with children moved to suburbs, or outskirts of the city, families can have affordable good schools, and solve a lot of the inner city problems too.

Gospel doesn’t have to stay in the city, let it grow to the suburbs, smaller towns and cities, the outskirts of the city and spread out the glory of God.

Habakkuk 2 For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Paul’s Church Planting Pattern in the New testament

Paul was preaching the gospel from city to city. Paul preached to the city of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. NT pattern of church planting of Paul is from city to city, not exactly in one huge mega city.  Acts 14:21-22 (ESV) 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul and Timothy went through the cities, delivering the message of the gospel.

Acts 16:3-5 (ESV) 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him….4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Paul wanted to bring Barnaba’s together to return and visit the churches in every city where they proclaimed the word of God. Note: It’s the word of God, not just the gospel.

Acts 15:36 (ESV) 36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are.”

The pattern of evangelicalism of church planting by Paul in the NT is clearly from city to city, as opposed to one mega city.


[2] New York’s wealthy taxpayers may not return, Cuomo fears

[3] 64 Shot, 10 Dead: Spike in Gun Violence Alarms an On-Edge N.Y.C.

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