Jesus lives in Brooklyn

“We are called out; we are ransomed
We are not of the world we’re in
We are chosen; we are blessed
To bring light to the lives of men
So Father sow your seed
Give us life in community
Wake us from our sleep
This is Your time; this is Your place..”
– Caedmon’s Call

* * * * *

From a young age, I always had a fascination with New York City. For example, when I was 17 or 18, I read a book entitled “Jesus Doesn’t Live in Brooklyn,” the story of a man named Bill Wilson and his work amongst mostly youth in Brooklyn through a group called Metro Ministries. The title was derived from the seemingly hopeless spiritual situation Wilson first encountered upon beginning his work in Brooklyn…thousands of children growing up in broken circumstances with no knowledge of Christ. He arranged for literally bus loads of children to be picked up and taken to church each Sunday and looked out for them during the week as well. Whether he continues his work today or not I don’t know but Metro Ministries is still active.

The title though really caught my attention and now, living in Brooklyn, I can see why it would be easy to conclude at first glance that surely Jesus does not live here. Like my older sister commented while visiting last week, “I can just feel that New York is so spiritually dark.” One has only to hear about the rough beginnings or our 3 1/2 year old church to know the very real and unabashed hatred towards Christianity in this neck of the woods. As the first urban church plant Sovereign Grace Ministries has begun (they typically plant in suburban areas), no one knew what lay ahead for our congregation or what particular challenges would be faced. Almost immediately, some became clear: Persecution and hatred.

Meeting in an abandoned church turned apartment building, our congregation first faced obvious hostility from the apartment tenants who would tear down signs temporarily put up each Sunday to advertise our church, do anything they could to disrupt the services with such drastic measures as calling fire trucks to come to the building. They said the worship services were too noisy, continually complaining even after many sound proofing measures were enacted. The tipping point came when they had a lawyer who lived in the building draw up a lawsuit and sued what was then only our approximately 20 or 30 members for one hundred million dollars!

Now, a few years later, our church is still alive and a vibrant community. It is a beacon of light in a city that can seem so spiritually dark. We are still only 40 or 50 people on an average Sunday so if you count success in numbers, then perhaps we’re failing. We don’t have a church building…16 or so schools and other random facilities have been our “home” instead so if you think four grand walls or an immense church building project deems health and success, we have no hope.

From the stories I hear though, the success Jesus has granted our church is the greatest of all because it is eternal. He has thwarted many efforts of Satan on our behalf. Obviously our tiny band of people poses as much if not a greater threat then a large mega church might because our pastor and leaders are dedicated to bringing a bold, uncompromising gospel to Brooklyn. We believe that “blessed are those who are persecuted.” It is this very act which gives us assurance we are bringing the right message across. Wasn’t Jesus hated and ridiculed for most of His ministry? He said the world would hate us too…it is the inevitable result of truly striving after Him, of not watering the gospel down to make it palatable. Easy and compromised.

So, in a humble elementary school auditorium, His spirit dwells each Sunday and with the passion which fills the place for those few hours, I’m sure throughout the week as well. How incredible that the King of kings and Lord of lords does not ask for a dwelling of gold or silver or bronze. Aesthetics mean nothing to Him. The savior who took his first breaths in a lowly stable and died in the open air asks only for our lives and our hearts. It is with those “materials” that He builds His church.

Now, almost 10 years after reading of Wilson’s ministry, I feel truly privileged to be able to bare witness to the fact that yes, Jesus does indeed live in Brooklyn! “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…”- Martin Luther.

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8 Responses to Jesus lives in Brooklyn

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written and expressed. And I saw that passion for God last week, visiting with you guys. And I felt excited for you, knowing what a blessing your family’s hard work and commitment will be. And it will take that to build a church in the middle of…Brooklyn.Maryanne

  2. Grace says:

    Wow! i can’t believe that people could hate your church’s worship service that much! Great to know that you are all spending every Sunday worshiping God despite the circumstances!

  3. Anonymous says:

    wow susannah…what a beautiful sentiment..God does INDEED live in Brooklyn..the crazy thing is that i stumbled across a metro ministries sidewalk Sunday school in a housing project in the lower east side in October and have been trying to volunteer with them ever since..they are truly a beacon of light in the midst of darkness…-yolanda

  4. sarah says:

    hey susanna! nice post…good to hear your thoughts. you’re a good writer:) and the pink is pretty, hehe. ive actually heard of metro ministries thru a classmate who works with them… sarah youn kang

  5. annakristine says:

    That is great. Beautifully written. I love to hear the stories from the trenches of American church life… knowing that great change can happen here too. Maybe I should move there after I graduate… I love New York too. :)

  6. Susanna Rose says:

    Hey girls…thanks for coming by!:) It’s neat to know that so many people know about Metro Ministries! I’d love to see what they do first hand and volunteer with them sometime(s) too!

  7. The Matriarch says:

    Amazing that one faithful little church of 40-50 people in a city of many millions can enrage Satan – but it does!

  8. The Matriarch says:

    Very thoughtful and beautifully expressedDad

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