churches in nyc

City Guide: New York City

Matthew ThompsonBy Matthew ThompsonSeptember 14, 20198 Minutes

It’s often said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Every year, thousands of people from all over the world arrive to the city with big hopes and dreams - to “succeed” and become somebody. And while it is certainly “the land of opportunity”, it comes at a cost. New York in many ways has set the standard for what it means to hustle. Long work hours and train commutes are part of a typical week, and with so many people looking to build their identity on their professional accomplishments, conversations usually revolve around what you do rather than who you are. Every day you’re surrounded by millions of people, but in a culture where people can barely maintain eye contact, it’s common to feel lonely and invisible. Deep down, New Yorkers are looking to connect, be known, and loved. And churches all over the city are emerging to provide a light to the city and reach young people by creating a countercultural space that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Living for the renewal of the city

During our time in New York, we were really moved by what Church of the City NY has been building over the past three years. If you decide to join this church, you’ll find one of the most compassionate, dedicated and genuine groups of people across the city.  Pastor Jon Tyson is a phenomenal leader who’s committed to helping people discover what it means to follow Jesus while living in NYC in this cultural moment. Through his teachings, he thoughtfully addresses complex cultural issues to help New Yorkers navigate the tension between culture and Christianity. Last year, they launched a series called the Controversial Jesus, in which they tackled tough topics like singleness, women in leadership, homosexuality, politics and violence. The talks were met with a really positive response, commended for their sensitivity, thoroughness and rich theology.

Another aspect of their ministry that has made a big impact on the city is their prayer room. This is an essential part of who they are -- believing that God still moves in supernatural ways and we have the power to influence that through a culture of expectant worship and prayer. Every weekday, dozens of people meet at 7am, 8am, 9am and 12pm in Hell’s Kitchen to worship through music and pray. We’ve had the honor to attend these gatherings multiple times and were deeply touched by them. They provide an incredible opportunity to slow down and integrate prayer into your daily routine before work or during lunch.

Click the picture above to see prayer room schedule

On Sundays, you’ll find this same expectant mindset when it comes to worship. Both before the message and during response time afterwards, you’ll notice a visible shift in the room as the Holy Spirit moves. Over the last year, there’s been an increasing amount of passion and freedom expressed during worship. People come to the table with everything they have and give it into the hands of God  expecting that he will meet them.

Bringing a dinner party to every block in NYC

In February of 2013, Pastors Josh and Georgie Kelsey came to New York with an audacious and spirited vision to plant a church. But as their supporting team got held up on visa issues, they had to look at alternatives. A few days later, their first Dinner Party was born. Although only five people showed up, this gathering grew organically throughout the next five months and had over 60 people by August. By September of 2013 they formally launched services as C3 NYC, but Dinner Parties ultimately became the backbone of who they are.

In a city that can feel so isolated and lonely, C3 NYC has created a space where everyone has a seat at the table. Every Wednesday, people meet in homes to eat, share stories, scripture, prayer, get to know one another, meet new friends and build strong Christ centered community. Dinner parties tend to be between 15-20 people and have legitimately become such a bright light to the city. It doesn’t matter where you are on the spiritual spectrum, you are welcome at these gatherings. In fact, quite a few people have actually attended a dinner party first, before making C3 their home on a Sunday.

With over 70 dinner parties that now exist across Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, C3 has a vision to have a dinner party on every block in NYC. One member described C3 as “a place where you can put the masks down and truly be who you were meant to be. You are loved, you are accepted, you are hoped for beyond your wildest dreams.” The balance of demographics within dinner parties is quite incredible. They’re a place where will you develop meaningful, lifelong friendships, but at the same time, the groups are ever-changing as they constantly welcome new people to the table.  Although people aren’t perfect, you’ll find that no matter your past, C3 leads with the grace and compassion of God.

Over the last five years, the church opened locations across Gramercy Park in Manhattan, Queens, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn and Bushwick. On Sundays, you’ll experience an atmosphere that is marked by radical hospitality, where people are loved well, welcomed and invited to be part of the family. During our travels, we’ve had the honor of visiting hundreds of churches across the country, but C3 will forever stick out to us as an authentic example of a place that shows the genuine love of Jesus.

Landing on home

From our time in NYC, we got an overwhelming sense that God is moving through these churches to provide a door through which people can find hope and deep satisfaction in Jesus. We hope this City Guide helps you find your next church home and that you would not only be awakened to God’s presence in your life, but to what it truly means to live in community and experience relationships the way God intended.

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