Southern Seminary alumnus to plant church in Manhattan amid evangelical drought
When Southern Seminary alumnus Drew Griffin launches Cross Church NYC in the fall of 2015, he hopes for it to be one of the first successful Southern Baptist plants in Manhattan in nearly seven years. He will minister in Yorkville, a neighborhood on the upper east side of Manhattan that has nearly 50,000 people and only one known gospel-preaching church.
“I can’t emphasize enough that there’s still tremendous need for church planters in urban areas and church planters up here in New York,” he said.
Griffin came to Southern Seminary in 2009, unsure of his next steps. In 2011, he and his wife Emily took a mission trip to New York, and from that point on they began to discern a call to plant a church in the city they love. After two years of learning about the area, Griffin completed an internship with the North American Mission Board, which led to a year of apprenticeship onsite.
Only one Southern Baptist church exists for every 83,000 people in the five boroughs of New York City, according to recent studies. Of these boroughs, the Griffins chose Manhattan, specifically the neighborhood of Yorkville. Despite the large population, Yorkville still revolves around relationships. From the beginning, the Griffins have taken a long-term strategy that started with networking. Their desire has been to form relationships, then form small groups, and then grow those groups into a congregation.
“If you don’t respect the city, take time and kind of build some roots,” Griffin said. “Storms will come, and people will leave and if those roots aren’t there you’re not going to be able to stick it out. And so we want to be here, Lord willing, for the long haul.”
Griffin said that he was called into ministry later in life. He professed faith in Christ in 1989. After getting his bachelor’s degree in political science, he worked as a real estate agent for eight years and also became involved in electoral politics. It was upon the death of two of his grandparents on Easter 2008 that Drew began to discern a call to ministry. God used the occasion of their passing to drive him to think about his family’s life, their mission, and their priorities.
Over the past two years, the Griffins and others have worked to build community in Yorkville, they have welcomed dozens of teams from partner churches and schools across the Southern Baptist Convention. This summer Cross Church NYC has begun hosting preview services in their neighborhood, welcoming teams to serve the community and worshipping corporately for the first time this past May.
The Griffins serve as church planting missionaries with the North American Mission Board, and the Baptist Convention of New York. Their sending church and main prayer partner is Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, led by senior pastor Ronnie Floyd, who also serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.