Longevity in the City
The man in the elevator asked,
“How many months will you be here?”
The man was replying to one of my friends who had just introduced himself as a church planter – pastor here in NYC.
Planters move into the city. Planters move out of the city. People notice.
Moving into the city, though difficult is easier than staying in the city. I’ll never forget Gallery Church’s founding pastor, Aaron Coe saying,
“If you can’t light a $100 bill on fire and be comfortable watching it burn, you’ll never make it in New York City.”
And though I don’t know many people who’d be comfortable watching a $100 bill burn, the imagery of his point drives home a critical truth — living in a city like New York requires massive financial adjustments and sacrifices. To secure our first NYC apartment we had to pay the first month’s rent, a broker’s fee that was the same amount as one month’s rent, and two month’s rent for a security deposit. A recent New York Times article detailed some of these financial realities. In addition to financial challenges, families must also conquer small living spaces, keep up with the breakneck pace, survive the long winters, and stay rooted despite the ever-transient nature of their churches and relationships, just to name a few of the difficulties.
Enter Taylor and Susan Field.
While most would probably consider 10-15 years in New York City to fit the “longevity” category, Taylor and Susan have been ministering here for 26 years. Most of those years they have been leading Graffiti Ministries in Alphabet City. I recently asked Taylor to share his story with our staff team at Gallery and to coach us on longevity in the city. In classic Taylor style, his advice was humble, at times humorous, yet dripping with wisdom. His primary exhortation was,
“Keep a sabbath.”
Here are some of my raw notes from our time with Taylor:
- Those that fight for life, share a flavor that the protected will never know. (didn’t get the author)
- Does the size of your commitment match the size of your dream?
- “If you don’t plan your time, someone will do it for you.” – Macdonald
- At Grafitti they determined to officially open the work day at 10 rather than 9 to prioritize time alone with God. (I thought this was amazing for a church staff and am looking forward to implementing something like this at Gallery. How many times do we hear about ministers and church staff burning out?)
- Taylor guards his time for reading, study, rest, or whatever, with the phrase “previous commitment.” He’s never had anyone press back and demand to know what that “previous commitment” is. If it is your day off, if you need an hour to pray, and someone wants some of your time, you can honestly tell them, you have a previous commitment. I thought this was simple yet priceless in managing time and a schedule.
- Plan your quiet time.
- You have exactly enough time to do what God wants you to do.
- KEEP A SABBATH
- When we don’t keep a sabbath we have a hidden arrogance because what we are doing is so important…I cannot stop.
- We must trust God’s invisible love beyond visible circumstances.
- “If your ox is always in the ditch, kill that ox and fill up the ditch.” (didn’t get author)
- Whatever you repress, it will return to you with knife in hand and it will demand a sacrifice.
- Before you can say the holy yes, you have to say the holy no.
- Be ready to say, “Let me get back to you on that tomorrow,” so you can appropriately evaluate your yes or no.
- Approach NYC as an anthropologist.
- If I come as the rescuer, I’ll become the persecutor.
- Seek to understand before judging. He gave a brilliant example of not judging people in the city for how much they rush where they are going. Seek to understand WHY? It may be because they aren’t going to hold up the 20 people behind them.
- If you try to fight the city, you’ll never win. Illustrating this he noted the “dance of the bus drivers” in the NYC streets.
It struck me while Taylor spoke that though I have worked hard to regularly take a sabbath, I haven’t worked as hard to ensure that Susan, my wife, does. That Friday, I lovingly demanded that Susan take the day off from the kids, and enjoy a sabbath. And the next Friday, and now we’re in a sabbath rhythm. Every Pastor’s wife knows Sunday is no sabbath for a Pastor’s wife.
So will I make it 10-15 years? Or will I make it 26 years? Only time will tell. One thing I do know is that I’ll take my next sabbath. Thank you Taylor and Susan Field for paving the way with faithfulness and longevity. Perhaps, years from now it will be said,
“Planters move into the city. Planters stay in the city. People notice.”