Persecution, Providence, & Jesus’ Advancing Church
* This blog post was updated toward the bottom on July 25th to express ongoing love to our neighbors.
Our church was recently forced out of our worship space for preaching a sermon about same sex attraction. Here’s the story…
We were stuck. Our church had outgrown our worship space, yet we were locked into a lease for two more years. We couldn’t financially afford to carry our current lease and rent a new larger space simultaneously. Going to two services was not a wise option for us for several reasons. It was looking like the size of our space would continue to hinder our ability to grow. Yet God provided.
Out of the blue, a world class jazz company named “The Jazz Gallery” approached us, asking to sublease our space every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for their jazz concerts. Rezoning was requiring them to move out of their SoHo location that had housed their concerts for the past 17 years. Subleasing to the Jazz Gallery gave us the financial ability to look for a larger worship space for our Sunday gatherings. Excited to bless The Jazz Gallery and thrilled with God’s provision, we moved forward.
We found what seemed to be a perfect new space in a restaurant just a block and a half away. I had actually eaten there several times and had always thought it would be a great gathering location. We approached the restaurant and they were glad to host us within our budget. With great anticipation, we forged an agreement, moved in and immediately our attendance jumped by twenty people. I wrote all about the new space in a previous post.
Then we preached a sermon about same sex attraction.
After only meeting in our new space for a couple of months, we were asked to leave. The restaurant that was hosting us had received significant backlash from the neighborhood for hosting a Christian church in their space. The backlash came before the sermon was even preached yet was enough to motivate the restaurant to end their partnership with us. We were renting their space for $25K on the year, paying their sound tech $150 a Sunday, and averaged about 10 people eating every Sunday at their restaurant that opened right after our worship service ended. Yet, disassociating from a Christian church was more valuable to them.
Employees of the restaurant were struck by the kindness of my tone as I shared the news with our church. Our church was sobered by the persecution and responded with grace and gratitude. We were not interested in creating some sort of firestorm, instead, many were immediately hopeful to see how God would provide. Additionally, I’ve been prayerful that our personal witnesses are being emboldened as a fruitful result.
We were given a short two months to find a new space. Not an easy task. Yet in God’s gracious providence, we found a new space that meets our needs better than we were willing to imagine:
- The Gallery Kid area is the largest, cleanest, brightest, and safest space we’ve ever had!
- The worship space has enough room for our gathering to triple in size!
- We now have storage on site for everything we use on Sundays!
- We’re still centrally located! 230 W29th Street between 7th and 8th Ave
One of the only drawbacks to our new space is the cost. Though very reasonable for Manhattan, leasing this new space costs $15K more (on the year) than our previous space. Will you pray and ask God how you may be able to lean in during this critical time and help us with a financial gift?
It is easy to trace God’s invisible hand of providence in this story. No doubt, God is using what others meant for ill, to move us into larger worship space a little faster than we would have moved on our own. We rejoice. More than anything, we want God to be honored as his name and his church advance in New York City.
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you 2 Thessalonians 3:1
Updated: Telling this story has created an unfortunate firestorm of hostility toward Hill Country Barbecue Market which wasn’t our intention. Thus I add to this post this following statement:
We recently shared through a blog post a short account of our church being asked to no longer meet at Hill Country Barbecue Market. Additionally, upon request we have shared this story with three different radio shows. We shared our story so people would know how they can pray for our church, and how they can support our church financially during a time of need.
We enjoy friendships with the individuals who work at Hill Country Barbecue Market and appreciate their willingness to host our church for the season they did. We had a month-to-month lease with the restaurant, which they chose to not renew. Some of the news reports have used the term “eviction” – this was not our term, nor is it the best description of their decision. Though Hill Country Barbecue Market’s decision saddened us, we understood and respected it. We’ve also been saddened by the hateful and hostile things that have been written about this restaurant as a response to hearing our story. Please join us, Gallery Church in responding with neighborly love and grace toward our friends at Hill Country Barbecue Market. We look forward to continuing our friendships, finding tangible ways to bless our neighbors, and will continue to eat at Hill Country Barbecue Market.
At Gallery Church, it is our goal to both live quietly and to walk properly before outsiders (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) and to boldly proclaim the hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:28). Pray for us as we seek to be faithful in both of these endeavors.