Sarah Lewis | January 8, 2022
Over the years we have learned to be pretty intentional people. We look for opportunities to talk to our neighbors about Jesus. We do prayer walks and outreach events. We love to open our home to people as a means of sharing the gospel. We’re even pretty well-versed in sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom. But these things—while they are close to our hearts—are relatively few and far between.
Our neighbors don’t just hang out in their front yards ready to chat about spiritual things. People tend to be busy and not always available for a meal around our table. It’s pretty common to walk around a park or trail and never really encounter someone. People around here mostly just drive to places, pull into their garages, order in food, and avoid eye contact with others.
And then there’s New York.
Jacob likes to say that of all the places he has been in the world he experiences the most culture shock when he goes to New York. Life is just different there. There are always people. People on the sidewalks. People on the subways. People in their front yards (which, let’s be honest, are not really yards so much as a couple cement steps they call yards). And with a massive amount of people comes a massive amount of opportunity.
What makes New York such an incredibly strategic mission field is that many of these people filling the sidewalks are from unreached people groups. That means they come from cultures where there is a less than 2% Christian presence. Usually they don’t have a Bible in their language or a missionary living among them. Many of them come from closed countries where Americans can’t get visas.
There are over 3 billion unreached people around the globe. That is roughly 41% of the world’s population. And New York has more UPG’s than any other city on Earth. Just living there gives you access to 52 unique groups of people coming from 52 different unreached places.
And because these people are foreigners in a culture different from their own, they are eager for friendship and belonging. They like talking on the subway and in the grocery line. They would love to be invited into an American’s home. They often come from cultures that place a lot more value on community than we Americans do. And many of them have a spiritual understanding of the world, which makes them receptive to spiritual conversations.
So while you absolutely can be intentional no matter where you live, New York sort of ups the anti, if you will. Especially if you are trying to be intentional with bringing the gospel to people who have never heard it before. It has always been the Golden Door, the city of immigrants and opportunity. But now, more than ever, New York is the city of the unreached. Which is why, despite my best efforts to avoid it at all costs, it is about to become our home.