*FaithStreet guest writer Caleb Galaraga sat down with Pastor Adam Burt of Morning Star New York to talk about MSNY’s goals, the challenges churches face in reaching New Yorkers, the influence of 9-11-01 on his life, and much more. *
Interview by Caleb Galaraga (@calebgalaraga):
Pastor Adam Burt (adam.burt at msny.org) is a former NHL player and the Senior Associate Pastor of Morning Star New York (MSNY). MSNY is a Bible-based, full gospel church and is a member of Every Nation Churches. It holds services in locations on both the East Side and West Side of Manhattan.
**MSNY was born right after 9/11. How did the events of that day influence your faith and perspective as a Christian and Pastor?
The events of that day strongly reminded me that the Kingdom of God is beyond words. But it is also reflected in our deeds and that the gospel penetrates the heart and life of people, regardless of the circumstance. Our church was born out of that foundation, that God’s work involves responding to people’s needs and carrying out the Word. We believe that the gospel can change men and women through the hands and help of God’s people. The picture that the gospel, out of brokenness and death, can bring life and hope stands out in my mind during the 9/11 tragedy. God’s word is a testament to the fact that there is always hope and power in what the Lord wants His people to do.
As a former athlete and Pastor, you know that the Apostle Paul loves using sports metaphors to explain the faith. He calls it “running the race.” How does your church encourage fellow believers to run the race? How does it encourage the skeptics and the curious to pursue the faith?
I’ve always believed that inside the heart of every man and woman is the desire to know their purpose, their meaning, and their source of significance. We do our best, as a church, to show people what their purpose is by studying the Word together and sharing it in a way people can understand. We try to show people the reason why God made them and His plan for their life. In my experience, I’ve seen that when people recognize their purpose in God, with encouragement and guidance, they run after that purpose.
When it comes to reaching out to those who do not yet believe in the Word, we have a two-pronged approach. One would be that we attempt to preach the gospel in a way that is very conversational. We talk about it in a way people can relate to it. As Paul said, “I have become all things to all men that by all possible means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).” The same way when we do church, we want people who have been in church forever and those who just came for the first time to understand whatever is being preached.
The second way we encourage new churchgoers is through our people. We believe in the incarnational ministry, which is basically the idea that God has made us fishers of men. I think we do well in worship and in our message, but it’s people and family that makes our church a place for those seeking the faith. Our best net is our people.
In your years of being a Pastor and from your experience discipling and counseling New Yorkers, what are some of the most significant challenges that a New Yorker faces when it comes to his or her walk with Christ?
It might strike you as funny, but I’ve ministered to churches historically known as the Bible Belt, and it has been easier to minister to people in NYC than in such locations. The reason is, and you know and can relate to this, is the fact that the city breaks people down. In their brokenness, their soul have become wide and open, ready to receive the gospel.
The city makes people draw a line on the sand when it comes to God. It’s either they see him as someone who would help them become the best professional they can be or they allow themselves to be used by God in whatever they’re pursuing. In a city like this, it’s the heart of people that is transformed and knowing the purity of their intentions (to honor God or to use God) is usually their biggest challenge.
What is one thing that you want people to think when they visit or attend MSNY?
It’s very basic, I like them to know that “God loves you, knows you, and He has a great plan for your life.” When people get that, it becomes the motivation for who they are and what they do.
What’s the core focus of MSNY as a church?
Our mission statement is transforming the city one life at a time, making disciples one life at a time. We allow ourselves to be used by God to change people’s lives by making disciples.
What is MSNY’s goal in the next five years?
Our faith and goal is for MSNY to plan 20 churches by the year 2020 in the greater Manhattan area. We believe the best way to impact the culture and spiritual landscape of the city is to plant and grow churches and make as many disciples as we can.
What discourages you about NYC?
The big factor that sometimes discourages me about New York CIty is how expensive it is. We have one full-time campus minister. I might be wrong in my figures, but according to some statistics, there is an estimated 1,000,000 (yes, 1 MILLION) students in the greater New York area. It’s so expensive to bring in campus ministers to work here. The cost of doing ministry and the difficulty in doing ministry – the permits, locations, logistics, etc. – is very challenging.
What gives you hope for NYC?
The gospel gives me hope. I know that God still saves, God still sees. I get to see the impact of the gospel in the lives of people everyday. What makes me excited is I get to see the gospel impacting the lives of future world changers – kids from the top schools in the country, players in Wall Street and professional athletes. I see God’s Word working everywhere in NYC and amongst New Yorkers.