In this Leaders Speak installment, FaithStreet superstar intern Anna Wilhelm (@AnnaBee8) interviews Pastor Chris Travis (@ChrisTravisNYC) of Everyday Christian Church, a new church plant in Upper Manhattan. Pastor Travis talks about being called to NYC, the struggles and rewards of church planting, and much more.
**You used to pastor a church in Cincinnati. How and when did God call you to **NYC? How did you, your family, and your church respond?
God’s been talking to my wife Lindsay and I for years and years about moving to NYC, in a dozen different ways. My family is from this part of the country. Lindsay is an actress in musical theater, so this is the place to be. About four years ago, after a lot of prayer and advice-seeking, we felt like it was the right time. My first impulse was to find a position on staff with a church (I worked in ministry in Cincinnati at the time), but we began to feel that we needed to get here first and put a finger on the pulse of the city before we decided what type of ministry would be appropriate. For the first two years we lived here I taught math at a public school in Harlem. Our church family in Cincinnati was sad to see us go, and it was painful to leave, but they were also incredibly supportive and have become one of Everyday Church’s biggest partners.
You’ve also written a book titled Unnamed: Unsuspecting Heroes Singled Out By God. What inspired you to write it?
Standard Publishing was crafting a Vacation Bible School (VBS) curriculum with a super hero theme, based on a few stories in the Bible about unnamed heroes. The fact that there were stories in the Bible about people who did significant things for God, but who aren’t named in the Scripture, just fascinated me. It haunted me. Why would God include so many of these stories, but not mention their names? I slowly began to realize it was because their stories are *our *stories. Most of us will never be famous, but we can be significantly used by God nonetheless.
Incidentally, I didn’t say everything I have to say about significance in that book. My second book, Insignificant: Why You Matter in the Surprising Way God is Changing the World, explores significance from a biblical perspective, and shares some of my bizarre, frightening, and exhilarating experiences teaching in Harlem. *Insignificant *is expected to released in August 2012 by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing.
In what ways do you approach ministry differently here in NYC than you did in Ohio?
Our approach is intensely relational. At the moment, we do not meet to worship, in the typical sense, every Sunday. We meet in Home Groups, where we share life, a meal, communion, discussion about the Bible, and prayers for one another. We currently meet to worship once per month and we are planning to increase that to every other week in January. As we read the Bible, relationships are so critical to God’s plan for our renewal that as leaders, we feel a burden to shepherd people into strong, loving, faith-based circles of relationships, where we can practice the Bible and live all the “one anothers” we find in Scripture.
What is the greatest struggle of church planting? What is the greatest reward?
The greatest struggle is staying dependent on God. The tempation to trust in our own understanding—to simply think things through—or to work in our own strength, rather than depend upon God to come through is very strong. We have to constantly and vigilantly remind ourselves about Whose church this is, Who’s in charge, and Who it’s all for.
The greatest reward is to see God move. Whether that’s been drawing Spanish-speakers into our community (in spite of the fact we have none on staff), giving us favor with local leaders, prompting people to make big decisions for Jesus, or providing more than enough resources, the story of Everyday Church is a story about God. Our story is a story about how God started something that I don’t even fully understand, how he knit together our team and our core participants, how He continues to open doors and prompts people to act. I don’t really care what else happens along the way— if I get to be a partner with God, that’s as good as it gets.