Drew Hyun is the pastor of Hope Midtown Church and founder of Hope Church NYC, a family of 9 churches planted in the last 6 years. They consider themselves a family of churches leading people into a transforming relationship with Jesus and a community of faith. The churches are diverse, but together they share resources and vision to reach neighborhoods in and around NYC.
Drew will be a speaker at our upcoming Multiply Vineyard Summit, so we asked him to share his vision for church planting with us.
What do the Hope churches look like?
Each church is diverse in many ways —in leadership, congregants, and expression. We share a common culture and a theological core among our churches, but each neighborhood and church leadership possess a unique charism. Therefore, the ways the churches are embodied in each neighborhood is unique.
Although we consider ourselves a family, we lean strongly toward autonomy —enough so that each church is legally and financially independent. We share name, culture, theology, and ministry philosophy, but we’re not a top-down leadership structure like a multi-site might be.
In fact, each church is also affiliated with its own denomination, and we currently have Hope churches that are part of the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Foursquare Church, and a growing fondness for the Vineyard (although none of our churches are Vineyard churches quite yet).
Although each of our churches are still involved in their denominations, our Hope family is a strong local source of accountability for each other. By partnering together we are invested in the missional fruitfulness of each church. This means we root for each other and share resources out of our friendship. Our pastors regularly meet together for prayer and learning opportunities and each church contributes to a central fund to accomplish some family-wide initiatives.
With the massive scale of NYC, we know we can’t reach our city alone. Partnership and unity are essential for us to reach the city in a sustainable way. Together we want to help empower the next generation of church planting that’s happening in the city. We’ve also started a city-wide network called the New City Network for that end.
Why plant churches?
Data shows that church planting is the most effective version of evangelism. I think of church planting as the vehicle for discipling people and mobilizing people for mission and catalyzing evangelism.
In the life of Jesus we consistently see a rhythm of risk and rest. I think church planting is a regular exercise of missional risk where we invite people in our community to invest their lives to reach neighbors and friends. Each new church is an invitation to people to see God move in extraordinary ways.
Before starting Hope, I was in a season of desolation and my wife and I were asking ourselves, “what do we believe and what do we love about church?” We loved large churches and learned a ton from them. Yet, as I was sifting through my own heart, I learned that I loved smaller neighborhood churches and the leadership development that was able to happen within them. Out of this realization, we kind of stumbled into a vision of growing bigger by growing smaller, believing that discipleship and mission and pastoring happen best in smaller to medium contexts. This model would give an opportunity to empower a whole body of people, not simply be centered around one celebrity figure.
I thought it we were ever to start a church, it would look like much of what we are today. We hoped it would be a church that would generate a movement of new churches in the city, and by God’s grace (because we’ve made a ton of mistakes), it has happened. We’re grateful for the ways the Spirit has moved in our midst.
Why does the network include churches of different denominations?
After planting our first three churches, one of our friends, a leader from the Foursquare denomination, started asking if we’d be willing to help them start a church in NYC. Since we’re really a relational crew, we gladly wanted to help. The Foursquare denomination then sent one of their church planters to do a residency with us. We immediately fell in love with Russell and Anna. Once they were ready to start a church in Brooklyn, we realized they were family.
Since we were organized in such a manner that we could share a theological and cultural grid while still remaining autonomous, it was a no-brainer to partner with them. They were like family, so it just made sense to join together as a family of churches.
Today, I love that we’re partnering with other denominations that have long tracks of trustworthiness globally. The goal for us is simply to help spawn a movement of churches in the city as a way of loving and serving the city. We believe this can only happen if we go beyond our tribe, and we’re certainly more interested in the flourishing of our city than our own individual expression.
Why do you believe in this model?
There are many reasons I can give for why I believe in what we’re doing, but ultimately, I’m not married to a model. In fact, I think we need as many models of churches as possible to reach the diversity of NYC.
With that said, I think this model happens to fit the loneliness of planting in NYC, the scarcity of resources, the diversity of the city, and the cultural and theological thread that has bound us together. Charism and context are significant reasons why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Church planting is extremely difficult in urban settings. In New York, we feel like we’re simply plodding along. Some have called us a movement, but it really hasn’t felt that way… yet. We feel like we’re simply faithfully trying to pastor, preach, reach people, disciple, send, and partner with as many churches who have the same goals we do to glorify God and make disciples.
I personally love what we’re doing and think there’s more to gain than to lose, especially when we’re willing to partner across denominations to ride the wave of what the Spirit is doing in our respective cities.
If you’re interested in hearing more from Drew about church planting in big cities or the model of neighborhood churches, or to simply be inspired for multiplying the kingdom, join us for the first annual Multiply Vineyard Summit in Miami, Florida. Learn more here.