The picture above is from a trip we took to Sicily in Italy where we visited the volcano Etna. We are standing in front of one of its bigger craters not too far from the summit (hence the wind blown look we have going on). Etna is the sixth most active volcano in the world, and at times the residents of nearby Catania can feel like they are just waiting for "the big one". The eruption that can cause destruction. Reminiscing over this picture made me think about the spiritual need in New York City, specifically amongst millennials who move into the city without a firm foundation in Christ.
One reason why we believe in the millennial initiative in the city so much is that we have experienced much of the brokenness that the city can seem to accentuate in ways that rural or suburban contexts don't. This observation doesn't even try and argue that cities are somehow more sinful than other places or that sin doesn't exist in rural or suburban contexts, but it is obvious that in large population centers individuals can seem to find that their propensity to be drawn to the seduction of the city is stronger than it would be in other contexts. In cities, things surface that otherwise may lie dormant in our souls.
This doesn't mean that the city causes us to sin. In no way can one blame the city, anymore than one can't blame the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for causing anyone to sin. The cause would always be our universal sinful nature being drawn out by the world we live, but the city has historically been a more effective seducer. This fact is motivating because there are a number of millennials moving to New York City, some of which who previously had a connection to the Church through their upbringings, who are disconnected from the church at present because of the seduction of the city. If you haven't made a commitment to follow Jesus by the time you have arrived in New York, there can be so many forces pulling you in so many directions that it is so easy for Jesus to be put on the back burner. Success, relationships, sex and addictions can plague the millennial in the city that hasn't fermented their spiritual foundation in Christ. And in a city where only 7% claim to be evangelical Christians, there are not many resources pointing a struggling millennial to Christians or the church in times of crisis. The challenge can be daunting.
And yet, God is working in the lives of millennials through the ministry of Cru City. I was on the phone yesterday with our team leader who was sharing with me about what they are seeing God do. He mentioned a young lady, who we will call Mary, who got more involved in Cru City by attending the Fall retreat this past Fall. Mary came to know Jesus through Cru in college. Her first year in New York, she was quickly enticed by the New York narrative—pursue success, money, men and comfort—as so many millennials are.
As Mary was struggling to keep her faith in the forefront of her heart, a mutual friend put her in touch with Meg, our team leader, and they sat down for lunch late last spring. Mary came to the table that day so broken and hungry for real life...for a better, more rich narrative than the one she was trapped in. It was amazing to see how the Lord was wooing her heart toward His rich love and grace.
When Mary received the email in September about our fall get-away, she texted Meg to find out more. Within 24 hours she had signed up to go—not knowing a single millennial who would be there. Meg knew this was a huge step of faith for her and began praying. She texted Meg again on her way home from the retreat to say thank you and that the weekend had truly been life changing for her. Following the retreat, she was connected with women from her church who are also involved with Cru, but that she had never met before the retreat. She found new, life-giving community and even asked one of our Cru board members to disciple her. It’s a beautiful thing to see this multiplication of life and faith happening right under our noses!
After meeting with Meg one day, Mary shared this with her via text: “God just enabled me to share a bit about my faith with my non-believing friend who is putting all of her identity and purpose in her boyfriend. God is blowing my mind with continually showing himself through different situations...” Please pray with us for "Mary" as she continues to step towards Jesus and walk in faith. Pray also for the many other millennials who are where Mary was just months ago...caught in the New York narrative.