The Future of ACC
Twenty-two years ago, this June, I sat in Athens Square Park in Astoria, staring at the traffic on 30th Avenue. I had just signed a lease on an apartment a few blocks away to which my family would soon move from North Jersey. I had been offered a job as pastor, but there was no congregation for me to serve. The plan was to plant a new church.
I sat on a step in the park, wondering if I was crazy. Where would we start? How would we gather people? Would anyone want to help with this project?
I was grateful for the support of the Redeemer Urban Church Planting Center (now known as City to City) and happy to know that I would be co-planting with my new friend Rev. Darcy Caires. But I still wondered if we would be successful.
Sitting next to me in the park was a bronze statue of a man who once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” I am sure Socrates wasn’t thinking of Presbyterian ministers when he made that remark, but by his standards I was growing wiser. I was beginning to realize I knew nothing at all about what I was doing.
What do Christians do in a situation like that? The only thing they can do. I began to pray.
I prayed that God would form a congregation of believers who would love each other, care for their neighbors, and rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I prayed that people in the neighborhood of Astoria who did not yet know Jesus would come to trust his love for them. I prayed that God would give birth to a new church.
Twenty-two years later, I can attest that God answered that prayer. By his mercy, Astoria Community Church has been worshiping Jesus and proclaiming the gospel in Western Queens for over two decades. We have seen children born, friendships formed, marriages sealed, souls saved, prayers answered, meals shared, people served, classes taught, songs sung, doctrines learned, fears calmed, doubts assuaged, sins forgiven, and departed loved ones committed into the hands of the Savior. We’ve faced hard moments as a church, and we’ve known moments of great joy. Through it all God has been faithful.
As I prepare to leave my position as pastor of ACC and begin a new ministry elsewhere, I can honestly say that I am a deeply grateful man. The people of this congregation have been amazingly patient and kind toward me. They have shown ongoing love to my family. They have inspired me again and again with their love for Jesus and their commitment to his cause. Serving ACC as pastor has been one of the great privileges of my life.
I leave ACC with confidence that God has good plans for the future of our church. Our interim pastor, Rev. James Fredere, is a highly experienced minister who knows our congregation well. Our elders and are diaconate team members are godly leaders who love the Lord and who are committed to serving his church. Our Community Groups are thriving, our Youth Group is exciting, and the prayer life of our church is possibly healthier than it ever has been. I have no doubt that, with God’s help, this church can find a new pastor who will lead it into its next season of ministry. Indeed, I have the sense that ACC’s best years lie in its future.
Rev. Timothy Keller, whose recent death we are grieving, is the man whose vision for church planting was largely responsible for the forming of ACC. He once wrote, “The glory of God is available to you in the church in a way it’s not available to you anywhere else…. There is no more important means of discipleship than deep involvement in the life of the church.”
So my request for the members of ACC, as I leave, is that you be patient during this time of transition. Be patient with the Lord. Be patient with your leaders. Be patient with yourselves and with each other. Change is never easy. In fact, it is often quite hard. But seasons of change are usually the times when God makes his presence most real to us. So give God time to work in our church and to demonstrate his power. God has good plans for the future of ACC.