Walking the Streets of Brooklyn Leads to Emergence of Church Plant

James Roberson (left), lead pastor of Brooklyn’s Bridge Church, invests in the church staff, including Rasool Berry, pastor of leadership development. In addition to serving on the Bridge Church’s leadership team, Berry also spends time in outreach to college students. Roberson is a North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionary for 2017.
Photo by Susan Whitley/NAMB

When Camille Mumford started attending Bridge Church with her husband, she regularly sent pastor James Roberson quotes from New Age advocate Deepak Chopra. The Cleveland native wasn’t too sure about what she was hearing from Roberson and she wasn’t sure that anyone in the church’s Bible study would understand her.

But she continued to attend the small group, known as City Groups, and learned the importance of discovering community, particularly when living in a new city. Within three months, she volunteered to bring food. Three months later, she started participating. Today, she can’t imagine living in New York City without her Bridge Church family.

Two years before Rich Bowman met Roberson, he had been an atheist. Though he had recently professed faith in Christ, Bowman and his wife Emmy had not joined a church. After finding one of Roberson’s online blog posts, he contacted Roberson.

The Bowmans appeared to be very introverted. Rich was “super quiet,” never interjecting during City Group Bible studies. Emmy would hide in the Robersons’ bedroom because she didn’t want to interact. Today, she’s the primary person Bridge Church women seek for discipleship.

Rich now preaches for Roberson at the Bridge Church. Next September, he will be the pastor of the Bridge Church’s first church plant in Flatbush, N.Y.

When Roberson sees Rich, who was “basically a mute,” now preaching, and sees Emmy discipling women, he can only explain it one way.

“It’s a Holy Spirit thing,” Roberson said.

When Jessica Powell attended a poetry reading, the college senior wasn’t looking for a church, she wanted to meet the featured poet. She also met someone who invited her to a Bridge Church Bible study.

Powell lives in Queens, which is a 90-minute train ride to Brooklyn. She had made a profession of faith in 2010 and was anxious to grow in her faith.

The studious Powell had always been a note taker in the church. At the City Group led by Roberson, she received a handout on the topic of love, sex and dating. By the end of the study, Powell had drawn a conclusion.

“God, this is where you want me to be,” she said.

Anywhere but NYC

Getting to Brooklyn, a New York City borough, from Atlanta was a challenge for Roberson and his wife Natarsha. After years of campus and church ministry throughout the south, Roberson knew that God was moving them into church planting, maybe in his native New York. A mission trip to Uganda and Kenya had put Africa on their spiritual radar screen.

Roberson recalls sitting in an Atlanta parking lot with Natarsha as they discussed their feeling about a new ministry pursuit.

“I could hear the fear in her voice and the angst,” Roberson said. He recalls his wife saying, “I’m not going to lie to you, if you had told me that God was calling us to Uganda I’d be happier with that. New York City is the last place I want to go.”

Natarsha did agree to visit Brooklyn with her husband as they wrestled with discerning God’s will. On that trip, they randomly met a young woman who had recently picked up a Bible and wanted to learn it but needed a teacher. Eventually, that young woman professed faith in Christ and joined a Bridge Church Bible study.

After that initial random encounter, Natarsha had a new understanding.

“I can’t believe that God has given us the opportunity to serve Him here,” she said.

She also couldn’t believe that God would take them and their small children from a spacious five-bedroom house in Atlanta. At the time her husband was on staff with Blueprint Church, a predominantly African-American inner-city church plant that is now a sponsoring church in the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Network. Brooklyn would be different.

They arrived in Brooklyn on Feb. 6, 2013, with no team, no relationships and no home. A 600 square-foot apartment that cost $2,400 per month became their first meeting place for City Group Bible studies and home. Next, they needed participants.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Jim Burton