This past weekend I was with Ken & Denise Baker as they celebrated their fifth anniversary since moving to New York City and planting Victory Baptist Church in the Bronx. God has allowed our church to sponser them as their home sending church – a partnership that is of great honor for Laurel Baptist. I’ve been able to visit them, in some capacity, each year since they began and it is a thrill to see how God has blessed. Let me tell you what I saw and experienced this weekend…
➔ PEOPLE WHO HUNGER FOR GOD
I flew in Thursday in time to be part of their Thursday Prayer Service. It was exciting to share in prayer with their church family much like we do at our Wednesday Prayer Service in Charlotte. There was intensity of heart, calling out to God, and weeping for the Lord’s work in their lives. One man, Ray, told me that on Friday morning God answered a prayer that his group prayed specifically about on Thursday night regarding one of his children. The hunger for God among the prayer service was so evident and exciting. I’m grateful to see the priority of a full prayer service in a young, church plant.
Ken loves his people. I mean, he really loves his people. He works incredibly hard and labors passionately for their growth in Jesus Christ. He sacrifices much for their well-being. He’s a true servant-hearted pastor. The stories of how he has led many of them to Lord or has brought them to church is incredible. He’s a balanced pastor with wisdom regarding his priorities. He puts his wife and children first – a characteristic that I simply appreciate. He’s a friend to all and notably recognized in his area of the Bronx as “the pastor of Throggs Neck.”
➔ A GRACIOUS, SUPPORTIVE WIFE
The ministry can be tough on all pastor’s wives, but particularly church planter’s wives. Denise carries herself with so much grace. She regonizes her number one ministry is to help Ken, but she’s also very much involved and committed to the work. She loves the ladies of their church and does a beautiful job playing the piano (you know she’s extra skilled when you lead the choir while simultaneously playing the piano). I appreciate Denise’s spirit. Her and Ken are certainly a dynamic team.
➔ CHILDREN WHO LOVE SERVING GOD
I love watching Makenzie, Chloe, Kaylee, and Cade interact with their young church family. In fact, they are just as much a key part of their ministry as anyone. Anytime we come we try to do something special for them just to let them know they are as loved and appreciated as their mom and dad.
➔ A GROWING YOUNG CHURCH
Standing room only on Sundays. Yep, it’s really something to see. The church assembles together with excitement and anticipation for their Sunday worship. The choir sings out with heartfelt worship, and the ushers are greeting, welcoming, and assisting every person that walks in the door. Victory is an oasis of hope and refreshement in the chaotic world of city life. Two young adult ladies were baptized as well this past Sunday! It doesn’t take very long to be moved by the testimonies of changed lives in the Bronx. Victory is an exciting, growing church!
➔ A DIFFICULT CHALLENGE
God has been so good to provide the needs of Victory Baptist. God blessed them with their current building on the main thoroughfair of Throggs Neck after Hurricane Sandy destroyed their previous building a few years ago, but they have outgrown it. The simplicity of going out and “just finding another location” is not as easy in this city as it is in your city. Imagine being told that if you want to rent a 1,600 square foot (unfinished) store front for worship you’ll need to pay $18,000 a month with three months due upfront! There’s no land in New York City. We are praying that God will provide their need soon. The lease on the current facility expires in October, and it would be much more functional for the growth of their ministry to have a different meeting space – it’s in the heart of Pastor Ken and it’s in the heart of their people. There’s a great challenge ahead, but God can use people like you and me to help through prayer and financial giving to assist this young church with the peace and stability of functional meeting space.
➔ A SIGNIFICANT NEED
I visit New York City mutliple times a year. Never have I ever visited the city without being overwhlemed at the significant need for Bible-preaching, grace-centered churches. Few are willing to go as the Bakers have gone. It’s tough. Finances, culture, and life in the big city. But thank God for a family, like others, who have sacrificed to follow God’s will for their lives. And the need is still great. Millions of people in need of Jesus, and I’m committed to financially support the Bakers as long as necessary to help the gospel go forth in the largest city in America.
➔ A GREAT GOD
It’s all possible becasue of Jesus. Jesus started this church and He will continue to build it through the dedicated people of Victory Baptist Church. Thank you, Lord, for raising up a church and declaring your greatness to the Bronx! To God be the glory, great things He hath done! Those who have said it could never be done in a place like New York City have underestimated the greatness of God. He promised to build His church, and not even the gates of hell can come against it. What a great God!
So, HAPPY 5TH ANNIVERSARY to the Bakers and Victory Baptist Church. I’m confident God will bless in incredible ways the next five years. Ken and Denise, I love you. And Laurel Baptist Church is behind you!
As their sending church pastor, I want to thank all the churches that support this great family and ministry. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! If your church is looking to get behind an exciting church plant in New York City, would you consider supporting monthly the Baker family? Contact me for more information.