Welcome to G3 Weekly—world news for conservative Christians.
Large, progressive cities across the United States have witnessed surges of crime and unrest over the past two years, with existing cultural decay seeming to accelerate. In this special edition of G3 Weekly, Andy Woodard—the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in New York City—discusses why he and his congregants choose to stay and fight even as others decide to abandon ship.
In 2014, Woodard moved to New York City believing the notion that the Big Apple was undergoing a spiritual revival. Nearly one decade later, he has ample cause for concern.
“My conclusion is that the ‘spiritual awakening’ was more ‘wood, hay, and stubble’ than the work of the Spirit,” Woodard told G3 Weekly. “The explosive growth of the evangelical church in Manhattan over the last three decades was a certain type of growth, represented by the famous quote: ‘A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.’”
By the summer of 2020, purportedly evangelical churches were leading efforts to organize social justice rallies and engage in left-wing political activism. “Until there’s a full-scale spiritual reckoning from evangelicals,” Woodard continued, “we’ll be stuck looking to concerned Jewish and Catholic moms to stand up against the woke tsunami that was welcomed in by New York evangelical leaders.”
Indeed, government leadership has perverted justice in New York City such that the laws pertain differently to various segments of the population in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “The recent push for so-called ‘criminal justice reform’ has only emboldened career criminals, by showing them the laws don’t apply to them,” Woodard said.
How has the church in New York City failed? By losing its saltiness, according to Woodard.
“Churches have immensely failed by capitulation to the culture in the name of winsome witness. Concepts like ‘cultural capital’ have been the death of gospel proclamation in New York City churches,” Woodard told G3 Weekly. “‘Contextualization’ is a buzzword as well. While the biblical idea of contextualization involves examples of Jesus or Paul using common illustrations from the local context to make the truth clear to their original audiences—‘consider the lilies’—in New York pulpits, the concept of contextualization is used to find touch points for theological compromise. ‘Oh, the culture is radically feminist? We’ve got egalitarianism!’”
Woodard draws warning from the church at Ephesus—a congregation which successfully managed to discern truth from error, yet abandoned its first love (Revelation 2:1-7).
“Loving to fight and stand courageously on the front lines comes easily, but there is a constant temptation to lose sight of the love of Christ, which naturally leads to love for Christ in return,” he said. “If you asked me how I was doing from 2017 to 2020, I would have immediately launched into glowing tales of the church’s victories. My identity had become bound up in the church, and my love for the church had in many ways surpassed my love for Christ, and my self-conception as one united with Christ and loved by him. I had become so busy, and consumed doing things for God, I drifted from my first love.”
Many believers in decaying American cities have chosen to leave for parts of the country with less hostile environments toward Christianity. For his part, Woodard has elected to stay and adopt a mentality of warfare.
“At some point, you must decide if you’re a battleship or a luxury yacht. And if you’re a battleship, you were made not for the harbor, but to go head-to-head with the forces of evil, in their territory,” Woodard said. “I’m not saying that everyone who lives in a red state is a yacht, but I am impressed when I meet someone who lives in a red state, who’s aware of the depth of the issues that are destroying civilization, even though they may never encounter those problems in their lifetime. It’s easy to be lulled to sleep in the comfort of a free society.”
Woodard desires that every church member would “count the cost, and determine to stay for the long haul.”
“My prayer is for the singles to resolve not to consider romantic relationships that would pull them away to greener pastures,” he said. “We obey Christ, not because we have an ‘up and to the right’ eschatology that tells us we will conquer on this side of the eschaton—rather, we pick up our cross and follow Christ, out of obedience, regardless of the outcome.”
“A theology of the cross rather than a theology of glory keeps me grounded and resilient when facing incredible hardships. I don’t expect crowns in this lifetime.”