A Message from Mac Pier
COVID-19, 9/11, and Saint Patrick
I have been reflecting on the similarities between the COVID-19 virus impact and the days after 9/11. The sense of being both overwhelmed and helpless permeate these moments. Every day the pandemic spreads there is an accompanying sense of dread.
It was 19 years ago in March 2001 when I traveled to Seattle to meet Rich Stearns from World Vision. Little did we know that six months later, our new partnership would be so important to the recovery of 9/11 for New York City. Our small 6 person organization worked with World Vision to raise $6M to assist victims of 9/11 through local churches in New York City.
That partnership became a doorway into the opportunity to impact 11,000 sponsored children and 600,000 people over the next decade. It created opportunity for churches to work together as never before. The panic of 9/11 gave way to a greater global realization of 3 million people dying every year from HIV/AIDS.
What May God Be Up To?
In one sense there is complete mystery. There is so much unpredictability in all of this. Yet, a 25 year perspective teaches us that God has used moments of great crisis to reshape and propel our impact.
In 1995 our little organization Concerts of Prayer International was devastated by the New Era Foundation collapse. We saw the loss of $90,000 in anticipated funding. This was a huge number for our organization 25 years ago.
Over the next two years it became increasingly evident that COPI could not continue in its current structure. After enormous struggle we decided to create Concerts of Prayer Greater New York on January 1, 1998 with a local board of pastors. That decision allowed us to increase the number of participating churches by 700 within a few years.
When the events of 9/11 happened we were approached by World Vision to partner with them in the alleviation of the suffering of New York City. Our board decided to make the plunge as a “prayer organization” that allowed us to expand our staff from 6 to 11. That transition opened the door for many strategic partnerships that have been with us for more than a decade. We realized that our “hedge-hog” was to convene on a massive scale. This convening power is very attractive to partners. The capacity to work with partners and to train leaders opened the door for the creation of The NYC Leadership Center.
On September 18, 2008 we launched the NYCLC. That same day the market crashed. We were unsure if we would survive the rest of the year. Staff were very sacrificial in their willingness to go to an 80% employment model to alleviate expenses. No one left the team.
That period of vulnerability caused our relationship with Redeemer to deepen. In that climate of interdependency we commissioned the 2009 Tony Carnes research. The research indicated that Evangelical Christianity had grown 300% from 1989-2009. That research created the desire to launch Movement Day in 2010. It was a month after Movement Day that I met Bob Doll at Cape Town. Four months later the Dolls became lead investors in the NYC Movement Project. The NYCMP incubated 60 new churches, trained 26,000 leaders, and planted Movement Day Expressions in 4 cities. From 2010 to 2016 our annual budget grew from $1M to $5M.
In 2016 Movement Day Global Cities hosted 3000 leaders from 400 cities and 95 nations. It has propelled us to engage 250 cities on 6 continents. God in His Providence used the financial crisis of 2008 to incubate a new direction for the organization that is impacting the world beyond our wildest dreams.
Now the Coronavirus. What is God up to? It is too early to tell. I do believe that given the emphases that we have – to catalyze leaders to change their cities, that God will rearrange the global furniture in ways we could not have anticipated to help us achieve that vision faster and more comprehensively.
Our core audiences of leaders, millennials, and cities seems to poise us to make an extraordinary difference. As we look out over the coming weeks I believe that we will see new opportunities with partners, stakeholders, and leaders across six continents.
I just finished reading Thomas Cahill’s book How The Irish Saved Civilization. Patrick lived in the fifth century just as the Barbarians were destroying Rome. His life overlapped with Augustine, the great North African Church Father who wrote City of God. Augustine wrote as Rome was burning, “The city of Rome is not the city of God. The city of God is invisible and indestructible.”
Cahill described Patrick as the first great missionary after Paul in the 1st century. Under his leadership Patrick’s monks evangelized Ireland, spread Christianity across Europe, ended child sacrifice, and preserved the great literature of their time by copying important manuscripts.
Patrick had been a British slave who decided to return to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick’s life teaches us that God can use ordinary men and women of courage to affect the trajectory of world history. Patrick stepped into the leadership gap of pagan Ireland to change history.
Missiologists teach us that God has used a leader every 400 years from the time of Abraham to the current century to shape God’s activity in the world. I do not think it is accidental that the events of 9/11 and now the Coronavirus have happened at the beginning of our century and this new 400 year epoch. May God in some small way use us and our movement to impact the globe.
I have been reflecting as well on the theme in Scripture of the relationship between courage and joy. Leaders like Patrick brought great joy to 5th century followers of Jesus. Our efforts today rooted in courage bring great joy to leaders and churches around the world. Our work is a great sign of hope to other leaders in very difficult places around the world.