In New York City, everything is always changing all time. From the skyline to the weather to transient residents jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood trying to find the right mix of price, size and location, the city is perpetually in flux.
But the Big Apple is experiencing a surprising kind of change—the religious kind—as more Christian communities and leaders are taking root and flourishing there.
New York City is not known as a particularly religious place. Though Gallup reports an above average population of Catholics and Jews, the state of New York is well below average for Protestants and other non-Catholic Christians.
But according to Barna Research’s survey of more that 3,400 residents in the New York media market, New York City is more spiritually active today than in the late 1990s or even 2001 in the wake of 9/11. Barna reports that church attendance is increasing, the number of “unchurched” residents is decreasing, and the number of “born again” Christians is on the rise, surging from 20% in the late 1990s to 32% today.
According to Barna, born again Christians are “individuals who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in the life and who believe they will go to Heaven because they have accepted Christ and been forgiven of their sins.”
Possible explanations for New York’s Christian renaissance are numerous, but the city’s crop of increasingly influential Christian pastors, educators, and thought leaders is partially responsible. Here are at least 16 leaders–in unranked order–who are contributing to the city’s Christian revival:
1/2. Tim and Kathy Keller: As founding pastor of Manhattan-based Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller has become a respected Christian voice within New York. But his New York Times bestselling books, including The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, have expanded his influence well outside the borders of the five famous boroughs. In recent years, Tim’s wife, Kathy, has also emerged as an influential voice in her own right, even recently penning a popular book on faith and gender.
3. Sally Lloyd-Jones: Very few children’s book writers have the influence or success that Sally Lloyd Jones does. Her Jesus Storybook Bible, for example, has been a runaway success and a New York Times bestseller. Recently, the book’s publisher, Zondervan, announced that sales had exceeded one million units. With those kinds of sales, it’s hard to deny her impact on Christian families and children in New York City and elsewhere.