Moving To Clarence, NY

When we shared with Randall Church last year that we would be moving our church planting focus to a new plant / replant project a few miles to the east in Clarence, NY... the land of affluence and mega churches. Almost immediately, we heard the question: Aren't there enough churches there already? Why would we go there? At first, I wrestled with this too. Then, an article by Ashley Hales, wife of a church planter in the suburbs of Southern California, reminded me that when Jesus said to "go to the ends of the earth" he didn't just mean going to the amazon jungles, or even just going to the urban jungles. The Great Commission requires that the Good News and the abundant life found only in Christ is meant to be shared in all places that people reside! All places... including the affluent suburb next door to our church. Clarence is a place that more and more people are moving into every single day.  

Even with extensive expansion and rapid growth happening Downtown Buffalo, in Erie County the outer-ring suburbs are the fastest-growing population migration. The Buffalo News reported in May of 2018 that Clarence, NY is where the population in the WNY region is growing most rapidly. Clarence has seen its population rise 6 percent since the 2010 census. It has increased by 1,875 people, to an estimated 32,548. The picture above is from a website assisting new homebuyers moving to the area. Clearly, when looking through it, even the casual observer would see, Clarence has a lot to offer those choosing to relocate here.

This means that there are nearly 2000 new faces in Clarence already, with more to come. Each looking for where they might find their place. Each searching for where they might connect for community. Each needing a Savior that would help them navigate life. God is opening my eyes to the endless potential for Gospel advance if we would engage them well. 

You see, behind the barriers of immaculate lawns and white picket fences hide real people. People full of fear, anxiety, stress, idolatry, sin, and almost endless potential for Gospel advance if we would engage them well. In 2017, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was speaking at a discussion panel in Clarence, when he noted and celebrated that it had become one of the regions fastest growing towns. He followed that however, by sharing pointedly that opioid deaths in the county outside of Buffalo city limits outnumbered those inside the city last year. "It's not a city problem. It affects people across the county – urban, suburban and rural," the county executive said. "There's no area of the county that hasn't been touched by it. The suburbs have been hit really hard."

In the midst of all the activity, people don't even realize the emotional and spiritual chaos happening just within the front door, next door. This is one of the biggest struggles in suburban environments. They're expensive, which means people tend to work crazy hours. They're filled with crazy schedules for kids, so time after work is full to the brim. They're designed—even spatially—around suspicion of others, so developing genuine community is difficult. Yet, clearly, this is the very thing people long for most!

Why are we focusing on a church planting project in Clarence, for Clarence, with people from Clarence? Because the fields are white unto harvest! Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Pastor Milo


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