Aaron Coe is Pastor and Planter of The Gallery Church in New York City. Coe is a “Younger” Southern Baptist Pastor who is excited about the events of the 2009 SBC in Louisville. He is enthusiastic about the discussions that are taking place right now and the momentum of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) in SBC life. Aaron is married to Carmen and they have one son named Ezra.
Aaron is a very missions minded pastor. He has a deep care and concern for his city. He is heavily involved in helping rally people for the cause of AIDS. He is also the creator of City Uprising a ministry that hosts mission teams to come and serve the city of New York throughout the year. You can follow all that is going on in New York at Aaron’s blog.
B21 Interview with Aaron Coe:
1. What were the highlights of the annual meeting to you?
I have been attending conventions consistently since 2003 and this is the first year that I have have come away with an overwhelming sense of optimism for our future. I felt like the conversation centered largely around where we were going as a convention, not where we have been. I was especially encouraged by the leadership I saw coming from Danny Akin, Al Mohler and Johnny Hunt on the Great Commission Resurgence. Yes, there were others who provided leadership, but these men provided a strong, unified voice at a critical time. I felt that these three men painted a picture for the rest of us for what cooperation can look like. I know that all three of these men do not agree on everything, but they put whatever disagreements they may have aside for the greater purpose of seeing the GCR move forward. I think their leadership provided clear direction for the rest of us to follow.
Secondly, the Great Commission Resurgence itself provided me a great sense of hope for the future. I think the resurgence document provides a framework that will allow us to ask the right questions as a convention as we move toward greater effectiveness in reaching the world for Jesus. I am hopeful that the GCR task force will make significant strides over the next year and come to Orlando with a clear recommendation on where we go next.
Lastly, I was encouraged that many of my peers (those under 40) decided to show up and lend their voice to this years convention. I was excited to see many move to the microphones during critical points of the convention and intelligently plead their point of view. I am hopeful that many more will make the journey to Orlando next year and that the next 10 years are the greatest in SBC history because the “next generation” got involved in a strong way.
2. There is a lot of talk about the “Southern” Baptist Convention being irrelevant in the North and Northwest, why would a church planter take time out of his busy schedule to come to the annual meeting?
We need to plant 20,000 churches in metro New York City to have the same population to church ratio as most southern/mid-western communities. Southern Baptist’s are positioned the best to make that happen. We have the strongest churches, giving and institutional support of anyone out there. In an age when most denominations are fighting over theology, we are in a strong place to move toward greater missions effectiveness. So why do I take the time to come to the SBC? I come to be a part of shaping us as a denomination toward focusing our efforts on the most strategic mission fields in the world. There are over 500 language groups in NYC that have a significant population. The world has come to my city, yet Southern Baptist’s and evangelicals as a whole have very little influence here. I propose that the world would change drastically if we would take reaching places like New York City seriously. Think about it. Every segment of our culture (arts, entertainment, education, media, finance, publishing, fashion, etc) is influenced heavily from what comes out of NYC. The glaring exception to this is the Church. I want to change that. I want to be a part of a conversation that helps Southern Baptist’s focus our efforts most strategically for the global fame of Jesus.
3. Was there anything discouraging about the annual meeting to you?
I was slightly discouraged, but not surprised, by some of the uninformed attacks that where made on Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. I feel like Southern Baptist’s have gotten used to having to have a battle to fight. Somehow we feel like we are not doing our job unless we are attacking one of our own brothers or a like minded organization. I certainly understand being cautious about who we work with, but I feel like we get to hung up in trivialities and that sucks energy out of our mission, the Great Commission.
4. In terms of Southern Baptists’ effectiveness in church planting, why is a GCR and a GCR Task Force so important?
Denominational entities need to help churches plant churches. We cannot outsource what was meant for the church to accomplish. When it becomes commonly understood that the denomination helps local churches plant new churches then I believe you will see a greater number of churches planted, more money given and a greater excitement among Baptist’s to be involved in the process. The GCR, as I understand it, will make recommendations on how we can be more effective as a denomination in our missions spending. The GCR will help us make sure that more money is getting to the most important and strategic endeavors. I feel that the GCR will highlight those areas where dollars are being spent inefficiently and will outline a plan to be the most effective.
For what it is worth, I feel like the bulk of our North American missions dollars should be spent on church planting. New churches see the most new converts, they are eventually self-sustaining, they can be self-reproducing and they are the best at assessing and meeting the ministry needs of a community. When we invest strategically in new churches we have the opportunity to create a self-perpetuating movement, to which there will be no end in sight.
5. What was the most interesting thing you heard at the b21 panel?
The most interesting thing I heard from the B21 panel was David Platt’s warning to all of us to make sure our churches are as effective as they can be toward fulfilling the Great Commission. What I heard him say is that we have no right to question the denominations effectiveness in this area, if we are not willing to take a hard look at our own ministries. The wisdom in this is monumental. Since our denomination is set up to follow the lead of the local church, then our denomination will only be effective in seeing the Great Commission accomplished if our churches are effective at this.
6. What was the most helpful thing you heard at the panel? or most helpful thing about the Panel?
The most helpful thing about the panel was seeing the the men on stage clearly articulate their passion for the denomination and their desire for the next generation to be involved. They did not just give us an SBC “stump speech”, they outlined real concerns, but where able to lead past those concerns toward a vision for the future. They all gave us something to get behind.
I also was excited that the B21 panel was the result of a grassroots effort. Having almost 600 younger leaders in a room, not because some denominational executive begged them to come, but because they are truly concerned, says a lot. I appreciate the work of the B21 guys and look forward to greater conversations in the future.