Let’s celebrate!! It still amazes us that we had the opportunity to serve the Lord in Buffalo for over 15 years! Often in life we continue to move forward and plan next steps without stopping to reflect and celebrate how God has been at work. KJ and I took a sabbatical to pause and reflect on God’s goodness and to celebrate how He mightily worked during the Buffalo phase of City Vision ministry. This update summarizes some of the ways God was at work through City Vision in Buffalo.
Psalm 145:6-8 – Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness. They shall eagerly utter the
memory of Your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful.
The BUFFALO CHRISTIAN CENTER (BCC)
God blessed us with creative ideas, partnerships, and volunteers to begin to increase ministry activity at the BCC. Existing ministries continued, improved, and increased:
> Urban Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Experienced moms coming alongside of urban teen moms for encouragement, help, support, and sharing of God’s love and wisdom.
> The Center Bookstore Supplied Bibles, Christian books, and church supplies in an accessible location near the inner city (without having to drive to suburbs).
> Open Center Saturdays Opening up the building for basketball, roller skating, billiards, ping-pong, putt-putt, and swimming (also with swimming lessons), snack bar, and more.
> Friday Bible Study Lunch Weekly free lunch and Bible teaching.
> Building and Theater Rentals Many ministries needed space for outreach events or a place to bring their congregation together for special occasions or fun outings. In addition, Grace and Mercy Productions performed theatrical productions with Biblical messages.
> Bills Night Out In partnership with Athletes in Action, Buffalo Bills players (about 15 players) and wives/girlfriends would come to the BCC during football season to share the gospel and answer questions developed by youth in our program. A meet and greet with autograph signing followed. Annual attendance was 600 – 800.
New Ministries were Added
> Summer Day Camp Approximately 80 urban youth came each summer to day camp, which included Bible studies, creative arts, educational activities, field trips, and a free lunch. The kids heard and many responded to the gospel. Hundreds of local volunteers were involved in serving kids at the camp.
> Teen Mission Trips Youth groups would also come to stay and serve at the Summer Day Camp. Jim would teach the teens daily in Christian Community Development.
> Summer Interns We placed interns with local ministries.
> Evangelistic Outreach with “Thursday in the Square” In a partnership with Relevant Worship and Christ Records, hundreds of young people came each week to the BCC from free downtown concerts. Pizza was provided, fun activities, music, and a presentation of the gospel. Between 5 – 50 people prayed to receive Christ each week.
> Summer Jobs Program We partnered with a government low-income jobs programs to train urban teens in work and help prepare them for their future. This included college visits, exploring career options, and work in area of interest.
> Youth outreach groups Weekly outreach to teens with a gospel message and fun activities.
*We increased activity (by 2011) from under 20,000 to over 44,000 visits to the center per year.
The BCC was Sold in 2014
The proceeds from the sale are with the YouthTime Foundation and continue to spread the gospel and love of God to reach youth in the city of Buffalo. What an awesome God we have who could turn around a dying entity and use it to be a source of spreading the good news of the Gospel long into the future! It was such a joy to be a part of God working through the BCC phase of the ministry of City Vision.
Transition of MERGE, the BCC Teen Program
City Vision ministries continued to serve urban teens after the BCC was sold by continuing the BCC MERGE youth ministry. Reaching and discipling unchurched, at-risk teens fit perfectly with our mission and vision as urban missionaries. We rented out a charter school near the BCC, provided staff and volunteers, and continued to reach out with the Bible studies, fun activities, and basketball. This ministry partnered with City Vision Fellowship until Covid restrictions were imposed.
CITY VISION FELLOWSHIP (CHURCH PLANT)
In addition to being in the top three most impoverished large cities in America, Buffalo was also ranked in Barna surverys as being in the top ten most post-Christian cities and least Bible-minded. The need for Biblically based churches was and is urgent in Buffalo. We were encouraged to plant a church in the city by Dr. John Perkins during a Buffalo visit to speak at one of the CCD conferences organized by City Vision. KJ and I then began to pray and felt led by God use our leadership experience in both the home church ministry model and urban ministry to plant City Vision Fellowship (CVF) in 2014.
CITY VISION FELLOWSHIP CORE VALUES
- Expressing God’s Concern for the Poor: Christian Community Development
We provided volunteers, leadership training, and a church home for Merge youth ministry (see above). By having a church base for youth who responded and wanted to grow with Christ as they transitioned to adults, we saw many young adults experience the love of Christ. In addition, we helped meet the everyday needs of many by teaching them to drive, get jobs, needed items (including cars/apartments), teach life skills, and take next steps in life through personal relationships and/or discipleship.
- Reach the Lost: Outreach and Evangelism
In addition to Merge, we had the privilege of seeing many people receive Christ through personal outreach in the home church, including starting a college ministry at Buffalo State (and eventually partnering with Intervarsity). Sharing the good news and giving people the opportunity to know God personally was key to our mission
3. Diverse and Loving Community: Home Churches and Central Teaching
Home Churches are intentional about reaching out and welcoming people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. We believe that the best way to experience God’s grace & love is by gathering together to learn the bible and serve one another as a community of people. A welcoming home is a great gathering place to see relationships develop and provide opportunities for developing friendships and meet one another’s needs. We went to two home churches and had Central Teachings at various locations including outside at Delaware Park for a couple of summers.
Family Ministry: Marriage and family are key to a stable society and are God’s plan to fulfill His command to “be fruitful and multiply”. While many are abandoning God’s plans for getting married, we were able to see many people get married and begin families at CVF. Pre-marital and marriage counseling were provided by Jim and KJ.
GLOW “God’s Love Overcomes the World” Family and Kids ministry. God loves children and this group makes sure they are a priority and also provides a program to reach out to their friends. When people stepped up to lead this ministry, we were able to go back to one home church meeting and have a separate kids ministry.
Ministry Houses: Single people lived together (men with men and women with women) in houses committed to spiritual growth and living a biblically moral lifestyle. This was a great way to develop spiritually and be involved in deep relationships with other believers. We had many women’s and men’s houses over the years.
- Spiritual Growth and Interdependent Relationships: Cell Groups and Prayer
Prayer meeting weekly to stay connected to God and pray together. Cell groups of men with men and women with women allow for those wanting to grow deeper with God connect and grow together in a smaller group setting. The cell groups are the basis for multiplying the home churches and getting deeper relationships.
- Leadership Development and Equipping: Discipleship and Classes
Personal relational discipleship with people as they live out their lives is a biblical model for developing leadership. This is the key for people grow with Christ and learn to live a life from God’s perspective. We were able to see leaders develop through discipleship in Merge, GLOW, the college ministry, cell groups, ministry houses, home church, and eldership. We were able to teach many classes which supplied deeper biblical insight and in-depth understanding of the word of God.
We invite you to join us in CELEBRATING God’s mighty acts through City Vision in Buffalo!
You were a part in this work. We also thank God for that miracle of being a part of the gifts of prayer and encouragement that came from so many friends.
While we are still continuing to consult with the Buffalo Church plant, we have transitioned to Columbus, Ohio, and we are beginning to connect with the needs and opportunities here. Your encouragement, prayers and/or support are so appreciated as we look forward to our next chapter with City Vision ministry.
We thank God for His goodness yesterday, today and tomorrow!
Jim and KJ Swearingen