A Church Called Graffiti
Many people ask how East 7th Street Baptist Church, or Graffiti, got the unusual name. When we first started serving in the Lower East Side, the neighborhood was quite different. Our small storefront was constantly used for personal expression in the form of graffiti. In the beginning we would paint over it, which only served to create a fresh canvas for the next person to leave their tag, or to make a personal statement. So we just went with it, and in turn were not only surrounded by a form of art that represented the people and struggles of our community, but got what we think may be one of the best names for a church...ever.
Graffiti began with serving children in the drug-controlled culture of Alphabet City in the early 1970s. We continue to serve as a safe haven for children, youth, and adults who want something more. Our main mission is to bring people into fellowship with Christ and equip them in clear thinking, fair living, and true devotion. Graffiti values a heart for God and hands for work. In 2000, we had one storefront, one church, and 20 ministries. In the last 15 years we have started five Graffiti sites in the metropolitan area and two affiliates in other cities. We have also assisted in some way in helping start 43 new churches.
Graffiti continues to be “A Church That Serves.” For us, that begins with sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways (i.e. a sandwich, a suit of clothing, a tutoring session), but serving doesn’t stop there. We pray for big changes, not simply big numbers. Changing one block can change a neighborhood, changing a neighborhood can change a city, changing a city can change a country, changing a country can impact the whole world. We now serve in a number of neighborhoods, with more in process. As these sites and affiliates grow and coordinate, we hope to see the culture in these areas change.
Our vision is to see God’s work grow from the ground up. Our first goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of people in the Lower East Side. As God’s people serve within our local community of need, those who are helped are then empowered to also serve and grow closer to God themselves. The “chain reaction” is inevitable!
As we look toward God’s bigger picture, the goal is to help spawn independent, affiliated “Graffiti” sites in the world’s most challenging neighborhoods. Each site would be “A Place That Serves,” as well as a matrix for calling out new believers and beginning new churches. These new churches would have a heart for service, and for providing people with opportunities to serve others. We see this as God’s direct way to be involved in transforming lives as well as cultures.