Sharing Christ's love on Long Island

June 4, 2014

By Emily Griffin 

 Sterling Edwards 
Sterling Edwards

When he talks you don’t hear a Texas twang, just tales of a love for sharing the gospel with the people of Long Island.

Native Texan Sterling Edwards is the lead pastor of Crossroads Church of Long Island, which he launched in Farmingdale in 2006, and followed with a second location in East Islip in 2012.

Edwards’ road to Long Island started after the tragedies of September 11, 2001. The membership of First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, began praying about how they could reach those so closely affected by 9/11. The church began setting aside funds for a metro-NYC church plant and also started a conversation with Edwards about sharing the gospel in the nation’s most influential region.

After months of prayer, interviews, and assessments, Edwards entered into a partnership with FBC Katy, NAMB, and additional financial partners to afford the his family the opportunity to move to Long Island – the 118 mile island branching into the Atlantic Ocean from New York Harbor.

“We knew nobody – we didn’t have a launch team, we didn’t have a building – but in the process the Lord has broken our hearts for the people of Long Island,” said Edwards.

As the Edwards acclimated to Long Island they found the personality and culture of Long Island to be uniquely its own. Islanders tend to be highly educated, highly cynical, and highly skeptical – a church planting challenge to say the least.

“They take nothing at face value,” said Edwards. “Thusly, the relationship that we (Crossroads Church) build with them is pivotal. You can’t just hype up and event and expect people to come, you have to first build a relationship, then a friendship, and go from there.”

With a population of nearly 3 million people, the two counties that comprise Long Island (excluding the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens) are in desperate need of gospel presence. Statistics on Long Island’s evangelical presence are bleak:

  • 61% of the population in the East Islip area are 45 years of age or younger.
  • 87% of those 37 years of age or younger do not plan to attend a church service this year.
  • 94% of those 27 years of age or younger do not plan to attend a church service this year.

“There are currently a total of 8-10 English speaking Southern Baptist Churches on Long Island. Yet, Long Island possesses a population of nearly 3 million people,” said Edwards. “If you were to combine the total memberships of all of the Southern Baptist Churches on Long Island, it would come to less than 300 people.” 

A largely affluent culture, Edwards shared that the tangible and economic needs of most Long Islanders are met, but they do not recognize that they have spiritual needs and most lack the comfort, hope, and forgiveness that comes through a relationship with Christ.

As a pastor, Edwards often sees first hand the cynicism and skepticism of his fellow Islanders, but, he says that his fellow Islanders are some of the nicest, kindest people one could ever meet.

“My family and I genuinely love the people, we genuinely love living on Long Island. We could not image living anywhere else — but that has been a process, it was not how we felt when we first came here.”

Edwards’ love of Long Island and her people inspired him to share what he had learned through the launch of Crossroads Church. In 2011, Edwards and Luis Rivera, co-pastor of Crossroads, founded Reconcile 519, an organization that works with NAMB to serve as a church planting multiplication center on Long Island.

Reconcile 519 is looking to establish 20-25 churches on Long Island in the next 20 years in Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

“It is just about reaching people, and figuring out how we are going to connect and share the name of Jesus with people,” said Edwards. “It is about individuals and being purposeful.”

Since the launch on Reconcile 519, the organization has welcomed hundreds of volunteers onto Long Island to reach the community for Christ.

To make the Reconcile 519 vision a reality, additional pastoral leadership is needed. Church planting on Long Island is challenging both in term of cost and the emotional toll it takes on pastors.

“We need leadership even more than money,” said Edwards. “We need to see pastors develop – we’d like to raise up leaders in existing churches and plant out of existing churches. We are to a point were the leadership is essential and we are making it a part of our discipleship process.”

Edwards explained that pastor and ministry leaders are trying to give everything they have to advancing the gospel – and naturally they tire and yearn to see more growth, movement, and progress.

“We know God is doing a great work on Long Island, we need to see renewal and refreshment – we need to stay focused,” Edwards said.

Currently, Edwards and Reconcile 519 are working to plant a church on the campus of Stony Brook University and assisting church plants in Shirley, New York, and Kings Park, New York.

For more information on Crossroads Church of Long Island or Reconcile 519 see 

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