In the autumn of 1971, Jim Cymbala and his wife Carol took over the leadership of The Brooklyn Tabernacle on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. The small, struggling congregation numbered less than 30 people and met in a small run-down building surrounded by the physical and moral blight of the inner-city.
They saw a unique opportunity to see the power of the Gospel in action by loving and ministering to all colors and kinds of people. Most were poor and many struggled with the typical inner-city problems of drug and alcohol abuse or the pain of disintegrating families. No money was available for salaries during most weeks so they took second jobs and struggled to make ends meet both in the church and at home.
Right away, the Cymbalas realized the necessity of real prayer to secure God's grace and power in the work. The Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting, though very small at the start, became a central feature in the life of their church and has remained so to this day.
Although geographically located in America, the interracial makeup of the New York City area, along with the challenging social problems and urban decay, make it a kind of "forgotten mission field." Most church buildings were nearly vacant on Sundays since their once-strong congregations (and their denominations) had long before fled to suburbia. But Jim knew that this was the very spot where God's love could meet the most desperate of human needs.
Realizing the limited impact that any one church can have in a large metropolis like New York, Pastor Cymbala began to plant churches in other needy areas of the city. As they trained their own pastors and sent them out with small groups of workers from their own congregation, they started a replication of the work that had begun in downtown Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Tabernacle church then began to reach out financially and in prayer to see other areas in New York City be impacted by God's love through the planting of Daughter Churches, of which there are now six in the New York Metro area, all to the glory of God.
At that same time, the church leadership began to look beyond their own locale to plant missionary stations in impoverished places like Haiti, Peru, a poor neighborhood in the Dominican Republic as well as in Israel. The leadership for these works had been raised up by God from their own congregation which itself represents so many parts of the world. These missions have seen a demonstration of the far-reaching power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After serving the Lord for over 20 years in the former site on Flatbush Avenue, the congregation was able to purchase a theater in downtown Brooklyn in May of 1998 in which to relocate Sanctuary and office space, followed by 3 floors of a commercial condominium purchased in 2002 which is called the Downtown Learning Center. The combination of these two buildings constitute the New Smith Street Campus and provide the congregation with over 250,000 square feet in which to house all the important ministries needed to reach the community. The combination of drugs, violent gangs, and broken homes has devastated the young people of New York City. A badly needed youth center called "The Summit" provides a place of refuge for youth, so crucial in the inner-city. Adult literacy programs, activities for seniors, outreach activities for preteen children, and many other activities are held in these recently renovated buildings.
In summary, the Lord has greatly helped Pastor Jim and his team in seeing the multitudes there and elsewhere turn to Christ for salvation. He shares in the feelings of Jesus as He looked on the crowds and then "had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)