It is estimated that between 2 to 4% of people in New England attend an evangelical church. In recent years, New England has surpassed the West Coast in being the most “unchurched” region in the United States. With a history of spiritual awakenings coming out of New England in the early years of America, the region is dubbed “post-Christian.” For these reasons, the South Carolina Baptist Convention finds it essential to their ministry to focus on New England as a region for outreach and church planting.
This May, Bryant Sims led a small group of men including Josh McClendon, the current Convention President, Alex Sands, and the previous Convention President, Josh Powell on a vision tour in Boston. The purposes of the trip included encouraging current church planters and seeing the needs and opportunities available in this area. Sims says that they are “starting to see people who have come to Christ through NE church plants become church planters.” Having people local to the area experience life change through the power of the Gospel turn around and dedicate their lives to this people and this region is a tremendous win for Christ in New England.
Sims says that he was “overwhelmed by the capacity of the church planters.” He says that “these guys could be preaching anywhere. Any major church in the south would be lucky to have these men lead their congregation. Instead, they’re reaching the most difficult and unchurched areas in the U.S.” Several of the church planters are in areas with a large refugee population and are attempting to start multi-ethnic churches to reach them. Other planters are targeting individuals overcoming addictions, using their own background of addiction and the story of their life change to impact the lives of others.
When asked what the greatest needs of the planters are, Sims responded that the needs are “always financial.” With the higher cost of living in NE, churches and planters need churches to “partner with them and send financial resources.” Sims mentioned that church partners could send donations, but could also support by sending a team of volunteers or even simply by praying for the planters, the hearts of the people, and for the Gospel to be spread and welcomed across NE.
One church planter, Joe Polson, originally from Cheraw, South Carolina, was called to plant in New England while leading a trip to the area as a student minister. His church, Church at The Well Everett, in Everett, MA, has plans to run a coffee shop six days a week out of their church building. During those six days, members of the church will work at the coffee shop, building relationships with coffee-goers and inviting them to church on Sunday. This will be an excellent opportunity for community members to engage with church members on a daily basis. They are in need of funds to get both the church and the coffee shop running.
A different church planter in the area gets up each morning at 4:30 a.m. and runs a three-hour delivery route for a national retailer. After his route is over, he serves as a long-term substitute teacher at a local school during the day. When the school day is over, he comes home and watches his children while his wife works at the local YMCA. When she returns, he has another delivery route, and then he leaves to teach a small group at his church. He does this day in and day out in order to make ends meet because of the financial burden that he is under as a church planter.
With a population of 14.85 million people and 1 in 4 claiming they have no religion, “the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) Therefore, join us in praying that the Lord would raise up workers from the church plants in NE. If you or your church is considering partnering with the ongoing mission in NE, or if you’d like to attend the next Vision Tour trip this fall, contact Tim Rice (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bryant Sims (email@example.com).