Partners from Edgefield Association Support Boston Church Planters
A team of 15 members from seven Edgefield Association churches traveled to Dartmouth, Massachusetts, recently to work alongside church planters in local missions. The team’s four-day trip started Nov. 30 and included evangelistic missions and pastoral support. The trip was a result of ongoing ministry support and relationship-building with the church planters over the last year and represented partnership among smaller South Carolina Baptist churches.
“As a bivocational pastor, it does my heart much good to see churches come together for a common cause outside of our immediate context. We simply cannot accomplish all that is before us without each other. The local association provides us with the vehicle for joining together to do much more than we could ever do on our own,” says John Alexander, team leader and pastor of First Bethany in McCormick.
“These churches exemplify what it means to be ‘better together.’ By joining together to pray for, support and partner with the church planters in Boston, they are helping to fulfill the Great Commission in a place where it is greatly needed. Our partnership is made stronger by their involvement,” says Tim R., who works with SEND mission teams through the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
In April 2017, Alexander participated in a vision-casting trip to the Boston metropolitan area after meeting several local church planters through an Edgefield Association missions event. The trip gave team members greater insight into the evangelistic needs of the area, the work of church planters and ways that their churches could plug into those ministries. As a result, Alexander was drawn to the work of Chad and Jodi Hartis, who planted South Coast Church in Dartmouth.
“I was impressed by their passion to see lost people come to know Jesus and by their insistence to go where the evangelical percent was very low, the lowest in fact. They decided to plant their family and church where George Barna research calls ‘the least biblically-minded city in the country,’” he says.
As he prayed for partnership opportunities, Alexander kept in touch with the Hartis family through texts and emails. At the same time, another pastor and vision-casting trip member John Noblin, of Plum Branch Church, was building a relationship with a second Massachusetts church planter. Noblin and Alexander’s churches began praying for the planters and have since hosted them in South Carolina.
“Our partnership was introduced slowly. We began praying for Chad, Jodi, their son, and their church by name every week in our church service. We asked for regular updates and we showed their videos in our Sunday morning services. Then we talked about the need to go and be physically present to help and encourage them. We also agreed to send a monthly financial gift to South Coast Church and support them through special offerings,” Alexander explained.
On the most recent trip, the associational team helped the church planters serve their community with home repairs and yard work, as well as hosted a movie night outreach and taught children’s classes at the church so that leaders could participate in worship. They were intentional to meet the needs of the church planters, which included watching their children for a date night.
Alexander says his relationship with church planters has led him to think differently. “South Coast Church is a young but thriving congregation in a spiritually dark area of our country.
These church planters are heroes in every sense of the word. They are leading in amazing ways in an environment that is 1,000 times more difficult than anything that we face in McCormick, South Carolina. We need to see that. It helps us in our context more than I would have ever imagined.”
For his part, Edgefield Association’s Director of Missions Tim Shull says the growing relationship his churches have with New England church planters has been meaningful and will continue. “Many of these folks were on their first mission trip and some on their first airplane ride. The association applied for and received grants from the South Carolina Baptist Convention that enabled many to go. Reports from these mission-trippers produce a contagious effect in their churches. Many churches are specifically praying and have participated or will participate in special offerings for the new church plants.”
In the end, Alexander says churches will experience blessing through church planting partnerships. “I think that we, as churches, can get trapped in the mindset of needing to be missional in order to help church plants or missionaries who ‘need’ our help to survive. And while it is true that we need to provide prayer, financial and physical assistance, the truth is that the established church needs the church plant’s help as much if not more than they need ours,” he says.