SCBC Mission Vision Team Visits with Church Planters in Boston
It was Chris Meaders, missions pastor at Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, who first met David Butler, the North American Mission Board’s Send City missionary in Boston. Chris and Mt. Airy pastor, Keith Shorter, were attending the 2015 Send Conference in Nashville.
“Chris met David at the Send conference and told me all about him and that we needed to talk with him,” Pastor Keith says. “So, we invited David to come meet with us in Greenville last September, and that led to David’s invitation for us to visit Boston in November.
“In meeting and getting to know David, two things stood out to me,” Keith says. “First, it’s his vision to plant 100 churches in the Boston area by 2020, and he’s already got 51 or 52 planted, and he has workers in the pipeline. Second, I was just struck by the lostness among the people in Boston. Reports say that only 3.5 percent of the Greater Boston population is affiliated with an evangelical church, and some neighborhoods are lower than that. Around Dartmouth, for example, it’s estimated that only 300 of 35,000 people attend one of two evangelical churches. The need for the gospel just gripped my heart.”
The reactions of both Keith and Chris are not unusual. Mt. Airy is a missions-minded church, helping plant a church in Cleveland, serving another church in Utah, and sending a team this summer to Uganda. Even now, the church has identified an Upstate church planter who it is sending to Boston to plant a church. Mt. Airy Baptist is a missions minded church.
“I like the strategy of the Send cities,” Keith says. “Our work in Cleveland and in Boston are both Send City projects. According to the North American Mission Board Web site, “The Send Network exists to push back lostness in North America. That purpose is accomplished through church planting in areas of greatest need. The Send Network recognizes that church planting is one of the most challenging, and yet rewarding, callings on a person’s life. With that reality in mind, the Send Network enhances the church planting experience through collaboration and unmatched support with assessments, training, coaching, resources, and care.” Send Cities are at least one million in population.
As president-elect of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Keith took his vision for serving Boston church planters one step further. He put together a 14-person group that took a mission vision trip this summer to Boston, meeting David Butler, the Send missionary, some of the church planters, and diving into the Boston culture – even attending a Red Sox baseball game.
“I responded to Keith’s burden by going along with the group this summer,” says Tim Rice, the state convention staff’s director of missions mobilization. “David Butler (the Send missionary) made all of our group’s arrangements, planned our transportation, and set up appointments with the church planters around Boston. NAMB provided lunch for us and paid for our accommodations.
“I want to stress that this isn’t about the state convention and Boston: this is about a local church’s vision for missions and Send cities, and it’s about the need for partners in Greater Boston,” Tim says.
Along with Tim Rice and Keith Shorter, and Keith’s wife, Lisa, the Vision team included Palmetto Association Director of Missions Mike Baker and his wife, Debbie, both of Mt. Airy Baptist; Chad Hall, worship pastor, of Trinity Point Church, in Easley; pastor Dale McCoig, and his wife, Marianne, of Clearmont Baptist, in Westminster; Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mt. Moriah Baptist, in Greenwood, and his son, Jonah; and, Lander University student John Michael Alexander. Also, a church planter and his wife, looking to plant a church in Charlestown, the oldest neighborhood in Boston, were on the trip. At the time of this story, they could not be identified.
The group met with five to six Boston planters, Tim says, all of whom have been in Boston for four to fiveyears “and that’s significant because they are already planting churches; and most are about to launch a second or third church.”
Chris Causey is the lead pastor of Encounter Church in Dedham, about 13 miles southwest of downtown Boston. Chris is from Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, SC.
“It’s a very healthy church planting environment there,” Tim says. “Most planters go up, live in the area, and work alongside another planter before they plant a church.”
Tim says it’s important for vision teams to go into places where people in the cities gather, and that’s what the Boston team did by visiting Harvard University in Cambridge and by attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
“Before we went to Fenway, David told us to listen to people, listen to all the different accents, and to listen to what people were saying,” Tim says. “When we go and listen, we begin to get an understanding of a people’s world view. That’s good research for missionary work.”
Mt. Airy’s Keith Shorter says, “I just want to help people see what’s happening in Boston and with David as he gets church planters in the pipeline there. I hope as a state we can keep sending pastors on these vision trips to Boston and other Send Cities. I want to see it happen more and more on a state level. If we can get our state pastors to go on these vision and mission trips and meet and talk with church planters, God will do the rest of it.”
“Already, at least one of the pastors on our summer trip is talking with his church about a partnership with Brandon Allison, a church planter in Boston,” Keith says. “Mt. Airy also has a construction team planning to go up there. So, our trip this summer is already producing fruit. That’s exciting.”