New England Celebrates Church Planting

“Church planting is the natural consequence of intimacy with God,” stated Greater Boston-based church planter Tanner Turley during a testimony at the Baptist Convention of New England’s 36th annual meeting.

Two hundred twenty-one messengers and 103 guests representing 100 churches gathered Nov. 2-3 at First Baptist Church in Haverhill, Mass. to fellowship, worship, have times of extended prayer, conduct business and celebrate what God is by “Embracing the Future Through Church Planting.”

Sean Sears, pastor of Grace Church in Avon, Mass., preached the opening sermon “God Says Plant!” Sears shared about his experience as an “accidental” church planter who felt burdened for the lost in his hometown and saw the need for a local Gospel-centered church several years ago. Grace Church now averages 1600 in worship, making it one of New England’s largest Baptist churches, and baptized 154 people last year.

“The closer you get to Jesus, the more you love those who are farthest from him,” Sears said.

BCNE president Tim Owens expanded on several reasons today’s culture requires us to plant churches during the president’s address. While ministering to a culture that is broken, hungry for hope and desperately needs direction, Owens challenged church leaders to have the same compassion for the lost that Christ has.

“Our culture needs us to go, not just expect them to come,” Owens said.

Dr. Terry Dorsett echoed this challenge during the executive director’s report when he encouraged everyone in attendance to do something specific to help plant a church next year, whether it is praying, giving, serving on a mission team or meeting another need.

“Church planting is hard work,” Dorsett said. “But if we do it in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God, it pays off.”

Gary Knighton, pastor of Faith Fellowship Church in Hartford, Ct., preached the closing sermon “Why the Gospel Demands Multi-Ethnic Church Planting.” Knighton reminded leaders that the Holy Spirit planted a multi-cultural multi-ethnic church in the book of Acts, and today’s church plays a part in creating the multi-ethnic beauty to come in heaven by creating a multi-ethnic body today.

“The world can love people who look like them. [But] the church has to exceed the world in love,” Knighton said.

Besides celebrating what God is doing throughout New England through church planting, messengers passed a "Resolution on the Evil of Antisemitism" in response to the recent murders of 11 Jewish people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The resolution, citing such verses as Romans 11:24, Romans 15:7, Jeremiah 31:3, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Genesis 12:3 and Romans 1:16, stated that BCNE churches "decry antisemitism as a heinous sin against the Jewish people and God Himself." The resolution concluded with a commitment to educate church members to better understand and reach out to Jewish friends while praying for the salvation of the Jewish people.

After the resolution passed, Mitch Forman, vice president of US ministry for Chosen People Ministries, led a traditional kaddish for mourning and a prayer for the salvation of the Jewish people.

An additional resolution was passed to thank First Baptist Church of Haverhill, Mass. for hosting the meeting.

The Robert Brindle Church Planting Award for 2018 was awarded to Celebration Church, a bilingual Portuguese church in Charlestown, Mass. Although the church is not yet ten years old and only runs about 150 in attendance, they have been involved in 23 church plants in the last decade.

“Ethnics are much more than a mission field,” said pastor Joe Souza. “God is raising us up to be a mission force.”

The Ray Allen Evangelism Award for 2018 was presented to pastor James Thomasson of MeetingHouse Church in Middleborough, Mass. This 12-year-old church runs only about 160 in attendance but has helped plant four churches, helped replant and revitalize two congregations and baptized 39 last year.

As for general business, messengers adopted proposed changes to the BCNE constitution and bylaws to safeguard local church representation in response to two New England associations merging with the BCNE organizationally and a third association making plans to merge. Other changes to the constitution and bylaws included updating terminology, including changing the title of messengers to representatives.

Messengers also approved a 2019 budget of $3,841,289, an increase of more than 26%, that is due in part to restructuring of some associations and in part to record Cooperative Program contributions, which are expected to increase by more than 35%.

The budget includes $237,276 allotted to Cooperative Program missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, representing 18 percent of New England CP giving, an increase of 1 percentage point from last year. This dollar amount also represents a 43% increase over the dollar amount that was given to SBC missions last year.

In addition, for the third year in a row, nearly 100 percent of funds given to the Cooperative Program will be used for missions and ministry to the 361 BCNE churches, their 27,565 members – and beyond. This is possible because overhead and administrative costs are funded through rental income and other sources.

In officer elections, Tim Owens, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland, Castleton and Bennington, Vt., was unanimously re-elected BCNE president, while Gonzalo Graupera, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Boston in Saugus, Mass., was unanimously re-elected vice president. Sandra Coelho, leadership development director at the BCNE and volunteer staff member at Church of the Vine in Carver, Mass., will continue to serve as clerk.

For the second year, the BCNE offered several training sessions in conjunction with the annual meeting. This year’s sessions were led by New England leaders and included “The Future of Church Planting” (Dr. David Jackson, church planting director and strategist at the BCNE); “The Future of WMU/Missions Training (Doris Opoku, WMU president in New England); “The Future of Communications” (Kimber Huff, communications coordinator at the BCNE); “The Future of Ethnic Ministry (Lierte Soares, pastor of Precision Valley Baptist Church in Springfield, Vt., and Framingham Baptist Church in Framingham, Mass.); and “The Future of Mission Networks Like the BCNE (Dr. Terry Dorsett, executive director at the BCNE). 

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 1-2, 2019, at Twin City Baptist Church in Fitchburg, Mass. SBC president J.D. Greear will tentatively deliver the annual sermon, with Wes Pastor, pastor of Christ Memorial Church in Williston, Vt., as the alternate.

Kimber Huff is the communications coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.