I have long been passionate about our region of the country. From my first missions experience here forty years ago while a college student from the South to my current position of service in church planting, those who are a part of our family of churches in this region have always recognized the difference New England represents. It is a place of spiritual heritage in our land. It is a place of cultural influence across the nation. And it is a place of significant impact upon every life touched by our economy and our education.
In many ways, as New England goes, so goes the nation. But tragically, less than two percent of our residents currently claim to be evangelical, Gospel-centered followers of Christ. While we work diligently to reclaim the region for Christ in a greater way—and progress is certainly being seen—we still have a long way to go. The need is great.
One of the best ways to address the need of any region without Christ is to plant more Gospel-centered churches. These families of faith provide an encouraging, accountable environment for community to take place and disciples to mature in Christ. They provide witness to the people of the town or city where they are located, and serve as salt and light in these needy places.
Early New Englanders knew their importance, and started every new community with a church at the heart of the village. Early Southern Baptists recognized their importance, too, so they established churches whenever they were relocated here. But to complete their legacy, these churches, and many that have been started since, must take root and reach the indigenous people of the region.
This is our responsibility, to see that the ministry becomes local and “homegrown.” It is a missionary principle that has been at use elsewhere in the world for centuries: we cannot depend on outside resources or personnel for long-term impact in church planting. We must raise up those who are local to own and establish the ministry in ways beyond what we can ever do without them.
This is why I give to the New England Mission emphasis, and why I call on you to do the same. National agencies and networks can only help us so much in this process; there are limits to what they can do. We who are in New England must own and establish these ministries for subsequent generations, in ways, and through means, that national agencies would never realize or understand in importance.
This is why Kevin and Lori Peters are doing all they can to reach not just the campus of UNH with the Gospel through the planting of ECHO Church, but also the community of Durham, New Hampshire, as well. This is why Todd and Amy West are so passionate to see all of Williston, Vermont, and the surrounding region, reached with the Gospel, not simply those already a part of Crosspoint Church. The objective is clear: establish multiplying churches in areas of need with local leaders who will replicate the work throughout the regions, so others will know, too. Only in this way will Gospel-focused movement begin to take place and darkness be replaced with the light of Christ.
If we want our planters to be New England leaders, they need New England wisdom. If we want our new churches to be New England churches, they need New England strategies. And if we want our church planting to be a New England movement, we need New England support.
To be clear: we are grateful for all the support we receive nationally from our agencies and from our partnership churches. We would not see the impact we have seen without their involvement. But for New England to be reached with the Gospel, our own churches and people must step up and take responsibility for the lostness of our region. We must make “whatever it takes” a local mantra, not just a national one. Giving to the New England Missions emphasis helps make this a reality.
In these days, many of God’s people spend more money at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks weekly than they give to the Gospel effort. But every dollar given to the NEME translates into ministry: no overhead, no administration, just ministry done locally in our region to see our neighbors and coworkers reached with the Gospel. And honestly, isn’t that why we are here, to see the Gospel impact others, so our friends, their families, and our communities come to know and follow Jesus? “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD,” said Joshua (24:15). I say “amen,” and hope you will, too.
Please join us in our efforts through the New England mission emphasis. Every dollar makes a difference in someone’s life.
David Jackson serves as church planting director and strategist at the Baptist Convention of New England.