Southern Baptists' "Web of Partnership"
by Dr. Jeff Black
Even though New Life Community Fellowship in Pittsfield, MA, has recently affiliated with the BCNE, we have always been affiliated with Southern Baptists. We started as a church plant sponsored by Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayuna, NY. Our affiliations were with the BCNY through that church and with the Hudson Baptist Association in Schenectady, NY. Even after constituting in 2000, we found it easier to retain those affiliations, though we were located in New England. Being in western Massachusetts, one hour from Albany, NY, even our “local” television news is from the capital region of New York. So why change and why now?
Our mission has not changed, but our movement has. New Life has always been interested in taking the Gospel to people locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Working together with Southern Baptists we have been able to be a part of things that would have been impossible to do by ourselves. We were better together! My wife, Sherri, and I, along with our four children, moved from South Carolina to serve the Lord’s church in Pittsfield. New Life was too small to financially support me as pastor. But together with the North American Mission Board through the BCNY and several Southern Baptist churches from across the country, it was possible. From 1997 to 2000 we received much-needed support. Since then we have been self-supporting and able to help others, currently giving 20% of our budget to mission causes outside of New Life.
From 2005 to 2009, members from New Life participated with Trinity Baptist in mission trips to Brazil to plant churches there. Working together with SBC missionaries we found helping them helped us to mature as we took the Gospel to the people in northeast Brazil.
In 2012, our Pastor of Worship, Nick Winnard, and I took New Life’s Praise Team and began services on Wednesday nights to start Open Door Church in Lee, MA. After starting and supporting that church, we strategically decided to become a part of the church planting movement in New England. We realized affiliating with the BCNE was the best way to do that. So, we did!
This year Paul Shepherd, Pastor of Discipleship and Administration at New Life, led a group on a mission trip to Mexico. Also this year, Open Door Church in Lee went on a mission trip to Brazil, led by church planters Jim and Martha Guenther. An interesting fact about Jim is that he was the pastor of our sponsor church, Trinity Baptist Church, back when New Life started. This web of partnership with other Southern Baptists, intent on taking the Gospel to the world, is an encouragement to my heart and is clear evidence that we are better together.
Looking to the future, New Life has decided to concentrate more on New England. Our affiliation with the BCNE will strengthen our efforts. We look forward to working together with our brothers and sisters to take the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to our area and to the world. We believe cooperation with other churches in our part of the world will make us all better.
Dr. Jeff Black is senior pastor of New Life Community Fellowship in Pittsfield, MA.