This month pastor Mike and I were introduced to the NETS center for church planting and revitalization in the outskirts of Burlington, Vermont. We visited their training center and had a chance to speak with pastors of 4 church plants in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. It was a whirlwind tour. Here are some of my takeaways:
1. Less Is More. Church planting is always hard, but especially in the northeast. That being said, over the past 10-15 years these brothers and sisters have planted a total 5 churches in New England and each is healthy and growing. Their slower pace in planting is due to their focus on vetting the planting pastor (and family), and making purposeful decisions on where exactly to plant. The process has paid off and is yielding much fruit.
2. Doctrine Matters. The spiritual graveyard that is New England is a direct result of the embracing of liberal doctrinal views as far back as the 18th century. We saw more church buildings repurposed as apartments or libraries or community centers than actual churches. That being said, the gospel preaching churches we visited were teeming with life. As one example, we visited Redeemer Fellowship Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. They make use of a beautiful old congregational church building. Across the street sits an old American Baptist church that has been turned into high end luxury condos. The contrast was clear; may we be warned.
3. Small Churches Should Dream Big. The vision of the NETS center is an outgrowth of Christ Memorial Church. These folks are God-glorifying, humble servants seeking to make the best use of their resources. But they aren’t a huge church. They are large by modern day New England standards, but they certainly aren’t a mega-church. Yet they have impacted the entire region because they put Jesus and his kingdom first. My mind wandered often to how God will use us to further the gospel. Let’s dream big!
Perhaps one day we will hire a pastor trained at the NETS center. Perhaps one day we will send a family to NETS to prepare for planting a church in northeast. One thing is clear, God is using his church to make and mature disciples even in a culture that is thoroughly post Christian and often resistant to the gospel. To God be the glory for these churches!