BOSTON – In a meeting room at Boston’s Fenway Park, Southern Baptist church planter and Boston Red Sox chaplain Bland Mason explains how much members of his plant, City On A Hill church, long for community.
“This is their family. This is who they pray with, worship with, grow with and do life with,” said Mason, whose church launched almost seven years ago in Brookline, Mass. “When it comes to church people, in this city you are either all in or not in at all.”
There are no cultural incentives for following Christ in a city like Boston, which is largely a post-Christian city with Catholic and evangelical roots that have mostly become museum pieces.
But the new surge of church planting efforts among Southern Baptists and other Evangelical groups is shifting the average Bostonian’s view of Christianity. That’s what North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees wanted to see first-hand during a recent vision tour. The tour coincided with the group’s Oct. 8 fall board meeting.
“God has raised up some sharp planters in Boston,” said NAMB trustee David Washington, pastor of Canton Christian Fellowship in Canton, Mich. “They’ve left family and friends and their comfort zones to make Christ known in a very difficult city.”
In Boston there is very little church shopping, mostly because there are few churches to choose from. People who attend church may come for many weeks before ever moving toward believing the gospel.
This has made church planting a primary means of evangelism as churches establish a gospel presence in neighborhoods and begin to serve residents in the name of Christ.
Church planter Joshua Wyatt is planting Charles River Church in Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood. Wyatt says more than half of those in his congregation have come to Christ through Charles River.
“Walking through the streets of Roslindale you will have an every-tribe-and-tongue experience,” Wyatt says. “We are seeking to build a church that will reflect that diversity.”
As NAMB trustees visited with local church planters like Wyatt, many were struck by how starkly different Boston’s spiritual and cultural landscape is from many areas in the South.
“I come from Louisiana,” said NAMB trustee Sissy Franks, a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, La. “I was enrolled in an SBC church before I could speak. What we so often take for granted is that people know about the gospel. But it’s another language to so many people. We assume it’s everywhere but it’s not. The world has come to North America and we saw that in Boston this week.”
From South Boston all the way out to Worcester, Mass., church planters have risen up from within Boston and even come from cities in the south.
The need for gospel-centered churches is palpable in the Boston metro area. In an effort to meet this need, NAMB is encouraging church planters and Southern Baptist partner churches to take part in Send North America: Boston, a church planting and evangelism strategy designed to mobilize church planters and established churches to reach the city with the gospel.
“Our hope is to continue to see a steady stream of churches planted in the city,” says Send North America: Boston City Missionary David Butler. “The ways in which Southern Baptists are planting and partnering in our city have been encouraging. We pray God would continue to grow a burden among Southern Baptist leaders for the Northeast.”