Many readers connect with me often about how they pray for Connecticut and the gospel in New England! We are grateful—beyond words! Thank you for sharing the vision and for asking God to guide and bless.
Recently the Lord opened a door for Emmanuel to launch out by faith in a new effort. I wanted to take a moment to update you and ask you, again, to pray. When God called us to New England we came with two burdens. The first was to preach the gospel to the lost in our immediate region from a healthy Emmanuel Baptist Church. This burden is being realized in a wonderful way. The second burden was more of a “vague, someday” concept. It was a desire to help young men (post-college) to be practically mentored, prepared, and placed into pastorates in New England under a mentoring friendship and relationship with our team at EBC. The desire is to mentor, co-labor, and team together for gospel ministry in collaborative ways.
God is obviously raising up a generation of young men who love the idea of teaming together in synergistic ways for the furtherance of the gospel—much like the spread of the New Testament Church in the book of Acts. This idea was quietly and hesitantly in my heart, but I expected that it would be five or ten years away, if God gives me life and if He wills.
To my surprise, God is moving faster than I anticipated. He recently opened a door for Emmanuel to partner with New Hope Baptist Church in Harwinton, CT in a significant way. I’m very excited about this opportunity, and I’m asking you to pray for us. New Hope is a church-plant with about 50 faithful Christians. Their most recent pastor, Chris Birkholtz has done a great job, but has recently responded to a call to serve the Lord in Honduras. In providential ways that I don’t have time to detail here, God has brought our paths together for a collaborative effort for the gospel in North West Connecticut.
Three weeks ago, New Hope unanimously voted to partner with us for a season, during which time I will serve as a “Senior Pastor,” mentoring and developing their “Lead Pastor” as the ministry develops over the coming months. I’m thrilled to announce that God has burdened the heart of recent West Coast Baptist College graduates, Andrew and Sarah Browning to relocate to Connecticut to serve as the Lead Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church. For a season, the Brownings will be accountable and in close strategic relationship with Emmanuel, and I will be teaming with them in the leadership and “re-planting” of New Hope Baptist Church. How long the partnership lasts will be entirely up to the Lord and His leading in the hearts of the church family at New Hope.
Our goal is simple—to help the Brownings to take strategic, biblical steps in their own personal growth that will help New Hope move forward in faith and impact. This wonderful group of Christians has a burden to impact North West Connecticut, and within about a 20 minute radius, the Brownings will be actively reaching out to a population base of about 100,000 people.
There are several reasons I’m really excited about this open door:
1. It Represents an Acts Model of Ministry—Not just churches starting or helping other churches in disconnected ways, but churches teaming together with other churches. Also, aged men (in this case me—bummer) teaching younger men (in this case Andrew) to be fruitful in developing healthy, local church ministry.
2. It Represents Team Leadership—Usually in the New Testament model you find a plurality of pastors. I love the idea of teaming with younger men, forming mentoring relationships, and strategizing gospel ministry together in synergy. It’s completely biblical and healthy.
3. It Represents Gospel Focus—The only way pastors work together is if ego dies and the gospel is first priority. Personal agenda must die on the altar of God’s mission. Man-centered ministry must give way to gospel-centered ministry. Minor philosophical differences become microscopic compared to the massive magnitude of our call to reach the lost with the life-changing grace of God.
4. It Represents Faith—For EBC this is faith. For me, it’s faith. For the Brownings it’s faith. And for New Hope, it’s faith. I know this—God blesses faith. He is pleased by faith. I believe there’s a harvest in North-West Connecticut, and I believe God will bless our faith to trust Him together.
5. It Represents Biblical Balance—There is such a thing being so independent that we are segregated and isolated. ” New Testament Christianity was “inter-dependent”—autonomous churches collaborating together for God’s glory. Also, young men have a hard enough time getting started in New England. We need a model that helps them, partners with them, and mentors them in crafting a strategy that is biblical but also fruitful. I pray that EBC can impact this model and perpetuate it by God’s grace.
The door is wide open. New Hope Baptist Church is excited about the Brownings and the relationship we will have in gospel ministry together.
The need is GREAT! The Hartford area of Connecticut is the 5th most biblically illiterate city in America. Christianity is so removed from the culture and mainstream, that it’s actually NEW—all over again! The lost in this part of the country have never heard, and rarely have even a remotely accurate context of real Christianity. And when they come into contact with it, it blows them away—in a good way!
Pray with us in this transition. Pray that God will help us see some partial support raised for the Brownings. Pray that together we will be able to see what God is doing at EBC spread further. Pray that God will lead and give wisdom through the transition in helping Andrew and Sarah get settled and begin ministry. Pray that in short-order New Hope will be fully self-sustaining and reaching New Believers.
Finally, I don’t pretend to know what God is doing. We are simply following Him. Perhaps God will call more families like the Brownings to partner and labor together in this white harvest field!
He will develop it as He wills, and we will continue to follow in faith!