As a Rhode Island native living in the Midwest in 2013, I often hoped to move back “home” to New England to be a light in a territory that is immensely dark. I can remember sitting at the insurance company in Wisconsin where I worked, dreaming about working in a church replant in one of the many old, white church buildings that dotted the landscape of my homeland. Little did I know at the time that God was going to place my family in a situation in line with these hopes and dreams.
Over time, the Lord saw fit to bring an independent, but faithful, church along that offered me an internship in central Maine. The purpose of the internship was to equip, acknowledge pastoral giftedness and then send us out to a church to pastor in New England when the opportunity came about. After only a couple months of the internship, a church replant opportunity also in central Maine presented itself, and, to make a long story short, Windsor Christian Fellowship asked me to be their interim pastor, and eventually lead pastor, which I gladly accepted.
I understand church replanting very simply: church replanting is bringing an existing but struggling congregation in line with the truths of the Gospel and the Word of God. To keep with the imagery of the word “replant,” we seek by God’s grace to uproot dead and lifeless traditions or processes and plant Word-based principles that will grow and display the glory of the God whose Word and Spirit are doing the work.
The need for this kind of work is dire in New England. Strategically speaking, there are many (and I mean many) non-SBC churches in the state of Maine without a pastor. Recently I heard of one association in Maine that has about 20 pastorless churches. Many of these churches are not only pastorless, but they are also a generation from dying out. Unfortunately, their “old, white church buildings” will likely be turned into boutiques or antique shops like many others have in New England.
Our church here in Maine was not a Southern Baptist Church three years ago. They were, however, willing to explore the opportunity of joining the SBC. After meeting with the director of our former association, the leadership team that had been formed confirmed with me that it was the right and biblical choice to leave the association they had been a part of for 50 years. We soon began the process of joining the SBC, and we rejoice in how God has used the Baptist Convention of New England and North American Mission Board in coming alongside our replant and assisting in the many ways they have with prayer, financial support and training opportunities.
Aside from moving into the SBC, over the course of the last several years our church has changed its name, adopted different bylaws, changed the leadership structure and “cleaned up” our membership roll, as well as many other smaller matters. Our hope, specifically in regard to our bylaws, leadership structure and membership has been to do as stated above: to bring our existing but struggling congregation in line with the truths of the Gospel and the Word of God. This has been our aim, and God has been faithful to do the work!
I marvel at what He has done over the last several years, both in me and the congregation. The church’s attendance on Sunday morning has (approximately) tripled, folks are consistently stepping forward for membership, we’ve had baptisms each summer and the truth is, we feel that God is simply beginning his work in our little town of Windsor, Maine.
What about you? Could you be reading this article at your workplace, dreaming about the opportunity of serving God in New England? I understand that not everybody is called to this kind of ministry full-time, but there are ways you could partner with church replants and replanters here in New England: notes of encouragement, prayer, financial support, joining a mission’s team to New England, etc. There are so many ways to get involved, and I pray that you will!
Brandon Dyer is pastor of Windsor Christian Fellowship in Windsor, Maine.