Three years ago, my wife and I moved our family to Boston. In that time, we have learned that although 80% or more of the New England population is not attending traditional churches or church planting efforts, they are hungry for what only Jesus Christ can offer. We also know that while traditional church and church planting efforts are vital for what God is doing here, they are not sufficient in addressing the majority population that simply will not come to them.
So what do we do?
Well, we experiment. We try new things.
And we enroll local people who have built trust with their own neighbors and co-workers to start conversations about Jesus. We believe that God uses every person to reach their networks of relationships. Here are two stories to show just that.
We met Rachel* when we were interviewing candidates to become housemates with our family. Rachel has worked at the New England Baptist Hospital for nearly ten years. Early in our relationship, we shared with her about our work in helping people that would never go to church discover Jesus and begin a relationship with him. She immediately asked us to pray with her and help her begin to reach her colleagues at work.
Last May, Rachel began a discovery Bible study with two medical surgeons who do not yet know or follow Jesus. These two doctors had declined her invitations to church for years. Yet in the space of relationship with her, they were excited to explore what the Bible had to say about relating with God in a safe, discovery-based process.
I met Bill* when we first moved into New England. He is the associate manager at a Home Depot store. When I shared the vision for disciple making movements, he decided to “give it a shot”. Shortly after that, he began five discovery Bible studies with his colleagues. I received this text message from him the day they began:
“Well this seems to resonate! I had a few major cry sessions in the break room today. People have been pretty hungry for this. We’ll see where this goes!”
Three months have passed since Bill began these groups. Some of the groups stopped meeting; other groups have continued. Those that are participating have actually started other groups with their friends and family! None of these people were coming to church with Bill at his invitation, but they willingly began a discovery group on their coffee break.
We have much work ahead of us in changing the tide here in New England.
In partnership with existing churches, church plants, and other ministries, we are praying that these small beginnings will have a ripple effect that dramatically shifts the spiritual landscape here. The truth we cling to is that God is always doing remarkable things around us.
In big ways and in small, we are experiencing people make significant decisions to follow God.
*To protect and honor our friends’ privacy, their names have been changed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Reed and his wife, Natalie, live with their three kids in Boston, MA. They are passionate to see real Disciple Making Movements emerge throughout New England and the world.
Click here to read more about the statistics of church-goers in New England.