A group of 14 pastors and leaders from nine Northeast Georgia congregations traveled to Boston in order to continue forming partnerships to help strengthen churches in the area. The group visited a number of churches, ranging in size, setting, and diversity. COURTESY/Keith Ivey
BOSTON – On March 18, a group of 14 pastors and leaders representing nine Northeast Georgia congregations arrived in Boston as part of the first wave of Georgia Baptists who will go to strengthen churches and reduce lostness in New England through a strategic partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE). Local, regional, national and international partnerships are key to the strategy of the Missions team at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Each region is charged with developing these partnerships to assist Georgia Baptist congregations in increasing the number of members engaged in the Acts 1:8 mission that God has given the local church.
After first hearing from Executive Director Terry Dorsett and each of the Regional Coordinators who serve with the churches of the BCNE, the team split into five different groups to visit with pastors and churches across sections of New England. They visited churches of all sizes, in various settings, and serving diverse communities.
Missions Coordinator Steven Caudell said, “Level Grove (Cornelia) is ready to serve in several locations. We saw a need for encouraging pastors and training volunteers in areas of technology, design, and worship. There are physical needs to be met in terms of volunteer force, construction and canvassing the community.”
Chad Mantooth of Winder First said, “I returned with both a burden for the magnitude of spiritual needs in New England but with great optimism for what God is establishing through the current church plants and the partnerships He is allowing us to establish!”
Gerald Hunt, a mission leader from Cedar Grove Church in Hartwell, said, “This trip has opened a door for our church to reach out to people that we really had no idea needed help.”
Zach Watson, pastor of Mt Carmel in Lula said, “I’m simply in awe of the opportunity given to us on the mission field known as the New England states. The place where our nation was rooted and grounded in Christian belief and values is operating in spiritual ruin due to the results of a slow drift away from God. And yet, as hard as that reality is, these New England pastors are faithful men. It was so encouraging to see the resolve and determination displayed through a heart of passion for souls.”
Jerry Alcorta, pastor of New Destiny Church in Lilburn, visited Connecticut earlier in March to meet with a pastor in Torrington and with Joe Souza, who serves as the BCNE Ethnic Ministry Coordinator. He left excited to return in the summer and with plans to work with Souza in the Fall.
“I’m praying for many of our Hispanic pastors and churches to connect with pastors and churches in New England,” Jerry said.
All who attended agreed that meaningful relationships between the pastors of the partnering congregations were key. With that in mind, Duane Eller, pastor of Nails Creek, recently shared his pulpit with the pastor of their partnering church in New England. When Eller went to New England on this trip, he was invited to do the same.
In commenting on how important these reciprocal relationships are, Zach Watson said, “If I’m asked to counsel other churches on how they can get involved, most long-term positive effects are going to come through helping the pastors of these churches. Churches in our community could help and be helped by genuine friendships with New England Pastors. If a church wants to meet a financial need or a construction need, that’s a wonderful thing, but these pastors are almost completely isolated. They need a friend and sometimes the best friends come from outside our natural habitat.” And in a further statement of how significant this partnership can be for a Georgia congregation, he said, “This trip is going to make us stronger, our church stronger, and our association stronger because we’re stronger together.”
In partnering with Georgia Baptist churches, one BCNE Regional Coordinator saw the opportunity for a New England church to get a “shot in the arm” that shows what God can do in a struggling church. Another expressed the great need for church plants and church revitalization across New England and pointedly said to not overlook the places and churches outside the cities. From more than one leader, the Georgia pastors were told that when a team serves with a church in New England by taking on support tasks like cooking and serving food, it frees the pastor and members of that church to engage their community in gospel conversations. BCNE regional coordinators described a diverse region where 36 percent of the residents of the Greater Boston Area, for instance, were not born in the US. They asked for help reaching the world that is coming to New England for work and education and commission them as long-term missionaries in their ethnic communities and to their home countries.
As they traveled throughout New England, the teams from Georgia made it a point to bless the pastors they met. Some of the prayer requests they heard:
- a pastor’s son who needs to be encouraged in his faith
- favor as a church reaches out to the neighboring apartment complex
- “God-sized” building needs
- life in communities remote from other evangelical churches
- ways to reconnect with a community that is often antagonistic toward the church
- fellowship with other pastors and health for families and members
- effectiveness in the Lord
- men in the community to follow Jesus
And still more trips are scheduled to take place. By June 2021, at least 16 congregations and three associations will have traveled to the New England states to investigate mission partnerships. Prayerfully by the end of the summer, that number will rise to at least 25 congregations from the Northeast Region of Georgia who will have gone on mission as a part of this cooperative effort between the BCNE and the GBMB.
Keith Ivey, who serves as the GBMB missions consultant for Northeast Georgia, and Steve Ferguson, associational mission strategist for the Hebron Association and the Northeast region Virtual Strategy Coordinator for Massachusetts, came back with lists of additional partnership opportunities with churches throughout New England. Steve is already making plans to go back on a prayer walking trip and has presented one of the needs he witnessed to a congregation in his association. Keith is contacting Northeast Georgia churches about opportunities that they could consider and scheduled conversations with more in upcoming weeks.
Boston Area Regional Coordinator Sam Taylor, who organized the visit with his regional counterparts, summed up well the sentiment of both the BCNE and the GBMB, when he said that he did not want this partnership to be “clouds without rain” – activity and promise but producing no real fruit from churches engaging with one another in gospel partnerships. If this trip and the promised engagements of GBMB and BCNE churches are indicators, the outlook is promising.