By Justin H. Terrell
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Dandridge
What if I told you that you could take the gospel to the nations without leaving your own country? For many churches, the idea of international mission work without international travel seems inconceivable. But what if the nations traveled to you? This concept may seem doubtful, but it has become a reality in Greater Boston, New England’s largest metropolitan area, where a spiritual awakening is taking place among the region’s many ethnic communities. This past May, I had the privilege of traveling with others from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to catch a glimpse of God’s work in New England — and we left inspired to join in partnership.
Boston is known for its rich colonial history, elite universities, and high-tech global companies, but in the past century it has also become a melting pot of various ethnic groups from all over the world. The influx of immigrants from places like Western Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean have literally brought the nations to New England. While many of these internationals arrive seeking a world-class education or better employment, they are unknowingly being positioned by God to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Among those reaching these communities are ethnic church planters, many of which have migrated to New England in recent years. After coming to Boston from such distant places as Haiti, Brazil, Nepal, and the Philippines, they are using their ethnic backgrounds as a means of overcoming cultural divides, allowing them to engage other internationals with the gospel. Since their arrival, God has given many of them great success, as baptisms have hit records three times in the last four years and churches are experiencing growth. However, in an area where it is estimated that 96 percent of the population does not follow Christ as Lord, they are merely scratching the surface of this massive field of harvest.
During our time in Boston, we were able to sit down with a number of these ethnic pastors. We listened to their stories, learned about their struggles, and heard their strategies for ministry. Many of these church planters are underserved and financially burdened. They have meager facilities, limited resources, and insufficient ministry budgets. Consider Prayas Pun, lead pastor of Global Mission Church Boston, a church plant in the highly academic suburb of Cambridge. Prayas and his wife Pramila have lived in the Boston area for a number of years after moving from Nepal. Their aim is to “reach Nepali ethnic people in greater Boston and beyond.” As they minister among Nepali students from Harvard and MIT, they are personally funding much of their own ministry due to a lack of financial support. Other pastors face a shortage of ministry volunteers to assist with community outreach projects, such as sports and music camps. Some struggle to find adequate spaces to meet for worship. A few pastors lack needed theological education, training, and study tools. The ministry needs are immense.
Even though Boston is a NAMB Send City, many of these smaller church plants are unable to gain the ministry momentum needed to reach the “established” classification, which opens the door for greater resources and support. Even with the strong leadership efforts of the Greater Boston Baptist Association and the Baptist Convention of New England, these church planters still need additional support to reach their neighbors for Christ. This is where we come in as Tennessee Baptists. Christ has called us to take the gospel to the nations, and one way that we can be obedient to the Great Commission is to help reach the ethnic groups of New England through partnership. To be a partner means to connect with one or more of these churches and commit to support them in whatever ministry needs they have. Partnership always includes prayer and words of encouragement, but it usually involves visiting these churches, serving alongside them in ministry, and providing support to alleviate difficulty. Partnership also means allowing these churches to bless your church in return.
As many of these international residents will eventually move back to their countries of origin, imagine the impact they could make in their home nations, among family and friends, if we could reach them with the gospel while here. By partnering with these churches in New England, your church can make an international impact for Christ without crossing international borders. Consider joining us by taking the gospel to the nations through New England.