United Baptist Church of Concord strengthens their relationship with a Foursquare congregation
When Baptists and Pentecostals come together, God only knows what can happen!
In fact, in Concord, NH that seems to be the point.
Three years ago, a group from the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was seeking to plant a new congregation in Concord. They didn’t want to build on the outskirts of Concord, where property is cheaper and more easily available. Instead, Restoration Foursquare Church (RFC) was focused on serving and loving downtown Concord.
Enter United Baptist Church (UBC) – an ABC congregation since the early part of the 20th Century. UBC is a modestly sized congregation with a very special asset – a downtown church building. Not long after accepting the call to serve UBC in early 2014, Pastor Denis realized that this should be leveraged for the kingdom of God. He began networking with a local pastors’ prayer group, talking with social services agencies, keeping his ears open for opportunities, and issuing invitations whenever he could.
Kevin Twombly, pastor of RFC, shared the church’s need for a place to worship at one of the meetings of Capital Pastors Prayer Group. He and Pastor Denis began talking, and pretty soon RFC had a place to worship. For the last three years RFC has held their worship at 4:00 in the afternoon on Sundays.
“RFC has been a great roommate,” says Pastor Denis. “It seems counter-intuitive. You would expect more wear and tear, but in fact they have actually made improvements to the building.”
But 3 years of meeting on Sunday afternoons was wearing a bit on the Foursquare congregation.
“We came in thinking that meeting in the afternoon would just be a temporary thing until we found our own space,” says Pastor Twombly. “but it turns out, temporary can be longer than we expected. Sunday afternoon creates a lot of conflict. Family get togethers, football season, summer heat. We lost some significant families just because of that issue.”
So Kevin once again asked Pastor Dave if UBC could help. This time by making space for UBC on Sunday mornings. It was not an easy sell at first. Pastor Dave put him off for almost a year.
“I didn’t think my congregation would go for it at all. RFC is three times the size of UBC, half the age, and about 10 times the energy. I thought people would fear getting overwhelmed.”
But when he did bring it up to his Deacon board last July, they said they would be willing to talk about it. At a meeting with Pastor Twombly in August things took a dramatic turn.
Pastor Dave recalls, “It wasn’t more than a half an hour into the conversation with the Deacons, when the conversation turned from ‘should we do this?’ to ‘how are we going to do this?’ It was amazing.”
They worked out the basic plan – scheduling, logistics, equipment, and especially messaging. The critical point was the need for UBC to move their worship time from 10:30 to 11:00 am to make space for the transition between the two congregations.
UBC leadership took pains to bring important stakeholders into the conversation, committing to talk personally to each individual and family in the worshipping congregation. There was public discussion a special business meeting to invite the whole church family to vote, not just the members – because the decision would affect the whole congregation.
At the special meeting, there were a few people who expressed disapproval. Many more spoke of UBC’s desire to be generous and hospitable. An even more significant them was their sense of partnership in the gospel with RFC. By supporting RFC as they baptize new believers and make disciples, UBC sees themselves as participating in evangelistic ministry through their building.
UBC decided overwhelmingly to move their service back a half hour. The new worship schedule starts on December 1.
Pastor Twombly summed it up, “It is an incredible blessing to partner together with UBC to see he Kingdom expand in this city and beyond. To think that a Pentecostal congregation could engage in a Kingdom-focused ministry partnership with a Baptist congregation is something that I believe blesses God‘s heart and makes Jesus smile.”
Grace River Church in Claremont NH is looking for a home for 30 of the burgundy hymnals "Sing to the Lord". If you are interested, please contact the church directly: firstname.lastname@example.org or 603.542.2344.
This winter, Gordon-Conwell is offering the course Old Testament Survey (OT 500) at CenterPoint Church in Concord, NH in two, two-day seminars (Jan. 31-Feb. 1 & March 6-7). Masterfully taught by our own well-beloved Dr. Carol Kaminski, the course is a systematic introduction to history, literature and thought of the Old Testament as reflected in its major divisions and individual books. This is one of several courses Gordon-Conwell will offer off-campus, providing seminary-level education in the local church and equipping pastors and lay leaders to delve deep into learning and enrich their ministry. Invite friends from your church to experience the Old Testament anew!
There are three ways to participate:
Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement.
On October 26, 2019 thirty-five pastors and church leaders gathered in Salem NH for the second annual Kindle the Fire Conference (KTF). KTF exists to provide tools, training, and support for church leaders working to bring new life to old churches. Those who attended were not disappointed.
The theme of this year’s conference was Big Gospel in Small Places. The keynote speaker was Steve Witmer PhD, pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell MA, and author of a book by the same name. Steve is also the co-creator of Small Town Summits, small, local, affordable gatherings of church leaders that provide support, training, encouragement, and connection for New England churches in the small places of New England.
Steve started by explaining his purpose: to bring encouragement to those laboring for the gospel in small places. Many conferences are designed for large numbers of people serving in large places with large amounts of instruction. “Yet, we need encouragement as much as we need instruction, don’t we?” said Witmer.
New England is full of communities that are largely unknown, and that lack economic or cultural influence. Churches in these places are often unloved, undervalued, and overlooked by the religious trends, and yet those who labor in these places need to be reminded of how God sees these churches, how God values these churches, and consider how the gospel shapes both the content and the contours of ministry in these churches.
By way of encouragement, Witmer referenced the writings of some well-known pastors, recent and not so recent. These include John Berridge, Henry Venn, Tom Carson, and George Hebert. All of these men were known for their pastoral hearts and intentionally humble mission. In the case of George Herbert in particular, he turned his back on more prestigious positions to labor in relative obscurity, faithfully shepherding a small congregation in an out of the way English village. His reflections on this experience are now some of the most beloved poetry of the English language.
The thoughts these men left behind highlight our temptation to dissatisfaction with the smallness of our ministry. We seem to grasp the value of crossing oceans to minister to small groups of people in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, we somehow think less of ministering to small groups of people on this side of the ocean.
A key to being effective in Small Place Ministry, Witmer said, is to first intentionally see people we know will not be able to give back – people who are “dead ends for grace.” Then we must stick with it, because we cannot predict how the gospel works. Sometimes it works fast, but more often it works slowly. We ought not second guess God by thinking that what he does slowly, on a small scale, in ways almost unnoticed, are any less important or worthy than when he move quickly on a large scale. Slow and small may not be better, but we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that they are worse.
This is why we need to reframe the way we view numerical growth. We need to learn to want it more, but also to need it less. Work for it, but don’t rely on growth to give us a sense of success in our work.
Finally, Witmer gave 4 ways to live within the small circle of the small places to which we have been called. Be a listening church, be a serving church, be a celebrating church, and be a proclaiming church.
Those who attended found the day greatly encouraging. Witmer is an engaging speaker who labors alongside us in New England. He gets our New England culture. He gets our context in ways that people from other regions often miss. His presentation brought stout and nourishing fare to hearts hungry for refreshment. Be sure to register for our next Kindle the Fire event in the spring. You won’t be disappointed.
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