Is New England the new “American missional frontier?” Vermont pastor Jared Wilson thinks so. He writes about it in a recent post on the Resurgence. Wilson points to statistics showing that the Northeastern U.S. is the least churched region in the country, and that existing churches are not thriving. “New Englanders have little desire for anything to do with Christianity or church,” he writes. “Even those who have it have little opportunity to explore it.”
I agree with Jared. And my friend David Phillips. We need to focus more attention and resources on church planting efforts in New England. For too long, the Northeast has been neglected.
I’m fascinated by how familiar Jared’s post sounds, so similar to posts I wrote here while I was in Western Europe. More and more, there are places like Europe and New England that have returned from Christian influence to the status of “unreached.” This isn’t a case of “my people group is loster than yours,” it’s a heartfelt call to action by someone who God has called to service.
To be sure, chasing the least-reached regions of the United States is like trying to put out flareups after a wildfire. The west coast, the southwest, the east- each are defined by their sins ans spiritual strongholds. Vegas rife with debauchery. Seattle stricken with irresponsibility. San Francisco overrun with homosexuality. Boston filled with post-Catholic angst. The Bible Belt rife with cultural Christianity and political moralism. All of these places need the freedom that is only found in Christ.
What we’re seeing is the rise of a new category of missions. Some missionaries focus on unreached people groups. But God is raising up faithful people who recognize that “reached” isn’t a permanent status. Just as the gospel comes to a people through the obedience of some, it can soon be forgotten through the disobedience of others.
Surely some would say, “New England! The birthplace of the Great Awakening? They’ve had their chance!” To them I would ask, is our task to give everyone a chance to hear, or to proclaim the gospel where it is not proclaimed and cross cultures as we’re led by the Spirit? In the present age, unreached people groups are constantly emerging.