BOSTON (BP) — Six Southern Baptist church plants will cohost an evangelistic Good Friday worship service in the public square of Boston, a North American Mission Board city of focus that is only about 3.2 percent evangelical Christian.
NAMB Send City church planter Jared Kirk, pastor of Boston’s Renewal Church, is spearheading the 7 p.m. March 25 outreach in Faneuil Hall, a centrally located government building, because of his passion to see the lost come to Christ.
“Good Friday [Boston] is organized in particular to help reach the lost and Faneuil Hall is a historic location in the city,” Kirk told Baptist Press. “We’re small- and medium-sized churches. We thought if we combined our resources and our prayers, that we would have a better chance of sharing the Gospel with more people in the city.”
Joining with Renewal Church are Charles River, City on a Hill, Hub City, Redeemer and Redemption churches, which together attract between 700 and 800 worshippers each Sunday. Redeemer Church, which meets in Josiah Quincy Upper School, attracts about 60 each Sunday and baptized seven adults last year, Kirk said.
“The churches that are cooperating have come from the relationships that have been formed from the Send church planters in the city,” said Kirk, noting NAMB’s Send City outreach to cities where the Gospel is not widely preached. “They’re all Send church plants.”
Supporting them is Sevier Heights Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tenn., whose missions pastor David Powell is in Boston with nine other Sevier Heights members March 22-28 to help promote the event, and serve as hospitality hosts and decision counselors for those who come to Christ.
Boston remains mostly unreached with the Gospel. Of the 4.9 million people in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton Metropolitan Statistical Area, 43 percent are unaffiliated with any church, according to 2010 numbers from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). While about 44 percent identify as Catholic, Kirk and others describe most of them as “post-Catholic.”
“They do not attend Mass. … But when they check off the box on the demographic form, they check the box ‘Catholic,'” Kirk noted.
He described them as “a generation away from checking the box that’s no religious preference or affiliation.” Among others, 4.5 percent are mainline Protestants, according to the ARDA.
To help reach the unchurched people there is why Sevier Heights Baptist Church pastor Hollie Miller is supporting Good Friday Boston.
“Those young church planters, they’re like Navy Seals,” he told BP. “It’s amazing what they do. Those guys … take their family up there and start from scratch. … A small apartment for a family up there is like $2,800 a month. It is just incredible and they’re just out there working themselves to death.”
Miller plans to coordinate four mission trips to Boston this year, with the goal of planting a church there in 2017 with the support of other congregations in the U.S. He’s excited to support evangelism in the city that has some 250,000 college students and attracts many young professionals. He’s recruiting other churches to help him plant.
“David [Powell] and I went up and just were overwhelmed with Boston and the tremendous need there,” Miller said. “The influence that Boston has on America is just amazing.”
Kirk moved his family to Boston in 2013 and planted Renewal Church with the help of City on a Hill Church, which at that time was a three-year-old Southern Baptist church plant.
“There [are] whole towns and neighborhoods that have no witness to the Gospel of any kind, not just Southern Baptist churches, but really of any kind,” Kirk said. “We wanted to start a church that would start other churches throughout the city, and just be a part of that movement.”
The 115 Southern Baptist churches in Boston amount to one congregation for every 42,919 people in the city, according to NAMB’s Send City website.
“In Boston, we have a goal of planting 100 new churches by 2020,” Kirk said. “We’ll be at the point within five or 10 years where every single city or town has a Southern Baptist church plant.”
The Good Friday outreach hit a snag early in the six-month planning phase, Kirk noted, because of a concern over the use of Faneuil Hall, a government-supported facility.
“It almost didn’t happen because City Hall was concerned about the separation of church and state. Faneuil Hall is a publicly run facility,” he said. “But the legal department of the Boston City Hall told them other religious institutions — the Hare Krishnas — have used it for instance, so they were required to let us use it. … We’re glad that God went before us and solved that problem before we knew it was a major problem.”
Church counselors will meet the Saturday morning after the Good Friday service to connect new believers with one of the participating churches, or another nearby Southern Baptist church, hopefully in time for Easter services, Kirk said.
“I’m hoping that this first year we have 400 or 500 people in attendance, but the real goal is for people to place their faith in Christ,” Kirk said. “That’s what I’m really most concerned about, not the overall number [in attendance]. I was praying this morning for 20 people to come forward to receive Christ for the first time; that would be huge for us.”