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‘Remnant’ churches looking for those with a vision

Members of Grace Bible Church handed out Bibles, hot dogs, tracts and ice cream at the July 4th parade in Moscow, Vt. Photo courtesy of Gerald Hunt.

MOSCOW, Vermont (BP) — The last 20 months in a new location and different ministry context have made several things clear to Gerald Hunt, associate pastor at Grace Bible Church.

He knew ministry would be different when he and his family moved to Vermont in November 2021. But since then, it has become apparent how many churches function as a remnant of biblical orthodoxy in a state identified as one of the most liberal in the country. What’s more, he sees the need for others from afar to join the work either on a short-term basis or consider, as he did, moving there altogether.

It becomes a matter of strength being shown not necessarily through size.

“We’re small in number, but there is no gray area for followers of Christ here,” he said. “Believers are strong about their faith and strong about the Word. They’re not backing down from the culture and not the kind to ride the fence.”

Hunt, his wife, Susan, and their seven children moved from Georgia to live in the parsonage of Grace Bible Church. In addition to being associate pastor, Hunt has filled several pulpits throughout the area. He has also earned part-time work through skills such as replacing brakes and rotors that wear out from the salt-treated roads in the long, brutal Vermont winters.

Susan continued in her job through a clothing company but is set to become vice principal for elementary education at a Christian school their children attend. Her husband has been hired to help repaint the classrooms.

Such work is an example of how mission teams can join in strengthening churches in his state, said Hunt.

There is also the option of a vision trip, like the one he took before moving there. Such a trip doesn’t have to lead to his decision, of course.

“There are different ways to help out,” he said. “One is with the construction teams, and that’s good. There’s a time and place for that.”

There are also groups that can help care for and re-energize Vermont pastors, Hunt added.

“This past week we had a mission team up from Unity Baptist Association in east Texas join us in New Hampshire for a retreat. It was a rustic area, and they cooked all the meals and had VBS breakout sessions for our kids.

Jacob Tyler, taking the photo, and fellow Navy ensign Blake Rowland, in black jacket, joined Gerald Hunt, in back, and a friend for street evangelism in Burlington, Vt.

“We need people like that,” he said.

The Baptist Churches of New England (BCNE) rented out the space for the pastors and their families. Hunt has joined others in treasuring those times as well as the weekly pastor gatherings held in different regions of the state.

“Other pastors, even some who aren’t Southern Baptist but identify with our beliefs, join in,” said Hunt. “It’s about fellowship and networking together to get the Gospel to everybody.”

Russ Rathier, pastor at Grace Bible Church, leads in facilitating those gatherings through his role as BCNE’s Vermont Regional coordinator.

Filling pulpits has put him in a few of other denominations. Typically, they closely align with the SBC. But in one case he was invited by a member of a church with attendance in the single digits, a more liberal bent and heading quickly in that direction.

The member was concerned and expected Hunt would deliver a Gospel-centered message to steer the church in a more orthodox direction. Hunt upheld his end but wasn’t invited back.

Grace Bible Church, by contrast, has grown to 40-50 in attendance. It has a small parking lot, so members park across the road in a rec field to hold those spaces for visitors.

Such self-sacrifice is needed to reach an area where many have no generational exposure to the Gospel.

“People aren’t begging to come to Vermont to take pulpits,” said Hunt, who has no plans to move. “Financially, you’re going to struggle. You’re a remnant church, so you’re going to be kind of an outcast. But we need people who will live their lives here.”