We have just concluded the first leg of our NE Church Planting Trip here in Providence, RI. Even within the first three days of this trip, God has really revealed a lot to us in how great a need there is here in the Northeast. It is estimated that New England is only 1.6% evangelical. The IMB classifies any group under 2% evangelical as an unreached people group. That means the Northeast in and of itself is an unreached people group and there is a huge need for a greater Gospel witness, through the planting of churches in this area.
Over the course of these few days we have met with local church planters, discussing the demographics of the city and what it takes to plant a church in Providence. The city is very young, with the average age being 34. The area is dominated by five colleges – Brown University, Johnson & Wales, Providence College, RI School of Design and Rhode Island College, bringing 40,000 college students to the city of Providence in any given year. So it is important that in the planting of churches here in Providence, the reach not only extends to the greater population, but has a close tie in to these campuses. Each of the CPers we met with told us that it takes anywhere from 5-10 years to see a church plant really begin to see fruit and take huge strides in effective Gospel witness. The buy-in is huge not only from the perspective of the church planter and team, but also from the sending church. We, as a body at UBC, must be fully committed and on board to seeing a church be planted, take root and bear fruit in whatever city God leads us towards, but to know that this won’t happen overnight. Church planting is a marathon not a sprint.
In addition to hearing the in’s and out’s of church planting in Providence, we also surveyed and prayer walked Providence College, Johnson and Wales, Brown University and the Down City area. Through these surveys it only became clearer how hard the soil is here. Many in and around these universities and in the heart of downtown are agnostic and have no understanding to the things of God. While in a sense this may seembleak, it can be good in that you are starting from a clean slate. Glimmers of light are beginning to shine forth, though, as there are already five evangelical churches that have been planted over the last 3-7 years, that are reaching various areas throughout Providence. It seems like God is beginning to reclaim this area, and use Providence to be a city on a hill.
Onto New Haven and Hartford . . .
Written by Ryan Martin