On August 30 I celebrated my 61st birthday (if you forgot to send a card it’s okay.) On August 31 I got on a plane and flew to Boston, MA for the purpose of meeting some church planters and exploring the possibility of partnering with them in the work of the Gospel in the greater Boston area. It was my first trip to Boston and to the New England area in general and I found it to be much nicer than I expected. It’s quite a fascinating old city. There is so much history, being in many ways the birthplace of our nation. At the same time, it is a very modern, diverse and influential city with an abundance of stark reminders as to how easy it is to slip away from our foundation in the Gospel.
Boston is home to 39 different universities, Harvard being the premier university not only of New England but of our nation. Did you know Harvard was founded as a Christian university to primarily train men for Gospel ministry and missions? Have you heard that for this academic year they have appointed an avowed atheist to be their new chaplain? Granted, it took them a couple of hundred years to get there, but get there they did. Harvard is simply a reflection of the greater Boston area which, according to the most generous estimates is only 2% evangelical Christian. What was once the epicenter of Gospel ministry and mission in the United States now has fewer Bible believing Christians than many Muslim nations.
In the picture I’m standing in front of the building that at one time housed the First Baptist Church of Watertown. If you could enlarge the picture you would see 1899 inscribed on the memorial stone on the front of the building. That was the year the church built that beautiful building. Unfortunately, there is no longer a church meeting in that building. As far as I know there is no congregation known as First Baptist Church in Watertown. The building you see was converted several years ago into luxury condominiums. In fact, there is an entire industry in New England dedicated to finding old church properties and converting them into condos or assisted living facilities or office space.
The people who do surveys and track numbers, statistics and trends are telling us that in the South, the Bible Belt, we will be in the same place as New England or our western states in less than 30 years. Imagine a Colquitt County where only two out of every 100 people believed the Gospel and sought to live according to God’s word. We’re tempted to believe it couldn’t happen here but we need to keep in mind that New England was once the Bible Belt of our nation. Sad to say but there are plenty of indicators that the experts will be proven right. Think about your kids or your grandkids for a moment. How often do they participate in the life of the church? How many friends do they have who are actively involved in a church? How active is our own involvement in the life of the church? How often do we pray for our neighbors specifically? Invite them to church? Have a gospel conversation with them? How much time do we spend in personal devotion verses reinforcing our political viewpoint or tracking our favorite team? How generous are we with our time and our resources? Are we more concerned about the condition of the church building or the health of the body of Christ that meets there? Do our personal preferences take priority over Gospel proclamation? Here’s the main question to be asked. Does Jesus Christ and His kingdom get priority over everything else in my life? Our answers will determine whether or not the experts are right. May we hold fast the foundation we have in the Gospel of Christ!