Church Planting In New England
15 MONTHS AGO I MOVED ACROSS THE COUNTRY!
My name is Rhett and fifteen months ago I moved across the country to help plant a church in New England, Merrimack New Hampshire, to be specific. Since my wife, Elisa, and I moved here in September 7th, 2017 we’ve been getting used to the different blessings and challenges of living in New England. There are so many things I love about living here, but there’s so much that I’m still getting used to.
For example, literally no one cares about college football up here. I have a theory that they fill the void with hockey but I haven’t learned about hockey enough to confirm my hunch. Also, WHITE QUESO, SWEET TEA, and A GOOD BBQ, basically don’t exist here!
So, if you know how to ship any of these things, the address is 114 Amherts Rd., Merrimack, NH 03054. Thanks! But maybe the biggest adjustment has been getting used to how dark it is in New England. It’s not just that sunset was at 4:15 today, but it’s the spiritual darkness of living somewhere that doesn’t know Jesus.
In Oklahoma, 80% of the population identifies as Christian. I now live in New Hampshire where 75% of the population identifies as non-religious and of the remaining 25%, only 3% are actively following Jesus. That means, statistically speaking, I must assume that I am the only person who knows the love of Jesus every time I go to the grocery store, the barber shop, or the drug store. New England is the most un-churched and de-churched region in the United States and because of that following Jesus does look a lot different, both as an individual and as a church community.
As a community it means we’re all in this together because to be a part of the church is a sacrifice in and of itself. We live in a culture where if you tell someone that you go to church instead of, “Oh that’s good,” they’re more likely to ask “Why would you do that?” There are many people at Movement who have chosen to follow Jesus even when their friends and family won’t, even when it makes those relationships harder. We’re all the “super religious” one at the office. Three of us on staff also coach soccer, and last fall I’m pretty sure the families in the soccer program thought that we were in a cult for at least the first couple months. Some still might. But it has caused us all to lean on our community and has brought us closer as a result. Movement has in many ways become our family and they’ve taken good care of us since before we even got here! I’m serious! There was a group of about 20 people who came out to greet us as we arrived in our U-haul and they had the entire truck unloaded in 14 minutes! We were made a part of the family immediately, and I am thankful everyday that God has given us so many dear friends to walk through life with.
As an individual, living in New England has been a constant reminder that our Gospel is powerful. For me, almost everything in my life has changed in the last several months except the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Growing up, I was afraid to talk about my faith and share it with people. I always felt scared that if I didn’t do it right, whoever I spoke to might give up on Jesus forever, so I actually made a point to avoid those conversations. It was only after I moved here that I was kind of forced to face that fear of talking to non-Christians about my faith, and God has over and over again made it clear that I don’t need to attract people to the Gospel; it does that on it’s own. The truth that I have learned and that I hope I can encourage you with today is this: the Gospel is the goods of the universe. Over and over I see people’s reaction to it, and I realize that we all truly long for the truth. We all want the love of Jesus. We all know that we’re not enough, that the world is not enough. I’ve been lucky to have those awkward conversations. In fact, so often I feel like all God wanted me to do was show up, be there with people and let Him do His work.
Our God is ALIVE! I see Him moving in my town and I praise Him for it!
The area code for New Hampshire is 603, and at Movement we all pray the same prayer every day at 6:03- “God move me closer to someone who needs to move closer to you,” and that simple prayer has let God open my heart, let me have some incredible conversations, and even made me some good friends. I would ask that if you would, set your phone to 6:03 AM and/or PM and pray for God to keep moving in big ways up here in New England, and if you’re ready for God to move in your life and community, maybe set your phone 9:18 AM and/or PM and ask Jesus to move you closer to someone who needs to move closer to Him!
Now to him who lights up the dark, turns strangers into family, and writes life’s greatest stories be all praise and glory forever, amen!
Movement Christian Church
Married to Elisa Johnson
Living in Merrimack, New Hampshire