Back from Vermont

There may be no more urgent task facing the church in the U.S. than reaching the lost masses in the Northeast and especially in New England. The land that received the Christian pilgrims who came to escape religious persecution so they could practice their faith with vigorous devotion, that gave birth to two of the greatest movements of God (the first and second Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries), is now the most unchurched area in the United States.

Vermont is the most unchurched state in America with fewer than 2% claiming a relationship with Jesus Christ and only about 70 evangelical churches in the entire state.  This is a state with 251 towns and villages, so the majority of towns have no evangelical church in them.  Across New England we see families with no church affiliation reaching back four and five generations.  In the six states of what is classically called New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, there are about 15 million people and only about 300 Baptist churches.  If we include New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in this northeaster corridor there are about 55 million people and a great need for the gospel.

There are signs of hope.  This year in Vermont Baptists will plant 11 churches and the Northeastern Baptist College will enter their second year with close to 100 students.  Everyone we met there was friendly and there are some doors opening.  We were overwhelmed with the need and the opportunity
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What occurred to me during our visit was that this might be the home of the next Great Awakening.  It just seems that if revival came through the South there would be so many churches and Christian leaders wanting to take credit for a work of God, but that if it came through New England there would be no doubt that it would be the work of God.

So we are ready to step into the gap as far as the Lord leads.  Right now we are focused on trying to get leaders and churches involved with Northeastern Baptist College and the churches in Vermont.  Pray about being part of what God is going to do in New England.  Pray for the churches and believers who live out their faith in an area where they are a huge minority.  Pray for God to call church planters, church leaders and mission groups to go where the need is great.  Pray for the lost in New England.

Three more things about going on mission to Vermont: 1. it’s much cheaper than going overseas, 2. They speak English (mostly), 3. The culture is familiar. 🙂

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5 Things the First Day of February 2014

1. We are leaving for Vermont in just a couple of days. My Weather.com app says that the high temperature will not rise above 30 while we are there. There is no prediction of snow at this time, though it is supposed to snow the day before we get there. So yesterday Julie and I went to look for some warm clothes on sale. Our biggest problem, we live in Spring, TX. Even if the clothes are warm for south Texas, I’m not sure how much good they will do us in Vermont. Thankfully I’m pretty warm blooded anyway, I don’t mind the cold, but my poor wife may freeze to death :)_

2. I read an article this week that said that we should never put two spaces after a period when we are typing.
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html
This may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned to type on a manual typewriter when I was in ninth grade and we were taught to put two spaces after the period. Now I have learned that that is no longer correct, and probably wasn’t when I was taught. (My teacher probably just taught how she learned it and didn’t google the rule to find that it had evolved) So what do you do? I’m trying to change but this is hard. It is a natural, unthought move for me to hit the space bar twice at the end of a sentence.

3. I just finished reading Charles Krauthammer’s best seller, “Things that Matter,” and it was great. He is a terrific writer who uses language in a wonderful way to communicate. The book is a collection of his essays over the past 30 years not all of which are political. I think I enjoyed the ones about his brother or his family the most, though his political thoughts are challenging in their depth.  He closes the book with three essays on American power after the Cold War.  Each is written in a different time frame, the nineties, early 2000’s and 2009 and he gives a sound synopsis of the challenges facing us and the divergent philosophies that are put forth and implemented. If you are a political junkie you will love this book.  If you hate politics but like to read good essays, borrow the book and pick and choose some sections to read.  You will enjoy it. One more thing: as Krauthammer says early on, politics are necessary to allow us the freedom and space to pursue non-political ends.

4. Our oldest turned 22 this week. Wow! She graduates from UNT in a few months and then the next phase of life begins. I am in awe of the beautiful young woman she has become. College is often, as is true in her case, a time of great growth intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Holley has matured in multiple areas of life and it has been a joy to watch as a parent. It is often difficult to see how your child will become what you have wanted and worked for during the first 18 years of life. There are glimpses early on and you hope that those those moments become patterns.  We have seen those things in Holley. As hard as that has been at times and as radical as some of those changes have become, I also know that the next four to five years hold more growth, maturing and stretching. I look forward to all that God has in store for her as she continues to amaze us by the beauty of her life.

5. I’m picking the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Not because of intense scrutiny of the teams and a belief in the better systems and strategies of guys from Denver, but for two specific reasons. 1) Peyton Manning was my fantasy league quarterback who led my team to my third straight league championship (see how  worked that in there).  I owe him my support. 2) While Earl Thomas, a Longhorn, has become a perennial Pro Bowler playing for Seattle, there are two Longhorns playing for Denver, Quentin Jammer and Michael Huff.  It is worth noting that all of these are DB’s who played for Duane Akina.  I hope Charlie Strong didn’t mess up when he decided not to retain Akina as a coach.