Look on the Fields: The Gospel in New England

The six New England states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire have a very rich history in the establishing of this nation. This history is not limited to politics, but also includes early gospel work. Historical figures from New England such as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock have great significance to students of history, and similarly, names such as Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, David Brainerd, and George Whitefield mean much to anyone interested in the spread of the gospel. These gospel preachers from long ago all spent much of their time laboring in New England.

Assembly work began in New England over 125 years ago, and by the hand of God, continues to this day. Some assemblies were started as a result of gospel work, others began when spiritually-minded believers left various denominations with a desire to gather to the Name and Person of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. Many of the early assembly members were immigrants from Britain; others were saved in this country as a result of gospel work, notably among Italian immigrants. Currently, at least fifteen assemblies, located in five of the six New England states, all enjoy a very strong degree of fellowship together. Larger assemblies provide critical help to smaller assemblies in gospel outreach, and smaller assemblies support larger assemblies at conferences, ministry, and gospel meetings. Only the Lord knows the pleasure He finds in this.

The southern New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island represent the second, third, and fourth most densely populated states in the country, following New Jersey. These states have a large metropolitan area, and are the northern end of the “megalopolis” that extends from Boston south to Washington, D.C. By contrast, the northern areas are sparsely populated and in parts are quite rural.

There have been many waves of immigration to New England over the years, and at this point in national history, there is wide representation from many different and diverse ethnic groups. In recent years, large numbers of Russian-speaking immigrants have relocated to parts of New England. Most of these, it seems, come to this country with the sponsorship of an area church, and are content to stay close to those they identify with culturally. Experience with this group of immigrants indicates that they seem to have a genuine love for the Lord Jesus, and are likely true believers. There is a well-established Hispanic community throughout the area that seems to have an ear for the gospel. Many assemblies have an ongoing work, especially with children, in these neighborhoods. The greatest barrier to reaching both these ethnic groups with the gospel is the language barrier. May God raise up men and women that can be useful in this area of the vineyard!

Despite our advantages, assembly gospel work in New England faces what can best be described as multi-factorial challenges. There is no doubt that the average person living in New England today is far less interested in “Words of Life” than when Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” on July 8, 1741, in Enfield, CT. Liberalism, materialism, and all the other dangerous “isms” have become deeply rooted in New England culture, perhaps more so than in other places. Legislation has been passed in our home state of Massachusetts that opens the door to further wickedness, and any scripturally based opposition is loudly opposed, even from many religious leaders. Furthermore, the high cost of living means long hours in the workplace and many just “don’t have time,” or are too consumed by other things to consider eternal matters. In addition, assemblies have gotten smaller. This sobering reality should not be understated. It is a critical reality that older brethren and sisters are being called home much faster than others are being brought into the fold. There is a dire need for strong, spiritually-minded believers to be active in the furtherance of the gospel. It seems a matter of common sense that God will be active where His people are active. As there are no commended workers currently residing in New England, area Christians must bear the burden themselves, something that is true whether there are full-time workers or not! While activity is good, more than activity is needed. A genuine, fervent, prayerful laying hold upon God to manifest Himself in saving power is needed. D.L. Moody has written: “We cannot and need not hope ever to understand it (redemption) unless we clearly realize one absolute necessity: that of Divine intervention on behalf of man.”

We have confidence that God is still interested in New England. Last summer there was fruit in the gospel in Maine during a tent series. Recently, there were several saved in Connecticut during an extended gospel series, all personal contacts or outside Sunday School students. Another assembly in Massachusetts has seen souls won for Christ through gospel work in a rehabilitation center, and yet another assembly has seen young converts from the area of their hall. There was good interest, though none saved, after another assembly had a booth at a large fair, distributing tens of thousands of gospel texts. These are all examples of the selfless activity of the saints and the almighty hand of God.

The Lord of the Harvest can reveal what methods will be useful to Him in the time that remains; we need only ask and listen. It may be through text distribution at a fair, affording a good opportunity to speak with the recipient in a non-threatening, non-invasive environment, or it may be through inner-city children’s work, reaching children and families. Perhaps renting a storefront in a busy community with local brethren presenting the gospel nightly will win souls, or maybe a mother presenting the Word of God to a neighbor. There is precious little time left; please pray for the work of the Lord in New England. You are welcome to come and help!