People often ask me how I ended up in New England. After I start the story explaining that it was to be a youth pastor at a church, the conversation either ends quickly or they want to know more. So, since I’ve not really put this in written form that much, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a bit today, especially in light of a recent Barna Group study on “The Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities in the U.S. in 2014.”

Just over six years ago, I packed up nearly everything I owned and moved halfway across the country to start a new ministry in a new church. This story starts earlier than that, though. God first opened my heart to the possibility of ministry in New England back in 2002, when I took my first mission trip to Massachusetts. After that experience, I eagerly signed up for two more, doing ministry in both Mass and New Hampshire. So, when I heard that a few churches were looking for youth ministers a few years later, I began praying, in order to see if that’s something God wanted me to do.

When people ask us where we live, like most people, we often point to a couple landmarks. In terms of describing the location of our city, our explanation often starts like this: “We are basically right in between Boston and Manchester. You can get to the center of either city in about a half-hour.” When people speak of this area, they often group Boston and Manchester together. In fact, when people refer to the Greater-Boston area, it also includes cities like Worcester, MA, and Providence, RI. Together, Greater-Boston contains approximately 4.6 million people (via 2010 census).

Last year, the Barna Group did a study on the most and least Bible-minded cities in America. They took a hard look at the top 96 metropolitan areas of the United States, and after looking at the evidence, ranked them, based on their “Bible-mindedness.” (For more details on how they come to those conclusions, please check out barna.org.) Today, I ran across their 2014 study that I mentioned above, which does the same thing as last year’s study, but with 100 metro areas. I thought I would share some of the results with you, as to explain a bit of why I am currently living and doing ministry in New England.

Image via Barna Group, 2014 study.

The 2014 study looked at 100 metro areas. Providence was at the bottom with number 100 (9% of the population is considered Bible-minded), but right above it, at 98 (with a 15% Bible-minded population), is Boston/Manchester. The 2013 study showed that, out of 96 cities, Providence was ranked last, at 96th, and Boston/Manchester was 91. There are also several other New England cities that are near the very bottom of both lists. Yep, that’s right. I live and do ministry right in, arguably, the least Bible-minded area of the country. Let’s take it back a bit more. Their study on the most post-Christian cities, from a couple years ago, shows Providence at number 4, Boston/Manchester in 7th place, and again, several other New England cities at the top. If these studies are to be believed, and I think they are, based on my personal experience, then there is a great need for God in New England.

So, why do I do what I do? Why did I move halfway across the country, away from my family and many friends? Because there are people in New England who need to know the loving grace of Jesus Christ. That is not to say other areas, like Chattanooga, TN, and Birmingham, AL, do not need Jesus. What it does say is that people have already been doing a great job sharing the Gospel in those areas. Praise God for them! But as you say your prayers, I would ask that you keep those of us, who are serving in some of these other areas in your prayers. Pray that God will break through the darkness and radically change hearts. Perhaps, in a future Barna study, we will see the numbers drastically changing, where there is no least anymore, but instead all cities are known as Bible-minded. Wouldn’t that be awesome!

I encourage you to read the studies I referenced. They can be quite eye-opening, especially if you have never read or heard anything about statistics like this.

 

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2 thoughts on “Why I Live and Serve in New England

  1. Hey Steve, really dig this post. One of the things I think is interesting is that the churches in the areas Barna identifies [the study really seems to be measuring how “evangelical” people are, not just Christian] really seem to use this stuff as a rally cry. Like, it’s almost like people see the info graphics and are like “I TOLD YOU SO!”

    I think one reality we all have to deal with in the church reaching less and less of the population is not just looking at that as “oh, how do we get people into church?” But more… how do we get church people out of churches and into the ministry of their daily lives?

    I so often hear people use these studies as a way to try to get more people into church, as if going to church was the point of our faith! How about we recognize that 90% of the population is aware of church and isn’t going to go to a traditional worship service and just focus on reaching people with the Good News with no prerequisite that they ever have to go to a room that stares at a band and listens to a dude talk for 30 minutes. :)

    1. Thanks! I wholeheartedly agree. That’s one of the reasons our church tries hard to get into the community and show that God is relevant to people’s lives today. It’s not just about going to a building for an hour a week. It’s about a whole live change brought on by the power and love of God, working through His people — being the church, not just going to church.

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