Driving through the country of Vermont gives you a sense that you are back home in North Carolina. There are mountains similar to our own, and farmland like you would find in our Piedmont. It is a scenic place—with beautiful classic architecture, flowing rivers, and quaint villages. But, one thing you notice right away is the absence of church buildings. When you travel through our state, you see many steeples, and if the church houses are off the main road, you still observe multitudes of signs. That is scarce in Vermont. Of the beautiful old church buildings that remain, you are most likely to see a rainbow flag celebrating LGBTQ+ and the Black Lives Matter sign in front.
Vermont is a pagan place—an unreached people in America. It is the most unchurched and liberal state in the Union. Yet, we did not find the people hostile to faith. Our team members were able to share the Gospel on the plane, in the cafe, at the store, and on the sidewalk. Nobody got angry; it was just that God and the Bible were not on their radar. Spiritual matters were irrelevant.
Despite the darkness, there is a light that is shining. Jesus said He would build His church--the church militant would be the church triumphant--the gates of hell not being able to withstand the Gospel invasion. We experienced that in Vermont. Mission City Church, with campuses in Rutland and Bennington, is thriving. There is an enthusiasm for worship and an embracing of evangelism. Young people are being reached and discipled. Tim Owens is a Haywood County man--and has a passion for reaching Vermont. Mark Page, the son of Crestview's pastor, Dan Page serves alongside him.
As we think of our area, in many ways it has become post-Christian. There is still a residue of morality and some understanding of the Gospel--but cultural Christianity is basically dead. Tim described Vermont in different terms--as being pre-Christian. It is an area much like Athens--people without a concept of the Gospel, but with an open door for witness.
In between the two Sunday morning services, I was blessed to speak with Kim. She had been to Mission City Church a couple of times, obviously searching for hope. The tears flowing down her face indicated trauma in her past. She did not make a commitment to Christ at that time, but let us pray that the Spirit will draw her to the Savior! I saw a radiant, beautiful young lady get baptized, only to find out just a few weeks prior she had been enslaved to drugs. Christ set her free! The transformation gave a glorious illustration of regeneration!
How can the Baptist churches of Haywood County help the beachhead that has been established advance throughout Vermont and across New England?
Right now, a mission center is being constructed. It is a large church facility that was given to Mission City. They are remodeling it to have a chapel, housing for mission teams and hosting retreats, an office for strategic planning, and much more. What is needed is some small groups of workers from our churches willing to go and help remodel. This costs money, of course. Putting Vermont in your budget, or taking up a special offering would be helpful. You can channel this through our Association if you wish.
Tim is planning to be with us, from August 5-12. We would love to get him into some of our churches on Sunday and Wednesday night. He will speak at a men's rally on Saturday at Crestview, the pastors' conference on Monday, at the quarterly meeting of HBA on Tuesday evening, and in Fruitland Chapel on Thursday. Let’s wear him out while he is here!
Then, next year we would like to field two teams--the weeks of June 19-30. These would do a wide range of ministry--outreach, community events, backyard Bible clubs, and so forth. We would like to send larger groups for this. Start praying and planning today!
Yours for Reaching Vermont and New England,
Dennis Thurman, AMS