Type in the phrase “Revival in New England” in google, and see what happens… You’ll find a number of articles, some with vague optimism that a quiet revival is happening in northern New England through small churches slowly growing and conferences being put together. These articles are true to some extent. There are many small, faithful churches in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that are quietly and faithfully plodding along, making a gradual difference for the gospel. There are more significant churches in the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island area that are plowing on as well.
New England is a region of the United States that many describe as “spiritually stagnant”. The Barna group did a fascinating statistical study on America’s Most and Least Bible minded cities. Cities in the New England region made the top six least churched cities in America (if we include Albany NY, which on the border of Vermont) (http://cities.barna.org/americas-most-and-least-bible-minded-cities/). Anyone who has done ministry in New England knows that legalistic, as well as lenient Christian Church bodies make up the likely majority of what could be defined as “Protestant” worship centers in the region. Catholicism is extremely popular in New England, though it took a hit with the scandals of 2002. This sets up two broad ends of a spectrum that leaves the general culture wondering what Biblical Christianity really is.
I am proud to say that I am part of a church, or rather a “movement” that is far different from these perceived “norms” of New England religious culture. I’m talking about Next Level Church, whose main campus is in Somersworth, New Hampshire, and has two other locations in Portland, Maine, and Epping, New Hampshire. Soon more campuses will be added.
Next Level is accomplishing what I knew was possible in the least-churched region of the U.S. It is reaching people from all walks of life- addicts, people who grew up agnostic or atheist, ex-religionists, and more. It is seeing revival in a place where many have believed it wouldn’t happen. It’s Somersworth location opened on November 3rd, 2013. That weekend alone, twenty-seven people met Jesus. The next weekend, seventeen people came to know Jesus. The momentum continues to build as people with no church connection are meeting Jesus and entering into the messy, wild life of discipleship.
No doubt there will be a great amount of work cut out for the wily, courageous, extremely fun, hard-working, faithful, determined group of people that make up the staff of Next Level! Many people need to enter into deep discipleship. Many leaders need to be raised up. But Next Level is only beginning to make it’s mark on the New England region.
The charge is being led by pastor Josh Gagnon, a driven, gospel-focused, hilarious and transparent preacher, teacher and visionary. Next Level Church began as a dream in the heart of Lead Pastor Joshua Gagnon to start a church where people who were far from God would want to attend. He knew that God had called him to plant a church in New England, where less people go to church than anywhere else in our country. In spite of being told that churches couldn’t grow in New England, Joshua and his wife Jennifer believed that God wanted to transform the entire region through the love of Jesus. (http://nlc.tv/ourstory)
That vision that God put in the heart of pastor Josh has bled into the lives of a faithful staff of leaders- Executive pastor Daniel King, location pastors Roman Archer, Allen Robbins, Jud Blake, and Chris Boardman, NLCkids Director Sarah LaFrance, worship leaders Bruce Burger, and Annette Adams, and Care pastor Ed Wingren.
The worship at NLC is raw, unadulterated, sometimes reverent, sometimes raucous rock. The message of the gospel is delivered in a way that connects with the world of 2013- using media, video, creativity, and preaching that is confessional, raw, open, and more centered on application to real life than high and lofty theological exposition. Still, the theology of Next Level is centered in the scriptures. Although their approach is anything but traditional, they believe in and maintain a conservative theological position. (http://nlc.tv/ourbeliefs)
Next Level is proof that a movement of young, fired up Jesus followers can present Jesus in a way to New England culture that is engaging and life-changing. It is introducing Jesus to segments of New England culture that may have never darkened the door of a church before. Along with many other great churches in the area, NLC is making an eternal impact in an unlikely place.
So the next time you have a conversation about what God is doing in New England, you can know that the gospel is on the rise here. In the years to come, what was once the least churched region in the country will become more acquainted with the gospel.
(Below is a photo montage of the opening day of the Somersworth, NH facility on Nov. 3rd, 2013)