STONEHAM, Mass.—“Over the past year I have observed that many people here have never met someone that genuinely follows Jesus. People need to see what it looks like to love Jesus while at work, raising children and navigating life’s challenges,” said Steve Brown, a church planter in Stoneham, Mass.
Since July 2012, Steve Brown and his wife Merri have been quietly laboring to plant Wellspring Church and share the gospel in the town 10 miles north of downtown Boston.
The work is challenging as the Browns face the prevailing culture of New England. “It is standing for the truth among the very religious and the very liberal and sharing the truth in a loving way and not getting discouraged when people disagree.”
The culture shifted slightly following the Boston Marathon bombing in April, opening new opportunities to engage people.
“When a tragedy like this occurs it causes everyone to ask those hard questions about good and evil in our world,” Brown said. “This has resulted in many people being open to talk and discuss their viewpoints. It has provided us a great opportunity to share a Christian worldview and what it looks like to have hope in Jesus.”
But even though the bombings have opened some doors to witness, it has also stirred up an intense focus on human strength, unity and perseverance instead of a reliance on God. “You have likely heard the phrase, ‘Boston Strong.’ Our prayer is for people to realize that true healing and strength can only be found in Jesus.”
Sharing the hope of Jesus motivated the Browns to uproot their lives, leaving Grand Prairie to plant Wellspring Church. Through NAMB and the Baptist Convention of New England, Brown serves as a bi-vocational church planter in the traditionally Catholic area. He works a 30-hour job each week and then spends the remainder of his time making connections in the community and developing evangelistic outreach efforts as he works to build a foundation for the church with the hope of beginning services in the spring of 2014.
The foundation is being laid with two Bible studies. One Bible study meets in Brown’s home.
“These are the people immediately around us,” Brown said. “One couple lives on the third floor of our building; another my wife met at the library’s kids’ craft day and another was a contact from one of our first community outreach events.”
A second Bible study includes Brown’s co-workers and meets at a coffee shop down the street from his place of employment.
“As I got to know people at work, I asked God to help me guide our conversations into spiritual matters. After four to five months, I began asking if anyone was interested in meeting for Bible study,” Brown recalled. “The first time we made arrangements to meet, nobody came. In praying about it, I felt the burden to persevere and the second time, two guys showed up.”
In addition to Bible studies, the Browns are busy looking for outreach opportunities in the community. “God blessed us with an opportunity through a relationship with a local pizza shop owner. I met him on one of my trips to Stoneham about four months before we moved. Our family became regulars at his shop and got to know him fairly well.”
The Browns shared their calling with the shop owner and he offered his business for anything related to the ministry. Out of this, a periodic “Family Night” outreach was born. “All of the families in our home Bible study have participated in at least one of our Family Night events.”
As the foundation building for Wellspring church continues, the Browns welcome help from churches and individuals to further their ministry. As part of the NAMB Send North America initiative, the Browns benefit from giving through the Cooperative Program.
“The CP funds a portion of our family budget, covered ministry expenses for our first Family Night, provides evangelism resources and sponsors family support fellowships within the church planting network,” Brown explained.
Another way to be involved in Brown’s ministry is to sign up to follow his blog at john414journey.com. “The blog is a great tool to make our ministry a part of your Sunday School, small group or family prayer time.”
Volunteers can also move to Stoneham and join the work, Brown said. “I’m not talking about leading a church plant but moving to live, work and worship in a community as part of a church plant.
Consider this, if you have attended a Bible-teaching church and have been committed to a Sunday School class or small group for several years, you have been exposed to more discipleship than most people in areas where church planting is taking place,” Brown said.
Although the work is hard, Brown seems focused and confident.
“It is having the faith to know that out of this culture that is so far removed from God, he will raise up his church. He alone has the power to take people from it, transform their lives and equip them to carry out the work of his kingdom.”