If you’re a fan of Twitter (as I am), you’ll know that Jared C. Wilson is one of the great “follows.” He’s alternatively funny, serious, and poignant. Jared is a prolific writer, church planter, and conference speaker. He blogs regularly at his blog, The Gospel-Driven Life and at his group blog for writers, Thinklings. He’s currently the pastor of Middletown Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont as well as the author of Your Jesus is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness. Jared was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five:
You’re a guy from Texas pastoring a church in Vermont. You talk often about the challenges of doing ministry in what most would describe as a less-evangelized area of the country. What’s the toughest part of about ministry in New England?
The toughest part is relearning how to bring the gospel to a field that is biblically and ecclesiologically illiterate. The Bible Belt is rapidly approaching this point, and biblical illiteracy is actually a problem throughout evangelicalism in every part of the nation, but in New England there is already a generation or two that has *no* church background or exposure to the Scriptures. We have to start from scratch very often.
Just as an example of the difference: In the Bible Belt, very often Easter and Christmas are huge attendance days. People who don’t go to church the rest of the year feel compelled to attend on these holidays. They often have some church background, went as a kid, or are even members somewhere from way back. This doesn’t really exist in many parts of New England. A few people may be more inclined to accept an invitation to church near these holidays — Christmas more than Easter — but there is no huge attendance bump. There is no nostalgia factor. So we are dealing with a real mission field, where the message is a foreign concept.
On top of that we have the added difficulty that while most people have no knowledge of the gospel or the Scriptures, they have an image of evangelicals as bigoted, intolerant, unintelligent fuddy-duddies. There is no commonly accepted cultural Christianity like in the South, for instance. So the illiteracy matched with the ideological hostility is a hurdle. But the gospel shared from a loving heart is a great jumper.