Lessons from the New Bedford Vision Trip

Uncategorized // January 2, 2022 //

Four weeks ago, five members of our church went to New Bedford, Massachusetts for a vision trip to Grace Harbor Church (GHC). The goal of the trip was observation. What is the mission of GHC? How are they ministering to the city of New Bedford? How can Coats Baptist Church partner with GHC and their church planting ministry “Neighborhood Churches”?

It was a wonderful trip. We were able to meet some kind people, observe a gospel centered ministry, and dream about a future partnership. We are excited to share the teams experience with you in the near future.

While observing the ministry of GHC, the Lord reminded me of a few principles about a life on mission that I would like to share with you. Therefore, here are four principles about living life on mission I learned from this vision trip to our friends at GHC.


Ministry need not be complex, simply make disciples

As we were meeting with Morgan and Luke, the elders of GHC, Morgan made this simple statement, “Here at GHC, we have put all our eggs in one basket: discipleship.” When one begins to think about this, it can almost seem too simple. Discipleship? That’s not a very attractive church growth strategy. Imagine this church sign, “Come to our church! We will help you die to yourself and live for Christ!” I do not think many visitors would come off the street because of that sign.

Yet, I believe Morgan and the team at GHC are on to something. When Jesus gave what is now called “The Great Commission,” He gave one command: make disciples. These are the final marching orders of our Lord and King: make disciples. If it was not too simple for Jesus, I do not think it is too simple for us.

Often, it is easy to take our eyes off the central task of the church and place them on so many other things. We get distracted with buildings, programs, music style, and many other things. These things are not bad, but they can become bad if we let them distract us from the primary task Jesus gave the church. Therefore, lets make the main thing primary in our church. Let’s focus on making disciples like Jesus commanded us to. If we are doing that, most other things will work themselves out.


Be Intentional Where God Has Providentially Placed You

At the start of GHC, five families uprooted their lives and moved into an unfamiliar city across the country. But what did they do when they got there? They all bought homes in the same general area and began to build evangelistic relationships with their neighbors. They believed that God had providentially placed them on that street. Therefore, they were going to live intentionally where God had placed them. This was their evangelistic strategy. Their story is a beautiful mix between intentional living and belief in a providential God.

Therefore, let’s stop and define the term providence. Providence is a fancy term used to describe God’s provision for our world and his guidance of the world to accomplish his good purposes. According to this definition, God is the provider of all things. As the provider, He has given us everything we need to accomplish his good purpose.

Now think of our friends in New Bedford. God provided them with a home in a neighborhood. Therefore, God provided them with neighbors. Therefore, God provided them with a mission field. It is now their decision whether they are going to be intentional with that mission field or not.

Let’s take this same outlook and apply it to our lives. Where has God placed you? Who has God placed you around? Who do you work with? Who do you sit with on the bleachers as you watch your daughter play soft ball? Who is in your family? How can you be intentional with the people God has providentially placed in your life? I am quite certain that there is at least one person in your life that needs the hope of the gospel. I am also quite certain that there is one person in your life that needs discipled. They are not connected to you by accident. Again, how are you being intentional with the people God has providentially placed in your life?


The Tortoise Actually Does Win the Race

I am sure that all of you have heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. The moral of the story is: slow and steady wins the race. In our current culture, this is not the case at all. Amazon two-day shipping will always be better than UPS seven-day shipping. Yet, in the type of relational evangelism and discipleship mentioned above, slow and steady does win the race. Steady, consistent, faithfulness is what gains trust. Consistency gives you the influence to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the people in your life.

This makes this kind of evangelism hard work. It requires patience. It takes time. It takes effort. Missional living does not look like a daily version of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. No, it is much more akin to Philippians 2:3-4, “[3] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. [4] Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is the life all disciples of Jesus Christ are called to! We are all called to a life of making disciples. The church is not an organization that makes disciples. The church is an organized group of disciple makers.

Therefore, let’s identify those God has providentially placed in our lives and put in the hard work of helping them get one step closer to Jesus. Let’s be faithful and consistent in their lives. Let’s pray regularly for their salvation. Then, let’s rejoice together when we see those in our lives turn to Christ, because of how God has used our faithfulness. Church, this is our calling!


Jesus is Better

When we landed in Boston, a very sweet lady from the church picked us up from the airport. She was from Texas. She had lived there her entire life. She had grown children and grandchildren that still lived there. Yet, she left it all to plant a church in a cold, forgotten city in Massachusetts. When we were talking with Morgan about her story, he said something that has been ringing in my mind ever since. He said, “Yes, she has children and grandchildren back in Texas. Her entire life was back there. But she chose to pursue something better.”

In Luke 14, Jesus says, “[26] If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters ​– ​yes, and even his own life ​– ​he cannot be my disciple. [27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  [28] For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

Also, in Matthew 19, Jesus says this, “[28] Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne… [29] everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. [30] But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Living a missional life will cost you. It could cost you friends. It could cost your reputation. It could simply cost your comfortability. But in comparison, Jesus is so much better. Knowing that you are living in a way that honors Him is so much better. Knowing that you are striving to expand His kingdom is so much better. Knowing that He is with you, and you are with him in the process is so much better than anything it might cost.

Therefore, friends, let’s rise to our high calling in Christ Jesus. Let’s live missional lives for our King Jesus. If he is truly Lord and King overall, what higher endeavor could we strive for.

About Tommy Austin