From the Bible Belt to Boston: How God’s Moving in New England
by Kathryn Hamilton
Do the numbers lie?
In the most recent “post-Christian” study by Barna Group, a research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture, Boston ranked 2nd among “The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017.” In fact, eight out of the top 10 are located in the Northeast, five of which are located in New England.
To qualify as “post-Christian” for Barna’s study, individuals had to meet nine or more of Barna’s 16 criteria that indicate “a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice, including, individuals who identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week.”
As I reflect on my two months interning for EGC and prepare to return home to my “Bible-Belt” town in West Texas, I find myself a bit baffled, as my experience has been far from spiritually dry and Godless.
Knowing the Lord was calling me to Boston, it was seeing numbers Barna posted in 2015 that sparked my initial interest – that Boston ranked 4th among the top dechurched cities. However, as I settled into my temporary home in Cambridge and plugged into a local church there, I was in awe of how “Christian” the Christians in the Boston area were.
Cultural Christianity is prominent in my region of Texas. You grow up “Christian,” go to church on a regular basis (or at least on Christian holidays) and hold to what you consider “good Christian morals.” You hear the Gospel preached so much that the meaning numbs and you fall prey to the comfort and ease of day-to-day life.
Let me disclaim, this is a broad generalization. I'm where I am spiritually because of devoted and loving Christian parents and mentors that demonstrated the hands and feet of Jesus. I generalize the culture of the Bible Belt to make the point that saying you’re a Christian in Texas and saying you’re a Christian in Boston can reveal starkly different fruit. Saying you’re a Christian in Boston is weighty. There is no cultural norm influencing your religious affiliation. You’re a Christian because you choose to follow and live for Jesus.
The Christian community that I have found here in Boston is unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced before. The community seen in the early church of Acts is still alive, and, from my experience, flourishing. It’s small but strong.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 has been my Boston.
Where I thought there was going to be nothing but pluralistic, moral relative doctrine, I have found sound, Gospel-oriented teaching. Where I expected to see scattered believers, I have seen great unity. Where I knew social injustices and needs to be present, I saw the church on the front lines. Where I expected to be a lone believer and disheartened by the lack of believers, I’ve been the one nurtured and influenced.
So if Boston Christian community is anything like the early church, the Lord is going to “add to their number daily” those who are being saved.
I’m sure that Barna’s numbers are accurate, and that Boston is in fact one of the most post-Christian cities in America. But as church planters who come to Boston because of that number partner with and learn from the Christian vitality already here, the fruits of both their labors are multiplying.
Seeds are being sown on good soil in Boston, and a revival is growing roots.
Are you from the Bible Belt? Do you agree? Disagree? Have a different experience? I'd love to hear from you!
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About the Author
Kathryn Hamilton is a Summer 2017 Communications BETA at EGC. She graduates in 2018 with an Advertising and Public Relations major from Abilene Christian University. Growing up in the church in Dallas and Abilene, TX, she developed a heart for missions among unreached people groups. After graduation, she plans to work in the non-profit sector or with corporate social responsibility. In Boston, she has enjoyed the diverse culture, the "T", lots and lots of J.P. Licks and, of course, the people.