“Snapshots of Renewal” is a series in partnership with The Gospel Coalition New England that offers context-specific glimpses into the developing movement of the gospel in New England. This snapshot is provided by Juan Maclean who serves as the Lead Pastor and Church Planter of Redemption City Church in the South End of Boston, MA. Redemption City was started in 2011 and is a part of the Acts 29 Network.
TGCNE: Within the context of New England, what is unique about Boston?
Juan Maclean: Boston is called “The Hub” because it’s the most influential city in the New England. One major way the city is influential is through education; the number of college students peaks around 275,000. Each neighborhood has its own businesses and areas of living, though the larger businesses are mainly clustered together. Since people of various socio-economic groups share neighborhoods, there are class-war issues regarding housing and what businesses are welcome in particular areas. These issues also come up because the city is so expensive to live in. Like most cities it is very diverse in terms of ethnicity and income, yet overall Boston is uncommonly educated, rich, young (with singles and young families), and politically charged.
TGCNE: If someone is passing through Boston, what must they take time to see, do, or hear?
JM: There are two things Bostonians love and often build their time and energy around: sports and education. This is the home of the Boston Red Sox, and Fenway Park is a must-see. One of the top educational facilities is Harvard University in Cambridge, around which there are plenty of things to do (lively street performances, bookstores, etc.). Excellent food can be found in the North End. But you can’t go to Boston and ignore the tremendous history here, including the Freedom Trail, the State House, and Faneuil Hall. And in the middle of the city, just next to the classy shopping of Newbury Street, you will find the historic, beautiful Commons and Gardens. It’s an excellent walking city, so the best way to get around to see it all is walking, biking or public transportation.
TGCNE: How long has your church been in this community?
JM: We began meeting in our home in the Spring of 2011. The church was able to move to its current location in February of 2012. The number of those meeting and serving in this little body has been steadily growing since.
TGCNE: What networks is your church associated with?
JM: Redemption City Church is part of the Acts 29 network and the Southern Baptist Convention.
TGCNE: Give us a glimpse into a typical Sunday morning at your church.
JM: We currently gather at 5pm on Sundays, in large part because that is when we can use the building we are using. The space is an auditorium of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. It is currently a fairly small group, and everyone works quickly to meet, welcome, get to know, and invite others into life together. The people work hard to do things with excellence, while at the same time producing a relaxed environment for people to feel welcome. On Sundays we take a liturgical approach with confession, worship, preaching and applying the gospel.
TGCNE: What are some of the other gospel preaching churches in your area?
JM: Fellow churches that come to mind are Cornerstone Church, Citylife Church, Reunion Church, Reality Church, and Mosaic Boston. While there is still a great need for more churches to be planted in all the communities of Boston, these are good reminders that we are not in this alone. We consider each other reinforcements for the work being done in Boston, not competition.
TGCNE: Are there unique opportunities for gospel ministry in Boston that you feel are not being acted upon?
JM: Each large neighborhood should have a solid church that loves Jesus, the gospel, each other and the city. Currently, the greatest need of Boston is just more of these kinds of churches located in and around the city. While non-English speaking churches are growing exponentially, the families and large student population are not being reached as effectively.
TGCNE: Every ministry context comes with unique challenges. What often makes ministry in Boston difficult?
JM: Most people in Boston have an opinion and personal history regarding religion. There is a good deal of hurt, animosity, and skepticism. Many people consider themselves agnostic or atheist, and there is a large number of nominal Catholics. People are slow to let someone else into their personal lives, and as a result of transience people are lonely and aching for the kind of community that is only found in Christ. There is no culture of Christianity. Though this may seem to limit the number of starting points for a gospel conversation, in reality, it is helpful than we realize. In most cases, we do not need to begin gospel conversations by breaking down false ideas of Jesus.
TGCNE: What tangible signs of gospel renewal are you currently seeing in your community and church?
JM: For years there was a relatively small number of faithful churches in New England. In just the last few years, many more have been planted or revitalized. Within Redemption City Church, people are actively loving and building relationships with unbelievers. Community groups are growing in strategic communities around the city, which are seeking to encourage and build each other up in the gospel, as well as seek to reach their neighborhoods together.
TGCNE: How can other Christians pray for Boston and Redemption City Church?
JM: Our top prayer is to see true revival in the city of Boston and through New England. We want to see God move in and through all of the gospel preaching churches for the salvation of many and the good of the city. To accomplish this, please pray that we will be faithful to love God and one another. Also pray for more laborers, the work is too much for such few churches. Lastly, we would like to see the church be financially self-sustaining within the next two years, making us capable to be part of planting other churches.
Join Juan and his church as they pray and work toward being a part of the growing “quiet revival” in New England. Pray that Boston would be filled with solid, gospel preaching, gospel living churches for the sake of the gospel and the good of the city.