Go Serve the Church: Seeking the Lost in New England

In the fall of 2023, as colors began their descent upon tree leaves, Seth and Anna Hubler arrived in the small town of Henniker, New Hampshire. With a population of less than 6,000, Henniker represents hundreds of similar small towns spread across the reaches of New England.

Known for its strong individualism and rich history, New England is a place of great spiritual darkness and is significantly unreached by the gospel. For this reason, following God’s prompting, Seth and Anna moved from Southeastern in Wake Forest to New Hampshire with the purpose of planting a church.

“We were aware of sweeping church planting movements in many places all over the country,” Seth and Anna commented as they reflected on their decision to move to New Hampshire. “The pacific northwest, the Rockies corridor, the Great Lakes region — even in the south. But we never heard of anybody going to plant churches in New England, especially if you exclude Boston, MA.”

One reason for this scarcity, Seth observed, is that many church planting strategies tend to target large cities as the convergence points of the surrounding populations. However, he pointed out, “New England doesn’t function that way; the big cities act like urban oases in the midst of small, self-sustaining towns that form their own cultural values rather than gathering them from urban contexts.”

“Most statistics,” he observed, “will suggest that only between 3.5 and 5% of people in New England are evangelical Christians. Last I checked, this makes New England the closest borderline-unreached region to Southeastern.”

Last I checked, this makes New England the closest borderline-unreached region to Southeastern.

With a culture vastly different than the South, New England presents unique challenges to church planters coming from outside the region. Not only that, but everyday evangelism tends to look significantly different than it might for most Southern Baptists elsewhere. Despite these challenges, however, Seth and Anna are eager to pursue disciple making as witnesses for Christ in the place God has called them.

Before seminary, however, church planting was not the first option on their agenda.

A Change in Heart

Before moving to Henniker, Seth and Anna had spent the last five years at Southeastern while Seth pursued a Master of Divinity and Anna worked on a graduate certificate in worship ministry. When deciding where to attend seminary, Seth became more aware of an absence in his affections.

“The Lord began to show me that my compassion for the lost — those who are valuable and far from the Father’s house — was woefully deficient,” he shared. “I had heard that if one wanted to cultivate a missional heart, Southeastern would be the best place to accomplish that… and that was so true in our experience! We chose to come to Southeastern because, ultimately, we knew that the Great Commission was more important to God than it was to us; and we wanted that to change.”

We chose to come to Southeastern because, ultimately, we knew that the Great Commission was more important to God than it was to us; and we wanted that to change.

When they first arrived in Wake Forest, Seth and Anna had come from a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church plant they had been attending for several years. With their move and change in churches, Seth was eager to get away from the extra labor involved in serving a church plant — ministry that often required setting up and tearing down almost every gathering.

However, it was not long before God began to confront these sentiments in Seth’s heart.

“After two semesters at Southeastern,” Seth remembered, “the Lord began to really stir my affections for those he loves who are far from him and in places where there are no churches for people to gather at — even if they wanted to.” It was this that caused Seth to change his MDiv in student ministry to an MDiv in church planting.

“I think the Lord brought us to Southeastern to teach and grow us there and to further prepare us for the mission he had for us in the building of his kingdom,” reflected Anna.  “And he did just that.”

Serving the Church

Halfway through their time at Southeastern, Seth and Anna joined and began serving the community of Christ Church. Unsurprisingly — and in God’s sovereign planning — it, too, was a church plant. Meeting in the brick building of a business in downtown Wake Forest, the community at Christ Church had a significant role in shaping and orienting Seth and Anna’s hearts towards the kingdom of God.

Anna remembers specifically the care and love they received from that church body as well as the faithful leadership of its pastors, Jim Upchurch and Tracy McKenzie, a professor at Southeastern.

“We were a part of the McKenzie small group where we learned what it looked like to lead and care for the body of Christ in that setting,” Anna recalled. “We applied what we learned there by leading our own small group for some time before Seth graduated from seminary.”

While in the Christ Church community, Seth and Anna had the opportunity to serve together on its worship team. This coincided with Anna’s classes in worship ministry at Southeastern, and together, these opportunities to apply their training laid a foundation for their future ministry.

“Our time at Christ Church gave me a clear vision for my growing passion for pastoral ministry,” Seth reflected. “It showed me the surpassing importance of pastoral shepherding, taught me to submit to others out of reverence for Jesus and defer preference out of a desire for unity, and reminded me of the beauty of gospel simplicity.”

Cultivating Great Commission Hearts

It was during this season at Southeastern that God also taught them how to purposefully orient their lives around the Great Commission.

“We had to be super intentional in living on mission as we were naturally surrounded by lots of people that were just like us,” Anna commented as she reflected on  living within campus community and housing. “However,” she added, “I think this intentionality and heightened awareness to go out of our way and spend time with those that do not know Christ grew us in ways that are useful in any season.”

I think this intentionality and heightened awareness to go out of our way and spend time with those that do not know Christ grew us in ways that are useful in any season.

The time would soon come, however, when Seth and Anna would find themselves in a place with little Christian community and gospel light, where living intentionally on mission would become not only crucial but also a matter of great endurance.

Towards the end of Seth’s degree, he and Anna began seeking God’s guidance for the next steps of their journey. He had placed in their hearts the desire to plant churches, but now the ultimate question was, where?

The Move to Henniker

After much prayer and consideration, Anna and Seth finalized their decision to move to New Hampshire and join a church planting initiative led by the Village Green Collective, a group of New England small-town churches working together towards this end. Alongside two elders from a church in Concord, the Hublers are seeking to plant a church in their new hometown, Henniker.

“The three of us and our families are committed together to continuing the work that the Lord has already been doing for decades through a handful of really faithful, committed Christians,” Seth explained.

As he and Anna had experienced previously, church planting is difficult work that takes much perseverance — even more so in New England where people tend to value actions much higher than words. For New Englanders, a life lived differently, consistently demonstrating strange love over many years, has a decidedly greater impact than a quick conversation with a stranger.

Seth and Anna both work vocational jobs in addition to their work of church planting. Anna serves as a barista at Revelstoke Coffee in nearby Concord, while Seth works as a mechanical engineer for Accelevation, LLC. From what Seth has gathered, he is the only Christian is his company of about 50 people. These jobs offer Seth and Anna opportunities to apply their Southeastern training, engage in their community, and live out the gospel they preach.

“Please pray,” Seth and Anna ask, “for colleges, seminaries, and sending agencies to catch the vision for small-town gospel ministry in New England. We simply need more Christians to exhibit strange love in their jobs as much as we need church planters.”

We simply need more Christians to exhibit strange love in their jobs as much as we need church planters.

“The Great Commission is an invitation for Christians to actively participate in the very same life change each of us has received in Jesus,” Seth explained, reflecting back on the training that equipped them to make disciples. “The more I grow as a Christian in the knowledge and experience of God’s extravagant love for me, the more I grow in active compassion for my coworkers and my neighbors and the local people I pass walking my dog. The more that the power of the Holy Spirit continues to shine sanctifying light into the deepest, darkest crevices of my own heart, the more clear and specific my vision becomes for how the power of the Spirit — through the forgiveness and freedom in Jesus — can and will transform the unique life stories of the baristas and pizza connoisseurs, craftspeople, and farm-stand owners in our town.”

It is the Christian’s unique calling to seek those places of darkness in which to shine the truth of the gospel in their words, in their actions, and in their lives. Church planting, Seth and Anna have discovered, is one crucial way to do this.

Join us in praying for the Hublers and the New England church planting initiative they are a part of. Pray for diligent workers who will join them in this ministry and labor towards the spread of the gospel throughout New England. Pray that hearts would be softened and doors would be opened so that many might hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Serve the Church

Office of Marketing and Communications

[email protected]