N.C. Baptist graduates taking root in Bostonby BSCNC Communications
BOSTON – A few weeks ago Tanner Turley finally experienced a breakthrough after nine months praying and waiting. Last year in July he met a woman who brought her child to a soccer clinic sponsored by Redemption Hill Church in Medford, where Turley pastors. She grew up in Cambridge, and since she was Catholic, wanted to know if she would be welcomed at Redemption Hill.
Turley said of course, but she wasn’t at church the next Sunday. Turley emailed several times, but months and months passed and she never came.
In April the woman finally came and has come several times since.
Next month marks the two-year anniversary of Turley’s arrival in Boston, and already he’s learned what church planting in New England is all about.
“It’s persevering with people. It’s about not giving up on people, and it takes being in it for the long haul,” he said. “It’s the long road home for most people in New England. The growth is slow, so it challenges us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are being faithful to share the gospel.”
Turley and his wife and two young daughters moved to Medford with three other families to plant Redemption Hill. Medford sits in the “brainpower triangle” among Harvard University, Tufts University and MIT.
Turley is one of the church planters that pastors and associational leaders met during the April vision tour in Boston sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships, in partnership with the North American Mission Board.
Through its Office of Great Commission Partnerships, the BSCNC has established a partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England with a focus on Boston. The BSCNC is ready to help churches engage in long-term, strategic missions efforts in the Greater Boston Area.
Redemption Hill is the only evangelical church in Medford, a town of about 56,000 with more than 70 percent of residents identifying with the Catholic Church.
Before moving north Turley, who is from Louisville, Ky., spent six years in North Carolina studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. During that time he was involved in Open Door Baptist Church and spent one year serving as a core team member when Open Door planted a church in downtown Raleigh.
Turley said it is a process when it comes to introducing people in Medford to Redemption Hill. They go from not knowing the church exists, to wanting to know why the church exists and why they should care. The church has to build credibility among its community. “They have to see that we really live out our faith,” Turley said.
Although the fruit is slow, God has answered prayer. God provided the church a space to rent – a local dance studio –for Sunday morning worship. The location is ideal and the rent is manageable. God has allowed Turley to build relationships through his role as a freshman basketball coach at the local high school, and through partnerships with groups such as the Boys and Girls Club.
God has also sustained Turley’s family through personal trials, as his wife’s father died of a brain tumor about a year after they moved to Medford.
Turley and the core team have learned that although success may look different than what they envision, and come at a slower pace than what they would like, God is still at work. It may be just one person on a college campus or one employee in a workplace whose heart God opens to the truth.
“God will use that to expand His work in that sphere,” Turley said. “We have been living Psalm 111:2. We want to know His works and we want to long to be part of His works.”
Turley’s time serving with Open Door’s church plant, as well as time learning from Open Door pastor Dwayne Milioni, helped prepare him for life in a new context as a church planter.
Gaining experience prior to planting is what Charlie Dunn, also a Southeastern graduate, is ready to do. Dunn moved into his fifth floor apartment in Boston a few weeks ago to begin a 12-18 month internship.
Dunn said as he prayed about where God would have him plant a church, Boston kept coming to his mind. The internship will allow him and his family time to pray and discern where exactly God is leading them to begin a new church.
“This will help us learn the ins and outs instead of hitting the ground running in what is to us a foreign place,” Dunn said. “This fleshes out for us strategy and vision. You can’t just plop into the city. It’s one thing to pray for a city and to see demographic reports. It’s a whole different game to see their faces.”
Dunn’s internship is with pastor Bland Mason and City on a Hill Church in Brookline. Brookline is a community that is 50 percent single adults, less than 2.5 percent evangelical, highly educated (78 percent have a bachelor’s degree and 46 percent a graduate degree) and young, with the average age within a mile of the church being 29.
Mason grew up near Yorkton, Penn., and graduated from Campbell University and Southern Seminary. Mason has a vision to see City on a Hill become a church planting church that impacts Boston and the nations.
“We didn’t need to wait until we were self-sustaining to support missions. That just breeds an inward focus,” he said.
When Mason and his family moved to Boston they came ready to settle in and do life with their community.
“I wasn’t interested in bigger and better things. I wanted to plant my flag and see what God would do.”
This is the first article in a series about the Baptist State Convention's partnership in Boston.