Kingdom Work in the Land of Halloween
STEVEN WHITE, Pastor 1ST BAPTIST CHURCH, SALEM, MA
What would you do as a new pastor in a city known for diverse spirituality, social openness, and most of all… Halloween? In December of 2020, my family moved to Salem, MA as I began to pastor historic 1st Baptist Church, planted in 1804. Here are 9 things we’ve done – not perfectly, or successfully, but in faith:
1. Watched the Lord provide us with a home in a crazy housing market, open up an in-person slot at a local kindergarten for our daughter, and introduce us to families with young children on the city playgrounds (we have two young daughters, ages 4 & 5).
2. Repented of any sense of independency – It can feel like the weight of success or failure is squarely on your shoulders as a solo pastor. We prayed against the “it’s all up to me” mentality. The pastor is not the Savior – Jesus is (and praise God for that!).
3. Rejoiced when God grew fruit. A Muslim woman walked into our church the month before I arrived. The church discipled her, and she confessed Jesus as her one and only Savior. God is drawing people to Himself, and, therefore, my new go-to phrase is “just show up.” Day by day, week after week, watch God working. She’ll be baptized in a few weeks!
4. Befriended and partnered with other churches – There are only a handful of Gospel-proclaiming churches in the city and, only a few speak English, but we pray together and collaborate as much as possible. God’s Kingdom work requires Christ-centered churches to work together.
5. Made our “front porch” hospitable – By “front porch” I mean both our literal front porch (which was peeling paint) and also our digital front porch – our website, social media, and general internet presence. Both needed to be made warm, inviting, and accessible to our post-Christian city.
6. Met church people & city leaders – Getting to know our members – our “faithful remnant” – was essential. My wife and I also met our city’s mayor, asking questions, praying for her, and communicating that our church wants to see the city become the best version of Salem it can be.
7. Preached the simple Gospel – Not rocket science. This is the consistent watering and nourishment God always uses to grow His church everywhere.
8. Centered on dependent prayer – For our city, for His vision for our church, and specifically that the evil one, his kingdom of darkness, and all competing spiritual warfare would fall in the presence of the True Light of Jesus. Though the city is largely known for dark things today, Salem literally is the “City of Peace”, and has a rich Gospel legacy. God, You’ve done it once –do it again Lord!
9. Directed our church’s gaze to the world – Lastly, we’ve committed to praying each Sunday for the countries and unreached people groups of the world. 1st Baptist Salem has the one of the richest missions legacies of any church in the U.S., being part of the sending of Adoniram and Ann Judson in 1812 to Burma. We have now become both archaeologists – unearthing this rich history – and missionaries ourselves – bringing that missions DNA to life anew in our modern day in our new lost environment. The Great Commission is our mandate. That’s what we want to be known for – a little church, in a unique place, doing a Kingdom work, and playing our small part in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission.
When imprisoned in Burma, Adoniram Judson’s prison guard asked him, “What do think of the future of Christianity in our country now?” Judson, famously responded, saying, “The future is as bright as the promises of God!” We have this same confidence. The land of Halloween cannot thwart God’s unstoppable plan of redemption and the building of His Kingdom. We’re humbled to be here for a front- row seat.