I’m sure you’ve heard of Jonathan Edwards. He’s no secret; he seems to be everywhere these days–books, t-shirts, and so on. You’ve probably also heard of Cotton Mather. Certain universities are well-known in New England. The Patriots and the Celtics get a lot of press.
But you may not have heard of the New England Center for Expository Preaching. They’re not appearing on many ESPN interviews and they’re not yet a major university. The men who operate the center don’t boast an Edwards-sized reputation. But NECEP and it staff labor quietly providing to New England churches and pastors some much-needed encouragement and resources.
If you didn’t know already, New England does have a reputation for being difficult spiritual soil to till and plant. If you’re like me, you put your hand over your mouth in awe of God’s judgment (it’s the only thing we can call it, I think) in removing vibrant, robust, effective Christian witness in the region after such a rich history.
Enter NECEP. Here’s how they describe themselves:
The New England Center for Expository Preaching exists because of the exceedingly merciful grace which continues to flow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the One who provided the vision in 2003. He is the One Who sustains and grows that vision to assist the pastors and churches of New England via seminary students. He is the one who provides the seminary students, the housing, the opportunities to preach, the guest speakers, and all of the other needs that go into training the next generation of pastors to New England and the world. Thus, He is the one Who will get all the credit for that which He has done. (from the website)
Earlier this month, I had the privilege to join NECEP and the saints of Island Pond Baptist Church for their annual conference. I had the privilege of serving with Jim Wells, Senior Pastor of Island Pond Baptist, Greg Gilbert of What Is the Gospel? fame, and Matt Fletcher. If interested, you can find audio here.
It was a conference that would have made Carl Trueman proud. No “celebrity pastors.” No swooning fans. A lot of good discussion and mutual encouragement. Christ-honoring preaching of the word. And even a little humor. One brother, having read the brief exchange Trueman and I shared, prepared this sign for me: Riff-Raffs. Gotta love it!
The saints at Island Pond were among the most gracious and hospitable you would meet. The food, prepared by church members, was outstanding. It was like eating mom’s cooking and meeting with the family in the living room.
The verdict: This conference shouldn’t be a secret much longer. If you’re in the New England area and you’re looking for local fellowship and encouragement, consider attending this conference where very warm-hearted and Christ loving folks are quietly meeting and sharing in the Lord’s grace.