When Josh Adsit and Mark Papp traveled from Oklahoma to visit Boston, they felt God’s call to plant a church in New England. A mere three weeks later the two ministers, their wives, and children were packing up and moving across the country to begin Movement Christian Church in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Yes, you read that right—three weeks. The two best friends had considered potentially partnering with Restoration House Ministries perhaps three years down the road to plant a New England church, yet one meeting shifted the timeline.

Josh shared his part in the story.

Sign Me Up! 

For seven years Josh had been on staff of First Church in Owasso, Oklahoma. In this church he first learned about Christ during his senior year of high school and got baptized. This church paid for him to go to Bible college and ordained him for ministry. In this church he and his wife married. He loved this church and everything it had meant to him.

But Josh had been thinking about church planting for years. At Ozark Christian College he remembers the first time he heard the term. “They offered a church planting class. I said, ‘I am terrible at science! I’m terrible at plants that go inside churches.’” When he learned that it meant starting new churches, he was excited. “Sign me up!” he said.

Josh’s professor mostly talked about New England, where he and his wife had planted a church.

The stories and the mission field of only 5% of people being Christians intrigued Josh. “He had me hooked.”

Since that college class, even while serving on the First Church staff, Josh’s heart stayed partially in New England. First Church itself stoked that passion because the lead pastor and elders had a heart for New England and partnered with RHM.

“They invested financial resources in New England and church planting,” Josh said. “They would go out on all these trips and would come home so fired up about what God was doing in New England. I ended up on a couple of those trips.”

Josh and Mark were excited about ministry in Oklahoma. First Church was growing and asked the two men to plant the third campus of their rapidly growing congregation in a rural town of 4,500 people. They moved New England to the back of their minds, thinking perhaps they would head to Boston to plant a church with RHM in 2020. But the opportunity came sooner than they expected.

What on Earth Is God Doing? 

In the summer of 2016, Josh and Mark were in New England on a trip to pray about the future. They were invited to meet with several churches to discover how God was at work in that region. They happened upon a story of loss and heartbreak as a congregation in Merrimack, New Hampshire, a commuter town 42 miles outside of Boston, experienced their minister retiring and their church dwindling in members. Their building was paid for—a rarity—and the church was at a crossroads about what to do with their $1.2 million property.

“They could sell it and give the assets to RHM to start more churches,” Josh described. “Or one of their prayers was: What if God could bring a team in here, use this building debt-free, and plant a church in the same location?”

The two friends from Oklahoma sensed the hand of God moving through this conversation as they offered encouragement to these hurting believers.

“Yes, it needed work, but with RHM’s help, we knew we were within an arm’s reach of resources,” Josh said. They could not shake the feeling that they were supposed to get involved—now.

“‘What on earth is God doing?’ we asked ourselves.” When Josh and Mark called their wives that night, they wondered the same thing.

“We went home, prayed, and fasted,” Josh recalled. “Two days later, we got a call from that group basically saying, ‘Our team is united. Everybody loved your vision. We’re willing to do anything it takes to see God start a new work right here.’ Their radical humility was unbelievable.”

The members were set up like a congregational church, and everyone had to vote. “They were voting to give up their right to ever vote again. In New England, that just doesn’t happen!” Josh marveled. Of the 36 people who remained as church members they had 35 yes votes, 0 no votes, 1 abstained.

When Josh and Mark approached First Church back in Oklahoma, “There was zero hesitation from the elders,” Josh said. “They saw this vision with Kingdom eyes and told us, ‘We’re with you whatever it looks like. It would be a sin not to send you guys.’” Since that day, First Church leaders have lived up to their promise. “Every single elder has been out to New England to support us, encourage us. They just held a leadership training with our new people recently. Their support and partnership has been paramount.”

Investing in the Community 

Movement Church launched on January 1, 2017. They grew to average 215 people in their first year with 22 baptisms. They baptized 26 people in 2018 and 55 in 2019 and now average 388 in attendance.

One interesting ministry move for Movement was developing a Monday evening service. That may sound strange. But the Movement team noticed a quirk about the culture: many people head out of town for the weekend to their “camps”—homes in the mountains or at a lake that have been passed down in families from generation to generation. As a result, families with camps don’t attend Sunday services, but many watched Movement’s services online. In order to more fully engage their transient friends, Movement asked, “When would service work for you?” As a result, the church has been able to Make Mondays Matter by holding worship services on those evenings. (Though all services moved online when the pandemic began.)

“We met over 100 people who had watched online but had never been to the church before. A lot of our 2019 baptisms came from that service,” Josh noted.

They Pastored Us as Pastors 

A huge part of how Movement Christian Church was able to launch and thrive is their partnership with RHM. While Movement did not have the burden of searching for or paying for a building, they had a different burden.

“We inherited 40 people who were broken, beat down, and in need of pastoral care,” said Josh. “We needed to walk with them, leading them toward grace, reconciliation, and relational restoration.”

As Josh and Mark and Movement leaders sought to care for their hurting people, they were grateful to rely upon the RHM pastoral care team so that they could remain strong themselves.

“The care team’s primary role is to pastor pastors. They’ve pastored us like crazy,” Josh said. “They supported us, especially those first two years, having dinner with our families, checking on our hearts, and making sure we were taking care of our families.”

While there are a number of resources that church plants can utilize, Josh noted that the pastoral care team was one of the big reasons Movement wanted to partner with RHM. The partnership has been helpful as Movement has grown spiritually as well as numerically.

“Our growth has been crazy, and it has been hard. There is no way in the world we could ever have done this without Restoration House Ministries and the network they connected us to,” Josh said.

Kelly Carr is the Lead Minister of Echo Church, and is also a writing and editing consultant.