We’re excited to announce that on November 17, 2018, we’ll be hosting our first Small Town Summit in Maine. The event will be sponsored by The Gospel Coalition New England and the Gospel Alliance of Maine and hosted by the First Baptist Church of Dexter. To register for the event, please click below.


A Big Gospel in Small Places

The mighty, enduring gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s transforming power wherever it goes, in the biggest cities and the remotest villages. The purpose of our Summit on November 17, 2018 will be to consider how we can most fruitfully obey God’s call to minister this big gospel in the small places of Maine. What are the unique challenges and opportunities of small-place ministry? How does God mean for the gospel to shape both the content of our preaching and the contours of our ministry? Please join us to share your experience and to be equipped and encouraged.


  • 8.30 – 9am - Arrival and registration

  • 9 – 10am - Welcome, singing, the vision of Small Town Summits & the Gospel Alliance Maine

  • 10 – 11am - Session #1: ‘Gospel ministry in small places’ and group discussion (Stephen Witmer)

  • 11 – 11.30am - Coffee break

  • 11.30am – 12.30pm - Session #2: 'Preaching in small places’ and group discussion (David Pinckney)

  • 12.30 – 1.30pm - Lunch

  • 1.30 – 2.30pm - Breakout sessions (see below)

  • 2.30 – 3.30pm - Session #3: ‘Joy in small places’ and group discussion (David Pinckney and Stephen Witmer)

  • 3.30 – 4pm - Prayer

Main Sessions

In our main sessions, David Pinckney and Stephen Witmer will explore the unique privileges and challenges of preaching and gospel ministry in small towns and rural areas, and will lead us in thinking about how to fight for joy in our small-place ministries.

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Stephen Witmer is the lead pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, MA. He's a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the University of Cambridge, and serves on the steering committee of the Gospel Coalition New England. He and his wife Emma have two sons and one daughter.

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David Pinckney is the lead pastor of River of Grace in Concord, NH, an Acts 29 church. He's a graduate of Bethel Seminary, a long-time New England pastor, and he and his wife Sharon have four sons and one daughter. He enjoys traveling, people, and history


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Foundations of Church Revitalization in Small Places: Preach, pray, love and stay

As the statistics show, Maine has been in spiritual decline for decades and the landscape is peppered with small, struggling churches. God calls many pastors into those churches to begin breathing new life into them. But how? There’s no sure-fire, 100%-guaranteed method that fireproofs against a church split or a pink slip, but this discussion-based breakout will focus on four important emphases in any revitalization work: preach the word of God consistently, pray for the flock continually, love the people God gave you deeply, and look to your call to help you stay.

Blake Brown has been the pastor of Southwest Harbor Congregational Church since 2003. After being calling into the ministry from a career that included Pitney Bowes, Taco Bell and HR consulting with Genesis Solutions, he attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master’s of Divinity with an emphasis in Old Testament studies. Blake and his wife Carrie have three children, Avonlea, Jack and Finnegan. He enjoys reading, long-distance cycling, working on his 1973 MG Midget, kayaking and spending time with his family.

Building a Word-Filled Women’s Ministry in small Places

God has given women the privilege, ability, and responsibility to be students and ministers of His Word for the building up of His church. Join us as we together discuss what practical steps we might take to further encourage and equip the women in our local churches to be students of God's Word.

Emma Witmer lives in Pepperell MA but was born and bred in Northern Ireland. In a previous life she taught English to high school students, and worked in student ministry at a large church in Cambridge, England. Life is now full of church ministry alongside Stephen and looking after their three children: Samuel, Annie, and Henry.

Olivia Ruhl lives in Alton, NH, where she serves alongside Ben Ruhl in church ministry. Though the New England region is now home, life has taken her to the West Coast, South, Midwest, and overseas. Prior to Alton, Olivia attended Moody Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for ministry training. She is also the mother of Davie.

Transitioning Leadership in Small Places

In 1998 Jay answered a call from God to serve as the lead pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dexter in a bi-vocational role. In 2013 FBC also called Andrew Bermudez to serve as their youth pastor. In 2015, Jay and Andrew, with the support of the elders and the congregation, switched roles as it were, with Andrew becoming the full-time lead pastor and Jay becoming the teaching pastor. Today, Jay and Andrew continue to minister together at FBC. This breakout session will explore various biblical strategies a church can consider to make these times of leadership change an opportunity for growth.

Jay Brennan serves as the teaching pastor of The First Baptist Church of Dexter, Maine, where he has served for over 20 years. He holds graduate degrees from the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA and the University of Maine and is active in studies in Asian History at Boston College. Over the years he has served as a campus pastor, worked in administrative roles in several private schools, and served as a bi-vocational pastor. Today he serves as the CEO of Global Study Connections with offices in Seoul S. Korea and Beijing, China. Jay and Dottie have seven grown children, 22 grandchildren and have hosted 42 international students in their home in Dover-Foxcroft, ME.

Loving God with All Your Mind in Small Places

Sometimes those who minister in rural Maine may feel as if they are in a theological and philosophical wasteland. This session will consider the question "How do I bring together Biblical scholarship, helpful resources, and wise counsel, so as to communicate the gospel in relevant and life-giving ways in my church?"

Bill Johnson is a philosopher and a pastor. He serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist of Pittsfield, Maine and as the Director of Pine Tree Leadership Development Network. He also teaches as Husson University and at Grace Evangelical Seminary.

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A Vernacular Worship in Small Places

This session will take a look at the more domestic manifestations of worship: how the home and daily life can be consecrated to the glory of God.

Garrett Soucy is the pastor of Christ the King Church in Belfast. He is also a writer and musician. He and his wife, Siiri, live in Liberty with their eight children.

Gospel-Shaped Ministry to Small Places

Small Town Summit: New England

Over the past couple decades, Tim Keller and others have developed a biblically-faithful and amazingly fruitful theological vision for urban ministry. We believe it’s an opportune time to explore what a theological vision for rural/small-town ministry will look like.

Small Town Summits, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition New England, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Small Town Jesus, invites small-town/rural pastors, ministry leaders, and laypeople from around New England to join us for a one-day Summit. We’ll consider together what it looks like for our small-place ministries to be distinctively gospel-shaped. We’re eager for seminary students to attend this Summit in order to catch a vision for the excitement, challenges, and importance of rural ministry.

This New England Summit is distinct from the Summits we’ve already hosted in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the future Summits we’re planning in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. We typically gather in local regions within New England. For this New England Summit, we’re inviting folks from across the entire New England region. At our local Summits, we hear talks and breakout sessions from local pastors and leaders. For this New England Summit, we’ll hear from Rick Lints (Vice President for Academic Affairs, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Brad Roth (a pastor in rural Kansas and author of the award-winning God’s Country), and Donnie Griggs (a pastor in small-town North Carolina and author of the popular book Small Town Jesus). We’ll also enjoy practically-oriented breakout sessions led by small-town/rural pastors and laypeople from around New England.


Date: Monday, March 18th, 2019

Cost: $25

Time: 8.30am – 4pm

Location: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 130 Essex St, South Hamilton, MA 01982



  • 8.30 – 9am - Arrival and registration
  • 9 – 10am - Welcome, singing, framing the current situation and introducing the vision and contribution of this conference (Stephen Witmer)
  • 10 – 10.30am - Session 1: ‘What theological vision is, and why it matters for small-place ministry’ (Richard Lints)
  • 10.30 – 11am - Coffee break
  • 11am – 12pm - Session 2: ‘How the doctrine of God sends us to the small places’ (Brad Roth, rural pastor and author of CT award-winning God’s Country)
  • 12 – 1pm - Lunch
  • 1 – 2pm - Session 3: Breakout sessions
  • 2.15 – 3.15pm - Session 4: ‘What gospel-shaped small-town ministry looks like in practice’ (Donnie Griggs, small-town pastor and author of Small Town Jesus)
  • 3.30 – 4pm - Closing panel discussion with plenary speakers

Plenary Speakers


Donnie Griggs

Donnie Griggs is lead pastor of One Harbor Church, a multi-location congregation in the small town of Morehead City, North Carolina. One of Donnie’s passions is to see churches in small towns and rural areas equipped and empowered to radically engage culture and make disciples. Donnie is the author of Small Town Jesus, and he also serves on the leadership team of the Advance Movement of churches.

Richard Lints

Richard Lints is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is an author, ordained pastor, church planter,  and now leads the faculty at the leading evangelical seminary in New England. He is married to Ann and father to Kate, Sarah and Lucas.

Brad Roth

Brad Roth serves as pastor at West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kansas. He grew up baling hay, tending sheep, and shearing Christmas trees on a farm in Illinois. He is a graduate of Augustana College , Harvard Divinity School, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Brad has a heart for serving God and God’s people in rural communities. He’s passionate about sharing faith in word and deed and living out God’s love in the community. He and his wife, Lici, enjoy bicycling, tending a garden, keeping chickens, and playing with their two sons. He is the author of God's Country and writes about encountering God in the everyday at