Prestonwood partners with planters for Boston Marathon ministry

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By Tobin Perry 

BOSTON, Mass. -- Most years, when Prestonwood Baptist Church’s young singles take mission trips to Boston, they arrive a week before the Boston Marathon and leave the day after.

Last year was an exception. Since they could get cheaper flights two days after the event, the team decided to stay a day longer. When a bomb detonated near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killing three and injuring 264, that extra day may have been the most important day of the whole trip.

“We had an amazing opportunity to just love on a city and offer prayer and encouragement to a city that needs it,” said Bryan Gibbs, who arrived on Thursday for his 16th mission trip to help church planters in Beantown since 2004. “We went back into the city and affixed signs to our bag that said, ‘Need prayer? We’re available.’

“We did a lot of the same servant evangelism work we usually do, but we knew this was not a normal situation. We were able to pray for people outside of the hospital. A lot of our people were able to give granola bars or bottles of waters to first-responders—to just go out there and help the city. We were thankful we were able to stay up there that extra day and be there to provide what help we could in such a tragic time.”

Gibbs and his team are back in Boston for ministry this week as they prepare to serve the city and its visitors during Monday’s 2014 Boston Marathon. They will be involved in a variety of servant evangelism initiatives. Yet the primary hope is that they’ll have opportunities to share the Gospel with Bostonians and visitors from around the world in the city to watch the race.

The story of how Prestonwood had ministry feet on the ground during this critical time last spring goes back more than a decade and was born from both the missionary heart of God and the heart of its senior pastor, former Southern Baptist Convention president Jack Graham.

In 2003 the North American Mission Board helped connect Prestonwood with Boston church planter Curtis Cook (@curtisdcook). Cook started Hope Fellowship in September of 2003. As well as pastoring Hope, Curtis now serves as NAMB’s Send North America: Boston city coordinator.

“That’s when our heart really started to beat for church planting when we developed a partnership with Hope and Curtis and started sending teams up there,” said Jarrett Stephens, a teaching pastor at Prestonwood.

Prestonwood got even more involved in church planting in 2011 through NAMB’s Send North America efforts to mobilize churches to 32 of the continent’s largest and most influential cities. Near that same time, Graham led the church to gather a network of likeminded churches “to resource and encourage pastors while working together to plant and revitalize churches.”

“What I want to see happen through the Prestonwood Network is to encourage pastors and church leaders to take the baton and go forward strongly and passionately with the Gospel of Christ in ways that will really change the world,” said Graham, who has pastored the Dallas-area church since 1989. “My goal with the network is to pass on to this generation and to future generations some of the things that I’ve learned, and some of what God has taught me over the years in ministry. I’ve never been more excited to have the opportunity that we’ve been given here at Prestonwood.”

The network has blossomed in the past three years with plants in several large cities including Boston, New Orleans, Seattle and San Francisco and plans to plant soon in Denver, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C.

“We want to introduce established church pastors to planters who are getting it done,” Stephens said. “We want to encourage pastors who aren’t in the game to get in the game. They can do exactly what we’re doing. They can send teams. They can start their own network and get them behind these guys.”

The network doesn’t just provide funding for church plants but also sends volunteer teams, like the one in Boston this week to serve at the marathon. These trips play an important part in discipling participating Prestonwood members—along with members of other partner churches—in what it means to be believers living on mission.

For example, when Gibbs first got involved in mission trips to Boston, he had recently re-committed his life to Christ and was intimidated by sharing his faith in the city’s tough intellectual climate. Today Gibbs not only believes he is better prepared to share his faith in Boston but also back home in Dallas.

“When people think about short-term mission teams, I always thought about going overseas from my own naïve perspective,” Gibbs said. “Now I understand that there are places like Boston that very much need the love and hope of Jesus Christ as much as any other place. Literally, Boston used to be a beacon for Christianity—a City on a Hill—but that’s kind of waned over the years.”

Metro Boston has only one SBC church for every 42, 919 people. For more information about helping SBC church plants in the city, visit To learn more about the Prestonwood Network, visit

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.  

Date Created: 4/17/2014 12:27:16 PM

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