Logan Saunders is not a New Englander by birth. It is a choice.
Originally from Virginia, he and his wife Lindsay were curious about serving up north. After graduating from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, they decided to spend a year at NETS (New England Training and Sending Center for Church Planting and Revitalization) in Vermont for furthering training, exposure to New England culture, and to determine if Logan was called to revitalize a New England church.
While at NETS, Logan met Jim Harrell of Overseed who taught two courses there on New England church revitalization. Logan said Jim was “critical” in his understanding of the potential issues involved in revitalizing a historic church. Logan reflected “I am not a church planter (but was interested in revitalization). Jim walked us through what it would look like to revitalize a church here. I had the advantage of coming to my new church with wide eyes, aware of pitfalls. Because of Jim’s training, I haven’t been blindsided or intimidated. Jim and the NETS faculty taught me what might happen.”
Logan became pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Saco, Maine in October of 2019, just a few months before the pandemic took hold in March 2020. As a new pastor, he and his church quickly entered a culture of change due to Covid restrictions. Logan noted that it seemed like “everything went away at the same time.” The Elders had already been working with the interim pastor on changing the church’s name to Saco Bay Community Church. In a very short period, the church had a new pastor and a new name. The congregation was open to innovative ideas. It was a season of mutual-grace and discovery as they responded to the pandemic together.
Logan is blessed with godly mentors who continue to teach him about ministry and the responsibility of shepherding faithfully. Rick Francis is one of those mentors and their connection started before they ever met. Rick was the interim pastor at the Saco church. He is also an Overseed coach.
Rick knows the Saco church well. Some of his family members attended when they lived in the area, and he had been asked to guest-preach several times. He was known and trusted by the church’s leadership, so he was the wise choice as their intentional interim pastor.
Rick led the congregation through a one-year assessment which included repentance, mission, vision, and values work. Then, the church was ready to call a new pastor. Through his decades of ministry in New England, Rick knew that NETS pastors were well-trained in church revitalization and well-educated, so he reached out to NETS President Wes Pastor to inquire about possible candidates. Logan Saunders was recommended to the Saco church leadership and voted in as the new pastor.
Logan’s enthusiastic arrival was quickly challenged by the shift to online church and preaching to a camera. Rick pivoted as well from interim pastor to a regional pastor coach. He invited Logan to join a southern Maine Overseed cohort for pastors focused on church revitalization.
Logan is grateful for the cohort gathering gospel-centered pastors from different denominations and stages of the pastorate. He said the cohort has widened his view. “It is inspiring to hear how God is working in other local churches. It helps the church have a more kingdom-minded perspective. “
Developing spiritual leaders takes time, patience, and intentionality. What started as eight pastors from different churches and denominations who did not know each other well if at all, has grown over a couple of years into a team of ministry leaders who collaborate, ask for each other’s perspectives, and offer feedback on challenges and opportunities. Rick said “They are a team. There isn’t a sense of competition, but of teamwork and wonderful friendships have formed among pastors of neighboring churches. There is a true camaraderie among them.”
These pastors have made steady progress in moving their churches in healthy directions. Each year of the cohort, pastors pick three projects to work on. During the monthly cohort gatherings, they discuss obstacles and progress toward meeting their goals. They learn from each other and seek input. They are accountable to one another, not to just their coach.
They come from Cumberland County mostly, with some from York County. Together, these pastors are revitalizing a region of southern Maine. They are committed to growing together and now are in year 3 of a five-year journey.
Rick is surprised that these busy pastors have “appetite for more. They want more education and respond well to the Overseed curriculum.” Rick is currently not pastoring a church, so he is free to travel to each of the eight churches throughout the year to encourage the pastors and meet the congregations.
Logan encourages other pastors considering an Overseed cohort to “go for it.” He said “the commitment is worth your time as a pastor. You’ll really get to know other pastors in your area and learn to navigate the challenges of revitalizing a church.” He is excited about ministry in southern Maine. He has seen slow, steady growth in his church and now has a thorough membership process. One of those new members is Rick Francis, who is also serving as a small group leader. Logan described Rick as “humble and unpretentious. He is a wonderful resource!”
May God continue to bless the healthy choices of church leaders in southern Maine and beyond. May their ministries result in many expressions of thanksgiving to Him alone!