Church goes from unknown to beacon of hope

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication


A Massachusetts church has almost mastered the art of surprising its neighbors.  

The Chapel began a new church in downtown Winchendon despite its great location only three and a half miles from town. Elder Matt Gwinn explained that the idyllic spot near lakes, rolling hills and lots of green space did create a nagging struggle. 


“We’re tired of being the church on the edge of town that nobody knows where we are,” he said. “We had to do something different.” 


Gwinn’s spiritual journey crossed the frontier of unbelief at The Chapel when he accepted Christ as Lord more than 30 years ago. The church’s warmth and clear presentation of Christ summoned Gwinn into the Lord’s family.  


So, he rooted his spiritual life in the church. Today, Gwinn, a semiconductor company technologist, naturally wants to see others find Christ and experience the same welcoming family. 


Related: Converge has deployed hundreds of church planters so more people know Jesus. 


Yet he and other church leaders realized few in the community knew where The Chapel held worship services or offered Christ’s grace and truth. For example, at the church’s 40th anniversary, longtime residents still confused The Chapel with other churches near the New Hampshire border.  


Gwinn said the solution became clear: create a ministry downtown where around 70 percent of the town’s people live. The church did just that in April 2019 through disciples organized as Acts 2:42 families. These believers now strategically and effectively engage their sphere of influence in the town of 11,000. 


“God has works for us to do, individually, as Acts 2:42 families and as a family of families called The Chapel,” pastor Tom Clinkscale said. 


Time for another surprise


A second surprise during The Chapel’s history has come as believers regularly ask government leaders how to help these servants be more effective.  


“We want to really help you as governing authorities,” Clinkscale has often told officials in public works, police, fire and the mayor. “It takes them time to figure it out and believe it.” 


The disciples desired to go beyond basic acts of kindness toward civil servants and generate strategic influence for the town’s good. 


Clinkscale said government leaders have sometimes been surprised at the church’s investment in them. But he explained that the church sees it as one more the church can do good works and reveal God’s wisdom to the town. 


“We wanted to have a unique new identity in town,” he said. 


Related: Converge’s 2:10 Focus process helps every church unite mission and identity. 


The Chapel addresses a history of hurt with compassion


Winchendon started as a mill town but today, the community lacks a solid business base or other attractional features that draw newcomers. There are cycles of poverty and issues like drug abuse and single moms that go with the cycles.  


Clinskscale said many have concluded that church and the gospel don’t help overcome their pains and struggles.  New England is a practical place, he said, where many want effective, useful investments of time and energy. 


Related: Another Massachusetts church makes Jesus known using a different form. 


The Chapel’s downtown location has embraced the community, creating Caring Hearts, an effort to meet people’s practical and spiritual needs. That effort includes support for parents who lose their kids, crisis pregnancy support and a life rebuild ministry. People who suffered devastating consequences gain three years of support to put life back together. 


Related: An Arizona church offers a coffee shop and crisis pregnancy center to bless their town. 


Clinkscale said a woman’s life has been transformed by knowing Jesus despite drug use and other challenges. The Life Rebuild ministry helped her become a flourishing, stable woman involved in the church and community.  


Clinkscale added the downtown church is an incubator for leadership development. He said the Chapel downtown also creates a model that could be replicated in similar places in Massachusetts. 


Related: How are other Converge churches getting creative with their building and location? 


Smiling faces of new church don’t go unnoticed anymore

In downtown Winchedon, people usually get medicine at the pharmacy or a slice of pizza at Gabby’s. But The Chapel’s downtown location gives people something else to see on Central Street: changed lives. 


As folks walk past, there sit the people of God taking the Lord’s supper, studying the Bible or learning to be leaders who display God’s wisdom. The community finds out about God’s caring heart through help for their hurts and struggles. 


“When people walk by, they see faces that smile and wave at them and invite them,” Gwinn added.  


He said neighbors see a church full of activity while welcoming new people. That’s the entrance into God’s family he received more than 30 years ago. And it’s a surprise the Chapel wants to keep creating right where most of the town lives, works and shops. 


“This is a beacon of Jesus for the community,” he said. “Our role as a church is to proclaim Jesus before the world. Every true gospel church is a good thing for a town.” 

Converge's 10 districts have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene