New Covenant Christian Fellowship (NCCF) was established in 1987 as part of a church planting movement in Rhode Island. The idea of church planting came from Harold Burchett, pastor of Quidnessett Baptist Church, North Kingstown, RI. Beginning in the mid-1970s, these ideas led to the establishment of other churches in RI: Cranston Christian Fellowship, Exeter Chapel, Warwick Christian Fellowship, and Cumberland Christian Fellowship (now NCCF). In the 1990s, with Pastor Burchett off the scene and other pastors involved in their local churches, the movement was pushed forward by Dick Scoggins and Jim Frost of the Fellowship of Church Planters. This team eventually moved into planting house churches in RI and MA.
The church in Cumberland was led by these two church planters for two years and then transitioned to four elders. After several years of turmoil, the elder team was down to two men. In 1991 Chap Bettis stepped into the supported elder role part-time. In that same year, the congregation bought a small building in Lincoln, RI, and changed its name to Lincoln Christian Fellowship. God sovereignly brought a number of like-minded families into this small church who served as the core of the church. Influenced by the church planters, the growth strategy was to plant another house church rather than buy a larger building. Two attempts were made, in 1995 and 2000, but both were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the congregation grew, and God sovereignly made a building available in Attleboro, MA, where the congregation moved in 2006.
Philosophically, the church was given a foundation similar to that as spelled out by the 9 Marks ministry (see http://www.9marks.org) even before 9Marks came into being. There has been a strong emphasis on church membership, church discipline, the central role of the church, and conversion. However, New Covenant was established with more of a Plymouth Brethren mind-set regarding the role of elders and continues to value its plurality of elders.
The church has a strong emphasis on family discipleship. Also, most of the families in the church home-school. This has not been taught, nor is it a mark of true spirituality. But it is a decision that most have made because of the emphasis on the family. Most of the moms have stayed home for their children. There are also a number in the church who have adopted or are participating in foster care. A home-school co-op, run by a single mom, meets in the building on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our youth ministry includes a family-involved youth group meeting once a month, which includes parents and their teens.
Doctrinally, the leadership is Reformed. The Scriptures are taught from a Reformed perspective, but there is not a “Reformed culture.” Our theology (so we trust!), is “graciously Reformed,” reflecting the content and tone of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. The leaders are in agreement with groups like Together for the Gospel, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the Gospel Coalition (leaders: Tim Keller and D. A. Carson). Our worship is contemporary, with a mix of modern songs and hymns.
Currently, the membership is around seventy. There are a number of families with children in their mid-to-late teens. In addition, there are also some younger families. Currently, there are two elders serving, Greg Hunt and Craig Noll. Harold Burchett is serving as the interim pastor. Chap Bettis, who was supported for many years and is still in the area, is seeking to grow the Apollos Project, a ministry to equip parents to disciple their children.
A brief assessment of NCCF:
strengths: family discipleship, fellowship, accountability to living the Christian life, high view of church, music and worship, practical teaching
weaknesses: evangelism, leadership development.