Though Northeastern Baptist College was founded only recently in 2013, the school has since then seen incredible growth through God’s loving provision. From early on in President Ballard’s life, God was already guiding his servant toward the eventual founding of NEBC, and preparing a place in the heart of the Northeast for this new college. With nearly 100 students currently enrolled, expansion projects on the horizon, and continual confirmation of God’s blessing, Northeastern Baptist College continues its legacy of complete reliance on God’s favor, timing, and provision.
BALLARD’S EARLY YEARS
The vision of Northeastern Baptist College was planted in the heart of Mark H. Ballard as a teenage preacher filling pulpits in southern Colorado. Having accepted the call to preach at the age of ten, the Lord opened the door for Ballard to present his first sermon at the age of twelve. Shortly thereafter, doors began to open for him to teach and preach on a regular basis. Throughout Ballard’s high school years, a week rarely went by that did not find him in the pulpit somewhere in southern Colorado.
As Ballard began considering where he would go to Bible College, he found his in state options were very limited. During this time, books on the life of D. L. Moody began to influence the young preacher. The Lord used Moody’s burden to provide education to those for whom it was not readily available to plant a similar burden in Ballard’s life. He reports, “It was during those early years of preaching, the Lord put it in my heart that one day I would start a college.”
The dream of starting a college seemed to disappear from Ballard’s life. He spent the next 15 years preaching, starting, and serving as pastor of churches in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia. In 1998 he and his wife left a growing congregation in Virginia to start a church in Londonderry, NH. During the first year of this endeavor the Lord began to water the seed planted as a youthful preacher. The Ballards worked on starting the new congregation Sunday through Friday. On Saturday afternoons they would drive the state, meet people, assess various towns, and pray asking the Lord to show them what was really needed to make a major impact on New Hampshire, New England, and beyond.
Soon Mark realized the problem was not a lack of willingness to talk about spiritual things that held New England back. The harvest was plentiful. The problem was a lack of laborers to plant, water, and harvest the seed of the Gospel. As research continued over the first few years, two problems came to the forefront. First, many pastors in the region had little or no theological and ministerial training. Second, when the Lord called young people to ministry they would often go south for their education, planning to return to New England upon completion. However few actually returned, rather they found a new home for life and ministry in the South.
To meet the first need, Mark led Christian Fellowship Baptist Church to start a two-year unaccredited Bible institute in August 2000. The institute offered both online and on-site classes to train pastors, church planters, and lay leaders in their own context. The Lord blessed this work, and before long many were being trained each semester. In the early days this institute was one of the few Christian schools providing a genuine classroom experience online. Soon colleges and seminaries across the country began offering online work leading to an accredited bachelor’s degree. In addition, the Bible Institute did nothing to keep or bring young people to New England, who would be educated and plant their lives here. Having fulfilled a need for a time, the work of the Bible Institute closed following the spring semester in 2009.
PROJECT LAUNCH 13
In early October 2009 the Lord reminded Mark of the seed planted in his heart as a teenage preacher. Throughout the month the call of God became very clear. On October 25th Mark surrendered completely to God’s call to start a Baptist College in New England. He went to work immediately preparing to follow the Lord’s call and launch the college. The work began with building a prayer team. By January Mark shared the vision with several people who volunteered their time and talents to the project.
Having prayerfully sought a way to continue as a pastor and still launch the college, Mark determined this was not possible. Therefore on March 28, 2010 Mark held a meeting where he shared the vision with Christian Fellowship Baptist Church and announced his resignation effective May 31, 2010. On June 1st he began working full time to start the college.
In February 2010 the non-profit organization, Project Launch 13, was started to serve as the vehicle to prepare for and open the doors of the college. The spring and summer were spent establishing strategies, objectives, goals, action plans, building support teams, and initial staff to move PL13 towards the goal of launching the college in August 2013. In addition, much time was spent on locating a suitable site for a campus and sharing the vision with various groups and individuals.
From January 2013, to August 26th 2013, the final preparations were made to launch the College with completion of numerous construction projects on the main campus and library, as well as the hiring of new faculty and staff for the inaugural year. In addition to seeing Mark’s vision of starting the College in New England become a reality with the first students attending classes, His inauguration as the first President of Northeastern Baptist will remain a preeminent and historic moment in the existence of the College and the lives of those who were a part of this much anticipated and celebrated occasion.