Celebrating Dennis Baril’s Leadership and Legacy
Dennis Baril, senior pastor of Covenant Community Church (CCC) in Rehoboth, MA, and faithful partner to Willow Creek Association since 2002 as a Summit host site, is retiring this month. In today’s blog post, we want to celebrate his incredible leadership, ministry, and faithfulness in expanding God’s kingdom in Southern New England and in Haiti.
In the early years, when the GLS was piloting the satellite concept, Dennis eagerly volunteered, but was rejected numerous times. It was thought that his church, although large by New England standards, was too small compared to other host sites at the time. Boy, were we wrong! Under Dennis’s leadership, the Summit has become embedded in the CCC culture and Dennis has been instrumental in broadening its reach throughout New England by encouraging other churches to host. In addition, he has also been a key driver behind bringing the GLS to Haiti, using the conference as a launch pad for partnerships with key Haitian leaders to improve education and create jobs.
Sean Smith, pastor at CCC, and longtime friend of Dennis Baril, shares more about his leadership and legacy:
What is it like to work with Dennis?
I have worked with Dennis since 1997. We have had so many wonderful memories along the way to building a healthy church in SE New England. Dennis is a visionary and a strategist who is both fun and challenging to work with. He definitely keeps us on our toes as he is always on to that next Big Idea. I have grown so much under his leadership and have always appreciated how much he stretches us as a staff because it stems from a desire to do all that God has for us.
What do you most admire about Dennis?
Dennis is the most loyal person you will ever meet. He loves the local church and his loyalty is unwavering. I have a unique relationship with Den where I know that he looks at me as a son and the love and respect that we have for one another is unbelievable.
Den is a man of strong integrity. I have never once questioned that he would lead with great moral judgment and lead the church with anything but Christ-like integrity.
Maybe the thing that makes me most appreciate Den is his love for both the local church and the capital “C” Church. Every day, Dennis works as hard as anyone I know to help build a healthy church in New England and to influence people around the world. He uses his gifts of leadership and ability to think BIG to tackle issues that most aren’t willing to take on and he comes up with solutions that most would never dream of. He is truly unique!
How does has he inspired you? How has he challenged you? What kind of impact have you seen as a result of his leadership?
Dennis inspires me to be a better leader and Christ-follower every day because of his approach to ministry and his tireless work ethic. Dennis pulls things out of Scripture that are amazing and challenging to think about – I am always inspired to learn more about Jesus Christ, His ministry and what He desires from me as a Christ-follower!
The impact that Den has had in our local church is tremendous. He has built a very strong and healthy local church. He challenges us to “Change Lives ~ On Purpose” (which is our mission statement), as we strive to truly love others. He has enlarged what it means to love our neighbor. We have hosted and led a “Step Into Africa” event in our area through World Vision; we have launched the GLS in Haiti, empowering Haitians to run it themselves in multiple locations. We have created Teachers Training Teachers, which is another imaginative way to help change the world for Christ through educating third world teachers so they can become better teachers. We did a tent drive for Haiti after the earthquake hit. We filled a shipping container with supplies for those struggling in Liberia after the Ebola outbreak. These are amazing feats for a 500-person church in Rehoboth, Ma, but this has never stopped Den from dreaming big and inspiring us to believe that we can “do even greater things” in Christ.
Another awesome thing that I think Den has done brilliantly in a staunchly traditional church filled with independent New Englanders is that he has created a culture for change. This is why we are able to do so much good in our community and in Haiti. His leadership never allows us to settle for what has worked in the past, but we are always surging forward to that which is next. This is what makes it so much fun to work with Den – you feel like you are on the Great Adventure with Christ!
What would you say is Dennis’ legacy?
Dennis’ legacy is that he has laid the groundwork for a healthy church to grow and has led the way to demonstrate that “all things are possible with Christ” when Christ-followers pull together and go after BIG dreams. He has been a fearless leader who has always been willing to tackle the biggest problems without excuses and then found creative ways to find the right solutions and make them a reality.
My love and respect for Dennis is off the charts and words really can’t describe how much I love him and how much I have cherished working alongside him. I am proud to call him my one and only pastor.
“A vision that doesn’t last past the leader is only a dream. It will feel very different with Dennis’ absence from the church, but his vision for a healthy church in Southern New England will be felt even stronger and much further past his own name. Dennis didn’t build his own kingdom, he participated in God’s mission to build his kingdom, and that will last forever.” – Brandon Lemois, succeeding Senior Pastor
“One of the things I admire most about Dennis is his gift to see the potential impact of the local church on a much broader scale. It starts with changing the conversation about church and God in our local community. He has been able to envision individuals and teams to get engaged in problems of the world that break the heart of God—problems that would appear out of reach for a small church in New England with relatively minimal resources. He has developed a local church model that has a global reach for His Kingdom.” – CCC Attendee
“Dennis’ legacy at CCC is the foundation he has laid for our church to grow and flourish for God’s kingdom.” – CCC Attendee
“Dennis has the ability to see raw talent in people and is willing to take a chance on individuals to develop them into leaders. He has given me opportunities as an inexperienced leader to learn, grow, fail, excel and lead because he saw gifts in me that God could use as part of His story of redemption. For those opportunities, I will be forever grateful.” – CCC Attendee
“Dennis is a man of vision. He is able to see past the problems and distractions toward new places God is leading the church.” – CCC Attendee
“Dennis has inspired me to continually look at things from a different perspective and question the routine.” – CCC Attendee
Dennis, on behalf of the staff at the Willow Creek Association, words are not enough to thank you for your legacy, leadership and your partnership!
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