Embattled Next Level Church Closes as More Demand Investigation & Audit

By Rebecca Hopkins
next level church NLC ARC
Next Level Church in Greater Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo via social media)

An embattled New England megachurch yesterday announced it’s closing, following an investigation by The Roys Report detailing allegations of yearslong bullying and financial misconduct by its lead pastor. Now leaders from other churches and ministries, who served as consultants for the church, are calling for an independent investigation and financial audit.

Next Level Church (NLC) announced resignations of founder and Lead Pastor Josh Gagnon and his executive team last Sunday. That left four pastors to help the multi-site church with locations throughout New England and Florida to handle the leadership transition.

However, those four remaining pastors resigned Friday and affirmed the whistleblowers’ call for an investigation in an emailed written statement. NLC’s final worship services are scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 19.

“Given the leadership departures and accusations against them, coupled with an unsustainable debt load and various other challenges and complexity, we do not feel we can lead forward,” said a written emailed statement signed by NLC Location Pastors Bryan Levangie, Michael Grayston, Pablo Lopez, and Shane Becton.

“We believe the seriousness and volume of the accusations being aired require an investigation to establish the fact, accountability, and any appropriate restitution and reconciliation.”

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next level church
Promotional image for Next Level Church (Video screengrab)

Public documents indicate NLC was carrying about $6.6 million in mortgage debt on property in New Hampshire. The lender is the Church Development Fund, which offers investment services to churches. In 2018, then-pastors Daniel King and Roman Archer signed the mortgages on behalf of NLC.

Granite United Church Pastor Anthony Milas, Riverbank Church Pastor Chris Goeppner, and Vision New England President Charles Galda sent a joint statement to TRR to explain their role as “voluntary unpaid consultants,” and to also state their recommendation that NLC be investigated.

“In our opinion, based on our limited involvement, sufficient signs exist to necessitate a multi-year investigation and financial audit of NLC,” they wrote in a joint statement.

NLC was once considered one of America’s fastest growing churches, though former staff told TRR those numbers were inflated.

“For the remaining staff of NLC, the hundreds of volunteers and families who have made NLC their home, this might feel like a key part of their life was ripped away from them as well,” the NLC pastors’ statement said. “Their friends and family, groups, and for some, their vocation and source of income, are suddenly gone, and we lament this loss with you.

ARC logo
Logo for Association of Related Churches (Courtesy image)

NLC is a member of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), one of the largest church planting organizations in North America, which has been plagued with financial, sexual, and spiritual abuse scandals.

Following Gagnon’s resignation, NLC was initially going to try to regroup and continue. But after the remaining location pastors met with Milas, Goeppner, and Galda to go over the church’s finances, they decided to instead close the church, the outside pastors stated. Their statement also said that NLC had never asked any of them to be official overseers of the church, but that Gagnon had recently sought Milas’s and Goeppner’s advice about allegations made about him. 

The NLC pastors’ statement also admitted that pastors Grayston and Becton, who were listed as NLC board members in state documentation, never gave consent to be on the board. The NLC location pastors said they requested their names be removed as board members from NLC’s official filing with the state.

As of publication, the New Hampshire Secretary of State site hasn’t yet been updated with those changes.

A fifth location pastor, Graham Siemon, resigned in early February after he was also listed as a board member at the site without his knowledge or consent.

“I think their eyes were opened up to the facts of what had been said,” said former Location Pastor Marty Holman, one of the whistleblowers who raised concerns to TRR last week. “All I saw in that statement was humility and I was proud of them for that. As a group, we’re really feeling for them.”

Gagnon’s resignation was immediate. But the end dates for Operations Pastor Daniel King and Executive Assistant Walt Robbins have not been set, the NLC pastors’ written statement said.

King handles the church’s finances, but former staff have raised concerns of the church’s lack of transparency in financial dealings. Questions remain about who will handle assets and whether King will be involved during the church’s dissolution.

josh gagnon
Josh Gagnon, former lead pastor of Next Level Church (Photo via social media)

Gagnon and his executive team did not make own their announcement of their resignations to the church, nor have they publicly apologized.

“Gagnon really has proven himself a wolf in all this,” said former NLC Pastor Ben White. “To abandon the congregations and staff in New England, and (they) won’t apologize or own up to anything really shows that they don’t align with the heart of the good shepherd.”

White and other whistleblowers are doing what they can to disciple other survivors through this situation.

“Our heart breaks for people who’ve been through religious abuse,” White said. “I just want to help shepherd anybody that desires to be shepherded through it.”

It’s unclear how an independent investigation could now happen with the church’s dissolution.

“Under normal circumstances a church’s Board of Directors, Trustees, or Elders, to whom management would be accountable, would conduct such an investigation,” stated Milas, Goeppner and Galda. “Here, we have not received information that any such body exists at NLC in practice or in its Bylaws.”

Former NLC volunteer Jesse Davies has started a campaign to encourage people to report misconduct and possible crimes to state authorities. He thinks more needs to be done to examine ARC churches. But today, he’s focused on organizing an intentionally “transparent” fund that will help with financial needs that the now-jobless staff may have. He manages a Facebook site that collects stories of abuse and connects survivors to each other.

“I imagine there’s going to be an outpouring that could be quite beautiful,” he said.

TRR reached out to Becton, Lopez, Grayston, and Levangie for comment and to find out how many other staff will lose their jobs, and how the churches’ finances will be handled in the dissolution, but did not receive a response.

Rebecca Hopkins is a journalist based in Colorado.



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9 thoughts on “Embattled Next Level Church Closes as More Demand Investigation & Audit”

  1. If “Their friends and family, groups, and for some, their vocation and source of income, are suddenly gone,” then clearly none of these things were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and which the cornerstone is Christ Jesus. Only those things founded and built upon the rock, the firm and true foundation will not be shaken. I pray that many of their friendships, family relations, and groups will, rather than being “gone,” will be discovered and celebrated as the saints in these churches come to realize that their connections and true fellowship in the Spirit has nothing to do with their figurehead men nor their buildings or programs, but on the heart connection God has made amongst them which WILL remain.

  2. Some entities which call themselves a “church” are nothing more than “religious and ecclesiastical production companies”. They hire musicians and pastor-teachers (or, entrepreneurs and CEOs) who assemble on a “stage” (which is what they themselves often call it) to put on a weekly religious show that is often more entertaining than edifying. They are fake churches—not genuine assemblies of true believers who learn from Jesus and obey all that he commanded. It’s not just Next Level Church which is ready to shut down the business, but plenty of others which operate all over the country. They are non-profit, but also just as definitely non-prophet.

    1. I was a guitarist at the West Boylston, MA location for about 2 months some 3 years ago. What you stated is 100% true of this church, imho. While I enjoyed my music time with them (despite their addiction to using click-tracks) I always sensed something “odd” about the church and came away from services feeling NO sense of spiritual fulfillment.

      The location pastor sat me down after service one Sunday and said my services were no longer desired as I was judged to be “not a team player”. (I volunteered my services there).
      I don’t know who decided this nor was given the reasons for it. Guess I didn’t fit as part of the “show”.

  3. Donald J McKinnon

    I know of several people connected to two other ARC churches in Massachusetts that are scared to speak out, but have shared with me and a others their abuse and stories from those two churches.

  4. In my opinion, the “He gets us” campaign is just a PR move to cover for stuff like this. What is really needed is a “He tipped over tables” campaign and the some serious house cleaningm starting with ARC money changers, but not stopping there.

  5. Susan Buczynski

    Yes, to Lauren Haas, Jesus gets us in the sense that he was “tempted in all points such as we”, and therefore is our perfect high priest. But he doesn’t leave us where he finds us. He says “Go and sin no more. (Sorry to be so late to the party, since this broke in February; just heard about it from my daughter in Dublin. NH. She was not a member. But it just gives her an unfortunate reason why to distrust slick church organizations, lining their pockets at the expense of the little guy, and especially if the leadership is so morally and ethically bankrupt. They have much to answer for to the Lord.

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