Is There Hope for Your Church?

God is in the practice of restoring, renewing, and revitalizing people and churches, if they are willing to follow him and pay the price to see it happen. There is hope for your church![1]

Given the point to where God has led your church today, do you see any hope? Perhaps the downward trend has been a slow, demoralizing road. Perhaps the stagnation has you longing for something greater. Perhaps your church imploded after a season of conflict. Maybe your church’s struggle is different altogether. Yet, is there is hope for your church?

As I launch my small corner on Small Church Center, I want to begin, in a series of entries, telling you my story, as pastor of First Baptist Church of Aurora. I believe that many of you will be able to identify with the struggles I have faced, with the despair that I have felt, and with the hurt that came into my heart. If 80% of churches indeed have a flat or declining attendance and if 5,000-7,000 churches close each year, we and our churches are anything but alone in our struggles. However, I also believe that my story will help you to see that there is still hope for you and your church.

My first vocational ministry, at the not-so-ripe age of twenty-three, was at First Baptist Church of Aurora. After earning my undergraduate degree in theology, I accepted bi-vocational role in 2005. As I had grew up in a church that experienced several demoralizing cycles of conflict, First Baptist was a breath of fresh air. The church had been growing at 7-8% annually the previous two years, we had a new facility, and, most importantly, there was life. When I first arrived average attendance was just over 200. Eighteen months later attendance swelled to nearly 250. The church was growing financially as well, as the church was able to transition my part-time position to a full-time position in those eighteen months.

However, between mid-year 2007 and mid-year 2008, our church went from an average attendance of 250 to an average attendance of 50 people. Our budget was slashed by 2/3. All staff members in the church had left, with the exception of me. Conflict was everywhere. Blame filled every corner of the facility. The resulting demoralization was thicker than morning fog. The situation in the church was so bad that our youth pastor divorced his wife, yet nearly no one in the church even knew it happened.

At twenty-six years old, the church asked me to lead the church in the interim, following the departure of the lead pastor. My job for a year was to try to figure out everything that our church could not do anymore. The list of what we couldn’t do was larger than what we could still do. At twenty-seven, they removed the interim tag. Despite the pastor search team’s encouragement, I knew I would be held responsible to lead the church back to some sort of past glory.

Where was there hope for my church?  Where was there hope for me? Is there hope for you?

[1] Gary L. McIntosh, There’s Hope for Your Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 24

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