Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Fighting Chance

Churches in decline are often in denial as well. When members are willing to face reality, they can make wise choices that will assure that the work of the Kingdom will go on. This is not an easy process; therefore, we have few success stories from which to learn. This week I had the opportunity catch a glimpse of two churches that took stock of their situations and pursued a viable alternative.

Several years ago, Northwoods Baptist Church and Northeast Baptist Church in DeKalb County (northeastern Atlanta) faced the fact that each was declining in membership, attendance, and resources. McAfee School of Theology professor Graham Walker and his wife, Mimi (former missionaries) were serving as interim pastors of Northwoods. Brian Wright, a recent McAfee graduate, was pastor of Northeast. The churches began to engage in a process of discernment which led to a merger with the two congregations joining in the Northeast facility. Brian became the pastor of the merged congregation and the minister of music at Northwoods assumed the same position in the new fellowship.

To make a long story short, there were bumps along the way, but Northeast is facing the future with hope. Funds from the sale of the Northwoods facility not only benefited several institutions, but also provided renovation of the Northeast facility with improved spaces for children, youth, and senior adults. Rick Bennett, Director of Congregational Formation for CBF, led the church through a visioning process to provide clarity of identity and envision new ministries to the community.

Today, the church continues its traditional worship service on Sunday mornings and has recently added a contemporary service with assistance from McAfee students. Northeast hosts three ethnic fellowships in its building—Korean, Vietnamese, and Hispanic. They are providing some innovative ministries to connect with unchurched people in the area. One is a farmers market on the church lawn on Saturday mornings featuring local produce, organic bread, and other treats.

Northeast is fortunate to have had friends to help them in this transition. The two original churches not only recognized their situations, but they were willing to reach out and utilize the resources available to them. The story is not over, but the days ahead will be exciting for Northeast. Pastor Brian Wright says that is has not been easy, but “at least we have a fighting chance.”

No comments: