I read a great article in The Pathway today. It's about the First Baptist Church of Raymondville, MO. Raymondville is a little town just a few miles from my hometown. I used to run around Raymondville a little bit back in the day, but that's a story for another time...
The church was down to about 6-8 people. It was, as the article says, "on the brink." But thanks to the Good Lord, and a hard-working pastor from Brooklyn (of all places!) who's invested himself in the church for over five years, the church is now running 40 in Sunday worship, and is making an impact on the community.
We rarely hear such stories. Seems like "mega churches" get most of the headlines. (And by the way, I am not a mega-church hater.) But the truth is that our denomination is FULL of little, struggling churches in little, struggling towns. Many of these churches will die in the next 20 years (and frankly, many of them need to). But there are others that can be salvaged, revitalized, saved.
Sidenote: The median church size in America is 75. If your church averages 200 in worship, it's larger than 80% of the churches in this country. If your church averages 100 in worship, it's larger than 60% of the churches in this country.
Seems like we put a lot of emphasis on planting new churches (and rightfully so), but I firmly believe the best thing we could do to reach many of our rural communities is revitalize existing churches. Of course this is very hard work. And the churches that are genuinely willing to make the necessary changes are few and far between. But it can be done.
One thing about little churches, they go through lots of ups and downs. A good pastor comes and stays 2-3 years and lights a fire under the church, only to leave and be replaced by a total loser that runs everyone off. Many of our small churches are in a vicious cycle this way. These churches tend to view themselves as victims but, of course, there's enough blame to go around.
If you can't tell, this is a subject that I'm passionate about. I'm proud to say that I'm a product of little churches (a shout-out to Plato & Bucyrus). I have a soft spot in my heart for them, and I want to see them do well. We need more stories like Raymondville. And we need to hear more about the men who labor in these fields.
I would like to challenge my Selmore folks... Are there opportunities for our church to help revitalize struggling churches around us? Can our church be an encourager? Would you join with me in beginning to think and pray about this?
P.S. "Quotable Quotes" from the referenced article...
"pastors need to quit pussyfooting around the pulpit and start preaching the Word of God" -- Pastor Frank's advice for revitalizing a church.
"If you set yourself on fire, people will come watch you burn." -- Spurgeon, as quoted by Pastor Frank, on the need for pastors to be passionate.