Where Three Or More Are Gathered
In every church revitalization/reSTART success story, I have witnessed God answer the prayers of His people crying out in desperation for their future. I have seen God move in the hearts of church planters to merge with dwindling congregations. He is stirring the hearts of pastors to lead their healthy churches to help at-risk churches. God is also reigniting embers of a calling in pastors previously fired to join the ranks of replanters restoring hope to churches facing closure. I’ve even fielded calls from well-trained seminary graduates passing up opportunities to serve in healthy churches to become revitalization pastors for the sake of advancing God’s Kingdom in hard places. As God’s people pray, God is moving on all fronts and congregations are being strengthened.
Not long ago three senior adult ladies began praying about the future of their church, asking God to move in their midst. The reputation of their church was well-known in the community, but not in a way that brought glory to God. In a small community where news travels faster than social media, the past events of this church would seem impossible to overcome. But the faith of three ladies trusted that God could redeem their history in a way that only He could get the glory. So, they began to pray and seek help from trusted leaders in their small community.
They found a pastor of another church who was willing to preach at 2pm and a Director of Missions who would try to help them consider their options for the future. They started a conversation with a strategist from the South Carolina Baptist Convention to explore their options and examine their reality. After a couple months of prayer and conversation everything shut down due to a national pandemic and the conversations and worship services stopped. All seemed without hope, but the three ladies were still praying and God was working for their good and His glory.
During the pandemic, God brought a plan together so that the gospel of Jesus could once again be proclaimed in this rural South Carolina town. A pastor of a stronger church was willing to adopt an at-risk church by sending a pastoral resident to serve as the interim pastor. The resident was willing to sacrifice his time to restart services and shepherd a very small flock. And the three ladies were willing to do whatever it took as members to have a hopeful future at their church. Three entities – partner church, pastoral resident, remaining members adopted a vision to reSTART the church after the pandemic with new leadership, new ministries, new decision-making process and possibly a new name. All three gathered together will be strengthened by this opportunity – the partner church stretches its members to embrace a new mission; a pastoral resident gains weekly preaching and leadership experience; and the at-rick churches reopens to new life and a hopeful future.
Today Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Woodruff, SC, is gathering for worship and proclaiming the hope of the gospel as a visible witness to God’s power to make all things new. God heard the prayers of three women of faith and now many more are gathering for worship and trusting God with the future of their little church beside the Enoree River.