Some Restart Stories
A Coastal Savannah Church
A Church in the coastal area of Savannah had dwindled to just a handful of members. They finally decided to die, deeding their property over to the local association and relinquishing control of the church to a revitalization restart steering committee which included members of other churches, pastors, and state denomination leaders. Since the restart steering committee called a church planter as the restart pastor two years ago, the church has grown to 198 in attendance on Sunday mornings. Additionally, the church, which never had morning Bible study, now also has 84 participants!
The Church @ Oaklevel
Jason Cooper “Coop” became the lead pastor of Oak Level Baptist Church in February 2007. During the years leading up to his arrival, the church had reached a critical point of decline and the members had considered renting the existing facilities to another congregation. Jason embraced God's call to begin a revitalization effort at Oak Level in order to restore Jesus' mission to the church. The church began to take steps to refocus on the community surrounding the Ocoee campus. God began to bring leaders together from all over West Orange County and the revitalization effort was in full swing. In the first 3 years of Jason's tenure at Oak Level Baptist Church, more people who had placed their faith in Jesus were baptized than had been baptized in the 10 years leading up to his arrival put together. It has been a remarkable turnaround.
In August of 2010, Oak Level Baptist Church celebrated its 50th anniversary as a church. The very next weekend, the church became known as "The Church at Oak Level," in an effort to remove the barriers of religion that accompanied the name "Baptist" in its name. However, the church remains affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the local association as they partner together to reach the world for Jesus. Jason's hope for The Church at Oak Level is that it would be a family of followers of Jesus who know God intimately, worship Him passionately, and seek His will tirelessly in what has become the church's finest hour. In October of 2012, Rev. Jason Cooper and the folks at the Church@OakLevel received the Church Revitalizer Award for Church Revitalization and Renewal from the Greater Orlando Baptist Association for its amazing turnaround.
Lockhart Church in Orlando
Pastor Rob Arnold is an incredible church planter and becoming a significant church revitalizer of Lockhart Baptist Church in the Lockhart community of central Florida. Rob is faced with the daunting challenge of turning a church around that is focused inward on what is comfortable to moving it outward while it seeks to embrace the younger population of central Florida.
Grace Journey Community Church
Coleman Pratt is the pastor of Grace Journey Community Church a restart church that formerly ministered as the old First Baptist Church of Union Park. In early February of 2013, Pastor Pratt led the church to close down as the former church and reopen as Grace Journey. A church running at best 80 people launched its first Sunday with 150 plus people in attendance. The new church had no member and at the end of the first launch service the altar was opened for those wanting to join GJCC. People were moving from all over the sanctuary as the invitation to become part of this new restart in Orlando.
The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina
The Summit Church,
led by J.D. Greear, was formerly known as Homestead Heights Baptist Church
in Durham, North Carolina. Serving as the youth minister when the senior pastored retired Dr. Greear was asked to become the lead pastor in 2002. The Summit was restarting with a new name and a new focus. During the three plus years before he became the lead pastor, the church had gone through a lot of people leaving, dissension and division. Out of the original 450 people within the church, 150 church members refused to make the shifts necessary to reach new people. In 2001, the church had just about gone bankrupt. Still, from the time J.D. became the pastor, a committed core of the people who stayed were ready to get involved. In 2012 Outreach magazine named The Summit as the fifteenth fastest growing church in America.
Los Angeles Suburbs Church
A Church in the thriving San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles had dwindled to just a handful of members. They finally decided to die, deeding their property over to the local association and relinquishing control of the church to a steering committee, which included members of other churches, pastors, and state denomination leaders. Since the restart church planting steering committee called a planter as the restart pastor three years ago, the church has grown to 70 in attendance on Sunday mornings.
Regardless of the Terminology a Restart is a Restart!
When I began working in church revitalization there was only a single word for the single strategy of restarting a dying church. It was the term restart, which meant just that. Then two friends out west wanted to coin a new term for a church restart and they came up with a new term repotting. Repotting is a very organic term and for those who think systematically this way it work. I had one pastor tell me that he preferred the term to restarting because it was a kinder term that did not offend Church people. My response was that it was important to shock them and the least thin we ought to be is concerned if they like a term that speaks of a rapidly declining church during their watch. Another term that a few utilize when considering a restart strategy is the term resurrection. A resurrection strategy brings a church from death to life. A fourth term that is often used is restore. When a church is restored is may sometimes be through a restart but often churches facing rapid decline will try everything else before they consider a restart. Many try to restore the church by fixing processes and systems to eventually realize that is not the best way to revitalize the church. Realignment is the fifth term for church restarting some use. It is an effort to speak to the new structure, which will be required to see a church restarted. The term restoration is an effort to address the need for something old to become new. The danger is that some believe that by throwing on a new coat of paint it will revitalize a church, it will not. Nearsighted fixes in facilities never has and never will revitalize a church. A seventh term used by some is the term rebirth. Granted the dead church must have a new birth and the term rebirth is one that is a viable term for what a restart strategy is all about. Yet, some think of it as just rewrapping the rapidly declining church and while some degree of wrapping the restart in swaddling clothes is necessary, restarting is more than nursing an infant. It is resuscitation. A restart is a strategy that necessitates resuscitation. The paddles have been gelled and there is only one more opportunity to bring back life to the patient.
Next week, I will share some principles for Considering a Church restart strategy.