Here’s a thought-provoking article written by Christian Post columnist Wallace Henley in which he looks closer at a turnaround church and suggests what he believes is at the heart of church revitalization.
In 1978 the congregation of Houston’s Second Baptist Church met in a stately building whose mighty steeple towered over its rapidly growing community, and whose imposing appearance might have given the impression to passersby that the church it housed was healthy, strong, and dynamic.
What casual bystanders would not have known was that the impressive facilities in 1978 housed a declining, perhaps dying, church.
Today that classic sanctuary building with the looming steeple still stands, but it is only one of several structures on that site, which is now one of five campuses spread across Houston, with two more underway for a congregation at this writing of more than 64,000 members, baptizing 2,000-3,000 annually.
Second Baptist is among the exceptions in the Southern Baptist Convention, which at present is experiencing the death of 800-1,000 of its churches every year, as noted in a recent Christian Post report. Further, the giant denomination that once experienced sustained dramatic growth is shrinking – though it is still the largest non-Catholic church body in the United States, with nearly 16 million members.
One of the ways to recover a dying church is for a congregation to receive as pastor “a young man who will come with ideas and concepts that are perhaps different from theirs,” said Kansas City revitalization pastor John Mark Clifton, quoted in the Christian Post report.
That’s exactly what Houston’s Second Baptist Church did in 1978 when it called Ed Young as pastor. Young left a church of 6,000 to assume leadership of a congregation that had shrunk to 300-500 in weekly attendance. From day one, however, Young sensed he had been called to Houston itself, and the vision was to build a church that would impact the city, and from there the world.
Young’s first challenge was revitalizing Second Baptist Church. Like an ER doctor he went straight to the heart of the matter, and decline was reversed with dynamics and growth that continue under his leadership, now in its 36th year.
What is this “heart” of church revitalization, and how can it be healed and strengthened? That’s the question we will examine in this three-part series.
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