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Small churches go ‘transformational’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While large churches may get the most attention, small churches are the lifeblood of most denominations.

But the challenges they face, such as a limited volunteer base, prompt them to accept that they can’t do everything larger churches do.

“I looked at our website and saw how many ministries we had — too many!” said Brian Bullard, pastor of Community Fellowship Baptist Church in Covington, Ga., during a day-long live webcast, “Transformational Small Churches,” from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bullard led the congregation to sharpen their focus on just seven ministries. “We had to cut back,” he said during an interdenominational panel discussion by six pastors of small churches. “I asked everyone to choose one ministry and commit to it.”

David Gould, pastor of First Wesleyan Church in Nashville, Tenn., Gould, recounted, “We looked at the book, ‘Simple Church’ [by LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer and Miami pastor Eric Geiger] and had to determine what we could do well, then we focused on those things.”

Jason Whitehurst, pastor of Music City Assembly of God in Nashville, said the church he leads had to make the hard decision to end its Sunday School and move to home fellowship groups.

“We’d always done Sunday School, but for us, in our situation, that Sunday morning time just didn’t work anymore,” Whitehurst said. “It was a hard decision for us, but when we did it, we began to see immediate health. We just couldn’t do it all.”

Also participating in the panel discussion were German Castro of El Shaddai Christian Church in Brentwood, Tenn.; John Racioppa of Westmoreland (Tenn.) Baptist Church; and Lynn Harper of Promised Land Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas.

Castro, responding to a question about challenges faced in the past year, recounted how the Nashville flood in May destroyed their church facilities.

But, he noted, “What began as a tragedy for us has become a blessing. We are now sharing space with a neighbor church that we didn’t have a relationship with before.

“Our people have realized that the church wasn’t the structure. It is the group of believers. We still have a church, just not a building,” Castro said.

The moderator, Philip Nation, director of ministry development at LifeWay, closed the panel discussion by saying, “When you look at what is happening in these churches represented here, you can see that ministry in a small church can be done effectively. Transformation is happening.”

The Sept. 7 webcast was hosted by Rainer and Ed Stetzer, vice president for research and ministry development at LifeWay, and was part of Stetzer’s monthly “The Exchange” webcast.

The webcast content was based on research gathered by LifeWay Research and released in the book “Transformational Church” co-authored by Rainer and Stetzer.

“There is no magical starting point for becoming a transformational church,” Stetzer said in emphasizing that prayer undergirds everything. “Prayer happens naturally out of the community of believers.”
Adapted from a report by Polly House, a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The Exchange” monthly webcast can be viewed at www.LifeWay.com/TheExchange.

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  • Polly House