By Jennifer Johnson
Earlier this year, as part of a project with Kairos Legacy Partners, I researched stories of dying churches that merged with another congregation or recycled their resources and energy into a new church. Many, like Central Christian Church in Tampa, FL, were once-thriving churches that had declined due to aging members and changing neighborhoods. Others, like Capital City Christian Church in Raleigh, NC, knew major change was needed to reach a young, growing community.
In each case, the story was worth telling because the church wanted to be part of something bigger than slowly dwindling while hanging on to the status quo. The details vary, but every congregation made the painful decision either to close a chapter (by joining with another congregation) or close the doors (by selling the property and donating the money to a church plant).
I find these stories immensely encouraging. For one thing, they are reminders that even in the midst of our competitive, individualist culture, it is possible for the church to collaborate.
But these stories are also important because they give us examples of leaders who are humble enough to see this larger perspective and to relinquish their own power. In each situation, at least one man had to honestly consider his giftedness, his effectiveness, and his career. Each time, he had to face the reality of losing a ministry he cared about so it could become something different—something he would probably not get to lead.
Community Christian in Yorba Linda, CA, wasn’t “dying,” but it was struggling. I’m impressed with Greg Curtis’s willingness to accept this reality and look for a solution that would result in more ministry happening for more people—even if it ended his tenure as senior pastor.
The goal isn’t for every small church to meld into a larger one. But when a church of any size has lost its momentum or veered off mission, the goal is honest assessment of the situation and the humility to make tough choices. So here’s to the leaders of Central Christian (now Common Ground Christian Church in Tampa), Capital City (now part of LifePointe in Raleigh) and Community Christian in Yorba Linda. Thanks for giving up your territory to expand the kingdom.