Jonathan Barker on Renewing Your Church: Growing Together to Discover Our God-Given Purpose

November 2014 marked the month of my 32nd birthday and my first week as Lead Pastor of what was then known as Thornville Community Nazarene, in Thornville, OH. I would take the position as bi-vocational, being on a plane three days a week for my corporate job, with the hopes of growing the position into something that might be full-time in the future.

Fifteen adults greeted me that day for my first service, though 30-35 would come in and out of the building during that first month. The church was in decline, in crisis, operating in the red, irrelevant—you throw out the title and it fit. In a town of 1,000, this church once had 200 people in the late 1990s, but then went through two splits and had averaged 25-30 people for over the last decade in a KJV-only environment.

When I sat at my first board meeting with the leaders of the church, I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything. After they said they were okay with this, I repeated the question, being sure that they knew that I really meant it and qualified the statement by saying that if we were not getting the desired results, then everything had to be up for discussion.

They consented and off we went. I took lesser pay so we could hire a part-time youth pastor. Praise music from the 1980s and 1990s quickly transformed into the likes of Hillsong, Bethel, and Elevation. We put up a new sign, changed the name of the church, and overhauled the foyer, sound system, sanctuary, and the landscaping. We took down every single decoration, award, plaque, and memento that might remind anyone of who we had been.

One of my favorite memories from this time was when the gatekeeper of the church was helping me remove things from the foyer. The night started with her tearfully removing something from the wall with great emotion. The night ended with her tearing something off the wall as though she had secretly hated it the entire time that it existed.

With every single decision I was questioned, and each time I affirmed the change without any hesitation or wavering. I consistently reminded myself and others that we were preparing a church for people who had never stepped foot in our doors.

Within 18 months, five of my six board members resigned and half of the original members had left, but attendance was up to 50 people on Sunday morning.

In the spring of 2016 I attended Exponential for the first time. During that conference, I came forward. The superstars of church leadership were standing in the front of the room waiting to lay hands on me, and God directed me to find someone I did not recognize. I went to a couple and began sobbing, sharing with them that God was telling me to leave my corporate job to go into full-time ministry. They began to weep with me, sharing that they had answered the same call years before.

Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today