The foundational unit of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is our local North Carolina Baptist churches. We rejoice in the fact that some of our well established churches remain vibrant and continue to reach and disciple Christ followers, and several of our newer churches and church plants are also reporting church growth and strength in their baptism numbers. However, a sad reality is that too many churches in our state convention, across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and in other denominations are closing their doors each year.
LifeWay reports from the statistics contained in the 2014 Annual Church Profile (ACP) that in N.C. 52.1 percent of SBC churches are plateaued and 28.2 percent are declining. An SBC entity has stated that across our nation 80 percent of churches are plateaued or declining. An unidentified source indicates that only 6 percent of churches are keeping up with the population growth in North America.
There are a variety of reasons for this. Some churches are in communities that have seen dramatic population decline or demographic shifts, including many from underserved populations or unreached and unengaged people groups. We cannot deny the fact that many churches are declining and dying because they are not strongly motivated to reach lost people living all around them or they do not believe that they have any potential for growth and they do not know what they can do in order to become a vibrant and thriving church again.
In contrast, there is some good news to follow. As a result of the needs presented in the information above, our convention launched the Church Health and Revitalization Team. It is a part of the Evangelism and Discipleship Group and the leader of this new team is Brian Upshaw.
The consultants who make up this team serve on a contractual basis with BSC. They are active or retired pastors and church leaders who have a proven track record of leading healthy, growing churches here in North Carolina.
This team, in its inaugural year, has been assisting churches in the revitalization process including many that are located in the pockets of lostness in this state as identified by the BSC’s Strategic Focus Team. Some churches are beginning to experience hope because they are pursuing a fresh work of God within their fellowship and beginning to develop new vision for their future.
Already, the Church Health and Revitalization Team has connected with 487 pastors, laymen and associational leaders, representing 207 churches and Baptist associations to assist with revitalization efforts toward the mission.
Our new team has developed a three-phase process to bring churches from “survival mode” to a place where they are actively engaging in missions. These three phases are “the man, the ministry and the mission,” and they help move a church forward to become healthy and to make disciples.
At BSC, we believe dying churches do not reflect God’s heart – however, that is not to say that mere survival is this team’s goal. The true goal is to have these dying churches return to the mission to impact lostness through disciple-making. Making disciples is what God commanded us to do in the Great Commission, and we at the convention believe that He will truly be glorified if disciple-making is the heart of our churches’ mission.
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