Saying good-bye to church hard
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
March 22, 2010

Saying good-bye to church hard

Saying good-bye to church hard
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
March 22, 2010

Heart-wrenching. Tortuous.


There are probably more

adjectives to describe Pat Moore’s grief over the loss of her church in

Winston-Salem, but she is definitely still struggling with the loss of the only

church she’s ever known.

“I’ve gone there all my life

and it’s been very hurtful,” said Moore of Temple Baptist Church. “We had no

other choice.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Church members have to consider what to do with property and other assets during dissolution process.

The church closed its doors

at the beginning of December. They were down to three members and had been

renting a building.

“Most of our members have

passed on,” said Moore, who had been the church’s clerk and pianist.

Moore’s grandmother was a

charter member. Her mother was also a member and had been carrying Moore to

church since she was three weeks old.

“It’s been sad,” she said.

“It’s been very hard for me to take.”

The pastor, Robert

Blackburn, 85, lost his wife last summer, and was himself hospitalized in late


Moore said several members

had died in the last couple of years leaving them with Blackburn, Moore and her

husband. She had played with the organist at the church a long time. She passed

away too.

“That was a big blow,” said

Moore. “It was just one thing after another. We have been praying about what to


Pilot Mountain Baptist Association’s Associational Missionary Jim Pollard helped them with the

dissolution process.

Pollard preached a message

in early November from Ecclesiastes about “a time and a season,” said Moore.

She distinctly remembers him

saying, “Maybe this church has done all it came here to do.”

Moore said they mailed a

letter to everyone currently on the role in November for a meeting at the end

of the month to voice opinions.

“No one showed up except the

ones who had been coming,” Moore said.

The church donated items to

a local mission and is finalizing all the bills. Everything left will be going

to Pilot Mountain Baptist Association.

“The only reason they hung

on this long” was Moore, Pollard said. “She just didn’t want to see it die.

With tears in their eyes as we talked about it, I said let’s celebrate the

victories. Let’s talk about the history and rejoice in those things.”

Pollard, who has been

associational missionary for three years, said he’s seen church closures

several times and believes it will happen again soon.

“There are a number of

churches that are facing this reality,” he said. “If the ’60s ever comes back

I’ve got some churches that are ready.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Some churches sell buildings and rent space putting off an inevitable future closing. Others choose to merge with a church plant in hopes of survival.

There are several causes of

church closures. Sometimes it might be as simple as an event like a leaky roof

or a busted heating unit.

“They don’t have money to

fix it,” Pollard said, “and they don’t know what to do. Something that will

cost thousands of dollars to fix will force a church to close.”

Another reason is having a

very small number of members. Pollard said that Temple waited until they were

down to three active members before seeking help. Pollard chose the Sunday he

preached to share about the “time and great purpose for your church for many

years” and urged them to “decide whether they want to leave a legacy” and “try

to find a way to end gracefully.”

Pollard encourages churches

to include a dissolution clause in their articles and bylaws to help in case it

ever happens. If the church is incorporated, any assets must be given to

non-profit organizations. Some choose to donate directly to the organization

like the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder or

another church. Others leave endowments, which can be managed by the North

Carolina Baptist Foundation.

Pollard said he is working

with Forest Hill Baptist Church in Winston-Salem to either move toward closing

or form a partnership with a group planting a church in the area. Forest Hill

has less than 30 active members.

“I’m trying to help them

find a way to gradually ease into this,” Pollard said.

The new church is

contemporary and aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. “As they begin to grow

and the other church continues to decline, they will have someone to hand the

baton to,” he said.

Westview Baptist Church

dissolved last year, Pollard said. The members gave the building to a

non-profit senior citizens group and divided the leftover cash among several


Westview was experiencing

low numbers, and the members realized they couldn’t take care of the building.

“Some churches refuse to

open doors to community,” he said. “A lot of it depends on the attitude of

people there. People get more nervous and get less willing in dealing with

people who aren’t like them. We have other (churches) as well that in the next five

years they won’t be here.”

When churches try to stay in

the community and reach the changing population, Pollard calls that the

exception and not the rule.

“It’s very difficult for

them,” he said. “Sometimes churches give the keys (to him) and say do something

with this. We’ll go in and start a different kind of church. They could have

done this all along but they just refused.”

Pollard said Pilot Mountain

has started five churches since he’s been associational missionary. One church

started another campus. Two predominately white churches should be starting up

soon and a group from Florida is planting a church. Another group from South

Carolina is partnering with Forest Hills. They will be arriving in May.

“It should be an exciting

thing to see,” Pollard said. He said this trend is seen more in the city.

“Where cities have changed

and populations have changed I think we’re going to see an awful lot of this,”

he said.

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