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Stuggling congregations lack hope, purpose
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
March 22, 2010
3 MIN READ TIME

Stuggling congregations lack hope, purpose

Stuggling congregations lack hope, purpose
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
March 22, 2010

Palmerville Baptist Church,

a church plant in 1886, closed its doors Easter 2009 with 17 members, the same

number of members that began the church and the same day it started.

“It was becoming too much

from them,” said Hal Bilbo, associational missionary for Stanly Baptist Association. “Members have joined other church fellowships and gave their

property to the association.”

Palmerville was a mission of

Ebenezer Baptist Church, now Badin Baptist Church.

“It was only a couple of

miles from church but it was a different community,” he said.

That community once boomed

with a general store, a school, and a post office. Bilbo said a plant closure

in Badin contributed to the church’s membership decline. Leaders (deacons

ranging in age 79-84) made the decision to close in 2008 because “it could no

longer maintain the properties.”

The church building and its

cemetery were given to the association. The church is building a $100,000

cemetery fund to provide perpetual care. The fund is managed by the N.C.

Baptist Foundation.

“Our plans are to use it for

a community center,” said Bilbo who mentioned the chapel might be used for weddings

or a future congregation if the community builds back up around it.

In Bilbo’s five years as

associational missionary, this is only the second time he’s seen a church

close.

“The first one the pastor

actually owned the property,” he said, but he was in bad health. The church

tried another pastor but “it just didn’t work.”

Bilbo said that only 10 of

the 60 churches and two missions in his association are growing.

“That’s not a great

percentage,” said Bilbo, who considers six of the churches to be in critical

shape. “They are in survival mode. It’s a challenge to help these struggling

churches.”

Some are aging congregations

and are not reaching new people. Some have “lost their purpose,” he said.

“They’ve operated as a support group for each other and do fine in that

respect. It’s just really tough for them to go forward.”

Seventeen have bivocational

pastors.

“We’ve had a church to ask

another church to move in with it,” he said, but that hasn’t happened yet.

A blended family like that

“presents a unique set of challenges,” Bilbo said.

Associational leadership is

available to the churches. Bilbo said the association has offered clinics and

he and others are willing to meet at the local church to talk with leaders.

“Hopefully those who come in

to help will inspire and be a little contagious,” Bilbo said.

He sees a lack of hope in

the struggling churches.

“Hope does change your whole

perspective towards things,” he said.

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