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hope for churches in stress


Like vehicles, churches can get out of alignment. When a clear sense of mission is blurred by “the way we’ve always done it,” moving parts wobble and the church begins to zig and zag.

Nine years ago Akron (Pa.) Grace Evangelical Congregational Church was stressed by a jam-packed calendar, bloated budget, compromised daycare, and an attitude of mistrust. The incoming pastor, Les Cool, recognized that things were out of whack and began an extended process of realignment.

Les began with questions. He interviewed every lay leader and ministry team. About everything in the church, he asked, “Why?”

To restore a healthy pace, Les reset the church calendar. Meetings, already scheduled quarterly, were moved to Monday evenings. Wednesday were for midweek activities. All other evenings, apart from special events, were open.

Les began to actively train leaders, emphasizing heart and mind. The church initiated 3-2-1 discipleship—groups of three, meeting for two months, once a week. All the while, classes and small groups continued to flourish.

The leadership team called for every activity to be measured by the Great Commission (Mt. 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:36-40). Some were ended, others started. With a few exceptions, all had to be palatable to the unchurched.

Now Akron Grace is back in healthy alignment with the call of God. Internal parts are meshing well. Leaders and workers are stirred by fresh vision. Members are beginning to serve in the community. Once again, the church is focused—and moving forward.

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