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hope for churches in stress

In Hope

After an extended season of growth, Millersville (Pa.) Brethren in Christ Church encountered a series of demoralizing setbacks and alarming attrition. Despite efforts for corrective adjustments, worship attendance continued to decline.

Weary and discouraged, almost to the point of closing, the church took one more step before a final decision. They invited an interim pastor to come to help discern whether health could be restored.

Hope. An immediate need was to restore hope. The first steps were small ones: to remove visual cues of discouragement, ease the workload of tired workers, and remind the church of God’s penchant to bless underdogs.

Prayer. More importantly, the church mobilized to pray. For forty days, people interceded for the church, day by day, asking for specific points of need with an overall appeal for a fresh grip on faith and purposeful action.

Worship. Within weeks, the Lord provided a seasoned worship leader to reenergize worship. Soon there were upbeat openings, singable and Christ-exalting music, earnest prayers, heartfelt testimonies, and clear, biblical preaching.

Plan. To reset the trajectory toward recovery, the church needed a reason to exist. Conversation coalesced into a purposeful plan based on four potential strengths: strong worship, good care for everyone across the lifespan, a high level of kinship, and optimal use of the facility.

Partners. Energized by a clear purpose, people pitched in to help the church “reboot” for renewed strength. They offered known abilities and discovered new ones. They gave as much as they were able, both time and money. The mood shifted to cautious hope.

Decision. The time came to make a decision. People had experienced a measure of healing. The Spirit had renewed hope and purpose. The church had come to believe that something special could happen in and though them. Acknowledging valid concerns, yet factoring in the evident presence and power of the Lord, the church took action to move forward in hope.

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