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By Joe Conway
FORT WORTH, Texas – Randal
Lyle knew almost nothing about church revitalization when he joined the staff
of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. His education would be by immersion
when a nearby church—Meadowridge Community Baptist—came seeking help.
“Church revitalization was
not even on my radar,” Lyle said. “I was unaware of any large-scale
revitalization efforts with any churches. Meadowridge had dwindled to 20 folks.
They were six to eight months, or one or two families exiting the church from
having to close down.”
Lyle was serving Wedgwood as
associate pastor for collegiate ministry. The two churches are five miles
apart, but were worlds away on prognosis. What happened next began with Lyle’s
innocent acceptance of an invitation.
“They asked for a meeting
with our senior pastor, Al Meredith,” says Lyle. “He asked me to join him. Meredith
told them, ‘If this is not of the Lord, we are not interested in pursuing it. But
if you are willing to commit to His leadership and call Randal as your pastor,
then I think we can help you.’ That was the first time I had heard the idea.”
Lyle went home to pray and talk
to his wife, Samantha. Meadowridge already had a pastor search committee
“The first sermon I preached
at Meadowridge was Easter 2004,” says Lyle. “When they voted on me they also
had to vote on the deal–including a group joining from Wedgwood and full commitment
to a new direction. It would remain an autonomous church, but things would
change. Ninety people from Wedgwood joined Meadowridge.”
Confirmation of God’s
activity in the move came through multiple avenues, but an enhancement in the
call to church revitalization came to Lyle at the 2012 Send North America
Conference. The North American Mission Board’s church planting and mobilization
event was hosted at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
FBC Woodstock’s pastor
Johnny Hunt shared at the conference about how his congregation had recently
helped a church that was in danger of shutting down.
“When I saw the video of
First Baptist Church Woodstock at the conference I said, ‘That looks really
familiar to me,’” said Lyle. “So many churches are close to closing their
doors. We are five miles from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We are
a church revitalization happening in a multi-cultural community. I thought,
‘What would the Lord want our role to be as a church. Could we be a training
center for others? Could we help design a revitalization training that would
help others? Surely.’”
This year’s Send Conference
takes place near Lyle in Plano at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Registration for
the July 29-30 conference opened March 4.
“Existing local churches are vital to the
process of seeing lostness penetrated in North America,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s
mobilization vice president. “This year the Send Conference will pay special
attention to the needs of those churches as well as all of the other critical
aspects of our strategy.”
Lyle says the decision to become more ethnically diverse has been a key
to Meadowridge’s revitalization. But the process took some time.
“We started a basketball
league to reach out to the community,” Lyle said. The kids would come to play,
but not come to church. The church membership did not reflect the community
“We started a choir and
connected in the community in other ways. Our church slogan is ‘All races
united in Christ.’ We made a conscientious effort to make that a reality. I
believe the revitalization would not have continued if we had not taken a multi-cultural
approach. We are now about 25 percent African American and have Hispanic and
Lyle says the church has worked
hard to make discipleship part of its process now.
“We have to go where they
are. We are being intentional to reach people. Our evangelism was working, but
we were not having the opportunity to disciple anyone. That has changed.
“Revitalization has to be
intentional. It is a viable option for churches taking a multi-ethnic approach.
Send a team to a church that reflects the community around it. Engage the community
and watch what God will do,” said Lyle.
For more information on the
Send North America Conference, or to register, visit sendconference.com. For
more on NAMB’s church revitalization ministry, visit namb.net/revitalization.
Joe Conway writes for
the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 3/7/2013 2:53:53 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC