First Person: A Revitalization Story

By Todd Gray

I recently preached a weekend revival service for a Baptist church in the central part of our state. The pastor had prepared the church, made accommodations for me, invited a worship leader, planned our meals together and led the church to pray and attend. We had a wonderful time and experienced a sense of encouragement and refreshment in the Lord and His work.

What most interested me, however, was the work taking place apart from the revival.

The Sunday morning worship attendance prior to Covid was in the low 20s. However, we had 50 people on a Friday night and the church’s weekly Sunday morning worship attendance ranges from 40 to 70. Giving has increased, people have been saved and baptized, new people have joined the church and there is excitement in the congregation.

What happened? It looks like a church revitalization story. Revitalization is defined as the act or process of giving new life or fresh vitality or energy to someone or something.” Having been with this church and its pastor over the weekend and having followed the work there for the past three years, it appears a revitalization work is happening.

Here are some of the realities with this congregation:

1. The church members have remained faithful. A committed group of believers who love the Lord and their church have remained faithful to the church and its future. They have continued to attend, pray, give, serve and do the best they know how to do to be faithful to Jesus and His mission for their congregation. Praise God for faithful believers who stick with their church—even in challenging, and oftentimes discouraging, times.

2. The pastor has been intentional. In this case we should say pastors — two men who have been used by God in the past three years. One of them is the late Shelby Reynolds, who served the church from 1989-1995 and again in 2022 and 2023. Pastor Shelby returned to the church at a low time for them and served them faithfully while fighting his own battle with cancer.

The other pastor is Tony Smith, who stepped in after Brother Shelby and is continuing to serve the church. Tony is a Clear Creek Baptist Bible College graduate from the 1980s and has had most of his ministry outside of Kentucky. Both men have intentionally helped the church improve its services while remaining on mission with Jesus in their community.

3. The atmosphere is welcoming. The worship service is vibrant and the congregation is friendly. In fact, when I was with them on Friday evening, I told them that they are some of the friendliest Christians I have ever been around. Any guests who attend services at this church will be warmly greeted by members of the Greeter Ministry. They will worship Jesus in song and hear a sound biblical message encouraging them toward faith in Jesus and obedience to His will. This church has been intentional in putting its best foot forward to make a warm and welcoming first impression toward all who attend services — and it appears to be making a difference.

4. The property and grounds are maintained well. This church is doing its best with what it has. The parking lot is coated and cared for. The grass and landscaping is neat and well kept. The interior of the building is clean, attractive and free of unnecessary clutter. Part of the facility has been remodeled and the church has purchased a new audio and video system — all to better serve Jesus and the people He sends their way.

What’s next? There is still much to do, but the church members are moving forward together. The county where this church is located has a population of 16,037 with 20.5% of those attending some church somewhere on Sunday morning. This congregation knows it cannot reach them all but is doing its best to reach some of them.

Our great desire in Kentucky is to see every church become a thriving church, working together to reach Kentucky and the world for Jesus. Please join me in prayer that God will use us to make this a reality in the Commonwealth as we strive to advance the gospel together.

This post originally appeared at Kentucky Today.

Published October 26, 2023

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Todd Gray

Todd Gray is executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.