For years, the dormant sanctuary of Clinton Baptist Church (CBC) in Clinton, Maryland, sat cold in the winter months because of a broken heater. The A-frame wood and brick church seats about 1,000 people and is situated on 12 acres of land and includes three buildings, two fellowship halls, a commercial kitchen and 50 classrooms.
After the passing of the senior pastor, an interim pastor stepped in for five years. But the church dwindled to nine members.
A NEW PASTOR, A NEW START
Pastor Colin Pugh, the now-senior pastor of CBC, first heard about the vacant position when he was still working as the youth pastor at Kettering Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
“I’d been feeling for a year or two that God was pushing me to leave for something else but didn’t know what that was,” said Pugh.
From more than 100 applicants, he made it to the top seven, then top five and then the top two. It became clear to the leaders of CBC and to Pugh that God was calling him to help revitalize this church.
And even before he got the position, God centered Pugh’s mind on a clear vision and theme — “We Grow. We Serve. We Love.” — and drew his heart to scripture passages that formed the basis for 12 specific sermons.
At his final interview, Pugh shared what God had placed on his heart, and was soon voted in as senior pastor of CBC.
ROADBLOCKS AND GOD’S PROVISION
But before Pugh had accepted their offer, he learned there was a rather significant pay decrease, and the church had some debt.
“The pay decrease would be a big hit to my family, but I knew God was calling me there. But when I looked at their financial statements, they didn’t have any money to pay me,” explained Pugh.
Pugh and his wife prayed continuously for the Lord to show them their next steps.
“After much prayer, I went back to my pastor at Kettering, Pastor Sterling, and I said, ‘I know God is calling me here, and I need your help,’” Pugh explained.
Pastor Sterling and the Kettering Baptist Church family agreed to partner with him in helping to revitalize CBC.
Pugh’s first official day as CBC’s senior pastor was October 6, 2019. And for the first time in five winters, for Pugh’s ordination, the church had warm bodies in its seats and warm air emanating from its vents.
Pugh felt God had already given him a vision for the church, so from October to December, he preached on that theme: “We Grow. We Serve. We Love.”
“In three months, we went from nine members to 60. And not only that, we went from nine regular attendees to 125 regular attendees every Sunday,” said Pugh.
Pugh and CBC rejoiced that some 30% of their new members were also new believers in Jesus.
Along with his leadership team, Pugh began slowly making much-needed changes like updating the church’s technology, making wise budgeting cuts, meeting their neighbors and having everyone park in the front of the church so people knew the church was alive.
“Our theme for 2020 was ‘Growing in Our Prayer Life,’ and we had no idea how much we would need that theme. We were thriving and growing, and then the pandemic hit.”
Determined not to let the pandemic hinder God’s mission in the church and community from moving forward, CBC leaders brainstormed creative ideas to continue to engage the community.
They offered professionally led Zoom classes on topics like children’s mental health and finances and partnered with local educators to help parents navigate distance learning challenges with their children.
Like many churches, CBC opened a pantry and began giving out food. Last Thanksgiving, they gave away 405 Thanksgiving baskets. And next week, they’re giving out over 800 meals to seniors in their community.
REACHING THE LOST
CBC’s theme for 2021 is “Growing People to reach the Lost.”
“We had 28 members attending our ‘Sharing Jesus without Fear’ class. We wanted to serve the community and give them the opportunity to share Christ, so we found a company that could set up two ice skating rinks on our property—with rental skates. We had a DJ and catered food. Members from our church had an opportunity to share the love of Christ with guests.”
For Valentine’s Day, CBC purchased 200 heart-shaped balloons — with Bible verses about the love of Christ printed on them — from a small, black-owned business in the area and bagged cookies as weights tied to the balloons, then delivered them to two nearby nursing homes.
The church’s outreach and love to the community was even recognized by Prince George’s county officials with a local award.
“It’s amazing to see and be part of what God is doing in our church and community,” said Pugh.
CBC — a once dying church — is now thriving. Their story proves God is in the business of continuing to bring life and restoration to His Church.
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Published June 3, 2021