News & Events
Sharing Hope and Wholeness
By Ralph Ringer
|Numerous attendees responded to Ralph Ringer’s altar call for baptism.|
About half of the churches in the Southern Union are plateaued or declining. Churches of all sizes can plateau or even decline over time. Russell Burrill, longtime professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, with extensive research in this area, has a lot to say on this subject in his book, Waking the Dead. He says most of the churches in the North American Division plateau around the 15-year mark of their existence (page 32). He also reveals in the same book that churches have a life cycle similar to human beings. However, it has been demonstrated by churches that allow the Lord to empower them to fulfill the Gospel commission, and keep that as their priority, do not have to follow this cycle. There is also hope for those churches that have plateaued or are declining.
The Southern Union administration is so concerned about the need of these churches that they asked Ralph Ringer, director of church growth/evangelism training at the Southern Union, to take on the project of helping them. He will be working with a committee representing all of the conferences in the Southern Union that want to work together to help grow these churches. The committee has already met twice, and will continue to meet on a regular basis. Many of the needs and challenges, as well as the possible involvement of conferences, pastors, and local church leaders and members, have been explored. The purpose of the committee is to help enable every church pastor, the church leadership, and the members in the process of growing their church.
Some pilot programs have already been started. The Mount Olive Church in Anniston, Alabama, was at a low point. Attendance was down to five or six at church, although in the past it had been near 100. The South Central Conference asked Albert Frazier, pastor, to regrow the church when they asked him to go there. As Frazier started building his church, he contacted Ringer to ask his advice and help. They agreed on many things, including for Ringer to do a Church Growth Seminar on December 19, 2016, and then a Revelation of Hope series from September 10 to October 1, 2016. Frazier and the members worked hard. They asked others to come and help, and the church attendance grew to 20-30 on Sabbath.
The Revelation of Hope meetings ended October 1, with 45 in attendance. The diverse attendance included interests of three pastors from other churches. The meetings were different from most. Each Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday night, the meeting started at 7 p.m., with a 15-minute break at 7:50 p.m. for light refreshments and interaction between members, interests, pastor, and speaker. From 8:10 until 9:00 p.m., the second meeting was held. On the last three Sabbath mornings, there were two meetings in place of Sabbath School and the church service: “Revelation a Complete View 1, 2, and 3” at 9:30 a.m., and three regular meetings at 11 a.m.
More than 20 newly interested people attended most of the meetings. J.C. Phillips, pastor, attended every meeting and joined the Mount Olive Church by profession of faith on October 1. Phillips is not the only pastor in his family; his six brothers are pastors, as were their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Debbie and Tim Adams joined the Mount Olive Church by profession of faith on October 1. Debbie Adams had attended church in the same building when it was the Calvary Baptist Church, and her first marriage was performed there. This had happened before Mount Olive bought the church building, and she said it is interesting how God showed her more truth in the same building where she used to attend church.
The pastor and church team strongly supported the meetings. There were five baptized and three professions of faith, for a total of eight as of October 1. There are five more planning for baptism, and there are several more who continue to study in the follow up. They have a Wednesday night Prophecy Seminar and a Sabbath School Disciples Class. Mount Olive Church is now a growing church!
How can you tell if your church is plateaued or declining? Read the sidebars to see. Please pray for the committee and all who are involved in helping these churches grow.
Ralph Ringeris the director of church growth/evangelism training at the Southern Union in Norcross, Georgia.
Resources that could be helpful to turn around and grow your church:
- Steps to a Vibrant Church, a turnaround guide for churches in a plateau or decline, by Brad Cauley. Purchase it at AdventSource, 800-732-7587.
- Creating Healthy Adventist Churches through Natural Church Development, by Russell Burrill and Tom Evans. Purchase it at NADEI Bookstore, 269-471-8303.
- The Big Four, by S. Joseph Kidder, 269-471-8303.
- Waking the Dead, by Russell Burrill, 269-471-8303.
- Evangelism that Works, by Loren Nelson. Purchase it from Ray Hamblin, 800-274-0016.