“I’m surprised you would answer a call to that church.” Nothing boosts a pastor’s excitement about a new ministry more than hearing that before he even gets on the field.
But while it did have a bit of a dampening effect, I wasn’t surprised by the sentiment. I’d heard enough throughout the interview process from people in the area, former pastors, current deacons, and more that confirmed that this was a church in need of revitalization:
“We’ve thought about closing the doors.”
“You could walk in on a Sunday and feel the tension in the air.”
“I finally quit going to business meetings because of all the fighting.”
What We Were
Red Hills Southern Baptist Church in Enoch, UT, wasn’t ever going to be a traditional revitalization.
When I used to think about church revitalization, I would think of old, established churches in Southern towns. This one was in the “pioneer” state of Utah and less than 25 years old. I thought there would be pictures of long-dead pastors lining the foyer, but this one didn’t have a single one commemorated.
Surely, at least two items in each room would have a memorial plaque attached to them, but this one didn’t have two in the whole building. And, I guessed that every Sunday there would be the same crowd of seven elderly saints drinking weak, burnt coffee and eating stale donuts after the service, but worship attendance here was running just under one hundred, and there weren’t any donuts. I was right about the coffee, though.
But there were more significant problems than that. The church had been over two hundred in worship just a few years before. Their last pastor had left after about a year. The factions exposed in that departure were still sniping at one another. Guests would visit the church once and never return. Pastors who lived three hours away had heard about the trouble at the church.
Compounding the internal problems was the external reality of being located in a county that was less than 3% evangelical and over 70% Mormon. If you didn’t know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints points to their lack of internal conflict as a testimony to the truth of their doctrine. Red Hills’ witness in the community was doing nothing to confront that claim.
So in my mind, I was walking into a church that didn’t fit my understanding of what a revitalization looked like, but it still needed revitalization. It had some major internal problems and was located in a gospel-frontier region with significant external pressure. It was floundering and had few external resources.
Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today