New Life for a 100-year-old Church


A pastor who went to a 100-year-old church in serious decline tells a story of renewal that came about by focusing on strengths not what’s wrong.

Before going to this church eight years ago, I heard tragic stories about the church. Most of the members were dead or dying, I was told, except for the mean ones who are alive and well! Needless to say, I went reluctantly, but leading this church has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

It was here that I began, out of necessity, my personal quest in leadership. Everyone knew something was wrong, yet nothing changed. I began with a positive attitude. I was consumed with a passion for renewal. Average attendance was 56, and the average age over 65. With no children or programs, members feared the church would close.

We formed a vision team, did enormous research, and prayed. We met weekly. Our findings were clear. The church was a numerical nightmare, and the spirit was gone. Nevertheless, the demographics also revealed that things could be different. The community was actually growing as our church was dying. What was wrong?

We found we had generational, organizational, and spiritual issues keeping us from growing. A turning point came when we stopped looking for what was “most” wrong. Two persons from different generations attacked each other personally. “We are not about finding fault but getting better,” I said. “Let’s just deal with the evidence.” A breakthrough occurred. Now we were looking for solutions.

We did not worry about things we could not do. We sought to change the things that we could. We changed our organization, developed a mission statement, and trained leadership. We celebrated and dreamed big dreams. Our goals were achievable and measurable. My key contribution was in bringing a diverse group together, helping them understand the facts, and, therefore, change the future.

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Howard Thurman D.Min.The Doctor of Ministry
Howard Thurman: Prophetic Witness

In a world that is all about drawing attention to one’s self, a prophetic witness moves us toward a new reality grounded in God’s grace.

What does it mean for a leader to stand in the gap between the way things are and what they could be? Howard Thurman’s prophetic witness exemplified this form of leadership. Thurman did not demonize those responsible for systemic ills. Instead, he emphasized a positive vision of the way things could be. This track of doctoral study from Wesley Theological Seminary focuses on the power of a prophetic witness like Thurman’s to draw people toward a positive new future. Learn more and apply today for May 2024.