Overview. In a nutshell, tell us about your church. What was it like when you came?
The church is located on 5.6 acres of property and was formerly an elementary school when the members first met with me there was about 15 people left, four deacons and their wives plus a few senior members. One of the deacons’ wives was a realtor and the property was on the market for sale. I really felt the Lord leading me to come to the church which was actually the first church I ever served at and the place I had announced my call to preach. As the deacons begin to meet with me I knew the Lord was leading me to Harbor Lights, I felt I saw their hearts and they were willing to do what ever it took to see the church survive, and they were. The first Sunday morning we met with about twenty people including my wife and my two teenage daughters, it was great. I was where God wanted me. The first few weeks as we began to visit our neighbors many people were less than friendly, I had expected some negative feedback because of the years of many people going through the church but not a lot of lasting members who were committed to the study of the Word of God. We met and begin to talk about changing the name of the church and just trying to start over but as I prayed about it all I could ever get was “God is bigger than this.” The Lord sent us some help right away to start Sunday Schools classes, we had three teachers from deacons and wives and the lord sent more as we began to grow. We started AWANA with no budget and seven kids, God kept sending material and children so we started feeding all the hungry kids that came on Wednesday nights. There have been so many things we have saw happen in the last four and a half years it would fill up a whole book. The roof was leaking everywhere because the building had not been taken care because there was no money. God gave us a $28,000.00 roof in two offerings. When the van died that we picked children up with the Lord provided a 78 passenger bus free and clear. Guess I better move on.
What is happening now?
Now we average 90 children in AWANA, Eleven Sunday School classes averaging 88.
God has called a preacher and many soul winners out of our congregation. We are in the lower income area of town sitting in a neighborhood that God has given us to minister in. We have adopted streets where we visit our neighbors and know many of them and their prayer needs. We pray for those who live on those streets by name and share the gospel with them on visitation nights.
There was a time when mortgage payments were missed or put off and the those few members who were left sacrificed much to keep the doors open, now we’re just 22 months from paying the note off.
Victories. What were 2 or 3 real moments of victory for you?
-A Fall Revival that was scheduled for four days ran for twelve days and 28 professions of faith were made. We learned what prayer and preparation as well as follow-up were about.
-ICE Event sponsored by the NW GA Baptist Association. Event coordinator Mark Yoho was the evangelist who also preached our Revival. He spent a lot of time with us training prayer walkers, soul winners, and following up on the decisions that were made.
-When all the leaders of the church committed to teaching or attending Sunday School. We lead by example, never ask people to do anything that the leaders are not committed to do. By the way those who didn’t commit resigned shortly there after.
-The Lord sent us a Hispanic bible teacher to minister to families that could not speak English well. Or at all.
Failures. We learn from these. Tell us what didn’t work.
-A second revival, without the same prayer and preparation just expecting the Lord to move because we were growing. Never assume last weeks work is enough for this week.
Learnings. What have been some of your big ones. What you have learned along the way.
-Gimmicks don’t grow Sunday School, enrolling new Christians to study God’s Word does.
-Praying specifically for people who make professions of faith and baptizing them soon after makes a difference in the amount of them that stays in church.
-Never assume that someone has a relationship with Christ just because they attend weekly.
What most pastors need to know? What are the take aways? What can we learn from your story?
-When God sends you people with experience that you don’t have learn from them. Old preachers are not fixtures they are mentors absorb all of their knowledge you can.
-Most churches will have to change before they can change communities.
-New Christians don’t know how to act, dress, or talk in church, but they know when they are loved. LOVE them.
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