by Shannon Youell
Chris Stefanidis, a pastor in our partner family CBOQ (Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec), tells the story of how the church he was called to pastor was discouraged and dying and now is renewed, in “the state of being made new, fresh, strong again.” See Chris’ article in its entirety below.
We all love articles like this! Especially if we are a part of a community where discouragement has taken root due to falling attendance, aging out, retiring pastors and leaders, and a multitude of other reasons. If this is you, then you are likely yearning for your church community to be renewed. And, as Chris writes, it is not impossible—all things are possible with God!
As a friend of mine often says, “it’s simple but it’s not easy.” Chris attributes their renewal on three crucial things:
- the power of Jesus Christ,
- loads of prayer, and
- their partnership with a sister church and with CBOQ.
What he didn’t have space to explain was how much intentionality would have been required in all those areas.
“Loads of prayer” doesn’t just happen. It happens when people make it happen and keep making it happen even when nothing seems to change and they want to give up. This requires the whole body of Christ to rise up together. To press in. To persevere. To be thankful always for the privilege of praying together, even when it’s like plowing a bog.
“Partnerships” don’t just happen. Again, they require intentionality and becoming vulnerable with one another both inside a congregational community and to other colleagues and peers who may seem to be more “successful” than you. I believe partnerships between believers should always be relationally based—there for one another; to pray, to resource, to encourage. There will be times for sure when it seems one partner is giving and another is receiving. That’s the beauty of being blessing! But when invested in relationship, there is that comfort of knowing there are connections of heart, mind and strength willing to go the hard mile with you and you with them!
Combine prayer and servanthood relationships with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who works grace in and through us, strengthens us in our weakness, groans with us in our desperation and I think we get a glimpse of the kingdom of God unfolding around us!
A church makeover in a weekend? Likely not. But a church that hears and sees the voice and hands of Jesus in and through others and participates together to serve those who are struggling. A beautiful story in the making.
Here’s the article from Chris for your reading and encouragement:
Renewal: the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again; the state of being renewed.
When my mom proudly shared with a friend of hers that I was called to be the pastor of Renforth Baptist Church, he replied with a bit of a sneer, “That’s a dead church!” At the time, she felt indignant, but the sad truth was he was right.
Remembering back to when I first walked into the place, there was a deadness there. A heaviness seemed to hang in the air making it hard to breath. These are not poetic descriptions or exaggerations. It was the truth. Early on, there were roughly 12 devoted souls who ventured to show up to hear me preach. The impression I got was that we were all just hanging around, waiting for the church to die. There seemed to be no life, no future and no hope. I wished I had never come.
I knew the only one who could renew the life in this place would be God, who is more than capable of restoring life to the dead. The good news is this is exactly what has happened. In the past few short years at Renforth, through the power of Jesus Christ, loads of prayer and our partnership with Mississauga City Baptist Church, Toronto Baptist Ministries, and the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, we have been renewed. Where there was once a deadness about the place, now there is fun. Where there was once an eerie silence, now there is laughter. Where there was once no hope, now there is a fresh wind of God’s Spirit breathing back His life. There is nowhere else I would rather be.
Some of the highlights in the past year include: A growing fellowship that now averages 70-80 people each Sunday. Our annual community BBQ that served more than 250 of our closest neighbours and friends. Our one working bathroom is in the process of being renovated to become two fully accessible bathrooms that will be easier for our guests to find. We have hired a part-time children’s ministry director to lead our growing children’s program. God has brought us many talented musicians, teachers and small group leaders to equip us for service. Each week, more and more new people come by God’s leading and chose to remain with us.
If renewal means . . . to be made new, fresh and strong again, then Renforth is being renewed, but it is not on our own. We could not have done it without our family of churches. God bless you for hearing his voice and being a part of his work at Renforth.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Chris Stefanidis
This article from the CBOQ was originally published on their website here.
Share your thoughts about renewal here! If you are considering undertaking any level of renewal in your church, talk to Sam Breakey, CBWC’s Church Renewal Consultant at firstname.lastname@example.org.