Alexis church applies revitalization plan
    November 30 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

    A well-known Southern Baptist pastor, W.A. Criswell, once said, “Methods change; principles don’t ... This is a new day and a different one in which we live, and how to reach these people for God, [may] the Lord give us His benedictory wisdom from heaven.” Criswell’s statement was a reflection on three decades of ministry in Dallas, Texas, and his words were given at a dinner banquet for another congregation, encouraging them as the church experienced transition.
    Sandy Marks, another Southern Baptist pastor – this one in Dallas, N.C. – seems to agree with Criswell’s sentiment as he leads Alexis Baptist Church into a new season of ministry. What began as a new system for deacons to serve the congregation and reach out to the community has become a way for each member of the church to experience robust discipleship and live on mission.
    The North American Mission Board estimates that 80 to 90 percent of Southern Baptist churches are either plateaued or declining in membership numbers. When Marks learned that statistic, it left him with a burden that compelled him to pursue further pastoral training.
    “I was convicted that if Alexis was going to experience revitalization,” said Marks, “we as a body had to change our culture to a disciple-making culture.”
    At the time, Marks discovered that Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., was the only Southern Baptist seminary offering a doctoral studies emphasis in church revitalization. So, he enrolled in a hybrid doctoral program that allowed him to learn more about reinvigorating the ministry of his local church.
    Marks’ study included an in-depth analysis of how Jesus trained His disciples. He noticed three distinct aspects of Jesus’ ministry: educational, experiential and relational.
    Marks employed those three elements to help him answer the question, “How can we prepare people … to be a disciple?”
    He reflected on his previous ministry method at Alexis, “We had been doing all these topical studies – marriage, finances, this or that.”
    Marks began to see that if the congregation had a deep “biblical understanding,” then they would be able to approach all aspects of life from a biblical perspective.
    Marks implemented a plan in September 2015 to teach his congregation the “overarching, redemptive story of the Bible.” On Sunday evenings, the church is currently doing an overview of the Old and New Testaments, covering each testament for six months. Next year, they will add to the program more intensive studies of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the New Testament Gospels, for six months each.
    In early 2015, Marks and the deacons at Alexis had decided to restructure their deacons’ ministry. They didn’t feel like their current plan was effective at meeting the needs of the community nor utilizing the gifts of the deacons.
    Marks said team-based ministry seemed like a good approach. Deacons formed four groups: caring, congregational, connection and communication ministry teams.
    The caring ministry team attends to member visitation, including hospital and shut-in visits, averaging around 150 contacts per month. The congregational ministry team carries out neighborhood mission projects. The connection ministry team welcomes visitors to the church and coordinates plans for meeting the needs of the community.
    Making contact through social media and relaying information about church events is an important part of ministry in today’s world, according to Marks. That effort is carried out by the communication ministry team.
    What started as an opportunity for the deacons to expand their ministry efforts developed into an avenue for the whole church to become involved, covering the experiential aspect of the revitalization plan.
    Marks admitted that many churches have teams of deacons doing various aspects of ministry, but he said the vision for Alexis was broader. “At some point in this process the Lord asked me, ‘Why just have these teams for the deacons?’” said Marks. So, he decided to invite the whole congregation to get on board.
    The church has dedicated Wednesday nights for ministry team meetings, replacing their traditional, midweek prayer and Bible study. “They meet, they plan, they rejoice over what they’ve done in the last week,” Marks said, describing how the time encompasses the relational aspect.
    Plans for the future include yearly re-evaluations of the ministry teams to determine whether or not they continue to effectively meet the needs of the church and the surrounding community. “The idea is to stay very liquid and fluid,” said Marks, explaining how this approach matches the biblical concept of needs-based deacon ministry.
    Transition is difficult for many churches, but Marks said, “They have responded in a tremendous way, and it has brought renewed excitement and vision to our entire church.” 

    11/30/2015 1:49:10 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Alexis Baptist Church, revitalization

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