Last year I received a telephone call from a long-time friend. The church he'd grown up in was about to close its doors.
The church was once a strong vibrant witness in the community. Hundreds of folks attended weekly. Gradually, though, the community began to change. The folks moving into the community were not like the folks in the congregation. The church tried to reach them, but the differences were too great. Eventually members began to move. Attendance declined. Those who remained realized if they didn't do something soon they would have to close the church. They took affirmative action.
Church leaders invited a hispanic congregation to meet in their building with the hope the hispanic congregation would one day be able to take over the property. For many reasons that never happened.
"There's only a handful of folks left. If something doesn't happen soon," he said, "I'm afraid they'll have to close their doors for good. Any chance UBA could help?"
At the time, there wasn't, but that was about to change.
Weeks later I received a phone call from the pastor of another UBA congregation. "Our church is growing. We bought property for a second campus, but before we could develop the property the Department of Transportation told us they plan to build on our site. We cannot develop our property. We desperately need a place for another campus. Do you know of any options we might pursue?"
After a series of phone calls with leaders from each congregation, they came together and worked out a plan for the growing congregation to take over the property, renovate the facilities and use it as a second campus. They also agreed the current congregation can continue to meet in the facilities. They even offered to give the hispanic church a place better suited for them in which to meet. The details are still being worked out—that’s why I've not mentioned the congregations by name—but I have no doubt this story will have a happy ending.
This is not an isolated story. Last year Fallbrook Church reached an agreement with Cornerstone Baptist Church to purchase their property for a minimal amount, allow the Cornerstone congregation to remain autonomous and continue to use the building. Fallbrook will rehabilitate the buildings and beautify the property. Then they will then plant other congregations in the facilities. One of the layleaders in the Cornerstone church told me, “It’s the best thing that could ever happen to us!”
Every year 900 Southern Baptist churches nationwide close their doors for the final time. Let’s not let that happen in Houston. If your church is a part of UBA and in decline, perhaps we can help. Don't hesitate. Call us. There may be a happy ending for your congregation as well.