Before I speak of the church, I’ll say something about myself. I was ordained and installed at New Covenant on Jan. 17th 2010. This is my first pastorate. The New Covenant congregation has given me this opportunity, and the ongoing support I need, to see my most cherished ministry desires come to pass.
High among those desires is the desire to see dying churches revitalized – to see God raise up glory out of despair. When I first came to New Covenant, worship services were held in the fellowship building behind the church. We have a beautiful sanctuary; yet heating and cooling such a large building, for twenty people, didn’t make good financial sense. Accompaniment music for hymn-singing was played via a CD player. There was a loving group of people gathered, there, each Sunday; yet it was inevitable that the congregation would continue to decline unless some changes were made. We started worshiping in the sanctuary, we hired an organist, and we committed to taking a large financial risk by hiring three RTS students as pastoral interns, in order to help with outreach to the neighborhood. The congregation unanimously voted to make these changes.
Here are a few things we are doing things which I hope will continue to define the mission of New Covenant for years to come.
1. Intern Training. We plan to continually provide training and ministry opportunities for many seminary interns ; they help us greatly with the next three items.
2. Worship. We hope to have a vibrant church, which is biblical in its teaching, preaching and worship.
3. Outreach and Evangelism. We plan to be much more involved in outreach and service to the Plaza-Shamrock Neighborhood.
4. Church Revitalization. We pray that the Lord will give us good health as a church, so that one day we will provide help and hope to churches which are dying. This is often called “church revitalization” ministry.
We want other churches to have what we have, regarding interns; so we set up and maintain this ARP intern website www.arpinterns.com We also host a quarterly lecture series for all interns in the greater-Charlotte area. My style of training is really quite simple: I invite men, who appear to be called to pastoral ministry, to participate with me in all aspects of my ministry. That’s all there is to it – that, along with transparency and godly concern for one another. At present, we have four men who are serving in an internship capacity. We financially support three RTS students – Bruce Brown, Eric Hancox, and Mark Jones. RTS requires its students to do internships. We are located nine miles away from the school, so as long as RTS is thriving we ought to thrive in this aspect of our mission. These interns will hopefully be pastoring churches one day, so it is easy to see how this ministry in our small church will eventually have a large influence. You can read more about our intern program in the “ministry” section of this website.
A Vibrant, Biblical Church
Thankfully, contemporary music and a praise band are not necessary for church growth; otherwise, small churches like ours, not having the necessary musicians, would surely die. The vibrancy that we’re aiming at is summed up in the word “love” – love of God and of people – that is something that any church can, and must, do. Additionally, “love” isn’t difficult to understand – it is a summary of the Law of God. Vibrancy and relevance which come from obedience to God’s commands – that’s what I hope we’re striving after.
The church neglected outreach for many years, and so it steadily declined; but currently we are spending over 30% of our income on outreach. Our outreach efforts include pay for three seminary interns (a forth intern has free use of the manse), who, along with the Pastor, do the bulk of the neighborhood outreach.
Most people are afraid of knocking on doors; so it is good that we have a few other ways of doing outreach, which are very easy to do. Perhaps the easiest, yet perhaps most productive outreach to date, is simply remaining after church and eating with someone you do not already know. After worship each Sunday, we gather for lunch in the fellowship building. This is free to all, but it costs the church a lot of money. However, it is money well spent. For example, two families in the neighborhood, both new to the church, got to know each other during our after-church lunches. They didn’t know each other before this. I called one of those women, and asked her for the phone number for the other woman; imagine my delight when she said, “Oh, you can talk with her right now; I am in her house.” We get into conversations with one another in which we often find out about needs and concerns.
We conduct a worship service on three Sundays per month at the Brian Center Nursing Home, which is one block away from the church.
Church Revitalization. We pray that the Lord will make our church healthy, so that we might be able to help our sister churches. To that end we setup a website, www.arpinterns.com. It features three things: 1). ARP Churches which are interested in interns, 2). information about interns themselves, and 3). a quarterly lecture series with a free pizza lunch at RTS for M.Div. students, regarding pastoral ministry. Our first speaker in the lecture series was Rev. Dr. David Vance. He is an ARP minister in Blacksburg, VA. His PhD. work had to do with seminary internships, specifically. Our next speaker was Rev. Dr. Nathan Frazier of King’s Cross ARP, telling us of joys and challenges of church revitalization.
New Covenant ARP received a $101,000.00 grant from the combined giving of the ARP Synod’s Outreach North America (ONA) and First Presbytery’s Church Extension Committee. At the Presbytery meeting where this was approved (unanimously I should add) this was called an “historic first.” It was, apparently, the first time that significant funding had been given to a dying church for the sake of revitalization. We are very thankful for the love and support which have come our way. Therefore we have begun to do what we can to get more seminary interns into our sister ARP churches. We hope to bring in more of these young, zealous families into our churches so that they might be multi-generational, multi-socio-economic, in order that they might also become as multi-ethnic as their neighborhoods are. We were instructed by the Church Extension Committee to make our proposal thorough and complete, so that other churches could look at our proposal as an example to copy – so that they, too, could receive such funding. Contact me if you want this kind of help for your church firstname.lastname@example.org
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Your brother in Christ,