Over the past 12 months or so I have had several people contact me by phone, email, or social media, asking me how I have gone about revitalizing Cypress Lake Baptist Church. Let me say from the start that I'm not sure why I have had the contacts. I've been the pastor of this church for 17 months, and I don't know if it's right to say we have 'revitalized' anything. The history of our church is filled with ups and downs like so many other churches. I do not plan to deal with those here.
To start this series of posts I want to begin by simply pointing out where we were and where we are at this point. Before I came to CLBC I was pastoring a church in Pulaski, VA. It is a good church. In fact, I had only been there for 22 months and things were really going well. The issue for me was I went into that church planning to plant a church after a couple years. I shared that with some on the search committee, but they needed a pastor and trusted that God's will would be done. With that being said, after about a year or so of being there I realized the way to go about planting wasn't really happening for me (I would need to move my family to a church that would be able to evaluate me and then decide if they wanted to send me out as planter, and that just wasn't happening at the stage of life we were in). With the doors of church planting seemingly closing I began to pray and ask God what was next for us. Would we stay in VA? Would we move? Where would we go? What kind of church would it be?
I begin sending out my resume, but had decided I would not go to any church that was in decline (funny how that works). I spoke with several churches over the next few months, but they didn't seem to work out. The next part of the process is admittedly not very well planned. In the mountains of VA we had a very difficult winter my second winter there. I don't like snow. I don't like cold. In a reaction to this I sent a resume to almost any church in FL because it was warm. As I said, not really the way I would recommend decision making! During the summer of 2010 I heard back from CLBC while on vacation with my family in SC.
I had filled out several questionnaires already, and almost didn't fill out the one they sent. In God's providence (and my ignorance) I was sunburnt pretty bad our first day at the beach. This gave me extra time the next day, so I decided to fill out the questionnaire. To make a long story short, I was moving to SWFL within the next few months.
When I arrived it was September 1, 2010 and our attendance was down to around 65 or so. Immediately we saw an increase. Part of that is because we were entering our winter season, and many winter residents were beginning to come into town. Part of it was people in the area wanting to know who the new pastor was. Part of it was just word of mouth from our members. Whatever the case was, we had over 100 people after about 6 weeks. I had no idea who belonged to CLBC, who were local visitors, who were winter visitors, or anything else. We were unprepared for this. We lost almost everyone by the end of the winter season.
During the first year I spent time focusing on the gospel by beginning the exposition of Luke's gospel. I also preached a long sermon series on the gospel and some implications of the gospel. It's been good. I'll talk more about this 'gospel recovery' in a future post. We also spent some money remodeling our nursery so that when young families did come in they weren't afraid to leave their children. This has proved very helpful as well.
Just yesterday we had our highest attended service since I came to CLBC with around 130 men, women and children. Of course, we are in season right now. However, we have had several local people coming to worship with us. All of this certainly makes me feel as though revitalization has taken place, but I want to be very careful jumping to that conclusion. What does that even mean? Is it possible to have more people coming and yet not really be growing in grace? It certainly is! Does revitalizing a church simply mean we have more people coming? If so, then maybe we have been revitalized. However, I think there is more than that to the process. My goal for our church is that we are a healthy church. My hope is that we will see many, many more changes come to CLBC.
In my next post I'll talk about some of the practical things I've done since coming here that I think have contributed to where we are. I hope this will be an encouragement to many other pastors out there.