Madisonville—Grapevine Baptist Church, near Madisonville is showing early signs of revitalization.
Known as a strong Kentucky Baptist congregation in the West Region, Grapevine is 82 years old. In 1995 the average worship attendance was 225, with 149 people in Sunday School. Ten years later the church was experiencing growth under the leadership of Pastor Jeff Hendricks.
Grapevine grew to an average Sunday worship attendance of 400. According to current Pastor Bob Morrison, then director of missions for Little Bethel Association, “Jeff was their anchor pastor to help the church move forward.”
But after Jeff left for another ministry, the church did not continue to grow but became plateaued. By 2012 worship attendance was back down to around 300. By the fall of 2013, it had dropped even further to around 250 worshippers.
Today, however, things are looking better. Average worship attendance for the first quarter of 2015 has been 550 people, with attendance reaching a peak of 600. Sunday school, however, is not keeping pace with worship attendance because of a lack of classroom space. Giving is keeping pace with worship, and the church has plans to build a new worship center.
So why are things looking up at Grapevine? How can a church that was statistically stagnant for the previous 10 years be experiencing signs of new life?
Ultimately, the reason for growth and high morale in the congregation is that God appears to be at work at Grapevine, and its staff and membership are working along with Him. Following are some things that the church has done differently in the past 16 months:
1. They called a new pastor. Bob Morrison, former director of missions for Little Bethel Baptist Association, became pastor of Grapevine in October 2013. He was familiar with the church after serving as DOM for 21 years. He could see the church’s potential and had relationships with many members. He came with a vision of what the church could become.
2. They dealt with potential conflict. Morrison’s call as pastor followed a pastor who left after a disappointing ministry. Morrison, after accepting the call to pastor Grapevine Church, addressed the potential for conflict following the ministry of the former pastor by telling the congregation: “You have stories, I don’t want to hear them, and you don’t need to tell them, let’s move on.”
It seems that this clear leadership was all that was needed to unite the congregation toward forward momentum and unified vision. They have moved on.
3. They strengthened staff relations. Morrison maintains a positive atmosphere in the office complex with the staff. They eat lunch together almost daily and bring in food and treats to share with one another. Morale is way up in the office and the staff members are developing an even greater trust.
4. They sought the presence of God. Recently Morrison led the church through a two part series of sermons to seek the presence of God in a worship service and come to church the next week having prayed earnestly for God’s presence in the service.
The visible evidence of God’s presence was that the next Sunday they had 48 professions of faith in the morning service and 21 more in an evening service, with others being saved in the following week. The church celebrated this movement of God with a mass baptism.
5. They improved their worship service. Worship at Grapevine is a 75-minute celebration, start to finish. Worship services at Grapevine have become even more worshipful and intentional. They worship from the minute the service begins until the invitation ends. Announcements and offering collection happen after all else is completed.
The result of improving the worship service has been that members are bringing family and friends. Morrison says, “Our church is growing right now because our church members are proud to bring people with them.” They are bringing six to eight new families each Sunday.
6. They developed a men’s prayer ministry. There are 20 men from Grapevine involved in an organized prayer effort. Two take responsibility for praying over the Sunday service each week. They pray over every pew, every Sunday School room, the pulpit, and during the service. Before the service begins they find Morrison and pray over him.
7. They practice intentional evangelism. The church practices event evangelism with events such as wild game suppers, women and children’s events, and special holiday programs. Guests who participate become prospects for the church’s outreach and follow-up ministry.
Members also do a great job with side-door ministries, such as Upward Basketball, with all the staff being heavily involved in the success of these ministries.
8. They have a new vision. Grapevine is responding to God’s activity by promoting plans for a 1,000-seat sanctuary. Plans have been drawn up, and the church is now seeking funding.
Grapevine is clearly showing early signs of church revitalization. Pastor Morrison, the church staff, and its members give all credit and glory to God for recent events in the life of the church and the desire to stay unified and moving forward as God blesses their ministry. (WR)