Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Kyle Graham, associate pastor of worship and evangelism at Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, remembers churches competing more than he remembers them working together.
“Churches were competing against each other, trying to get more people than the church down the road,” Graham said. “They had their church. We had our church. It was a self-centered approach to ministry.”
This reality did not match the vision Graham saw in the Bible.
“In Acts, we see one church, one faith, one baptism and one Lord — churches coming together to support one another,” he said.
This is the reality he is excited to see play out in the church today.
“It’s cool to see that culture changing,” Graham said. “Churches are saying, ‘You know what? Let’s come together.’
“The only things that don’t change are dead things. The church is constantly revitalizing, adapting and changing because the ultimate goal is to glorify God and make disciples.”
This biblical vision of a united, growing and revitalized church propels Graham in his efforts toward kingdom-minded partnership — one he has found with Ben McRoy and Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville.
Faith’s vision to see new churches started and existing churches revitalized has led them to partner with churches like Bay Leaf to see the gospel move forward.
“We look around our area, and churches in our area are plateaued and declining. And we feel we are uniquely placed in this area to help these churches experience life,” said McRoy, discipleship and church planting pastor at Faith.
“We want to plant 20 churches and revitalize 30 churches by the year 2030,” McRoy said.
The church is constantly revitalizing, adapting and changing because the ultimate goal is to glorify God and make disciples.Kyle Graham
This is not an endeavor they are seeking to fulfill on their own.
“The state convention has been very encouraging with churches partnering together,” McRoy said. “They have helped us find churches that are like-minded and encouraged those partnerships.”
Terry Long, church health and revitalization strategist for N.C. Baptists, let Graham know about an opportunity for Bay Leaf to partner with N.C. Baptists in their revitalization efforts.
Long was working with a church in Morrisville that needed support, and he thought Bay Leaf would be a good partner.
A three-year journey unfolded.
“We developed a plan to replant the church, walked through the plan with the members, and in the end, it was a 50/50 split,” Graham said. “The vote didn’t go through. We didn’t revitalize. We didn’t replant.”
But what looked like an end was only the beginning. When leaders at Bay Leaf looked at Morrisville and the surrounding area, they saw a lost area in need of a gospel-centered church. So they began to ask what it would look like to plant a church there.
“Our senior pastor had a relationship with the senior pastor at Faith,” Graham said. “And we got together and said, why don’t we send our Bay Leaf pastor to Faith’s nine-month church planting residency to prepare him to plant this church?”
Bay Leaf and Faith began to work toward planting this church together. They sent teams door-to-door to canvas the surrounding neighborhoods, and both churches sent 10 to 15 members from their own congregations to form the church’s core launch team.
On Jan. 8, Bay Leaf and Faith launched Triangle Fellowship Church together.
It just seems like the more that we give of ourselves and partner together, the more we see God move.Ben McRoy
Since then, Graham and McRoy have been asking the question, “What’s next?”
Currently, Bay Leaf and Faith are fostering a local Raleigh church.
According to Long, fostering is a 12-to-18 month relationship where “a healthier or sending church partners with a struggling church to provide resources to help the church be missionally healthy again.”
In May 2022, Graham was approached by a lay leader in a struggling local church. The church’s pastor had retired, and when he left, others had followed.
Graham reached out to Long for additional support, and through a series of assessments, Long agreed that the church would benefit from a fostering relationship. Graham and Long reached out to Faith.
“Faith had been involved in revitalization efforts a lot longer than we had, and they were doing it so well,” Graham said. “So we proposed an option. Faith and Bay Leaf would co-lead the fostering, and Faith would lead the effort.”
Together, they proposed a ministry plan and began walking alongside the church to implement it. The process officially started in October.
Since then, Bay Leaf and Faith have provided four men to preach each month, and they just commissioned two people to help lead worship.
“As we enter into these opportunities, the Lord continues to raise up people to be a part of them,” McRoy said.
Recently, the church they are fostering decided they wanted to kick off this partnership with a celebration.
“Just the fact that it was their idea was so encouraging,” McRoy said. “They were so excited to celebrate that there were churches that wanted to come alongside them to help. They realized they weren’t alone.”
From that night, the team and church launched into an intentional 40 days of prayer for revitalization.
Although they are still early in the process, Graham hopes that this experience will be a story to celebrate several months from now.
“Neither one of us thinks we are experts, but we want to steward whatever God has given us to His glory,” Graham said.
McRoy agrees: “It just seems like the more that we give of ourselves and partner together, the more we see God move … It’s been a great joy to partner with a like-minded church to both start new churches and strengthen existing churches, and I think we’ll continue to do that work together.”
by Kari Wilson, N.C. Baptist contributing writer