“Revitalization and revival start in our own hearts. Until I’m revived, I’m not going to be able to spread that, because I can’t give something that I don’t have.”
Pastor Tim Elmore couldn’t resist snapping a photo.
More than a dozen people stood outside Prospect Baptist Church in Mooresboro, talking for more than an hour after a Wednesday night service.
This may be a regular occurrence for some churches, but for Prospect, the moment was fresh and exciting. The church was finally acting as a family.
‘We’re not that far from closing the doors’
When Elmore started pastoring Prospect in 2020, he was one of the church’s only new members in 15 years.
With no visitors and members operating in cliques, he knew something needed to change, or the church wouldn’t survive.
“If we’re not bringing in people, if we’re not doing things to reach out, if we’re not growing, then we’re not that far from closing the doors,” Elmore said of the century-old church.
But as a new pastor, Elmore didn’t feel comfortable walking in and changing everything.
“(Revitalization is) not coming in and going, ‘Well, I’m the pastor, I know better than the church,’ and undoing everything that is there — because some of what is going on may be good,” Elmore said. “Revitalization isn’t change for the sake of change. It’s looking and seeing where God’s at work, what He wants you to do as a church, and finding your place in that.”
An imperfect process
Elmore admits revitalization doesn’t happen overnight.
“It was a good year and a half of just praying and laying groundwork and meeting with people and trying to establish relationships,” Elmore said.
A former teacher and mental health counselor, he regularly prayer-walked the sanctuary and spent time getting to know his congregation of 50 people.
He also began meeting once a month with a group of four other pastors in the process of revitalization. Using N.C. Baptists’ revitalization curriculum, the cohort encouraged each other to move forward.
Their support helped him feel not alone, especially in difficult moments.
To kick off the revitalization, Elmore asked his congregants to fill out a survey to help assess their church. While their eyes were opened to different needs — from facility updates to church dynamics — conflict ensued with the idea of changes, and church members left.
Still, Elmore remained hopeful and celebrated small victories.
After some facilities were updated, congregants who had been sluggish to help with projects became excited for the church’s future.
“As people saw things getting done, it made them more willing to say, ‘Okay, let’s try some other things,’” Elmore said. Soon, whiteboards replaced chalkboards and technology was updated in classrooms.
But church revitalization isn’t just about upgraded items or a fresh coat of paint.
“To me, the first step of revitalization is your own self,” Elmore said. “Revitalization and revival start in our own hearts. Until I’m revived, I’m not going to be able to spread that, because I can’t give something that I don’t have.”
In the spring, the church held a revival and also began to study the book “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby, which softened the hearts of its members. Several members have already signed up for another study this fall.
A new chapter
As church members’ hearts have changed, revival has stirred in the church.
Now, there are nearly 70 attendees on Sunday mornings. The children’s ministry has expanded from one class to three. The church regularly has visitors.
Members who were only going to the worship service are now coming to Sunday School.
People are no longer on committees simply because that’s what they’ve always done. Instead, new members are coming on board to help make church decisions.
“Now, we have people who are serving on committees who truly are gifted in those areas and love what they’re doing,” Elmore said. “It’s showing in the things that are getting done in the church — and the wheels that are turning in the new ministries that are coming into people’s hearts.”
One church member is starting to buy pallets to donate clothes and goods to the community, while another is beginning an addiction recovery ministry — a major need in their small town.
“I don’t know that there’s a family in our church that hasn’t been touched by (addiction) recovery in some way,” Elmore said. “That’s been huge on the heart of our church for a long time, and we’ve been trying to find a way to plug in.”
Now, they’re able to serve their community because of how God is using one of their new members.
The new ministries and positive changes are just a snapshot of what’s to come for Prospect Baptist Church.
by Lizzy Haseltine, N.C. Baptist contributing writer
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about how your church can take next steps toward revitalization, visit revitalizenc.org.