Back from the Brink:
An Incredible Story of How a Church on the Brink of Folding had a Big Turnaround
A church that was once on life support— literally on the brink of folding—has been brought back to life! Deer Park Baptist Church in Newport News has experienced a major turnaround, and the story is worth telling!
Not long ago, the church went through a difficult time, losing its pastor and experiencing conflict within. They were down to 30 members and were contemplating what to do. They knew they could not call and support a full-time pastor with such a small congregation, so they made the decision to call an interim pastor, Dwight Braswell, who pulled them together and helped stabilized the church. A year and a half later, they called another interim pastor, SBCV regional missionary Reggie Hester, who led them through the C.H.A.M.P.S. process (Church Health Analysis and Mobilization Planning Strategy) and got them ready for a new pastor.
Through this process, God was preparing a man to come and pastor the church back to health. As a matter of fact, he was one of their own who had grown up in the church but had been on the mission field for 22 years, serving as an International Mission Board missionary. God brought “from a far-off land, a man to fulfill [His] purpose” (Isaiah 46:11, NIV). Just over a year ago, the church called Randy Fields to be its new pastor.
Through the leadership of Pastor Randy, there has been a slow but steady revitalization of Deer Park Baptist Church. Over the past year, the church has grown to average 70 on Sunday morning with a high of 90. They’ve also seen six baptisms and a number of people joining the church.
What has made the difference? Pastor Randy shares the congregation’s vision of revitalization, “First, they are seeking to lead the church to love God, love others, and grow in that love as they go through this process.” In other words, they must love God and others more than having control. “Next, they want to actively take the Gospel to their neighbors and to the nations. Along with this, they want to connect with their community individually and corporately.” This is a change of perspective from just being in the community to reaching and reflecting their community. “Most importantly, they are praying for God to raise up laborers from within and from without (Matthew 9:36).” Their desire is that this would be in their DNA as a church and that they would become a church of laborers.
Thom Rainer shares in Revitalizing Churches that “Evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we are not praying to reach people with the Gospel, our work is human-centered and ineffective.” It is important to remember that revitalization is the work of God, not man. It requires not being self-focused— instead, being focused on the mission of making disciples of the nations. Deer Park is working towards that goal.
Although Deer Park Baptist Church was once on the brink of closing its doors, God has begun a deep and abiding work within His body. Deer Park’s new motto is, “Where God makes all things new.”
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