Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Two Churches (where I was pastor) Merge
One, the first church I pastored. The other, the church I started.
Now they are one.
In 1989 I was fresh out of seminary. My first pastoral appointment was to two small Methodist churches on the southwest side of Charlotte. One of those churches, Zoar, was a small country church. It had character. It had charm. And it had potential.
The next year, the leaders of Zoar graciously voted to support me as I started what eventually became Good Shepherd UMC. I continued as their pastor on a part-time basis, and they continued to pay a portion of my salary.
As that year came to a close, the members of Zoar took a vote on whether to close up shop and join up with Good Shepherd. They voted no, and I was glad. Not that I didn't want them at Good Shepherd -- but I felt that Zoar had a viable future and a particular niche to fill.
And for the next 10 or 15 years, it looked like I was right! I moved on to focus on building Good Shepherd, and Zoar did very, very well under the pastors who followed me.
But apparently the growth did not continue, and Zoar began to decline. And on July 1 of this year, the church I started "adopted" the church where I started.
I had mixed feelings when I learned of this. I was sad to hear that Zoar is not continuing as a separate church. But happy to hear that its days of making a difference are not over.
I was sad that the vote that was taken in 1991 on whether to close up and join Good Shepherd was essentially reversed. But I'm happy to see what's being done with Zoar's people and assets (see the story below). I don't think the merger would have been so positive if we had attempted it when it was first proposed 21 years ago.
I'm sad when any church closes. But I'm happy to see adoptions and partnerships like this one. This is a model for a positive way to deal with the ever-increasing problem of small churches losing viability. It's death leading to resurrection, instead of just death.
To read the story of Good Shepherd's adoption of Zoar, click HERE.
PS -- Notice the phone number in the sign: 704-588-3309. It always kind of freaks me out to see Good Shepherd's main number on a sign, a website, a magnet, a business card, etc. Why? Because when that number was first assigned by the phone company, it rang in my bedroom. And the phone it rang on is still on my nightstand, to this very day.