I first heard about the idea of a church restart after my first year of serving in what was then “National Memorial Church of God” in Washington, DC. The average attendance was 32 in those days, and we were only a few funerals away from being in dire straits. In the midst of that difficult period, the church trusted me enough to try a restart process. The church board gave complete control over to an outside advisory group of leaders within our association and eventually the history of the church was brought to a strategic end. In June, 2006 we held the last service for the church. The members were released from their volunteer and financial commitments. A letter of release was read to the church from our association headquarters. Then, we started putting together a launch team and dreaming about what God might want to do in Northwest Washington, DC. About two-thirds of the members from the old church stayed and we began adding new members who were excited to be a part of the start of a new church that we decided to call “Northwest Community Church”.
Ten years later, the membership has risen to nearly 200. The budget has more than doubled, and the ministries of the church are strong and healthy. Over the last few years, our children’s ministry has exploded so that we eventually had to renovate our children’s environments. Restarting a church is a drastic step fraught with uncertainty. I want to share the story because I know a lot of churches are struggling and facing what appears to be an almost certain death unless something happens. The Scripture passage that guided me was Mark 8:35. The passage says: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
That passage forever changed the trajectory of my ministry and our church. I asked a church to allow their preferences, traditions and comfort to die for the sake of the gospel. Surprisingly, they did it. They did it trusting that there would be life on the other side of that tomb.
The book called “Dying to Live” is our effort to share this message of hope with other pastors and church leaders. Maybe God is calling you to finally let go so that He can go to work in ways that you never dreamed possible.
Dan Turner, Lead Pastor of Northwest Community Church