The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much uncertainty and adjustments to daily life. When it comes to the church, the pandemic has forced many churches to get creative in order to adapt to their specific community’s needs; most of them have gone through remarkable changes just to be able to keep their doors open. As the pandemic continues, thinking about church health might provide a little clarity for congregations feeling affected by the aftermath of COVID-19.
While church health might look differently for each congregation, Texas Baptists seeks to encourage and facilitate churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission.
“I believe highlighting healthy churches of every size gives pastors around the state hope,” said Jonathan Smith, Texas Baptist church health strategist.
Flatonia Baptist Church
One such example is Flatonia Baptist Church in Flatonia, Texas. Under the leadership of Pastor Dr. Tim Rowell, Flatonia Baptist Church has consistently grown and persevered in its mission for over 15 years. The church centered their health around Biblical examples.
“When thinking about church health, the first thing that comes to mind are Biblical examples and analogies. Particularly the example of the olive tree in Hosea 14 comes to mind where God promises Israel that people will dwell and be blessed within their shade,” Rowell explained.
“As a church, we’re not perfect, but we are growing in our faith. Moreover, we’re collectively able to provide shade for those who are hurting around us. They can come in and find the strength or encouragement necessary to them – even to the point of becoming part of it to offer that same shade to others,” he explained.
For Rowell and Flatonia Baptist Church, reaching the level of growth and health that they now enjoy has been part of a slow, steady and continuous journey. Rowell has served Flatonia Baptist Church for 18 years and has seen the congregation prosper during his time as pastor. While there is not one specific thing that has encouraged the growth of this church, Rowell credits the excellent leadership and the people’s willingness to work hard to follow the Lord.
“It’s safe to say we’re following the Lord one step at a time. A healthy church is one that is unified around following the directions that God gives them,” he said.
Rowell explained that over the last year, the church implemented a discipleship program in order to enable people to go deeper and grow in their faith. The church leadership created a strategic team to develop the idea of discipleship beyond the traditional Sunday school and worship service. In the end, the team came together to create discipleship groups meant for deeper Bible studies, close fellowship communion and discipleship to help each other grow in the faith.
“We call them Abide in Me (AIM) Groups from John 15,” shared Rowell. “This is not something that I would have been able to come up with on my own. The fact that we all developed that together was very meaningful for us. God used all of us together to come up with this idea – it wasn’t just one person’s idea.”
“A healthy church is one that isn’t focused on itself; it’s a church that is focused on loving God, each other, and the community,” he concluded.
Church health after the pandemic
When asked about maintaining a focus on church health in spite of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Rowell shared, “Although we’re in a small town in Texas and have a pretty simple structure for our church, even we have had to rethink some things during this process and focus on the silver lining.”
“Coincidentally, our church has been studying the book of Ezra where the Israelites are rebuilding the temple. It made me think about how the temple was never going to be what it was before. As we think about our churches, who knows how long it will take to get back to certain things,” he said.
“However, we can’t forget that the work of God is still happening. We can’t lose sight of that fact,” Rowell explained. “This is what we signed up for when we said we would follow Christ. So, let’s keep going and let’s keep doing the work that God’s called us to do.”
Interested in seeing how your church can focus and grow in church health? Go to txb.org/church to learn about the resources, staff and events Texas Baptists Center for Church Health offers to help your church in all areas of ministry.