According to Lifeway Research, 28% of Protestant churches have declined over the last 3 years and another 33% are plateaued. So, of the approximately 300,000 churches in the U.S., around 100,000 of them are declining and if nothing changes in time will close their doors. The statistic itself is sad, but it is even more heartbreaking when you consider all our brothers and sisters in Christ who labored and sacrificed to plant those 100,000 churches in neighborhoods that needed to hear the Gospel.
Let’s make it even more personal. If the statistic holds true without regard to denominations, over 100 Baptist churches in the Columbus area are heading towards closing their doors and 5 of those are Regular Baptist churches. We can definitely praise the Lord that Maranatha is not one of them. God has graciously given Maranatha faithful, committed members and diligent, godly leaders. Even through many challenging transitions, God’s goodness to us has been more than abundant. We continue to see the ministry of Maranatha grow and expand as God gives us even greater opportunities to glorify Him.
However, the fruitfulness God has given us is not merely for our own benefit. Galatians 6:2 commands us to “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul continues in Galatians 6:9-10 to challenge us, “9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
At the beginning of December, one of the members of Dayspring Baptist Church approached us with a request to consider helping their church. As a result of various situations, the attendance at Dayspring has dropped to about 12-15 people that are hurting and struggling to be faithful. The church realizes that they cannot continue to fulfill their ministry to their community alone and has asked Maranatha to consider how we can best come alongside them.
Maranatha’s History with Dayspring
Maranatha’s history with Dayspring goes back at least 20 years. In 2000, Earl and Marilyn Shaffer (along with a couple of other families from Maranatha) started a church plant called Dayspring. In 2005, Dayspring merged with Alton Road Baptist Church to form the present-day Dayspring at Alton Road Baptist Church. Over the years, Maranatha has partnered with Dayspring in various ways from Backyard Bible Clubs, to neighborhood canvasing, to helping provide music for worship. Maranatha and Dayspring are truly sister churches.
The pastors and deacons are continuing to pray about how Maranatha can walk with our brothers and sisters from Dayspring and help the church faithfully fulfill its calling to take the Gospel to its community. Honestly, there is much we do not yet know. We do not want to rush into commitments we are not able to fulfill nor ask Dayspring to rush into decisions out of desperation. However, the leaders were in 100% agreement that we need to try and care for our faithful, wounded brothers and sisters. As a first step towards considering how God would have us labor together for the Kingdom, we have invited the remaining members of Dayspring to begin worshiping with us here at Maranatha beginning in March. We want to offer them a place where they can experience the love and healing of Christ. We want to welcome them in, get to know each other, rejoice with them, weep with them, and pray with them about what God would have us all do to see Christ exalted in the Alton Darby area. Our goal is to take whatever time is needed to develop deep relationships and a unified heart and vision for enabling a thriving Gospel ministry in the Alton Darby area.
Let me encourage you to apply the B.L.E.S.S. concept to this situation. Begin to pray for Dayspring and our brothers and sisters there. As they join us for worship, be intentional in listening to their struggles and stories. Invite them into your homes and small groups to eat together. Find ways that we as a church can serve them as they seek healing and renewal. And as the Lord gives you opportunity, share with them words of hope and encouragement that will strengthen their souls. Pray that we will see God fulfill Romans 15:5-7 through this time, “5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Ultimately it is all about the Glory of God
Ultimately that is what it is all about, the glory of God. May we serve sacrificially our brothers and sisters from Dayspring that they may be renewed, and God will be glorified. As we recently read in 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, “12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”