If Your Church Were Gone, Would Anyone Notice?
When Brady Boyd was brought on as pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, it was to replace the founding pastor in the wake of a public scandal. “The staff was hurt and wounded and wondering if the church’s best days were behind,” said Boyd in an address he gave at the 2019 Outreach Summit. One hundred days after Boyd started at New Life, a gunman opened fire on the church’s campus, killing two teenage girls before committing suicide in the children’s wing. “Everyone wrote off New Life with these two tragedies,” he said.
In addition to the scandal and shooting, the church was $26 million in debt and attendance was dwindling. “I wondered if I had been called to New Life to give the church a good funeral,” said Boyd. “Thankfully, God had a resurrection story for it instead.”
What will it take for the church to regain its place in the center of our culture? Three community-minded pastors discuss how they are strategically building their churches for community impact.
As Boyd looked for wisdom on how to lead New Life through its darkest days, he found a counter-intuitive message in Proverbs 19:17: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
When Boyd brought this Word to the elders, he said they resisted. It didn’t make sense for New Life to take care of the poor financially when they were so deep in debt themselves. Boyd persisted. “I wanted to bless the city and get out of debt,” he says. For three years, Boyd met with every city leader he could, asking, Where are the greatest areas of pain in this city that aren’t being met? If it’s not being met, can we help?
“We learned that there were about 800 single moms living in cars with kids in a nearby area," said Boyd. "We found an apartment complex in one of the most dangerous areas and raised $400,000 to buy the complex and furnish the units, and we filled the entire building overnight, debt-free.”
Soon after, the church purchased and converted two properties that were being used as meth labs so they could help redeem the neighborhood. The homes were paid for without debt, and the church has been able to pay off $15 million of its previous debt.
As New Life shifted its focus from trying to solve their own problems to meeting needs within their surrounding community, the church began to grow again. According to Boyd, “When you cooperate with what God is doing in your city, God comes to your aid—all the resources, everything you need to take care of the poor in your city.”
Boyd’s talk highlighted a central theme among this year’s fastest growing churches: for the church to grow, it needs to go where the people and the needs are. “Every city has gaps where there is pain,” adds Boyd. “Find these gaps and trust God to provide all you need.”
Building for Community Impact
We asked a similar question at Aspen’s Alignment Conference: What will it take for the church to regain its place in the center of our culture? In this video, three influential pastors share their insights on how they built their churches to be in and for the community.
Dave Ferguson, Lead and Founding Pastor of Community Christian Church, Tom Elenbaas, Lead Pastor of Harbor Churches, and Mark Jobe, Lead Pastor of New Life Community Church, give practical strategies for discovering your community’s greatest needs, how to connect community outreach with evangelism, and strategic ways to regain a seat at the table among civic leaders.
In More Than Multisite, Aspen commissioned Barna to learn about churches with a growth mindset. When we surveyed multisite church leaders and asked, “What is the primary reason to pursue a growth strategy?” 43 percent responded, “To be more effective in reaching our city/region.”
Today’s growing churches are strategically penetrating geographic areas where they can embed more deeply into the life of the community.
The early church gained influence in their culture by obeying Jesus’ command to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As the first church shared the Good News locally and lives were transformed, the Word spread and people far away were drawn to follow Jesus too.
Today, many churches are seeing this same kind of ripple effect as they focus on building a positive local presence within their communities.
What is your church doing to reach those who are far from God? What strategies are you using to make a difference in your community?