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I Closed a Church (Part 1 – Simply the Facts)

September 7, 2011

It all began in 2006 when, for the first time, Ginger and I began to pray and dream about starting a church.

Over the next two years the initial yearning in our hearts grew into a consuming dream and then roared into a burning passion! We would often say, “We can stay in our comfortable staff role but we want to stand before Jesus someday and say, ‘we tried’.”

In December of 2008 I took the scariest step I have ever taken and resigned from the church I had served for almost twelve years to plant a church. No salary. No benefits. No staff. No congregation. No building. No guarantees.

In our first meeting we had 24 adults (18 of them were family members) to discuss starting a church.

For many, this was an unusual decision considering there were already 135 churches in our town of less than 100,000. Why start another church? But our goal was not to start another church but to start a different kind of church. Why? Because 75% of our town did not go to church. We desired to create a church for the unchurched. That had become our passion!

We were privileged to partner with North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. We utilized the extraordinary teaching of Andy Stanley via video. Andy speaks in such a strategic way to unchurched people (our target audience).

I agreed with North Point to achieve three specific benchmarks (50-70 adults in small group, $20K in monthly giving, and $100K in bank) prior to launching to better ensure long-term success.

We hosted several adult small groups, then created incredible children’s ministries, and eventually hosted some engaging adult worship services. We came awfully close to achieving these three benchmarks but in the end we came up short.

In July of 2011, based on my recommendation, our Advisory Board decided to close the church. The “lifespan” of the church was 31 months.

We had plenty of money, critical mass, a talented staff team, a powerful vision, and our “core team” consisted of some of the best people I have ever known. So why close the church? We simply were unable to reach the benchmarks and I didn’t feel that God had called me to preach every week.

We never borrowed or received any money from an outside organization and yet we are grateful to soon make a $40K donation to local, like-minded ministries.

Truthfully, my greatest fear when posting this blog is knowing that many people will make judgements on my ability to lead. After all, I now have a “failed” church plant on “my record”.

Some will view our adventure as a negative (lack of human success) and some will view it as a positive (courage to be bold). I just know God told us to do it. And that’s why I believe starting the church was the 2nd most courageous decision I have ever made in ministry but closing the church was the most courageous.

I’m grateful for all I have learned through this adventure. I’m grateful for the coaching and unending support provided by everyone within the North Point Ministries family. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met and served alongside in San Angelo. And, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have my faith and others’ faith grow during this journey.

These are simply the facts of the process. HERE are some of the emotions experienced during the closing of our church.

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From → Leadership, Ministry

19 Comments
  1. That’s a great post, man! We all learned a lot through the experiences we had at the church. God blessed us all for taking that bold step.

  2. David thanks for investing your talents into SAC. I’m grateful for our friendship and our continued weekly meetings. Excited to hear about the doors God is opening in your life!

  3. Ginger Riggins permalink

    I am proud of you and us, Mark! We created a church from scratch and I too wouldn’t have traded anything for the experience, new relationships that were created, and the growth in our own faith. We tried!! That’s all there is to it!! LUM!

    • Hey babe we not only tried but we are free to continue trying for the rest of our lives. As we talked about this morning, I love what we’re teaching our kids. Hopefully, they’ll have your patience. 🙂

  4. Church planting is a grind, and is very, very hard, particularly on marriages and families. Hooray that you walked through it and learned to thrive in the aftermath!

    • Thanks Mary! There were tough times for sure. It is not a coincidence that we closed the church in July and I’m just now blogging about it. Needed some time to process it all. My wife is the real strength for sure.

  5. Mark, thank you for sharing about SAC in your blog. I know you did not make any decision lightly and without much prayer. God has a wonderful plan for you and Ginger. Much love to you both.
    Marilyn

  6. Katie Moore permalink

    You tried something and it didn’t work out and you’re being honest about it, and that is courageous. You left your comfy comfort zone and did what God told you to do and that is obedient. There is so much involved in planting a church and the people looking at you from the outside and judging you as a failure don’t know anything about what it takes. The only judgement that matters is God’s and I think you have His approval. We’re not called to live safe undisturbed lives. You and your wife took a huge risk and leap of faith to bring the love of Jesus Christ to people. That’s what we are supposed to do. To NOT be obedient would be a sin. You closed the doors to your church in San Angelo, but you helped Revive Church and you are impacting the people of Austin. 🙂

    • Thanks Katie! I can’t tell you how much we are rooting for Revive Church. Your team, led by Ray, is going to be fun to watch. I loved getting to know you and Brandn! Hope your transition to Austin is going well. I’m encouraged by your faith. Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. Tracy Grantham permalink

    We love you and your family Mark. You have shown such faith and have been an inspiration for me. You have so much more to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, and I can’t wait to see what He will lead you to next!

    • Thanks Tracy! You and your family have to be some of the kindest people I know. Thanks for your encouragement. Hope you and the kids are doing great!

  8. Elaine Rees permalink

    I say grace and peace to you. People put folks in leadership on a tightrope. If you don’t “LOOK” successful, or if you miss a step…..well…..where is the mercy and grace? Tell me how successful it “LOOKS” to hang on a cross and die?
    If it wasn’t in your heart to preach every week, then it wasn’t His deal for you to preach every week. Follow your heart, because it is good – He made it so, because He gave you a new one, you’re a new creation. Don’t kill it because this deal didn’t work out as hoped for. Everything happens for a reason.
    I bless you and your family on this new adventure.

    “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent.
    There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent
    burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do
    and places to go!
    This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave tending life.
    It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
    God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who
    He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going
    to get what’s coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly
    what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with Him, then we’re
    certainly going to go through the good times with Him!”

    The Message Romans 8:12-17

    • GREAT reminders Elaine. Thanks for your encouragement! I appreciated the brief time I got to spend with you and Big Al. Praying for you and your family!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. I Closed a Church (Part 2 – An Emotional Process) «
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