'Grand reopening' helps resurrect church

by Roger Alford/Kentucky Today, posted Friday, May 06, 2016 (one year ago)

FLAT LICK, Ky. (BP) -- Dallas Lewis vividly recalls those Sunday mornings not so long ago when Poplar Grove Baptist Church in southeastern Kentucky sat empty and eerily quiet.

[IMCAPTION=42521@left@33%]But that was then. Lewis, a local businessman who serves as associate pastor, credits the Lord for impressing upon a handful of local residents and idea to get Poplar Grove up and running again by applying a well-tested business tactic -- a grand reopening.

Since last October, 12 new believers have been baptized into the church at Flat Lick. Forty-five others have moved their membership there since Poplar Grove reopened. And the church, which can seat about 75 people, is filled beyond capacity some Sundays.

Now, Poplar Grove, already a member of the Knox Association of Baptists, is applying for affiliation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which allows local believers to have an impact throughout the state, across the nation and around the world.

"It's a wonderful thing to see the fires of evangelism reignited in a local church," said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. "I'm excited to hear what's going on at Poplar Grove -- a church that had actually died, that was closed for 4 years, being resurrected to new life and a new opportunity to serve the Lord."

What Poplar Grove did has worked for a lot of churches that have fallen on hard times, said Chuck McAlister, evangelism leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

"Replanting is an effective way for a church that is in decline to re-prioritize and become the Great Commission church the Lord intended it to be," McAlister said. "Replanting helps a church regain focus and gain clarity regarding its role of helping the people of its community encounter Jesus."

Attendance at Poplar Grove had dwindled to the point that it closed in 2009, and the building sat empty until reopening this past fall.

"Basically, there had been so much drama and so many issues in the congregation that people stopped coming," said Lewis, who along with his wife and her parents, felt compelled to reopen the church. "The closure really gave the church some needed downtime to clear the air. So, it was beneficial."

Lewis, who served as pastor when Poplar Grove first reopened and now has taken on a support role to current pastor Nate Messer, said the church closed because the congregation had become so focused on itself that it had essentially neglected its primary task of sharing the Gospel. When that happens, Lewis said, the church loses its power.

McAlister said all churches, if they hope to be successful, have to do their part to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave the church, to take the Gospel to people all over the world.

"The Great Commission is not a suggestion," he said. "It is His command. Every church and every follower of Jesus has been given the same purpose, to finish the Great Commission. When a church becomes enamored with itself, it loses that focus and it will fail."

Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today (www.kentuckytoday.com), an online news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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