by Pastor Ryan
I drove away from the parking lot of the Korean Central Church building on Sunday at 10:10am just after singing the first two songs with my Grace family. As I made my way down Chisholm Trail I prayed and listened to a pastor talk about his experience of being a part of revitalizing First Baptist Church, Durham the past 20 years. It gave me hope and excitement for what I was driving towards. After 35 minutes I came over the hill on FM 1434 and saw a steeple. A steeple that has been pointing to the glory of God for decades.
I greeted the people and checked out the building of Lone Willow Baptist Church in Cleburne at 10:45am. What a joy it was to see Josh & Ashley Oakley, Spencer & Cara Thompson, Tim & Jamie Allen and all their kids in the mix with the people of Lone Willow. I’m grateful to God that I can say “we don’t hoard resources because the Father didn’t hoard the Son from us” on one Sunday and see that in operation the next Sunday. God has been gracious to us. After singing Open The Eyes Of My Heart and Holy, Holy, Holy Tim Allen preached clearly and passionately on James 3. The Spirit warmed my soul to the people of Lone Willow and their context that morning.
I ate pizza with Josh Oakley and Pastor Tony and we met for a couple of hours at 12:30pm. Two humble men at the table discussing what the Lord has been doing and is doing and trying to discern what He wants them to do moving forward was a blessing to me. They love Jesus, his kingdom, and his church—that was evident. And Grace family, please know that it brought tears to Pastor Tony’s eyes as he told us multiple times thank you for helping him through his surgery and stroke. He is very grateful to Jesus and you, Grace Church. You’ve encouraged and helped him and Lone Willow greatly.
I drove away from the Oakley’s home at 3pm amazed at what I just experienced. It’s taken a while but the Lord has allowed me to get my mind wrapped around the reality of being a part of a church revitalization. In church planting you dream big and often are idealistic; in church revitalization you see big the needs and difficulties and often are more grounded and realistic. The reactionary nature of this opportunity has made it difficult for me to make sense of what was happening, but now I believe the Lord is guiding us to send people out officially to help revitalize Lone Willow.
"The gospel can not only build a local church, but rebuild it also—sometimes in surprising, unexpected ways." – Brian Croft
“Church revitalization is not an organizational activity, it’s a spiritual activity.” – Ed Stetzer
With my mind wrapped around revitalization, it was on Sunday the Lord allowed me to get my heart wrapped around the people of Lone Willow and that region. Every church matters to Jesus so we will seriously, and by God’s grace, wisely send out people over the decades like the Oakleys and Thompsons to help revitalize churches in the southwest region, others to plant new churches in this region, and others to go to the nations.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit we will make disciples of Jesus and plant churches all to the glory of the Father!
More on Lone Willow & Revitalization:
The Story Of Lone Willow Baptist Church In Cleburne by Josh Oakley
Why Revitalize Churches? by Matt Schumucker