It all started with a question. Janet Edwards, pastor of Abernathy United Methodist Church, came to Ryan Smallwood, pastor of Aldersgate Church in Lubbock, Texas to ask if he would have a position for her on staff after she retired. That unexpected question caused the conversation to take a different turn and Abernathy would never be the same.
Aldersgate has a vision they call “Five by Thirty-Five.” They believe that God has called them to have a part in five worshiping communities by the time the church has their 35th anniversary in 2020. So, when Janet reached out about meeting, Ryan felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit that Abernathy could be one of their five communities they had been praying for. After some prayer and consideration by the church in Abernathy and Aldersgate Church, they decided to give it a shot.
The first thing Aldersgate did with the church in Abernathy was ask a question. It was a simple question with a simple answer, but the action associated with that answer was anything but simple. The question: “What would you not be willing to give up in order to reach people in the community for Jesus?” The simple answer was given, “We would give up anything.” But it was only simple until they actually had to give things up. Then it got harder. That question got real when they were asked if they were willing to change the carpet and get rid of the pews. Though change is hard, Abernathy was ready and willing to do what was necessary to advance the Kingdom.
Soon after this partnership had started, another partnership presented itself with a Hispanic congregation called One Cross Three Nails. The churches decided to meet together for six weeks to see what God would do. The pastor of One Cross Three Nails, Selso Torrez, explained, “At the end of that six weeks, we all agreed that we didn’t want to stop meeting together.” Ropes that were once used to keep people out of the back rows of seats came down as the sanctuary was filled to a point it hadn’t seen in a while.
Now, let’s do some math. Both of these churches had an average attendance of 50-70 people worshiping on Sunday mornings, with less than ten children each. Since they’ve been meeting together, attendance has averaged 250-275 and they now have over 50 children in church. No matter what school you went to, that math doesn’t add up. That is what you call a movement of God in a small town. Abernathy United now has a congregation that crosses racial and class divides. They have started nine new small groups and they have even had 33 baptisms already this year. The Holy Spirit is moving in Abernathy and the Kingdom of God is growing!
Though a few people have left the church, Abernathy and Aldersgate stand as an example of what can happen if you have a church with a willing heart and a partner to ask the hard questions.
So, I’ll ask you the same question that was asked of Abernathy, “What would you not be willing to give up in order to reach people in the community for Jesus.”
*If you feel like God is moving your church to partner with another church, reach out to Bailey Barkley and The New Starts Action Team to start conversations of what that could look like. You can email Bailey at email@example.com
5 by 35
Ryan Smallwood, pastor of Aldersgate Church in Lubbock, talks about their 5 by 35 vision of being part of 5 worshiping communities by the time Aldersgate turns 35 in 2020.