Tuesday, June 05, 2007


There are so many things I want to share this morning. I want to tell you about how awesome Nick Gerard did preaching last Sunday evening. I want to tell you about how great the other eight young men did who read Scripture, led songs and/or prayed. I want to tell you how wonderful it is to have guys like Randy Stumpfhauser (BMX Racing Pro) and John Hollett (Head Baseball Coach of the Valley Division III Champs, the Selma Bears) working with our 3rd -6th grade guys every Wednesday night to develop them and challenge them in their burgeoning faith. I want to tell you how that on Sunday we cracked the 100 response mark for the year in just 22 Sundays. I want to tell you about the six baptisms we have had at Woodward Park in the last two weeks. I want to tell you about the dear friend I have in Rick Northen who spent his final moments in the States before boarding a plane to Cambodia encouraging me in my ministry as he has always done.

But what is most on my heart as I type this blog is the impression left on me this past Sunday as I preached in Hollister, California. You may best recognize the name "Hollister" from the popular line of teen clothing, but Hollister is a wonderful little hamlet 30 miles from the California coast, south of San Jose. Hollister is a city of some 37,000 people and at church on Sunday, about 45 assembled to worship.

Place Hollister in the South and the church would likely have an attendance of at least 500. Shoot, I've preached in places like Delight, Arkansas where the average attendance at church on Sunday is greater than the entire population posted on the city limit sign! But this is California, where the rural churches are struggling and the hair of the members is graying.

I was struck by the fact that the faithful band of disciples who met for worship on Sunday are, by-in-large, an older band of believers who've walked a long time with the Lord. What distressed me about the church in Hollister, and the church in many other rural cities akin to Hollister throughout California, is that church membership is in numerical decline with the younger generations virtually absent.

How do we turn that trend around? How do we reach the unchurched families in cities like Hollister with the good news of Jesus?

It seems that hardly a week goes by but what we do not hear of another church family in a rural Valley city struggling to hold on.

How do we encourage them? As a healthy, vibrant, growing church in an urban setting, I feel a burden that we at Woodward Park have a responsibility, a stewardship, to invest in these churches with manpower and resources to help them in their quest to be light in their communities.

But the task is so great and the need nigh overwhelming.

What can we do to help? Help me think through this today by emailing me your ideas to jim@wpcoc.com.