I grew up as part of The South MacArthur Church of Christ. My father has been on the ministry staff of Southmac since before I was born and continues to this day. Southmac was the primary supporting congregation for my first church plant in south Grand Prairie and they continue to support me to this day. I am truly thankful to this church for being a big part of my own spiritual development and ongoing encouragement and support.
Over the last several months I have been helping out in leading worship at their Sunday morning worship assembly several times a month. Even though I am not a “member” of Southmac anymore, I am still fairly connected with the congregation. The church recently went through 40 days of prayer and fasting to determine God’s preferred future for the congregation. It has been a difficult season for Southmac over the last couple of years. The community in Irving has changed a lot since they began meeting at the corner of Shady Grove and MacArthur. Southmac has traditionally been a white, middle class congregation. Much of that demographic has been moving out of south Irving, which subsequently means that some of those people have been moving and leaving Southmac for other congregations in newer suburban contexts. Despite their best efforts, Southmac has struggled to connect with the diverse population that currently makes up their community.
Certainly there is more going on at Southmac than just changing demographics. But from my point of view, that is some important context for what’s going on now. Several weeks ago the elders announced some things they had discerned from the 40 days of prayer. There were two tangible, practical components of the announcement. First, the elders announced that Sunday morning worship assemblies would be moved to the gym. We were simply not filling up the auditorium and there were noticeable chunks of empty pews on most Sundays (at least there were from a worship leaders point of view). An important part of worship is doing it together and the gym would help facilitate more of a connected, together feel. The second component was a commitment to develop weekly, small, disciple making groups in the church.
I was really excited about this announcement. Not because I think moving to the gym or starting a small groups ministry will turn the church around. But what I sense (or hope) in this announcement is a commitment to changing the identity of the church. What I heard was a desire to live authentic community that is not tied to a building. What I heard was a realization that we can’t expect people to just come to church because we have a nice building or good programs. We need to start living life intentionally together and for our community. I applaud the Southmac leaders for taking time to listen. I think there is probably more listening to be done and I expect things will probably get harder before they get easier, but it is apparent to me that God is at work in the Southmac Church. If they continue to listen and act with boldness and faith that they can continue to be a light in the darkness of south Irving. I am honored to get to play a part in their story.
(By the way, at this point we have not yet moved to the gym, but have asked people to move forward and sit closer together)