And then there were none.
No more babies making baby sounds in the service. No more children running and laughing in the fellowship hall. No more youth gathering to learn about Jesus and His love. They had grown up and moved away from our small town of Nottawa for higher education or employment, and those who remained had gone to other churches with more peers. As they left, drawing in others in their age groups was proving difficult. So we at Cornerstone Church had become a church of older people unable to provide the ministries needed to connect with our community. We tried, but younger people need other younger people, and because we didn’t have any, we couldn’t attract any. The cycle became self-perpetuating, and we were increasingly aware that we were failing at fulfilling the Great Commission.
After searching for a pastor for a year and realizing we had little to offer anyone who might accept the challenge, a wise former pastor presented an idea to each board and search committee member individually. A vibrant sister church in the next town had opened a second campus in a nearby village. Years earlier, they had also successfully planted another church which now functioned independently. Would they consider approaching that pastor to see if he would entertain accepting this church as another of their campuses?
After much prayer and discussion, the team was humble enough to admit it needed help and was courageous enough to follow God’s leading. It took time to explore the possibility and involved many meetings with the pastor of the larger church and the PAOC district. But God was in it. The congregation and board, who had refused to give up, and a pastor willing to follow God and accept a mammoth challenge, dared to believe a church could rise from the ashes and share Jesus with their community once again. Both congregations then voted to make the plan happen.
The dying church closed for a period to establish in the community that it would be a new work when it reopened. Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” And He did.
Many volunteers committed time, energy and resources to renovate and update the building to create a new thing. And they did.
With energy and enthusiasm, the new site pastor arrived with a vision for what God could do in our community. The refreshed church was due to open on Easter Sunday 2020, and then COVID-19 hit. Operating a church during that time was difficult; establishing a new church presented additional challenges. It opened and then was shut down—again and again. We all experienced the pandemic and remember the process. But God didn’t abandon us, and our new pastor didn’t run away screaming either. We can’t thank the pastoral team of the whole church enough for their leadership during that time. Undeterred by the ever-changing regulations, they learned new skills, and found ways to connect and minister to us.
Despite the hardships, the mission was possible. The church did rise from the ashes. People came. Since September 2021, it has been open consistently and people keep coming—new people every week. God is in this place. Babies, children, youth and older people all worship here. Since attendance is now about 200 weekly, on October 16, we began offering two Sunday morning services to accommodate everyone. Who would have dreamed the parking lot would be jammed with vehicles every Sunday? The elders who have passed on and who faithfully prayed for this church for years would be in awe of how God answered their prayers.
There have been some adjustments for those who worked hard to keep the original church functioning. Everything is different from before, and there are now many hands to do the work. Consequently, some are still in the process of discovering how best to serve, but that will resolve with time. In the meantime, we are forging new friendships and enjoying the fellowship of worshipping together. Decisions and responsibilities we formerly carried now rest with others as we work together to accomplish God’s purposes. It is His church, not ours, and it always has been. An exciting new chapter has begun, a fresh start, and we eagerly anticipate more great things ahead.
Since joining Clearview Community Church (CCC), another church has become a fourth campus. The sites now include Stayner (main campus), Creemore, Nottawa (Collingwood), and Wasaga Beach. God is working in the region, and we are honoured to be part of it.
If your small church is struggling, take heart. God may have a plan so far beyond your imagining that you may need a seatbelt when it takes flight. So continue to pray and believe that God can do what seems impossible. And be open to fresh ideas so you don’t miss an opportunity when it arrives. We serve a faithful God.
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Steps We Took
- Surrendered our church, its future, and the building to God—it’s His anyway, so we trusted Him to do what was best.
- Were willing to accept help and prayed for wisdom and direction as we moved forward.
- Were open to new ideas.
- We celebrated our memories of what was and then closed the book and moved forward to a new beginning. Change means different from before.
- Were willing to see beyond the obstacles and trust the same God Abraham trusted, even when it seemed scary at first.
Are now working as a team to accomplish God’s purposes in our community.
Brenda Erb Roberts and her husband, Peter, serve in various ministries at CCC Nottawa (Collingwood), and they have their seatbelts on. She is currently writing a book about women in the Bible.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy Barb Erb Roberts. Home page photo: a church service in progress at Clearview Community Church in August 2022. Photo above: the former Cornerstone Church after its last service in 2019, before re-opening later on as Clearview Community Church – Nottawa Campus. Third photo: Indoors at Clearview.