Abilene church lauds Regenesis boost as it reaches more of its community

Joe Grizzle, pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Abilene, said he is excited to see what God will do in the future after doubling attendance in the past two years.

Growing and ready to go

A couple of years ago, North Park Baptist Church had dwindled to about 30 people on Sundays, mostly senior adults. Now attendance has doubled and people in their 30s and 40s have joined.

What has made the difference is God working through a new pastor and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Regenesis process. The church also voted late last year to affiliate with the SBTC, which Joe Grizzle, North Park’s pastor, described as having “such vibrance and youth and excitement.”

A young woman who grew up in the church and now lives in Dallas told Grizzle, “I can see life in this church again.”

“I can see life in this church again.”

Shortly after Grizzle arrived at North Park in early 2022, he was told “if things didn’t change, in six months they were probably going to have to shut the doors.” Then Grizzle got connected through the local association to Shane Kendrix, SBTC’s regional catalyst in that area of the state.

“He texted me and we met for coffee or lunch. We’ve had about 6 million of [those meetings] since then,” Grizzle said, illustrating the commitment Kendrix has shown to the church. North Park attended the SBTC’s Equip Conference, which aims to train leaders in the local church, and took nine people.

“I kept saying, ‘This isn’t our state convention,’” Grizzle said, but his church members noted the value of the trainings offered and the connections they made with other people in attendance.

As 2023 arrived, North Park began to see some improvement—making budget and having a few more people attend. But the church kept hosting block parties and hardly anyone showed up, Grizzle said. 

They started planning a fall festival, and when the pastor asked a member to help, the response was: It’s going to be just like everything else we’ve done. We may get a dozen kids, and it’s going to be a lot of work for nothing.

Meanwhile, Kendrix told Grizzle about Regenesis, a revitalization emphasis, and the pastor hesitated because “we’re not SBTC.” Kendrix said, “It doesn’t matter.” 

“It all spoke volumes. Not once did someone go, ‘You really should join the SBTC.’ And do you know what that made?” Grizzle said. “That made me want to join the SBTC.”

New life has been infused into the church, where a discipleship process is taking root. Submitted photos 

At the fall festival, the fellowship hall was mostly filled with families, which Grizzle considered “beyond a success compared to everything else.” 

During the first Regenesis meeting at North Park, members of various churches were being transparent about their congregations, and someone from North Park said she didn’t feel like she was being discipled. 

That was a hard comment to hear, but Grizzle shot into action in the coming days, asking pastors and other people to define discipleship and how they had been discipled. 

“I got different answers from everybody I asked. Nobody was on the same page,” he said. 

He ultimately landed on curriculum developed by a ministry called discipleFIRST, and he and his wife started working through it with the church member who said she wasn’t being discipled, along with her husband.

“Discipleship has come out of Regenesis. It has changed us,” Grizzle said. “It’s a small part of our church at this point, but we have this vision. Discipleship is going to spread.”

“I’m excited about what the future holds and what God’s going to do.”

North Park is a neighborhood church, and when Grizzle first went door-to-door in the community, he found people were not familiar with the church despite its presence just down the street. Now more people recognize the name.

“The key to Regenesis is being intentional and sitting down and figuring out how you’re going to get from here to there,” Grizzle said. “In the meantime, God is working. You don’t just shut the church down while you’re doing Regenesis. We have absolutely seen God working during this eight months of Regenesis, and it’s been mind-blowing.”

Recently a new member told the pastor, “It’s just amazing what God is doing in bringing some young people.” About that time, seven people joined the church—all under age 40, Grizzle said. Five people were lined up to be baptized.

Last December, after receiving so much help from the SBTC and observing the effectiveness and the kindness of the convention, North Park voted to uniquely affiliate. 

“I’m excited about what the future holds and what God’s going to do,” Grizzle said.

TEXAN Correspondent
Erin Roach
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