Granger Community Church had humble beginnings, starting in the living room of Pastor Mark Beeson, his wife, Sheila, and their three children in 1986.
Propelled by Beeson’s vision, the Granger, Ind., church experienced double-digit annual growth for many years, topping 5,000 members by 2007.
But in 2007, the church hit a wall and found itself stuck in a “season of stagnation” and decline—a result of communication breakdowns, loss of vision and abdication of leadership.
“We were just locked,” Beeson says. “It’s like whatever we did, it didn’t work.”
Then, one day, Beeson says God gave him one word: “Lead.”
During a management retreat in 2009, Beeson asked his staff to seek God’s vision for the church. The proposed new vision—both “missional” and “attractional”— was so aligned it was “shocking,” Beeson says.
Afterward, Beeson invited people in the church and community to seek God’s direction too. Based on a 2010 survey involving thousands of responses, the church developed its “2016 Vision.” It called for the number of people “being the church in their neighborhoods, schools, cafes and communities” to outnumber the number of “casual Christians just going to church.” The new church slogan, “Raising the BAR,” calls on people to “Be the church,” “Activate the campus,” and “Reproduce at every level.”
As opposed to the church of the past—one focused on getting the community into the church—the new Granger emphasized getting the “church into the community.” Instead of measuring success by attendance and giving, the refocused church tracks community impact and “loving others.”
“The biggest part of ‘Raising the BAR’ is the ‘R’—every follower of Jesus will be a reproducing follower of Jesus,” Beeson says. “As a result, we are experiencing growth again [the church has about 5,500 members now]. We have baptized, [in 2012], 446 people.”
Part of this vision involves the launch of missional communities where people plant small congregations in their neighborhood or domain of society, Beeson says. These communities range from a businessman who works 60 hours a week but finds time to lead business partners and associates each week to a group who works at an inner-city soup kitchen.
“Our vision is that these missional communities will become vibrant hubs of missional impact,” Beeson says. “By 2016, we anticipate we’ll have a thousand missional communities.”
Jim and Barbara Blechl, a doctor and nurse who live in Granger, started attending the church in 2007 at the invitation of their children and have seen the transformation firsthand.
“People are reaching out to other people at their jobs, those they play softball with or who live in their neighborhood,” Blechl says.
One man started a missional community in the prison recovery program where he works, Blechl says. As a result, many of those people accepted Christ.
“It was an amazing sight,” Blechl says. “It was so wonderful to see God redeeming the lives of these guys who are pretty much on the edges of society. It’s an example of a missional community that has developed as a result of this new emphasis of ‘Raising the BAR.’”
Read about more churches that experienced a turnaround thanks to a renewed commitment to outreach:
A Church Rebounds With a Change of Heart
Being Christ’s Hands and Feet
A Culture of Invitation