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Nearly 200 leaders and members of Churches of Christ gathered at the University of Maryland College Park to exchange ideas about growing congregations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo by Hamil Harris

Mid-Atlantic leaders meet to craft ideas for growth

‘God always raises men in perilous times to lead his people,’ one Maryland minister declares.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Nearly 200 leaders and members of Churches of Christ gathered at the University of Maryland College Park to exchange ideas about growing congregations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees represented 23 congregations stretching from Virginia to Connecticut and New York. The recent event, “Leadership In Perilous Times: Let Us Wake Up and Strengthen What Remains!” was organized by ministers from Maryland and several Mid-Atlantic states and led by Tony Roach, evangelist for the Minda Street Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.

Willie Hubbard

Willie Hubbard

Willie Hubbard, minister for the District Heights Church of Christ in Maryland, said, “The purpose of the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Conference is to be refreshed, revived and restored so that we may strengthen that which remains.”

Hubbard said everyone was negatively impacted during the pandemic, leaving many church leaders wounded and ministries brought to a halt or crawl. He said leaders were left asking, “How do we proceed?” and “Where do we go from here?”

“God always raises men in perilous times to lead his people,” Hubbard said. “We are dealing in a counterculture right now, and the world is calling for the church to stand up. But the church can’t do what it’s supposed to do until its leaders turn back to God.”

The nine-hour event Oct. 29 began with a breakfast panel discussion moderated by Roach. The panel featured ministers from three Maryland congregations: Ed Maxwell of the Clinton Church of Christ, Willie Rupert of the Central Church of Christ in Baltimore and Kevin Bethea of the East Baltimore Church of Christ.

Tony Roach

Tony Roach

Maxwell told the audience that COVID-19 brought a faith challenge to churches, and Bethea said, “COVID opened the eyes to the frailty that existed in the church.”

Rupert agreed. “It challenged our values and beliefs,” the Central congregation minister said. “For those who were strong in the faith, COVID made them stronger. And for those weak in the faith, COVID made them weaker.”

Church leaders and spouses later broke into groups. In one session, Bruce McClure, a licensed counselor and minister for the Prince George’s Church of Christ in Landover, Md., said many church leaders have become wounded or burned out after years of ministry.

“The challenges that we have experienced over the past two years have placed a great stress on church leaders and their ministries,” McClure said. “Each leader has personally faced the challenges of his spiritual and physical health as well as his mental health, the safety of his family and the church family, personal finances and the question of what and who to believe?

“We were unprepared for many of those trials,” he added, “and because of those challenges, we all lost something. Those experiences wounded us with the symptoms of grief — sorrow, distress and anxiety.”

Don Ballard, minister for the University Park Church of Christ in Hyattsville, Md., titled his sermon for the conference, “Preaching Titus 2:1-10 in a Romans 1 World.”

Roach, author of “God’s Love Bank,” also preached Saturday and Sunday and conducted a Monday workshop for ministers: “The Biblical model of the government, organization and development of the local congregation.”

Related: Churches embrace hope, change

“God’s love bank is a framework of thinking. It’s a program for living and a curriculum for teaching,” Roach told the Chronicle. “It helped people to understand that the body is a threefold spiritual being that functions as God’s love bank.

“It breaks down the barriers of racism, the racial divide and it allows us to put off our old self and put on our new self as Paul commands in Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:9-10 and in Romans where the Bible says that Jesus crucified the old self on the cross and made us accessible.” 

HAMIL R. HARRIS is a Christian Chronicle correspondent and a veteran journalist who spent two decades with the Washington Post. He preaches regularly for the Glenarden Church of Christ in Maryland.


Filed under: Church decline Church growth church leadership COVID-19 Maryland Mid-Atlantic Leadership Conference National News Post-Pandemic Church Top Stories

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