North Park Presbyterian Church was shrinking. Like many churches with an aging population, the congregation in Jackson, Miss., was struggling to fill the pews. So in 2008 the church called teaching elder Chris Wright, a younger man, to help revitalize the dwindling body.
Wright and church session members initiated several community outreach efforts, but nothing really worked to bring younger people through the doors. By fall 2012, the church realized it had to make a hard decision.
The first option was to continue on and hope that God would provide. The second was to treat the church like a church plant, relocate, and attempt to re-create it. Lastly, they could close their doors and encourage members to attend other local churches.
“After months of prayer, it seemed clear that the last option was the most promising,” Wright explained.
But what to do with the property and the church building?
Although the property itself likely was valuable, the church session wasn’t hopeful that it would be able to sell anytime soon. But the week after Thanksgiving, Wright received a call “out of the blue” from the pastor of a local Methodist church that was looking for a new building. Would North Park consider selling to them?
After assessing that the offering church was an orthodox congregation, the North Park session prayed about the offer and decided to present it to the congregation. The congregation voted unanimously to sell.
“They didn’t just support missionaries to look good before the watching world; they support missionaries to make an impact on the world.”
—Mary Alice Patterson
With a $700,000 surplus from the sale, the congregation set up a Church Designated Fund with the PCA Foundation, the denomination’s charitable financial-services arm, to continue contributing to the missionaries, local relief organizations, and various PCA agencies and committees the church had been supporting for years.
“North Park has a zeal for missions and wanted to leave a legacy to missionary support long into the future even if the Lord has chosen to allow the church to close,” Wright said.
“That North Park is still supporting us through the PCA Foundation is so amazing!” wrote missionary Mary Alice Patterson.
“I’ve never heard of a church doing that before,” she continued. “It only tells us what we’ve known for years: North Park members are committed to their missionaries and are faithful through and through.”
“We were excited to be a part in accomplishing the church’s desire to continue supporting the missionaries and ministries they’d been supporting for quite some time,” said Randy Stair, PCA Foundation president. “It was a joy to work with the pastor and session members to make this happen.”
On April 28, 2013, North Park celebrated its last service. Since then its members have scattered to other churches across the city, the majority to another local PCA church, Trinity Presbyterian.
“God, by His sovereign will, has allowed churches, both great and small, to be washed over by the sands of time,” Wright said. “Churches have life cycles.”
But perhaps through choosing to die, North Park is giving other kingdom efforts a chance to live.
To learn more about the PCA Foundation, visit pcafoundation.com.