Posted on : Wednesday December 16, 2015

By Randy Millwood

Church Strengthening Team Strategist

The following is a written report by Randy Millwood, on behalf of the Strengthening Team, to the Network’s General Mission Board (GMB) on Dec. 8.

Randy Millwood is church strengthening team strategist for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.

Randy Millwood is church strengthening team strategist for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.

COLUMBIA, Md—Stronger pastors; stronger key leaders; stronger disciples; stronger groups; stronger churches… greater missional impact here, and around the world!

Through the fall, your Church Strengthening Team (only three full time and six part time members) has been in touch with (equipping and/or encouraging) pastors, staff, and/or key leaders from over half of our Network churches. These touches have included conversations, consultations, coaching, and conferencing. In each case the goal has been the same: strengthen churches so they may one day start even more churches, aligning our Network with the commission and commandments of Christ!

On December 25, 1864, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the poem that became the Christmas Carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The country was at war, and brokenness was abundant. The churches throughout the town of Cambridge, MA – as was customary in all of the West – rang their bells on Christmas day, calling the world to remember the message of angels long ago: “peace on earth, good will to men.”

Longfellow recognized the “familiar sound,” and the “wild and sweet” words. He noted how this “unbroken song” had rolled along from the 1st Christmas to this very day. But, he was discouraged by national crisis and personal loss. He wrote of his despair and introspection, “’There is no peace on earth’ I said; ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song…’”

But what happened next had “Hallelujah” written all over it. In the midst of his despair, discouragement, and disillusionment, the bells pealed even louder and deeper. The message was even more profound: “God is not dead; nor doth He sleep! The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men!”


Researchers from Barna to Gallop to Pew all agree that the Church in America is on plateau or in decline. The general assessment is somewhere between 72-75% are so. Which means it is likely 72-75% of your churches are on plateau or in decline.

If ‘the Church’ – the bride of Christ – is Christ’s ‘plan A,’ then this reality is a problem. And, if you or I spend our time lamenting this situation we, like Longfellow, will find despair, discouragement, and disillusionment.

This Christmas season, your Church Strengthening Team wants you to know, “God is not dead; nor doth He sleep.” Christ is still on mission around us. God’s Spirit is still wooing the hearts of humanity with the Greatest Story ever lived, told, or penned.

However, it seems abundantly clear that the local expressions of His Bride have, indeed, slumbered. And it is time to Awaken… not to talk about it; not to study it; and not to plan for it… but time to Awaken!

Our Awaken! revitalization strategy is but one of four strategies available to the churches of our Mid-Atlantic Network. A new cohort of brave pastors and courageous churches is forming right now. Will you lead by example? Will you talk to other pastors around you?

Our world desperately needs to hear the bells toll once more. They need to know of peace on earth, good will to men.

Merry Christmas to you all from your Church Strengthening Team.