This Church Closed for All the Right Reasons

Post a Comment » Written on January 23rd, 2008     
Filed under: News
LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA (January 23, 2008) – Members of Crown Valley Covenant Church  voted 23-0 to close their doors a week ago Sunday, encouraged by the knowledge that their action will lead to at least 40 more churches being started.

“It’s really a wonderful sense that God is not finished with us yet,” says interim pastor Kreig Gammelgard, who also had served the church as youth pastor 20 years ago.

The congregation started in 1971 and decided to close after attending a Veritas workshop. The daylong workshop is designed to help churches assess their future and take what steps are necessary for revitalization.

The Crown Valley congregation already was thinking about closing when it attended the workshop, but experienced what Gammelgard describes as “an aha moment” at the event last November. “They realized that as a church they can leave a legacy for years to come,” Gammelgard says. “The reality is that incredible good comes from it.”

The congregation plans to sell its building to Grace Church, a non-Covenant fellowship that is leasing the building. The proceeds will then be used to plant new Covenant churches.

John Wenrich, director of church vitality for the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism (CGE), leads the Veritas workshops and says he hopes churches that attend will find ways to advance their congregations’ ministries, noting that sometimes closing is the best option.

“Sometimes churches close for all the wrong reasons,” Wenrich says. “I both admire and honor Crown Valley in closing for all the right reasons. That takes courage, humility and faith. I am moved by the fact that they were able and willing to look beyond their own situation and have a broader kingdom vision.”

Wenrich pointed to the 1995 closure of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Poway, California. Approximately 25 churches with a combined current attendance of more than 10,000 individuals is a result of that church’s decision, he says. “We believe that God will do something similar with the gift from Crown Valley.”

A special Sunday morning worship service preceded a lunch and the vote. Roughly 100 people attended the service, which normally averages 50.

The church had a history of strong youth ministry and five former youth pastors, including Gammelgard participated in the final service. Three people who had attended the church in preceding decades also shared testimonies of how the church had impacted their lives.

In his morning message, Gammelgard spoke of how the disciples asked Jesus whether leaving their homes had been worth their sacrifice, and he assured them that it was. On Sunday, the congregation believed their ministry – including their closing – was worth their sacrifice.

“There were tears of joy and tears of appreciation,” Gammelgard says. “God has been good and faithful.”

A strong sense of the power of the ministry struck Gammelgard as he saw former students from his days as a youth minister. “I saw them walking up the driveway with their own kids.”

Steve Dawson, president of National Covenant Properties, attended Sunday’s service and was moved by the passion and sacrifice of the people as reflected in their singing of the hymn, Give Me Jesus. “When they came to the line ‘and when it’s time to die,’ the volume dropped quite noticeably as they realized the significance – that is, until they got back to the closing refrain that ‘just give me Jesus’ was the important focus for the morning,” Dawson recalls.

Gammelgard said he planned to attend this past Sunday’s first worship service of Grace Church in the building, “to pass the baton.

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