By Carl Stagner
Last Easter, West Side Church of God in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, welcomed a crowd of about 640 people between two services. With average attendance running 17 percent higher this year than last, they expected about 750 people to be present on April 1. Leadership had to prepare for sufficient seating and ample parking, all of which could not be found at their facility. As they dreamed of the possibilities, they concluded that capacity crowds would require booking the local coliseum for their Easter gathering. Good thing they did—some 1,400 people showed up! That’s especially remarkable when you consider the church had declined to just 25 people less than four years ago.
So, how did they grow, and so fast? “I get this question a lot, and it is very hard for me to answer,” Pastor Jason Jordan explains. “There really isn’t any ‘secret sauce,’ but we are desperate for the Spirit of God to do something. G. Campbell Morgan once said, ‘We cannot make revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when it blows.’ That’s what we’re trying to do. Our average attendance now between two services is up to about 380 to 400. We have a deep commitment to the scriptures at West Side; people would be surprised how traditional or liturgical our services really are. At the end of the day we want to see Jesus magnified through song, sermon, or sacrament.” Jesus is the subject!
Actually, it’s not about the numbers for Jason. He recognizes that growth, especially fast growth, isn’t always a good thing. “Not all growth is good,” Jason explains. “I mean, a tumor is growth, but that’s not good! We want health to precede growth.” The spike in attendance they’ve seen since Easter was a byproduct of their event at the Black River Coliseum, but certainly not the goal. “Now we’re focusing on the level of care we can provide our people and multiply our small groups. We are switching our attention from addition to multiplication.”
The move to the Coliseum for Easter Sunday was a risk West Side Church knew they had to take, and now they’re celebrating the spiritual payoff. Many accepted Christ for the first time, and the Spirit moved in a powerful way as families came forward en masse for Communion. But the moment that lives on in Jason’s mind is what happened before Easter. Taking the church’s ministry operation off campus, while preparing for large crowds, is no small feat. The chance for the body of Christ to shine was presented to the congregation, and did they ever shine! “We had over a hundred volunteers help set up and organize teams,” Jason recalls. “To see that many serve was a huge win for us.”
As West Side Church of God continues to live out their purpose in Poplar Bluff, Jason insists that their prayer going forward and their mission remains the same. “We believe the Christian life is a life transformed by the gospel, experienced in community, and lived out for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors,” he concludes. “We strive to achieve that by engaging people with the gospel, encouraging one another in community, and equipping disciples for mission.”
In Missouri, across North America, and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Reach our world. Donate today at give.jesusisthesubject.org.