WARNER ROBINS -- Northside Baptist Church started in the 1950s on Elm Street off North Davis Drive by Second Baptist.
The church moved to its facilities on Carl Vinson Parkway in 2001. It started as a mission church, but in modern jargon it would have been called a church plant.
Myke Harbuck, Northsides pastor for three years, said the church is in a revitalization process after years of decline but is also playing a key support role in a new church plant. Its a role Harbuck said Northside has played in the past while helping start Unity Baptist Church on Ga. 96 and New Song Missionary Baptist Church on Tabor Drive.
One goal is our own revitalization, Harbuck said. Just as businesses should constantly re-examine facilities, methods and programs, churches should, too. The message of truth and the Gospel should never change, but other factors should readily change to connect with people and the changing culture around them.
Harbuck said Northside has dwindled to a congregation of about 100 attendees, mostly older, and has had difficulty reaching 20- and 30-year-olds. He said Northsides facility and worship style, like many other churches, seems to have gotten stuck in a 1970s time warp.
In Houston County, 90 percent of millenniums and Gen X-ers stay at home on Sundays and 90 percent of senior citizens go to church, he said. A lot of grandmothers and grandfathers in church mistake their preferences in styles of worship, order of service, clothing, atmosphere, décor and programs for the simple Gospel. Were looking at re-defining who we are as believers in this location to reach as many people as we can, young and old. Were looking at ministries and programs as well as facilities. If youve visited Northside in the past and visit again in six months -- and we hope you will -- youll find something different. Were looking at serious changes.
Internal revitalization is the first goal, but Harbuck said Northside is also committed to planting five new churches in 10 years. In fact, Harbuck not only carries the title lead pastor at Northside but also the title church planter.
He said the churches Northside plants just have to be what God wants them to be.
On top of revitalization, God has called us to plant churches, Harbuck said. Northside will probably never be the great big church on the corner, but that doesnt mean we cant plant big churches. We may never do great things for God, but we may plant churches that do. And thats a great thing.
Harbuck said starting new churches is the single most effective evangelistic method to reach new people.
Some of the objections to church planting is that there are too many churches already, He said. Thats not true. A hundred years ago there were 28 churches for every 10,000 people. Now its less than 11. In Houston County there are 120,000-plus unchurched people.
He said a second objection is congregations dont have resources in people or finances. He said thats not the issue. He said if God says plant a church, you plant a church.
Northside is now playing a key role now in starting a church in Byron. A group is already meeting with Harbuck and is called Central Point Chapel. He said it will officially launch in the next couple of months. Its website is www.cpcbyron.org.
The burden of our heart is for Central Point to be something new, fresh, relevant, Harbuck said. A place where people are comfortable to come as they are but leave changed by God. It will feature verse-by-verse teaching of Gods word and be a place where preferences and traditions yield to the needs of others.
Harbuck said hes amazed at the older believers at Northside who are helping make the new church happen. Others are amazed at Harbuck who pastors Northside, is planting Central Point and yet is a bi-vocational pastor with a full-time job in banking.
Originally from Sumter County, Harbuck said he came from a dysfunctional family and was a high school dropout. After getting his GED, he earned a business management degree from Georgia Southern University. He has a theology degree from Trinity Bible College in Newburg, Ind. He also has two degrees, a masters degree in church planting and another in education, from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He is working on a doctorate degree from Liberty.
Harbuck, 40, and his wife, Heidi, have four children: Hannah, Michael, Helen and Matthew.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.