By Christina Li

“(We need) to be real, to never project something in front of our children or the congregation that scrutiny would reveal we were not living ourselves,” says Pastor J. Stanley Davidson of Church on the Rock in Gadsden, Alabama. “That to me opens the door to people receiving the ministry of the Word, personal faith in God and a personal walk with God. I think just being real in front of people also means being transparent with your own weaknesses. When people are around you, you’re not putting on some kind of pretence or trying to be some kind of super spiritual person, but you are going to do the best you can to live the same message you preach.”

Giving to Grow

Remaining positive and persistent has greatly aided in the growth of Church on the Rock. “Pastors who remain evangelistic and positive will build churches.” For increasing attendance, Pastor Davidson says, “Having good church and staying positive is key.”

He believes a revival pastor should put people as a priority. “To me there’s nothing like teaching and training and building relationships,” he said. “We have a very thorough developmental process. It starts off with building good relationships, but goes on even to the point of ministry training. We’ve got to pour ourselves into people if we’re going to see growth.”

Pastor Davidson sees giving as going far beyond money. “Giving out preachers, musicians, etc. multiplies our own work. We’ve had several daughter works we’ve been able to start through the development of people and then releasing them into ministry. When people walk through our doors, we get them into a Bible study and keep them in it as long as they will stay. The longer we can keep them in a Bible study, the faster the church grows. We’ve just seen steady growth. I tell our people that every mature Christian should spend time with a new convert every week.”

Planning and Management

Church on the Rock’s organizational structure has in its center “our pastoral staff, Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor and Administrative Secretary, all full-time employees. Then all departments answer to them. Those are Music, Children, Ladies, Men, Media and Technology, Prayer and Missions, Evangelism, etc.”

Pastor Davidson has calendar planning sessions once a month, typically on Wednesday nights after service. This is to plan the calendar for a month or any long-term events. He explained, “Mainly it’s just a follow-up session and checking up on things. We also have semi-monthly meetings with various individuals. We do not hand in monthly reports. That is covered in the monthly meetings verbally. We do have very good communication through e-mail and Facebook as well as a common Dropbox folder. We also have very detailed job descriptions.”

Every year, there is an annual planning retreat where all leaders go to a retreat area. “We have a fun time, training time, and some scheduled planning in that. When we do our annual meeting, we build it around our ‘nesting vision’.”

Train to Maintain Growth

“As the church grows, administration is constantly changing,” says Bro. Davidson. “When you’re planning one tier of leadership, you need to have in the back of your mind the fact that you will be advancing forward. The time I spend with preachers that God has put under my care is precious.” Leaders change and grow as the various ministries and needs change. “The Youth Division has a very good book on developing youth ministers. We’ve taken it and trained people on how to train and manage a committee, how to follow up their plans, and how to report plans and progress to the staff.”

The Church on the Rock has about 40 percent of its congregation involved in some form of ministry and 20 to 25 percent involved in evangelism. Pastor Davidson encourages involvement “by constantly putting into the people that everyone has a ministry, everyone is called to ministry. We even put a lot of effort into our Bible study teachers. They know that even though they are teaching a new convert, the end goal is putting those people into ministry. We’ve evaluated what departments can have a brand new person in their ministry and which ones require more maturity. It comes down to the fact that people have to say no to involvement because it’s right in front of them. They won’t feel comfortable until they buy in and are actually involved.”

Future Growth Plans

Church on the Rock has three buildings on its property. “One is a parsonage in which our youth pastor and his wife live,” explained Pastor Davidson. “We have a building that used to be a data processing center across the street. Our main building is a sanctuary, fellowship hall area, and a children’s ministry area. It is brick, seats about 300 and was built for a church building, sitting on probably five acres of land.

“The first week I drove through town, the Holy Ghost stopped me in front of this property. I went in the parking lot and just sat there wondering what I was doing there. Eleven years later, we bought it. I had no idea. Contractors told me a building was for sale and there wasn’t even a sign in front of it.”

As far as future growth plans are concerned, “We have just added an office suite. Our primary concern is planting churches. However, we do have enough property that we could probably build a large auditorium here. That may become necessary. Right now, we’ve spent most of our time discussing how to plant new churches. We’re thrilled because one of our daughter works now has a daughter work. So, we’ve got a granddaughter. I believe that’s the concept of giving. When it comes time to build, God will take care of it.”

Pastor Davidson explained that Church on the Rock has gone through 18 months of great growth. “On average, our current rate of growth is maybe five percent consistently, 10 percent some years. It’s been steady since we’ve come here. Each year, we have between 30 to 40 who receive the Holy Ghost and are baptized in Jesus’ name.” Attendance in 2010 was 170, in 2011 it was 190, in 2012 it was an even 200 and has remained about the same so far in 2013. “We did a study and between our church and our daughter congregations, we’re closer to 450 people total,” he said. “We have seen growth, not necessarily in our local church but in other congregations founded from this one.”

Brief History and Outreach Methods

Pastor Davidson and his wife, Cheryl, were evangelizing and had been led to preach in Southern Alabama. “I’d been led to sell my motor home,” he said. “A man told me there was a church in Gadsden that needed a pastor. God spoke to my heart at that time and gave me a vision. There was a barren, desert place. At first it looked like there were no roads. The district superintendent showed me a small road that led from Mobile, Alabama to Gadsden. The Lord told me I’d have to get small enough to walk that road. There have been no more prophetic words than that! I felt strongly at that point that’s where God wanted me. I was overwhelmed by the challenge at first, but God reaffirmed his calling to me.”

When Pastor Davidson got there, there were only eight voting members. “The feelings seemed to be so down that I questioned whether or not I was supposed to be there,” he said. “I prayed and the second service was explosive. The Holy Ghost moved, and I was very thankful for that. I had some good people, just not a lot of them.”

For outreach, “we tried everything that came down the pike. The one thing we’ve consistently done is Bible studies. I’ve heard ‘the longer the Bible studies, the faster the growth.’ That has worked. We hung door hangers, prayed over houses, knocked on every tenth door. We’ve done a lot of youth community activities. It has always come down to teaching Bible studies and keeping people in Bible studies.”

Concluding Comments

Pastor Davidson said, “I believe that in the end time years, we need to concentrate on church planting. Some of the statistics verify that the fastest growth taking place today is in new church starts. I believe that our society needs to get away from mega church concepts. I think we’ll reach more people by training more people and planting more churches.”

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