“Just talking about the problems in our culture and the decline of the North American church produces no outlet other than concern and perhaps a few people praying about it. My desire is to create a path for reversing the problem.”
In the early months of 2020, life was humming along for Dr. Jason Ormiston. Even after COVID-19 burst onto the scene, his church plant, Palmetto Baptist in Easley, South Carolina, remained steady. Likewise, Jason’s teaching ministry at Bob Jones University was still seeing young men trained and burdened for multiethnic church planting. Then in May of 2020, Jason’s hometown of Minneapolis erupted in flames when rioters protested George Floyd’s death.
Something deep stirred in Jason’s heart. He wanted to be there to help Minneapolis’s inner city residents find answers and peace that only Christ could give. After Jason and his wife, Heather, spent much time in prayer, he turned over Palmetto Baptist to new leadership and moved his family back to Minneapolis in June 2021. There, he is working with his church-planting father, Dr. Lee Ormiston, to strengthen Family Baptist Church, an urban congregation that struggled in the aftermath of the riots and COVID-19.
Jason is singularly convinced that the church is God’s means of changing the culture. Although urban areas desperately need strong churches that propel the gospel message into their communities, so do suburban and rural areas. When churches decline or close their doors, as they have among all demographic areas in the last 20-30 years, the reach and influence of the gospel dims in their neighborhoods. The solution is not necessarily planting new churches. Often the greater need is to revitalize existing churches so they can effectively reach their communities.
Jason’s philosophy is that if a church is considering closing its doors, why not give it one last try through a church revitalization program? Under Jason’s leadership, Palmetto Baptist Church not only planted two daughter churches (and are currently starting a church for deaf people), but they also revitalized three other churches. “Revitalization is the gospel at work,” says Jason. “You start with a church that was created in the past but has essentially died. The revitalization process brings Christ’s resurrection power, so to speak, breathing new life into that congregation.”
In 2022, when BMM President Patrick Odle and Steve Anderson (administrator for North America, Asia & the Pacific) sought additional help for Steve’s North America oversight, they looked for someone well-qualified in the area of church growth and revitalization. Jason immediately came to mind because of his experience and his 13 years on BMM’s Elected Council. In October 2022, he took on a new role with BMM as our North America Director of Church Planting & Development, a position he’ll hold concurrently with his pastorate at Family Baptist Church.
As a teenager, Jason got his first revitalization experience when he and a friend infused new life into a dying bus ministry at Minneapolis’s Fourth Baptist Church. They hit the streets of their neighborhood, preaching and soul-winning. In time, the bus ministry sparked back to life. Later, when Fourth Baptist commissioned Jason’s dad, Dr. Lee Ormiston (also a BMM Council member), to start a daughter church in urban
Minneapolis, Jason used basketball as a simple way to connect credibly with teens in their cross-cultural neighborhood. Several kids received Christ, a youth group was established, and within six months Jason was the church’s first youth pastor.
Jason tries to simplify the complex by describing his philosophy of outreach and evangelism with three C’s: Connection | Credibility | Communication. Jason says, “Most churches in decline have stopped effectively reaching into their communities. They’ve tried the same methods they’ve always used before. In certain contexts, knocking on doors doesn’t work, but if a church can find ways to credibly connect to their community, they have a platform for communicating the gospel in a way that people are more likely to receive.”
In his new role, Jason is eager to come alongside churches to form revitalization partnerships. He and Steve Anderson are developing resources and platforms for coaching and training pastors in both revitalization and church health. One of these platforms is BMM’s School of Church Planting, which Jason will begin leading in 2024. This week-long intensive training for pastors, missionaries, and church planters offers a biennial revitalization track for strengthening and revitalizing plateaued or struggling churches.
Another way that Jason, Steve, and others in BMM’s North America team can form partnerships is through assessment and evaluation of individual churches. In coming alongside these churches, they will provide on-site training for the entire church family and long-term coaching for the pastor(s). “We’re checking in, asking questions, visiting, giving advice,” says Jason. “We want to make sure they’re not left on their own.”
Jason recognizes that the solution to church decline takes creativity. As a church planter at Palmetto Baptist, he worked bivocationally, and he understands that some revitalizations will require a pastor to supplement his income. He wants to help couples who are exploring this option but aren’t sure they can make it work. In other situations, a church revitalization missionary may be needed. Jason is an idea guy but also a realist; he knows that ministry is tough, and no one person has all the answers. But he and the BMM team can offer years of experience and proven resources to make the steps forward a little easier.
Jason says, “Just talking about the problems in our culture and the decline of the North American church produces no outlet other than concern and perhaps a few people praying about it. My desire is to create a path for reversing the problem.”
A carpenter would be hard-pressed to build a house without a toolbox. The same is true for a church planter or church revitalizer. SCP is their toolbox.
A month-long conference centered on praying for more missions laborers.
Stretching from New York in the east to Alaska in the west, and as far north as Canada and southerly into Mexico, BMM North America missionaries are building Christ’s church in diversified and creative ways.