God is writing a new chapter for Greenlawn Baptist Church that began with a pulpit supply guest preacher. Church members first met Travis Hoeben a little over a year ago. After preaching occasionally last summer, Hoeben began to serve on a more regular basis into the fall, and eventually accepted the call as Greenlawn’s interim pastor in January 2023.
“It has been a blessing to serve at Greenlawn,” Hoeben says of the last year there. “I feel very well-connected and supported as part of their household of faith.”
At almost 140 years old, Greenlawn has had an active presence in the East Columbia community for many generations. Hoeben calls it “pretty incredible to hear of the stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of the people at Greenlawn over the years. We have a rich history of being an integral part of the community around us and have planted other congregations in the area to be a gospel witness to the community. We are where God has placed us.”
CMBA Associational Missions Strategist Jamie Rogers agrees, saying it’s vital for churches to stop waiting on people to come to them – but rather recognizing God’s plan from the beginning is for the church to go to them. “It’s so important for us to be looking for ways to have a strong gospel presence in each neighborhood in Columbia. We have an obligation to have strong churches everywhere in Columbia that are going after every lost person living here. That’s what we’re seeking to do as we help our congregations become stronger through the revitalization process.”
Hoeben has been in full-time vocational ministry since graduating from Liberty University’s School of Divinity, and has had “abundant opportunities” to study other languages, cultures, apologetics, and theology over the years. He’s served on various mission teams and helped to plant a church in Peru through the International Mission Board. Hoeben and his wife Sarah are native South Carolinians who are excited to move “back home,” after living much of their married life in Charlotte, and most recently in Maine. The couple has two children, 18-year-old Nicholas and nine-year-old Elliott.
“I was blessed to be mentored by faithful men of God’s word over the course of my entire life,” he says of the experiences that have now led him to Greenlawn.
In his role as “spiritual shepherd,” Hoeben is leading the Greenlawn members through the early stages of a church revitalization process. He shares that the church first went through almost four months studying the Sermon on the Mount and the essential teachings of Jesus, before discussing a church renewal with leadership in Spring 2023, and then officially beginning the process in June 2023.
“For me, the process has been very fulfilling. We have a mature adult congregation and the folks at Greenlawn understand that we want to see future generations have a gospel witness for everyone in the community around us,” Hoeben says. “The statistics show that nearly four out of five evangelical churches in our area are in decline or ‘at risk.’ We are going forward in faith, and the congregation affirms that we must be committed to the task of making disciples and being Kingdom-oriented as the driving force behind why we do what we do.”
In these early weeks of revitalization, Greenlawn has studied the Garners Ferry Road community and current growth patterns. As the congregation has learned about the demographics, Hoeben says members have a renewed excitement to reposition the church to better reach its neighbors.
“We have many long-term members of our church that would love for people in the community to know and share the same love of Christ that they have experienced and have been transformed by,” Hoeben adds.
Greenlawn is already seeing the gospel advanced through partnership opportunities, and is looking forward to hosting Family Fun Nights on Wednesdays this summer. The church is also planning ways it can better serve neighbors in the community moving forward. Hoeben appreciates the support of CMBA revitalization team members that have answered questions and explained things at key points in the process.
“I would encourage any church in need of revitalization to not be a part of the statistics that we are seeing across our region. If we are in Christ, we have experienced His transformative power and He is in charge of our church. Connect with local CMBA leadership, and begin the process of revitalization,” he says.
Contact Rogers at jamie@ColumbiaMetro.org for more information about CMBA church revitalization assistance.