It took twelve years for the church to grow from forty people to one hundred. Most pastors would have quit or moved on long before the church started gaining momentum. But Troy Reynolds decided to stick it out.
Troy started shepherding the rural congregation when he was a senior in college. The community of Wayne, Nebraska is small. The closest Wal-Mart is thirty miles away.
He saw the potential for a thriving ministry in a rural area.
“What makes Wayne unique is while we have only 5,500 people, we have a four-year state college that has 3,500 students.”
For nine months out of the year, Wayne, Nebraska can have two separate communities. Troy believed his church could become the bridge between town and gown. The bridge would not be built overnight.
Troy talks with midwestern matter-of-factness, “Rural growth is a little slower. It takes more leadership patience. It felt like forever getting to one hundred.”
The First Church of Christ was founded in 1926 and had all the ups and downs many established, rural pastors recognize. When Troy arrived in 1993, the church was relying on students to preach in a part-time capacity on weekends. As a senior in college and recently married, Troy didn’t see himself staying for too long.
“We were like many rural churches. Two or three families had a lot of power. They were loyal and faithful but resistant to change because of how pastors came and went.”
God kept him there and rewarded the patient pastor.
“It took me four years to convince them to use a projection system. After twelve years, momentum built. Then we started growing thirty percent every year.”
With tenure came credibility, both in the church and in the town. His patience paid off, and after twelve years, Troy was able to make rapid changes. They did a lot over the next three years. The church built a new worship space. They reduced the bylaws to three pages. The leadership structure was reconfigured. A second worship service started. They even changed the name of the church.
Journey Christian Church became the bridge Troy envisioned. They reached the rural community as well as students and faculty on the college campus. The church blew through the two hundred barrier and has over three hundred in weekly attendance today.
The students bring life and energy and optimism. The town brings stability and rootedness.
“You know where people will be on a Friday night. You get to know people well and build a real sense of community.”
Troy is still the only full-time staff person at the church. Almost all the other positions are filled by volunteers. When his journey began, many might have discounted the potential of a young twenty-something pastoring a small rural church.
More than twenty-five years later, God is doing an incredible work through Journey Christian Church.