Embrace Baltimore

North Point Revival Turns Church Inside Out

by Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

North Point Church has leapt from plateaued to revival. Attendance doubled in two years. The church is moving out into the neighborhood and is now reflecting the North Point community.

The church called Pastor Mark Swan in February 2010. Swan began ministering to a wary congregation. They’d been without a pastor for six months. The mostly senior congregation was declining. They were in a rut. Like many churches, they wanted to advance God’s kingdom, but had lost their vision along the way and were inwardly focused, Swan said.

Swan led the church toward an outward evangelistic mindset starting with reaching children. He began calling the kids to the front during services for their own special story time. Everyone loved it, the kids, parents and seniors.

“This was a way of communicating that children are important to their pastor and that this church cares about young people,” Swan explained.

The church then began examining current ministries and how they could be more outwardly focused.

VBS was a great place to start. “We got someone with a pickup truck, filled it with ‘pop’ and bottled water and went into North Point Village. We knocked on doors, invited them to VBS and gave them cans of ‘pop.’ Their defenses came down when we did something nice for them,” Swan said. Besides those who answered their doors, church members chatted with neighbors who were mowing their lawns, working on their cars and sitting on porches.

“We had a great response. Over 100 kids came to VBS. That’s because we were intentional,” Swan said.

The church was also intentional about registration and follow-up, sending out letters, postcards and visiting. They followed that success with a back-to-school blast in August, serving up a 10-foot-long banana split and inviting all the kids from VBS. In October they had “trunk or treat.” They also had a bike rodeo, inviting neighborhood kids to bring their bikes and skateboards and play on their large parking lot. Families responded and began visiting the church.

Sunday attendance was 70 when Swan arrived. They hit 137 in December. There are also more African Americans attending the church in addition to Anglos, better reflecting the community God has placed North Point Church.

“It’s the Lord blessing,” Swan said. “And it’s us being intentional. Gone are the days when people wake up on Sundays and say, ‘where will I go to church this morning? People don’t seek it out. We’re not living in the 1950s. We must go to them and tell them Christ loved then and died for them,” Swan said.

“That’s what John (Smith) has done with concerts and his big 4th of July celebration,” Swan said. Swan was referring to John Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Essex. FBC Essex has more than tripled their weekly attendance. Smith and Swan came to the area, just a few miles from each other, a week apart in 2010. FBC Essex planted North Point Church in 1953.

“It’s neat to see both churches turn around and grow,” Swan said. “We’re encouraging each other.”

The church has also offered part of their facility to Stauros Ministries, a drug and alcohol addiction ministry, for counseling. Stauros also has monthly worship at the church on Sunday nights. The seniors have been ministering at local assisted living and nursing homes. Now the church is looking at the large Hispanic population and making plans for offering English as a Second Language classes. There are even early discussions about planting a church.

Last year the church adopted the mission statement: “Accepting Jesus, Receiving Mercy, Showing Compassion.”

Swan was born and raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ when he was ten years old. He knew from the time he was young that he wanted to be an artist and went to art school for five years, majoring in painting and photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art. God called Swan into full-time ministry while serving as a summer missionary in 1994. He received his Master of Divinity degree at Southern Theological Seminary. He served as a missions pastor and as a senior pastor at two churches in Kentucky.

Their call to Baltimore was a beautiful answer to prayer, Swan said. He and his wife, Amy, a school nurse at Chadwick Elementary School, adopted their son, Andrew from Russia. Andrew has Cerebral Palsy and needs regular medical care. In Baltimore they have easy access to Johns Hopkins Hospital and other medical facilities. God also showed the Swans the incredible potential at North Point Church. The Swans also have a daughter, five-year-old Gracelyn.