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On a quiet corner in northeast Dallas, the elderly members of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church make their way inside and find seats in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning, clutching programs handed out by a 99-year-old usher. Mostly white, with an average age of 83, these church members can only hope to fill about a third of the room — which holds around 300 people — on a good Sunday. Their congregation was once that size, but time and death have taken their toll. Alone, they would watch their numbers continue to dwindle and, eventually, see Gaston Oaks close its doors. For years, the congregation has been sharing its space with fledging congregations, nonprofits and even businesses as a way of bringing in income. But recently, something bigger has begun to unfold. Church leaders are re-imagining Gaston Oaks as a different kind of ministry, one that will use this 22,000-square-foot space for something different — and more lasting — than its original congregation. Eventually, they hope, they will leave a legacy by transforming their church into a kind of incubator for immigrant congregations as well as a home for nonprofit ministries, including a major low-income health center. They intend to create the Gaston Christian Center, with a board that includes all the partners housed in it, and to deed the building to this new entity to ensure that the space continues to be used for Christ’s work in this neighborhood. One of the first big steps in that direction takes place this spring, when an established Dallas health clinic will move into a wing of the building. “The day may come when the original congregation will decide they are no longer able to be a viable congregation. What we’re hoping to do is to have a plan in place that will preserve the use of the building for Christian purposes in perpetuity,” said the Rev. Dr. Gary Cook, who came to Gaston Oaks in 2008 and helped envision a future for it. // Interesting story… read more here. Should this, could this, would this not be a great plan for a healthy church with a nice facility as well? Thoughts? Todd
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