It is the product of a church that split 31 years ago when some members of Northside Baptist left to form Grace Memorial Baptist. But both sides left their differences in the past to come together to form a new church congregation.
New Hope’s pastor, the Rev. Randy Howell, said, “It’s God’s purpose or plan that we come back together. The timing was perfect, and the match was perfect. It’s a new beginning with a new hope, so that’s how the name came about.”
The two churches held a joint Vacation Bible School in June that went so well members of both churches started having discussions and meetings about merging. In August, both churches voted unanimously to merge, Howell said.
So far, it looks like the decision to reunite was a stroke of brilliance. The current average attendance far surpasses the combined attendance of the two old churches.
“In attendance for worship, we’re averaging probably 85 to 90. Our youngest one is seven months old and our oldest is 91 years old,” Howell said.
With the bigger congregation comes more funds to provide some needed repairs and upgrades. Since New Hope’s beginning the church has added a new sound system, plasma screens with PowerPoint capability and a new interior paint job for the sanctuary; added a new roof on the worship center; and purchased a new heating and cooling unit.
Howell was the longtime pastor for Eureka Baptist Church in Lincoln until a few years ago and is currently also serving as a chaplain in the St. Vincent’s Health System.
Howell and music director Alan Powell described the church’s worship style as a blend between traditional and contemporary. “It’s church, but you don’t have to wear a tie,” Powell quipped.
Howell said, “The first thing we’re keying in on is what is worship. Why do we worship? How do we do that? Whom do we worship? I believe it all starts with that foundation of worship and to see the Lord for who he is.
“As far as the objective or mission of the church is to make known the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ and to offer through Him that new hope for everyone.”
Howell said he thought combining churches might be a good move for many local churches in different denominations that might be on the verge of closing due to dropping participation.
“You’re seeing the so-called megachurches increase, but then the older churches that may 100 years old and maybe older, they’re just literally dying. It’s the graying congregation. There’s certain situations and certain times and places that other churches could merge together. Maybe two or three or more could merge together into one vibrant church,” Howell said.
He realizes this may not be an option in every situation but thinks many church congregations and historic facilities could be saved by consolidating.
But beyond churches opening and closing, there should be one main focus people on which people should concentrate.
“What are people looking for? If it’s not a personal relationship with the Lord and then a clear understanding of who he is and how to worship him, you’re looking for the wrong thing,” Howell said. “All this other stuff is fluff.”
Worship services are held in the facilities of the former Northside Baptist Church on Stephen J. White Boulevard. The church has Sunday school services at 9:30 and worship services at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays.