Cody Evans (00:00):
I know that numbers are not the big thing. We may never be a big, big church, but I think we can be a healthy church, a church planting church, a disciple making church, and move forward in that. I have dreams in the sense of, I want to be a church planting church. I want to send people all across the country, all across the world. I think this is what we've been called to. But it starts in our backyard. If we're not reaching people here, then we're not going to reach people a thousand miles away.
Welcome to The Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.
Frank Barry (00:46):
Hey guys, Frank here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. Really excited to talk to Cody Evans today. You're not the senior pastor, but you are the pastor of vision and teaching?
Cody Evans (00:59):
Yeah, preaching and vision. Yeah, that's right.
Frank Barry (01:02):
Preaching and vision. Preaching and vision, which just sounds cool to me. I want to hear a little bit more about what that means. But man, Cody, I'm excited to have you on the show, and really excited to talk to you about your recent experience at the church there and just shed some light on that. So it's going to be fun.
Cody Evans (01:21):
Yeah, Frank. Thanks for having me on. Excited to share the story of what God's done.
Frank Barry (01:25):
Yeah. Beautiful. Just to start, why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? How'd you get into ministry? And how'd you get to the church you're serving at today?
Cody Evans (01:36):
Yeah, so I was young. I expressed the desire into ministry when I was 12 because I didn't know what else. I had a pretty interesting story. I was born at two pounds, wasn't supposed to live. So the Lord just kind of worked through all those details. And in part of that, I was like, "I want to give my life back to the Lord." And then I would probably express this differently now, but basically there was a desire to go into vocational ministry. And I ended up going to undergrad at Southeastern in Wake Forest and then did an M.Div.
Frank Barry (02:10):
Cody Evans (02:11):
Met my wife. And I actually got into ministry as a youth pastor in Durham, North Carolina. And I was there for a few years. Stepped down because we felt a desire to go into church planting. And we were at a church, a healthy church in Raleigh that we were like, "Hey, let's go back there." I was talking with the pastor, like, "Hey, I want to get involved in church planting. I don't know what to do." He said, "All right. Well, come back." I was going to do another degree cause of my glut for punishment. And during that time I was going to say, "Hey, let's lead a small group. Let's build a team. Let's figure out where we want to go. And then we'll plant in three to four years." That was back in the summer of 2017.
Frank Barry (02:52):
Cody Evans (02:54):
And during that process, we had somebody transition from the staff at that church. And so Pastor Wayne just asked me. He was like, "Hey, do you want to come work for me?" I didn't even know that it was paid. I was like, "I just want to hang out with you and other people. I'll help you administer different things." And so he was like, "Okay. By the way you get paid." I was like, "Okay, great." And started doing that. And we were meeting regularly, talking through life, ministry, responsibilities. And November of 2017, I walked into his office and was like, "Hey, what stuff are we talking about today?" Or something like that. And he was like, "Do you want to go do a revitalization?" And I was like, "Maybe, I don't know." He's like, "It's in Franklinton," which is north of Wake Forest, north of Raleigh.
Cody Evans (03:39):
And first of all, the church is not in Franklinton. He was wrong. But the church had reached out to him.
Frank Barry (03:47):
You're like, "Pastor, you didn't even know where I was going."
Cody Evans (03:50):
That's right. That's right. He was like, "You're going somewhere north of here." That's all that he knew. And my wife is from that area. And I was like, "I think we would really be interested in that." We thought we were going to move to Charlotte or Eastern Tennessee or South Carolina. We didn't know where we were going to go, and no place had really popped up that we felt a big desire. And this is where my wife was from, so let's do it. And so we sat down. Talked to my wife, we prayed about it. Like, "Hey, let's go do that."
Cody Evans (04:19):
And so the church had reached out. They had already gone through a process of talking with a pretty large church in the area to become a campus. And they ended up voting no to that. That was almost a year process. So the church had already been talking about change. They just didn't know the right direction. And they ended up saying no to this church. And then the Second Convention North Carolina had said, "Hey, here are three options for you." And the pillar network was the second option. So they reached out. Pastor Wayne is a part of that, and that's how we got connected.
Cody Evans (04:58):
And so what happened was the pillar network said, "Hey, here's what we're going to do. If you really want to have change, this is what's open. Everything's on the table, and we're going to send someone to help lead through the change. At this point, we're not going to work with a team. We're going to send someone who wants to be here, wants to lead the church. And this is our guy." And that was really encouraging for me, for Dwayne to stand up and say, "Hey, this is the guy."
Frank Barry (05:28):
Cody Evans (05:30):
So there were a couple meetings. The church votes. Said, "Let's hear this." And so the network they went, this was a mistake that we learned, my wife's best friend was getting married the Sunday that they were going to go and talk about everything. I couldn't be there. And so there were things said, and there were expectations I'm walking into. So that was something I learned. Next time, be in the room when those conversations are being had.
Frank Barry (05:54):
Cody Evans (05:54):
The next Sunday, I preach in this kind of weird view of a call thing, like, "If you want to go with pillar, this is what you're getting." Which wasn't great, I'm sure, to start out with. I served as a youth pastor, had opportunities to preach at the church I was at, but that was an interesting dynamic for them, I'm sure. No full-time ministry experience at all. Had never been a lead pastor. And so the church walks through that. We have a Q and A. And the church ends up voting yes to the whole process. And so Pillar works. There was this document that everybody signed and said, "Hey, look, here's what's going to happen. Pillar's going to provide this. They're going to provide resources in leadership. And there's some other things that come along with that."
Frank Barry (06:43):
Just for context, when you say Pillar and you talk about the connection to some network, what context is this all inside of? Is it in a denomination?
Cody Evans (06:55):
Frank Barry (06:56):
And what is Pillar?
Cody Evans (06:58):
Yeah, so we are Southern Baptist Church, and Pillar is a church planting network inside the Southern Baptist Convention.
Frank Barry (07:06):
Got it. Right.
Cody Evans (07:07):
It's about a decade old and it started out of a couple churches by Open Door Church, and Raleigh was one of those first churches that started that. It's a growing network, and they've been a part, have provided resources and help and counsel, and friendship and just lots of things. So they've been a part of the process every step of the way.
Frank Barry (07:28):
Cody Evans (07:28):
We couldn't have done what we've done without their backing in a lot of way. So that's the network that we're a part of. And we want to plant churches. We support churches across the country that are in the network that have been planted.
Frank Barry (07:41):
Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. Okay, good. That's just good context for listeners.
Cody Evans (07:47):
Yeah. For sure.
Frank Barry (07:49):
Kind of wrap their brain around the story.
Cody Evans (07:50):
Absolutely. Sorry about that. So the church ended up voting yes. There were about 15 people there, and when votes come out, more people come than actually are attending. Right?
Frank Barry (08:03):
Cody Evans (08:03):
So the vote was 14 to nine, and that's pretty close. Right? So you're like, "Okay, we've got some work to do." What I didn't know, I found out three months later, was that, actually, there was a pastor and his wife who were really trying to work towards helping this church grow and helping this church, and they knew that wasn't them. So they were part of the team that was trying to help pull the church into revitalization. And what I didn't know was that they were going to vote. Nobody knew that. Which is not wrong. They voted, and two other couples that ended up leaving with them voted. So if you do the math, I'm now down nine to eight, walking into this situation. Had no idea that was the case. I just knew the boat was 14 to nine. And I'm trying to count. Like, who are these people? I don't have all these people now. And so they voted at the end of January of 2018. And then that Monday, basically, "Hey, I'm rolling. This is what we're doing." And my wife and I, for those first two months-
Frank Barry (09:04):
Real quick, what's the context of the church? Why was the church looking to potentially merge with a larger church? Why was the church evaluating that option or evaluating this other option? What was going on? What's the backstory on the church clearly kind of needing-
Cody Evans (09:26):
Yeah, good question. Something. Yeah. So the church was down to about 15 people.
Frank Barry (09:34):
Cody Evans (09:36):
From the records that we have, they were pushing 300 in the early '90s, early 2000s. They had a heyday, but they had split twice in the early 2000s.
Frank Barry (09:53):
Yeah, that'll do it every time.
Cody Evans (09:54):
And they just didn't recover. yeah. They didn't recover. One of those splits is still a church down the road. And so we've been able to build a relationship with them. That's totally different, now. I can share more about that later. But basically you can see a steady decline for a decade of the church. People just didn't stick around, and it got tough. And there was nobody there to help lead through that transition. And really, to be honest with you, not even provide vision, but even counsel the wounds of all of that. That was what I noticed. And as I've talked to people, I'll meet people at a restaurant and they'll be like, "Oh yeah. I used to go to that church." I'm telling you, it happens all the time. Everybody and their mama used to go to this church, because I meet people all the time.
Frank Barry (10:43):
Cody Evans (10:43):
And they say, "Oh yeah, I know where that's at. I used to go there." And so they had a huge impact for a long time.
Frank Barry (10:48):
Cody Evans (10:49):
And some stuff really hurt them, and they never recovered from it.
Frank Barry (10:54):
Got it, got it.
Cody Evans (10:55):
So that was really what we were stepping into.
Frank Barry (10:57):
Cody Evans (10:58):
And most of those 15, I would say 12 out of the 15, were people that experienced that pain. And we're trying to say, "We want to move on from that." And that was the impetus for it. That's why they were looking like, "We don't just want to call another pastor. We want to figure out what can we do to move forward and be a healthy church?" Because the community was changing. Before the mid nineties, the church was on a dirt road. And you're like, "Wait a second. We're only 20 miles from Raleigh." It's not like we're that far away.
Frank Barry (11:34):
Cody Evans (11:35):
But from what I understand, the church was on a dirt road, and the whole area is changing. And within the first year that we've been there, they built four new neighborhoods. And since then, I can't even tell you. The growth from Raleigh's pushing north. It has nowhere else to go but north.
Frank Barry (11:53):
Right. Right, right.
Cody Evans (11:53):
And so there's just so many people from everywhere moving in, and the church is kind of like, "We don't know what to do about that. We don't know who's around us. We don't know what's going on. And we need help." And there was some that were like, "We just need to get a pastor in here and he'll lead us." And it's like, "No, there needs to be some big overall changes that take place." So we hit the ground running.
Cody Evans (12:18):
Those first two months, my wife and I, she has our calendar. She's got pictures of it, I guess, just to tell the story. Every night for two months straight, we were either meeting with people from the church, having dinner with them, getting to know them, or we were meeting with people that we were going to ask to come on board with us in the area and say, "Hey, come help us at this church."
Frank Barry (12:39):
Cody Evans (12:40):
And we listed out a list of people. "If we can get 20 people, if we can get seven of these 20 people, the Lord is really kind and we'll be ready to go, we'll be able to do ministry." All of them said no.
Frank Barry (12:53):
Cody Evans (12:53):
I'm not kidding you. Every single one of those people said no. And Pillar was trying to help me process, "All right, how do we build a team while the plane's in the air?" Because we're doing Sunday morning.
Frank Barry (13:02):
Cody Evans (13:03):
I'm still visiting. I'm going to the hospital. There's all these things that are going on. We're trying to do ministry, but also build and repair while we're flying a plane in the air.
Frank Barry (13:12):
Cody Evans (13:13):
And that was crazy. And so through all that, though, the Lord was really kind. There were people that we never would've thought of that ended up coming to the church. People we didn't know. One of our other pastor elders, he is at our church. We knew of each other at Open Door, but we didn't know each other. And that relationship has been really sweet. And there's been other relationships that the Lord has brought that we just didn't think. And we had people who came for a period of time, six months to a year to 18 months, and the Lord moved them on, but they helped us become healthy and they helped us get moving in the right direction.
Frank Barry (13:48):
Cody Evans (13:48):
And so that was really, really good for us. So we spent that time, and probably into March, early April of 2018, I got a core group of guys. Three other guys. Our other pastor currently was in that group. And we said, "Okay, how are we going to do this?" Because there was a year to this document that everybody signed. We have a year to revitalize or replant this church, and everything was on the table. Name, constitution bylaws, leadership structure, all of it's on the table. We didn't say it was going to happen. We just said, "This is on the table." And so as we kept hearing stories and things like that, we figured out, "Hey, we're going to have to change the name of the church. The reputation of the church is too much to overcome, and let's not already have a barrier when we're trying to restart something. Let's go ahead and change the name."
Frank Barry (14:37):
Cody Evans (14:38):
And there were things. Convictionally, I'm a pastor led, congregation accountable guy. So the church needs to be led by its pastors and it needs to be held accountable by the congregation. But the pastors need to be freed up to do ministry, and there were committees and all this other stuff. And so we rewrote all that. And what we did, was we basically stripped everything down. That summer of 2018 we said, "We're not doing any other ministry, but we're going to gather here on Sunday morning, we're going to teach through the book of Titus," because elder pastor leadership was a sticking point for them. And some people had seen that abused. And so we had to walk through, "What does that look like?"
Cody Evans (15:21):
And then we talked through Titus and then walk through, "Hey, this is a new constitution." We announced that we're going to change the name. We gave the name. And then we were able to talk through with the new constitution bylaws. We're able to talk through, "This is how we're going to structure our church." And so we took about two months to walk through that. And we told them at the beginning of the summer, said, "Hey, we're going to vote at the end of July. And this is a once and for all vote. We're not going to break this thing up." And I had lots of people come to me and say, "Hey, why don't we vote on this? We love you, but why don't we vote on y'all and then vote on the name and vote on..." And so I said, "Hey, look, I'm trying to give the most basic restart that there can be."
Frank Barry (16:06):
Cody Evans (16:07):
So if you take anything out of the constitution that protects pastors or protects the congregation or any of that, these are convictions here that I'm laying before you. We're not outlying everything that we would do or would say. So I said, "Look, this is pretty bare. I think the church needs to make a decision. Is it going to change on that vote? Or is it going to stay the same?" And we worked through that. There were lots of meetings, a little bit of conflict in that. But we were able to shepherd through. And so Lord was really kind.
Cody Evans (16:43):
At the end of July, we had added some members in the spring, and the vote came out to 21 to three. So we had won people over. We had added new families. And the church was in a healthy direction moving forward. And we changed everything. Name, leadership, constitution bylaws. And so at that point, we had voted to replant. So basically, the church just restarted. We do business as Covenant Hope Church, but legally we're still under the old name, because it takes a lot of work to change the name legally. And so that's where we've been pushing forward. That's the story of how it started and we've been rolling ever since.
Frank Barry (17:25):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And when you say replant, did you own property? Did you go to a different location?
Cody Evans (17:37):
Yes, sir. Yeah. The church owns property.
Frank Barry (17:39):
Did you do a big launch Sunday?
Cody Evans (17:41):
Yeah. So the church owns 11 acres. There's actually three buildings. The small chapel, we can't use it. They didn't care of it for a period of time. It would be $700,000 to fix it. That's the kind of numbers that we're talking about, and the church doesn't have the money to do that, knowing that we have other things that we need to address.
Frank Barry (18:01):
Cody Evans (18:01):
So we had property, didn't move. All that stayed the same. We took a remit of people, inherited them and the land, and said, "All right, how do we begin to flourish where God has placed?" Because this church is in a strategic location. There are people moving here. There's plenty of room to spread out. There's plenty of room to do things, to host people on our campus. And we have lots of room to grow and be a healthy church for whatever that looks like.
Frank Barry (18:31):
Cody Evans (18:33):
And so the Lord was really kind there.
Frank Barry (18:35):
And then did you do a launch?
Cody Evans (18:38):
Yeah, we did.
Frank Barry (18:38):
Sorry. Did you do a launch weekend?
Cody Evans (18:42):
Frank Barry (18:43):
And what did that look like?
Cody Evans (18:44):
Yeah. So not as great as we had hoped. We ended up saying, "Okay, have we replanted? Voted? Covenanted as a church?" The next week in the first week of August, and we say, "Hey, we're going to relaunch publicly as Covenant Hope Church in," I think it was the 21st of October, something like that.
Frank Barry (19:02):
Cody Evans (19:03):
And we worked towards that. We did a community day on that Saturday. We had all these plans and we went door to door. We did a lot of stuff. We had two partner churches that were involved in that. And the community day didn't go as well, because it rained the whole day. And I don't mean just it rained, it poured the whole day.
Frank Barry (19:22):
Cody Evans (19:23):
And we had it from two to four or something like that, and the last hour the sun comes out. And we ended up having some families come and show up. And so we were encouraged. But for that first year, Frank, I'm telling you, every ministry thing we did outside, it rained.
Frank Barry (19:40):
Cody Evans (19:41):
We did an egg hunt the following year in downtown Youngsville. Poured rain. It's like everything we do, it rains. So in the midst of that, though, the Lord was really kind. We had our partner churches that helped us, cared for us, were a part of that service. And we relaunched, like, "Hey, this is where we're going." And I preached the first part of Mark's gospel and said, "This is what we're doing. We're going to proclaim Christ. We're going to preach the gospel and call people to live life like He calls us to." And that's really how we started. Had a meal after that. Packed our fellowship hall out. There were lots of people there that day that were just supporting us that didn't end up staying, but supported us on that day and gave us some momentum to push into 2019 with.
Frank Barry (20:26):
Right. Right. Well, how's it going now? So that was 2018 or 17?
Cody Evans (20:32):
Yeah, 2018. I've been at the church for four years. The church will be four years old. Covenant Hope will be four years old in August.
Frank Barry (20:41):
And you got to do it through COVID and all the craziness as well.
Cody Evans (20:45):
Frank Barry (20:46):
So you kind of had this relaunch situation, and then a year later, COVID hits, basically.
Cody Evans (20:53):
Frank Barry (20:54):
Something like that. Right? COVID hits.
Cody Evans (20:54):
Frank Barry (20:57):
Fast forward two more years and we're here.
Cody Evans (21:00):
Yeah. So things are good right now. It's slow. It's pretty basic in the sense of what we do. I know that people aren't coming to Covenant Hope because I'm a great preacher. That's not why people are coming. We don't have cool stuff. We have an old church building that we're trying to take care of and steward well, but that's just not who we are.
Frank Barry (21:25):
Cody Evans (21:25):
We want to be a church in the community for the community. And so we have around 60 members, and we have between 80 and 95 on a Sunday.
Frank Barry (21:35):
Cody Evans (21:36):
And I would probably say COVID actually probably helped us in some ways. There are some big churches in our area with people who were on the fringes of those churches, who loved Jesus, but just never got connected. And during COVID, we opened it about as soon as we could open back. We had this space, we marked it off. We didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what decisions we were making at some level. Right?
Frank Barry (22:03):
Cody Evans (22:03):
We said, "Hey, we want to meet. All this stuff, we'll do it the safest way we think we can." And we started meeting. And through that, I think people just began to feel like, "Hey, I'm not as connected to that church as I thought I was." And then we began to reach people right around the corner. We saw some people come to faith. Literally, I can throw a baseball from the pulpit to this guy's house. This he's a 72, three year old now, was 71 when he professed faith in Christ a couple years ago. I mean just a beautiful story of us serving him and his family.
Frank Barry (22:38):
Cody Evans (22:38):
And he comes to the church and was like, "Hey, I don't know what you're talking about on Sunday mornings. Can you read the Bible with me?" And I was like, "Yes, I can absolutely do that." And just to say his story, he professes faith, gets baptized in his own pool in his backyard. We walked over there and he got baptized. We baptized him in his own pool that day.
Frank Barry (22:58):
Cody Evans (22:59):
He's from the north. And so he loves Philly cheese steak, taught us how to make Philly cheese steaks, and we served a hundred some Philly cheese steaks to people that day. So it was just those kinds of stories that the Lord was just doing, and we've seen Him work in different ways.
Frank Barry (23:12):
Cody Evans (23:13):
Through COVID it was hard. We gathered together, but we didn't start a ton of stuff back. We just didn't know. And we had some medical professionals in the church. We have a good portion of nurses that were actually disagreed. So we were like, "We're not sure what to do at this point." So we ended up saying, "We're going to gather, we're going to try some things." And what we told the church early on was we're going to try stuff. And if it works for a few years, great. If it start starts to not work, then we'll cut it. There's no reason to do it anymore. It may work for a little while.
Frank Barry (23:47):
Cody Evans (23:47):
And what we told the church was that we're going to try stuff. It may be different. It may not work, but we're going to try it and move forward. And so we were able to do that. And we ended up starting our kids' stuff, and that's been growing. We have kids from around. Did our first VBS last summer as Covenant Hope.
Frank Barry (24:04):
Cody Evans (24:04):
And was able to see lots of kids come to that and be engaged. And so those kinds of things have been really good. I would say, for me personally, it's been really, really encouraging but hard, because for my time there, people are really starting to open up. People really starting to share, "This is what's going on." And it's hard. Life is hard. Community's hard. Walking with Jesus can be difficult at times, especially when you're doing it with other people. And so it's been a good, hard six to eight months of just working and helping shepherd people, and walking through that and calling people to love each other, respond, to repent if need. But then walking in grace and forgiveness in those ways.
Cody Evans (24:48):
So it's been really encouraging, really good. I'm excited for where we're going. I think we have a stable core. I would say we're still continuing. What does it look like for us to reach out? What does evangelism look like? What does it look like for us to care for our community? What does it look like for us to be people that are inviting? We're super welcoming. I think for the most part, all the feedback we've got, people are like, "Wow, y'all are such a welcoming church." But now we got to figure out how do we do that in our community, and how do we leverage our relationships for that? And that's some things that we're working through now.
Frank Barry (25:20):
Yeah, you need more non rainy days, is what it sounds like.
Cody Evans (25:25):
That's right. That's right. That would be great. We were in downtown Youngsville on Saturday and did the egg hunt again. So the town of Youngsville actually, it's been a great relationship, and there's another church, a partner church. And then there's some other organizations that put on the egg hunt. And they call us. There's multiple events. The parade, Halloween. They call us, "Hey, we want you to come help."
Frank Barry (25:47):
Cody Evans (25:47):
And so our church is kind of out of downtown. It doesn't really fit in downtown, but we knew when we got there, "Hey, we have to identify somewhere to do ministry." And so we have a missional community that meets near downtown Youngsville. And that has really helped us just say, "Hey, these are opportunities to be in front of lost people, to be in front of people, to make new relationships." And we've enjoyed that. And the town, I think, appreciates us saying, "Hey, let us know what we can do and how to serve."
Frank Barry (26:15):
Yeah. Well, man, I think sometimes people can feel like the numbers, church being big numbers wise, is the win, but that's not really true for 90 plus percent of churches, right? The win is that this church saw that they had to do something different, and through a whole number of events, God was working and brought you guys there. And the church was down to 10 or 15 people, maybe not even that once the six left, and now you're 60, 70 people with a hundred coming on Sunday, and even through COVID and some crazy times, that's beautiful.
Cody Evans (27:03):
Frank Barry (27:03):
And you're serving the community. You're being a light to the neighborhood, the 72 year old that got baptized and the downtown community that you're serving in. I mean, that's the soul of the church. That's it right there.
Cody Evans (27:22):
Yeah. It's been really encouraging to see that. And I know. I know that numbers are not the big thing. We may never be a big, big church. I don't even think that's the way the Lord has gifted me.
Frank Barry (27:33):
Cody Evans (27:34):
If we got to around 200 people, I think I'd probably reached my leadership max at that point. But I think we can be a healthy church, a church planting church, a disciple making church, and move forward in that. And I have dreams, in the sense of, I want to be a church planting church. I want to send people all across the country, all across the world. I think this is what we've been called to, but it starts in our backyard. If we're not reaching people here, then we're not going to reach people a thousand miles away.
Frank Barry (28:02):
Cody Evans (28:03):
And remembering that. And I was at a conference recently, and there's a church I look up to in North Carolina and like, "Yeah, we're seven years old, but we're going to send our first church plant out this year." And I was like, whoa, okay, maybe I can pump the breaks a little bit and just say, "Let's just be faithful with where we are."
Frank Barry (28:22):
Cody Evans (28:22):
Let's send people in Youngsville before we start talking about sending people to plant churches somewhere else. Let's make sure we had those things. Not that the Lord can't do that, but I think I was beginning to change the number from, "Hey, how many people can we fit here?" to, "How many people can we send?" Which are good things, but I was beginning to make that an idol at some level, because we wanted to put our stamp on that.
Frank Barry (28:47):
Cody Evans (28:48):
And I think the Lord's been dealing with me in a lot of ways of like, "Hey, you don't need to put in numbers on it. You be faithful, and I'll take care of all that other stuff." So it's been good.
Frank Barry (28:57):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Cody Evans (29:01):
Lord's been really kind to me in that way.
Frank Barry (29:01):
It's good to have hopes and dreams and visions. Right? And kind of stay plugged in and let God lead the way, but course correct and all that along the way. But I think being inspired to go do something, whether it's plant locally or abroad, or just even further out into the US, I think that spirit of doing something and growing and serving and not being stuck, I feel like I see that in pastors where you see their church doing well, right? And I don't mean that by numbers. I mean it by, "Wow," you see a healthy church, you see a church that's really making an impact.
Cody Evans (29:45):
Frank Barry (29:46):
I feel like oftentimes it's because the senior leadership is getting after it. They have something they want to do and they're on that mission to do it, whatever it is, whatever they feel called to do. Right? And when you don't see that, you oftentimes see these churches that are just kind of existing and not really [crosstalk 00:30:04]
Cody Evans (30:03):
Yeah, that's for sure. And I think we stepped into something that's similar across the state of North Carolina. So there's stats out. I just saw the new one. 82% of churches in North Carolina are plateaued or declining. That's a massive amount of kingdom resources that we're talking about that are going to close their doors.
Frank Barry (30:25):
Cody Evans (30:25):
And I don't stay up at night. I get to sleep and I sleep pretty well for the most part, but that will keep me up.
Frank Barry (30:31):
Cody Evans (30:32):
And I want to help churches in North Carolina. Really across the nation. But I know for us, our impact in North Carolina to say, "Hey, how can we help be a resource to you so that you can experience, in a lot of ways, revival, but a refreshing, to see God move in a lot of ways." And I think that's what's driving me for some reason. I don't know why, but it does drive me. I'm from North Carolina, love our state and lots of opportunity. And there's lots of churches that need a restart. They really do. Yeah.
Frank Barry (31:04):
Yeah. Yeah. In wrapping up, I got a couple questions. What do you think, if you could pinpoint it, when it came down to re-engaging those early leaders that jumped on board with you and got inspired to replant and revitalize things, what was the key to that connection, inspiring those early relationships, motivating them to come on board?
Cody Evans (31:40):
I think it was time. I don't know. I don't think I said anything spectacular or eye opening at all. What we really try to do is just love people. I really try to have them in our home, be in their home. I was honest about, "This is what I want to see God do." And I think for the people that stuck around four years later, there are people that love us, that we have deep relationships with. And I think what it was, was to say, "Hey, look, I don't know all the answers, but I know that we have to do something different." And we spent time with them.
Cody Evans (32:19):
So we have an older member. She's currently home bound, has had a struggle. She's 93 years old, and she was a matriarch of that church for a long time. And the first Sunday I was there, I preached, got done. And she said, "You're coming to my house on Wednesday." And I said, "Yes, ma'am." And my wife and I went over, and she asked me some tough questions that night. And she asked, "Are you going to change the name?" "I don't know, maybe." And we talked. And we did that for a while. We would go over on Wednesday before we had other church activities, and she would cook us vegetable beef soup and some other things, and blackberry cobbler, which if she could make that blackberry cobbler all the time, that'd be great. And so we were able to spend time with her. Before the vote she broke her hip.
Frank Barry (33:08):
Cody Evans (33:09):
She couldn't be there. And I get to the hospital. I get called at 6:30 in the morning. "Hey, she's in the hospital." Get in the car, go to the hospital. I walk in the room, Frank. And she's like, "Cody, I'm worried about this vote." I mean, she's in pain. And she's like, "I'm worried," it's two or three weeks before the vote. And I said, "It's okay. I'm not worried about the vote right now. I'm worried about you." And I say that to say in the midst of that, and we had announced everything, "Hey, we're going to change the name and all that." And she said, "Cody, I don't like everything that you're doing, but I love you and I'm behind you a hundred percent." And I was like, "That's all I can ask for."
Frank Barry (33:48):
Cody Evans (33:49):
It really is. I can't ask for anything else. And I'm thankful for that. And that's been the kind of relationships that we've had over the years with multiple people that have loved on us and supported us. And there's been times, not many, but there's been times of really hardship, like people are not happy. People really struggled through the change. And we had to work through that. And there's even been family meetings, our business meetings that we do, that we've had some really hard questions come up. And we've had to be able to shepherd through those. But at the end of the day, I know it's cliche to say it, but people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. They really just don't. And I've really tried to say, "Hey, look, you're invited into my home. I want to be in your life." And just walk with them. That's the biggest thing that I've been able to do.
Cody Evans (34:40):
And I think that's the way the Lord has made me. I'm a relational person. My wife says that I could be the most tired, people can come over and watch NBA playoffs this week. And I'll be charged up, ready to go. I'll be able to go play at midnight, when I'm normally asleep by 10 o'clock. But if people are here, I get energized.
Frank Barry (34:59):
Cody Evans (34:59):
And so I think the Lord was just gracious to use that. I just want to be around people, and I want to be around our people. And I want to love on them and help them walk through, "This is what means to be a follower of Christ. This is what it means to be in a healthy church."
Frank Barry (35:11):
Yeah, I love that.
Cody Evans (35:12):
And when those hard conversations come, now, I think they trust. "Okay. That makes sense." And what I said from the beginning, we didn't own a home yet. We didn't know what was going to happen before the vote. I told everybody, "My desire is to be here for the rest of my life. This is not a stepping stone. This is not a move to get somewhere else. I want to be here. I want to see God do something here in this area and in this church." And that's still what I pray for. I'm currently still bi vocational, but there's some other reasons for that. But we believe that this is where God wants us, and we know this is where God's going to do something. And there are things that we can't even imagine, but we'll take it one step at a time.
Frank Barry (36:04):
Yeah. I love that. Well, Cody, this has been great. Thank you for sharing your story and I think pastors can relate in lots of ways. I think pastors can relate from your kind of normal, kind of regular church that's in a community, serving people, loving people, going through some tough stuff. But I think loving folks and serving people through it is something it sounds like you've done an excellent job at, so thanks for sharing your story today.
Cody Evans (36:32):
Well, yeah, Frank. I hope so. I hope the Lord is pleased, and we'll continue to do that.
Frank Barry (36:37):
Cody Evans (36:39):
I appreciate you and what you guys are doing and the resources you give out. So again, thanks for having me on.
Frank Barry (36:46):
Yeah, absolutely. I got two quick questions though, before we jam.
Cody Evans (36:49):
Frank Barry (36:50):
First one. What's a book that you've read that had a massive impact on you? And you can't say the Bible. I know the Bible. You've got to pick another one.
Cody Evans (37:00):
Sure. Sure. I've got it right here. The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer.
Frank Barry (37:06):
Cody Evans (37:08):
Fantastic book. I'm working my way through it again. We're working through it, me and our other pastor elder working through that.
Frank Barry (37:16):
Cody Evans (37:17):
And it has been really good for me. So this is what it means. For some reason I've been seeing this, and it made me pick the book back up. We keep seeing guys say, "Hey, I'm called to preach," but we don't see guys say, "Hey, I'm called it to shepherd." And I love to preach. Right? It's in my title. That's what I want to do. But being a pastor means I'm shepherding people, which goes back to the time. And I think that this book really highlights, "Well, this is what it looks like to care for people." And I think it's pretty practical in that sense. It gives you a matrix to work through and how to do that well.
Frank Barry (37:48):
Yeah. Love that. Second question. What's a podcast you're listening to right now?
Cody Evans (37:55):
There's multiple. I would say Pastors Talk by 9Marks is probably the one I go to most.
Frank Barry (38:07):
Okay. Pastors Talk. Love it.
Cody Evans (38:08):
At this point.
Frank Barry (38:10):
Love it. Love it. Love it. Well, Cody, this has been great, man. I appreciate you. What's the church website real quick, before we take off?
Cody Evans (38:18):
Frank Barry (38:23):
Cody Evans (38:24):
Frank Barry (38:25):
Folks should go check you guys out and see how you're doing church out there.
Cody Evans (38:29):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Thanks, Frank. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a wonderful day and a great Easter coming up.
Frank Barry (38:37):
Yeah. Amen to that. Thanks, Cody. Thanks everybody for listening in today. Appreciate you guys. We'll catch you next week on another episode of Modern Church Leader. Bye bye.
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