CommonHouse: Comeback Strategy Gives Ohio Church Fresh Start
By Kim Ousley
There are fresh starts and then there are comebacks. For CommonHouse, a Church of God congregation in Athens, Ohio, it is both.
Originally Athens Church of God, the church had seen many fluctuations in members and visitors in the congregation. Pastor Seth Brisker, shared that the 1970s and 1980s were the most attended years in the church history.
Over time, however, there were only about ten faithful members that continued to meet despite no pastor for an exceptionally long time. The original church building was sold in 2013 and the group kept meeting in various venues with the hope of finding a way to establish the church again.
“Right now, we meet in a space in a strip mall,” said Pastor Brisker. “It is visible to traffic, however many may not know we’re a church.” The original church building was in a highly visible place until a bypass was put in. That certainly led to much of the dwindling of the congregation’s attendance.
Brisker said the change of the name from Athens Church of God to CommonHouse was because of the mission to show everyone we have something in common. He discusses one of the key pillars of the Church of God is unity and holding things in common.
Brisker came on board as pastor this past March. He and his wife wanted to be in a church that they could live out God’s mission to serve and share his message. They have two children, ages three and six.
“It’s been really good to see a lot of our growth has come from establishing relationships rather than just kind of this idea of putting a sign out and expecting that people will show up.” A director of a local rehab called him about bringing a vanload of folks to the church on Sunday so their residents could worship. Three churches had turned them down before calling Brisker. He was excited about sharing the message with those struggling with addiction.
“We’re a church on purpose,” said Brisker. The same rehab asked the church to come sing at a special fundraiser recently. They sang worship songs among the vendors and different organizations set up at the event. Athens is one of the poorest areas in Ohio, known for a lot of issues with drugs and alcohol.
At one time there were only ten people. Now there are about thirty-five on any given Sunday. And, just a few weeks ago, they all sat down for a meal. Brisker was amazed as he looked around and saw people from all levels of society.
There was a college professor, a graphic artist, business professionals, retired teachers, current school teachers, counselors, and drug addicts—all sitting together at the group of tables put together. “This is the kingdom of God. This is the chance to live out God’s message as CommonHouse.”
Brisker’s message to everyone who comes is to empower people and introduce them to the transformation that exists for all. Because “we’ve all been broken. We’ve all been lost. We’ve all lost our focus and who we should be worshipping. So CommonHouse is a place to come.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Feature (top) photo: CommonHouse celebrating baptism outdoors earlier this year.