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Revitalization: Mark Hallock and Calvary Baptist Church of Englewood
By Tim St. John
Originally published in the Baptist Examiner
Revitalize, by definition, means “to impart new life or vigor to”. In 2009, Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood was in need of new life. This once thriving, nearly 60 year old church that used to average in the hundreds for attendance had dwindled to thirty. Demographics in the surrounding neighborhood had changed and the membership was aging. The church was close to needing life support and plenty of prayers to survive. God answered those prayers in the form of Casper, Wyoming native Mark Hallock.
At a Baptist youth camp in Wyoming called WYOBA, a pastor named Jim Brown was ministering to a group of teenagers. Fifteen year old Hallock heard the Gospel message, realized he was a sinner and gave his life to Christ that day. Brown, along with Hallock’s parents, were some of the earliest Christian influences on young Mark Hallock’s life.
Hallock was a 3 sport athlete in high school (basketball, tennis and track) whose athletic ability provided him the opportunity to attend Sheridan College (also known as Northern Wyoming Community College), on an athletic scholarship. During his freshman year at Sheridan College, Hallock felt God calling him to the ministry when he said:
"With all the passion that had gone into sports my whole life, the Lord started heading me into a different direction – he steered my passion toward ministry, and specifically youth ministry. I’ve always had a passion for teenagers and working with them. So basically, I wanted to go study youth ministry and looked at several schools throughout the country. Eastern University outside of Philadelphia had a really strong youth ministry department."
After spending the first 20 years of his life in Wyoming, Hallock headed east to Philadelphia. The two years spent in Philadelphia were very formative years for him. He spent a lot of time in the city. One of the things the Lord did in Hallock’s heart while in Philadelphia was giving him a real heart for the inner city, the broken and the disenfranchised of our culture and society.
After college, Hallock’s first full time Youth Ministry position was at First Christian of Loveland. From there he made connections with South Suburban Christian in Littleton and for the next eight years served as youth minister and attended Denver Seminary full time.
Hallock and his wife, Jenna, have two children. Zoe, age 9 and Eli age 6. He describes his calling to Calvary Baptist as follows:
I was having lunch at the seminary with a friend and someone who was head of the search committee at Calvary. As we talked he was telling us the proud history of the church and how it had planted Bear Valley, Mission Hills and Arapahoe Road Baptist churches. We weren’t even discussing the possibility of me being considered for the position but I could hear God saying, ‘you need to check this out’, so I asked if we could take a look at the church.
There have been a few times when God is profoundly on my heart, he’s laid a burden, he’s made something very clear. When I saw this church, saw this community; saw all these apartment buildings; it was so clear – this is it. The Lord was saying, ‘You’ve got to go lead this church.
Calvary Baptist called me to be its pastor and we began our ministry here July 4th weekend, 2009. Since then, God has been faithful and he’s bringing back the life to this church. We’ve seen numerous true conversions and adult baptisms. Folks in this community who have never been welcomed in a church before have come and heard the Gospel and it’s changed their lives.
In 2 ½ years since Hallock took over as pastor, Calvary Baptist has grown from an average of 30 in attendance to over 400. It’s conducting two worship services each Sunday. A small group ministry, similar to traditional Sunday School, is spread out in homes throughout the community. A “Life on Life” ministry – men ministering to men and women ministering to women – is also engaging members in service.
In some ways, Calvary may not look like a traditional Southern Baptist church but in doctrine and theology, where it counts most, it is. As Hallock explains:
We want to reach the lost. Preach the Gospel. Love on people. But we’ve had to be creative with the methods because of the demographics here in Englewood. It’s starting to spread as we’re seeing some come from Littleton and surrounding areas too. In four months, we’ve gone from 200 in worship to over 400.
Our church is excited about church planting. We have over 20 seminarians in our church from Denver and Golden Gate Seminaries and most of them want to be pastors. We have around 140 churches in the Denver area. A lot of them are declining, they’re not healthy, and they’re not growing. They’ve got buildings and they’re in great communities. I’ve proposed this idea of what I’m calling a “Grove Network” like Aspen trees in a grove where the trees are all connected, working together to draw their strength from one another to be revitalized. So it would be a revitalization network whereby we can help one another in a lot of ways by equipping young pastors to have a heart for shepparding and revitalization. If you’re going to go to a church with an older congregation and they’re struggling, you’ve got to have a Sheppard’s heart. You’ve got to love people and you’ve got to be patient. There’s a certain gift mix involved there versus church planting.
A creative endeavor for Calvary under Hallock’s direction is what the church calls Mission Night. The last Wednesday of every month, the whole church comes together, prays and goes outside of the building to serve the community. The middle school across the street from the church has had to cut its janitorial staff. The last Wednesday of February, Calvary sent around 50 members over and asked what they could do to help. For 2 hours, members scrubbed lockers, cleaned chairs and did anything they could to help.
Calvary reaches out to shut-ins and people who aren’t connected to a church. Members have raked leaves for local residents just to show they love them and want to be good neighbors. The results are amazing as Hallock says:
It’s an awesome witness to the love of Christ. As a result, we’ve had teachers and others in the community who are attending church. We don’t want our community to just hear or read the four basic principals we’ve adopted – worship God passionately, connect with one another authentically, grow to know God deeply and go tell the Gospel boldly – we want them to see us living it.
The church hosts the Honey Bear Tree daycare/pre-school, staffed by members. Some families with children who attend the daycare have become members. There have been parents and their kids who have accepted Christ and been Baptized in the church.
On the international mission front, Calvary has an orphan ministry in Juarez, Mexico. It’s called Juarez127, based on James 1:27 which reads in part “…visit the fatherless and widows in the affliction…” Members of Calvary have built residences near the ministry site for members to stay. The church sends groups to Juarez every six weeks.
Erica Zeiler, Calvary’s administrative coordinator, has felt called by God to the mission field in Swaziland. Members of the church have made at least 3 visits to that country already.
Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood is the first Southern Baptist church Hallock has served. As he puts it, “I’ve always been Southern Baptist; I was just never allowed to wear the jersey till now. I love our denomination, I believe in it and I’m thankful to be a part of it.” The Mile High Association and all of the Colorado Baptist General Convention is thanking Hallock for being a part of them.
Mark Hallock has worn many jerseys in his days of playing sports but the one he now dons as pastor of Calvary Baptist has been issued by God. Consider this analogy. Hallock is now God’s starting point guard on a team he inherited in last place in the standings. He’s shown them what it takes to be champions and led them all the way to the top.
It hasn’t been without changing the culture and some of the traditional means the church had been using through the years. Consider the following.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Have you heard this before? It’s very true: if you keep on doing the same things, taking the same actions and thinking the same thoughts, guess what you’re going to get? The same results you’ve been getting.
Thanks to Mark Hallock and his staff, Calvary Baptist is no longer stale from doing things the same way with disappointing results. The rest of us, pastors and lay persons alike, should not only take note but take action. What are we waiting for?
Calvary Baptist Church
4881 S Acoma St
Englewood, CO 80110