EP 163 – STAGES IN A REPLANT Pt.1 PLOWING
Hey Bootcampers, we’re kicking off a new series, The Stages of a Replant. We’ve found this, church planting is like construction. Church replanting is more like farming. You labor away, plowing the fields, sowing the seeds and watering the rows you planted. And then you wait…..for the growth. One of the keystone verses for Replanters is Paul’s description of his role and work in the church.
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
Here are there are four stages:
Plowing—the work of God in preparing the ground through the preaching of the Gospel with the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Planting–the work of the Pastor and Leaders to sow the Gospel deeply into the softened ground of the Church body.
Watering–the continual teaching and application of truth from God’s word that gives much needed refreshment so the seed can grow.
Growing–the fully developed seed of the Gospel springs up and is evident in the life of those inside the church. It’s marked by changed thinking and living and is evidence of God’s work in the lives of the people—spiritual growth.
What does the work of “plowing” look like in a Church RePlant ?
- The Cessation of the “Well Worn”
- The introduction of a disruptive force
- Persistent Plodding
- A Christ Centered Commitment
Listen in and give us your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. as this episode comes out, I am entering kind of a new stage of life, Bob, I now have two teenage sons. My oldest is 15, my middle child. My son just made 13, not long ago. . And this week as this releases, my youngest Magnolia has made 11 officially making her a preteen in.
and so now I’m in the two teenager preteen stage of life in my house. And I just gotta ask you, Bob, because you’re so old that you’re a grandpa so, so what, what wisdom can you share with a young, young buck like myself about raising teenagers and preteens?
Bob Bickford: make sure everybody has deodorant, Always have groceries, in the house
JimBo Stewart: Yep.
Bob Bickford: and car insurance will suck you dry. Financially.
JimBo Stewart: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: and, and then I would [00:01:00] say this Jimbo, man, they’re gonna, they’re gonna make some, some choices that are gonna be challenging and don’t make a big deal about it. Right?
Just, I mean, I’m not saying overlook it, but, you know, put your arm around them and go, Hey, That was a, that was a choice right there. Let’s talk about that and just see what they have to say. Like keep the information flowing and you’re gonna, you’re gonna learn that what’s, biologically true is that teenagers have an immature brain that is not fully formed until the boys till about 24, 25.
That’s why insurance rates go down then, and then the girls maybe about. Three ish. so, you know, hang on, pray, put your arm around him. Love him and see, see if you can laugh a lot. But you, you’re a good dad. You, I think you got that figured out.
JimBo Stewart: Man, I appreciate that. Look, that deodorant thing is real. My boys share a room and man, I’ll step into that room and it’s like the worst smell I’ve ever smelled in my entire life. And the only way I know to describe it is it just smells like teenage boys. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: [00:02:00] yes,
JimBo Stewart: It’s rough, man. Hey, at the bootcamp we’ve entered a new stage of life as well.
We are rolling and going with the blogs and so, hey bootcamp listeners. you probably are listening on some sort of podcast app that you listen to podcast on. And so you may never even go to our website. if you have not been to our website recently, we wanna encourage you go to the website one.
We have a fancy new search bar that we told you about several weeks back. You can search the whole website and find all sorts of fun things, but we also have a blog. So every Monday a blog article will go out that will be based on an older episode that we have done before. And then on Wednesday, our beautiful, wonderful podcast comes out to you, published early in the morning, and then on Friday we’ll have a blog post based on that.
Podcast episode. And here’s another new thing. In our stage of life, man, we’re like growing up, we’re maturing as a podcast in our resource, providing this If you wanna make sure, if you don’t wanna have [00:03:00] to go search into the website, we have a newsletter. Some of you have signed up for the newsletter and you’ve probably wondered why do you not send me anything on the newsletter anymore?
Cause I quit. Like two years ago but it’s still there. And one of our volunteers is gonna start on Saturdays releasing a newsletter that will have links to that week’s blog post and podcast episode, and all sorts of things. So you can go to our website and sign up for that newsletter.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo I, something must have happened. Like I don’t, I don’t even remember or didn’t even know that we had a newsletter, I’m like, I’m like the the senior adult church member that comes to you and go, Well, I didn’t know anything about that. And you go, It’s, it’s been in the bulletin for weeks, right? . So my apologies for being that person,
JimBo Stewart: Glaring on our website for a while has been sign up for our newsletter, and you can sign up there and, uh, I think we have like 35 newsletter subscribers. [00:04:00] And I, uh, early on I would, I would send out a newsletter when we released a podcast and I just quit doing it and, It was getting red too.
It was getting opened, but I just couldn’t doing it. But me and the Lord has provided us with some great volunteers and so the bootcamp team is growing. You can see bios on them on our website and we’ll be putting some more stuff about them out on the social media as well, so you can get to know them.
but man, just this stage of life. And so that, that’s a great transition into today. We wanna start a mini-series on the stages of replanting, and some recent episodes we’ve talked about, Revitalization Window and the difference between Revitalization Replanting. one of the first blog posts that we put out was based on episode one, on the Difference between Revitalization Replanting.
It was written by Caleb Duncan, and so, as we go into that, one of the conversations is about planting versus replanting. So talk to us, Bob, what’s the difference between planting and replanting?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so, you know, there are a lot of [00:05:00] metaphors in scripture, family building, farming, and so when I was writing for our. Replant blog church re planters.com. That got launched, you know, in 2015. One of the things that was important for us is we were trying to think how do we describe replanting? And so you compare it to planting.
Planting is a lot like construction. You’re building something brand new from the ground up, right? Replanting is a little more like farming in the sense that, I mean you could say it’s like remodeling, but I, I think the agricultural metaphor makes a little bit more sense in terms of discussing replanting, particularly for this reason.
When you are replanting a declining church, the ground is hard. And what I mean by that, and you think about Jesus and the metaphor of the sower and the seed, the ground is some of the ground that, that the seed gets sewn onto is hard. And so, Sometimes when you go into a declining church, you dealing with spiritual conditions that, are evidence of hardheartedness, right?
Or maybe just lack of tending the soil and taking care of it. [00:06:00] And so in thinking about replanting in those early days, I often talked. About it in the farming kind of metaphor. So most farmers I’ve met Jimbo, I’m, I’m kind of a type A personality, like a high D. When I think about farming, I think about quiet and boredom.
right? I just. I’m out there in my boots, in my flannel shirt and I’m sitting on a tractor and I’m looking at dirt. Right? And so for some of our A types, they may like think, Man, that’s a tough metaphor. but I don’t know. Have you ever farmed a Jimbo? Have you done any agricultural kinds of things? Cuz you’ve had a lot of jobs.
JimBo Stewart: So you’re gonna think I’m making this up, but one, one of my first jobs ever at like 12 years old was cutting grass at an ostrich farm. And
Bob Bickford: Well,
JimBo Stewart: it’s a true story. It was on Big Bird Lane in summer, Mississippi. You can look it up. Uh, it’s an actual street name, big bird [00:07:00] lane where they farmed, uh, osages and ooze. And, uh, I would help harvest the eggs and I would, uh, cut grass.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, well that’s kind of an agricultural hand, a little more than farming, but, uh, it, I think we will allow it. but, Jimbo, at one time, I was, about to turn 16 and my dad knocks on my door on a Saturday morning, cuz I was kind of, you know, full of myself at 15 and just laying around and was kind of entitled.
And he goes, Hey, I got a job for you. And I’m like, Really? Yeah. He goes, Yeah, I called the guy and um, he’s got a farm he said you could come out and do some work for him. So I’m thinking, great. Right. So my dad illegally gave me the keys to his car and I drove up to the farm not having an official license yet.
And so it was a strawberry farm And it was a cool Saturday morning and I was thinking on my way up there, Great, I’ll get to, maybe I’ll get to drive a tractor, maybe I’ll get to, you know, load some things that, that sort of thing. Jim Bowie handed me a, a strawberry flat and pointed me towards the field and I joined like a bunch of [00:08:00] other people crawling on my knees picking strawberries on a Saturday morning.
It was the worst experience, but it was the best thing my dad could have done for me at that age.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. How did you measure up to the other strawberry farmers? Were you,
Bob Bickford: I was really horrible. It was awful. the first flat that I brought back and the guy goes, Yeah, you’re gonna need to fill this to kind of overflowing, right? So , it’s. Geez. Anyway, back to the story. Let’s get to some scripture cuz I think we need to redeem this moment.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: So, a passage in First Corinthians chapter three, says this, Paul’s writing.
He says, What then is a Apollo? What is Paul servants through whom you believed as the Lord is assigned to each? And then here’s the agricultural metaphor I plant. Paulis watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one.
And each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow [00:09:00] workers. And you are God’s field, God’s building. Right? So this, this really, when I was starting out in replant. This helped me understand the work of replanting, right? So I, built kind of a framework to understand the seasons and stages, right?
Like we think about what am I gonna do when I come into a replant? Well, Jimbo, you know, one of the first things we think is I gotta change the music, right? Or I gotta get rid of this red carpet. Or for you, I’ve gotta saw chainsaw. This a hundred foot pew in half, right?
JimBo Stewart: Throw back episode three.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so we, we, we think we’ve gotta do all those things, but, but really those are surface things, Jimbo. And so, I think there’s some unique stages in a replant that really have to be, forefront and you can do some of the things that we talked about and laughed about, but you really gotta focus in on the primary things that you need to do in a replant.
And so I think this verse helps inform that.
JimBo Stewart: That’s a, I love that verse and I love the way you’re thinking about it. so if you were to lay out what the stages of a replant [00:10:00] would be, is it, don’t make it smell like old people, stage one. chainsaw the pew and half stage two, fill up construction dumpsters with clutter. Stage three and,
Bob Bickford: Look for a new job. Stage four.
JimBo Stewart: I was saying it. Throw, throw back another old episode. figure out how to get a quorum to buy a vacuum cleaner.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, yeah,
JimBo Stewart: and, then stage five get fired and
Bob Bickford: yeah. Well those would be good, good guesses. But according to the framework that we’re trying to build here is, is I think it boils down to, uh, to four things. One is plowing. Next is planting. Followed by watering and then growing. So let me describe these just real quick, and I think we’re gonna take, we’re gonna take each episode and kind of dig into one a little bit more.
But here’s the general thing. So plowing is really the work of God in preparing the ground through preaching of the gospel with the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit. You’ve gotta plow the ground, right?[00:11:00] And you’ve gotta break that up And, And how? How does it happen? Well, you don’t. God does it, but God does it through your preaching.
Then you got planting. Planting is the work of the pastor and leaders to sew the gospel deeply into the soften ground of the church body, right? So you gotta plant the gospel seeds. Then watering. Watering is the continual teaching and application of truth from God’s word. It gives much needed refreshment so that the seed can grow.
And then lastly, this is the stage we’re all trying to get to and we’re hoping will happen is the growing stage, and that’s the fully developed seed of the gospel springs up and is evident in the life of those inside the church, which is really marked by a couple things, thinking and living. As the evidence of God’s work in their lives, of the people.
And then spiritual growth. Spiritual growth internally in the lives of believers, but also in reaching lost people and seeing them come into the, the life of the church through, through God saving them. So I would, I would categorize those as signs.
JimBo Stewart: Okay, so what would be the signs then of, plowing? [00:12:00] So if, plowing a church has experienced some decline, they’re suffering kind of in the institutional, locked in institutional memory, nostalgia of the, the cul-de-sac of nostalgia, uh, and trying to get in, talk to us about. What plowing looks like and what are some of the signs of plowing?
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So we, you mentioned something that’s really important, this locked kind of mindset. Churches really get fixed, fixated on, or get fixed in their thinking. and you see that they, they sort of repeat the same events, that they do every year over and over with, really out, with really no evaluation.
So the calendar never changes. The programs never change. They’re lo, they show a locked mindset. That, demonstrates itself by protection of preferred programs and ministries that maybe have really ceased being effective. and then another evidence of locked mindset, and these are all signs that you’re, you probably need to do some plowing.
cutting edge ministry ideas are, are, are not really cutting edge. The ones that are proposed with the ch by the church, they’re like cutting edge maybe, [00:13:00] you know, 20 years ago.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: It’s not that they were bad ideas, but they’re just not current ideas. And then, here’s a funny one. Your church never changes.
Its bulletin boards, , right? Have you ever, have you ever walked past a bulletin board and it’s got something like from 1992 on it, Like, you know, the news boys are coming in concert down at the arena and it’s still there,
JimBo Stewart: My, my favorite was our, like the, the sign out in the front of the. church, like with the
letters on it. like if you see those, this isn’t outta date, but, the first time I saw the sign at the church that I replanted, or was part of replanting, I guess they just thought, let’s put up a scripture verse.
And they put up like a random proverb about disciplining your children, So I had to be like, All right, let’s never put that one on, on this roadside again. But the, when I walked in, the church had two huge bulletin boards, I mean, [00:14:00] massive, massive bulletin boards. And there, there were so much information on there, like you couldn’t even make sense of it, but most of it was like 15 years.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Yeah, it happens. And that’s, that shows you you’re at a church that needs to. At minimum, revitalized and probably replanted. You got some work to do. So, but most of what we’re trying to get at is this is spiritual stuff, right? This is al stuff. So, a, a church that has a locked to mindset or, or, or is, you know, been in decline for a long time, they think to reach the community.
means, man, we just gotta do whatever it takes just to get as many people to come to the church as possible, right? So let’s just, let’s get ’em here. Or, making more disciples. Well, let’s just, let’s get everybody to go to the Sunday school classes, right, And, start at the Sunday school classes. And Sunday school classes aren’t bad, but.
Those folks have been in them for a long time. And, and a lot of times what it, what it is, is it’s really good fellowship and good encouragement and good pastoral care, but it, it’s not life transformational teaching. And so you, you’ve gotta think [00:15:00] about how do we, how do we make more disciples? And then creating fellowship in the body.
That’s a good thing. but in kind of a locked mindset or a mindset that shows that you need to do some plowing work Is they just want to, let’s just continue the fellowships and maybe have more of them right? To, to foster connection and to just get people together and then see what happens out of that.
So those are not bad things, Jimbo, but those are things that are, um, you know, they’re easy to repeat and when we repeat them over and over, what happens is, and, and I have these places, And that we travel, we walk our dog a lot. And so one of the things we’ll notice is if people don’t walk on the sidewalk and they, they take a shortcut in through the park and there’s, there’s a park near our house that so many people take a shortcut rather than walking down this sidewalk and then taking a hard right.
That there’s a really hard path that is develop. that spans the gap between those two sections of sidewalk. And so what we’re really talking about here is churches develop those hard paths, right? And it could be just, [00:16:00] we are just gonna do the same thing over and over again, or we’re just gonna do this thing that we like over and over again.
Or we wanna reach people, but we’re not really doing anything. To understand our community. And so a well worn path is just something that, that people take. It’s easy to take. And so if you’re gonna see New Life spring up in those places where we have those well worn paths, you gotta get the plow out and you gotta do some things.
So I think there, there’s important work to be done and it’s hard work that needs to
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think things you said, man, when a church, when you think this and you think, Oh, well this church believes that to reach the community, they gotta get as many people to come to church as possible. That sounds great. And maybe that used to be a. True in a time where there was like a cultural wind in our sails and people wanted to, there was a cultural benefit to being a part of a church, but it’s not really a missionary mindset, and a lot of what you’re talking about is reengaging.
The missionary mindset because we’ve shifted, in, in mission drift into kind of things that are comfortable and in that, in that [00:17:00] worn trail. And so we’ve kind of gotten to this rut and this pattern. And so now the soil, metaphorically is, has gotten hard and in order for us to really. See something happen and grow here, we’re gonna have to plow the soil a little bit.
So what does that look like? What is plowing? I’m assuming plowing the soil does not necessarily include a chainsaw on a pew.
Bob Bickford: Well, it might , but, but, it looks like, like a couple things. The first one is the cessation of the well worn,
JimBo Stewart: So you’re a cessationist is what you’re saying.
Bob Bickford: No, not, we’re not talking theology here, Jimbo. Charismatic gifts, but the cessation of the well worn. So what is that? That means if there’s a favorite program, maybe a service time or a style of music or what you put in the bulletin, it means that plowing, in this case, in this first stage, breaks.
Up what was or what is in order to do something [00:18:00] new. Right. So it’s. Decreasing the commonality of what you used to do. Not taking that path anymore or taking a plow of doing, doing something that is just kind of new, right? We’re gonna, we’re gonna stop walking on this section and doing the same old thing, this muscle memory kind of thing over and over again.
We’re gonna cease doing that, and then that leads to something that you can do to help break up that ground. And that’s the, in the introduction of a disruptive force. So a plow, If you think about it, agriculturally, A plow is a disruptive force. It’s something sharp that enters into hard ground and begins to break it up.
So a disruptive force in, in a church could be, you know what? We’re going to, have scripture reading rather than announcements at this, this, this time in the service, right? we’re going to, do a, a time of prayer for our community and other churches in mission. It’s, it’s introducing those [00:19:00] kinds of things.
So introducing a disruptive force. The other thing I would say is persistent plotting. , you gotta do this over and over. The hard places are never softened, but just one message, one prayer, or one strategic action. You’ve gotta, you’ve gotta do this over and over again. This is backbreaking work, right?
So, you, you just gotta do that.
would also say,
JimBo Stewart: a little bit of that tactical patience piece of,
Bob Bickford: yeah.
JimBo Stewart: is what we were not talking about something that happens overnight. This takes a while.
Bob Bickford: And so that persistent plotting then really is, you’re not just doing this to, just to change things, but you really have a Christ centered commitment. You’re doing this so that the gospel will be proclaimed and people will come to know Jesus and follow him. Like, that’s really your focus.
So you gotta be persistent in this and not give up. Now, Jimbo, I will tell you this. I had a lot of give up in me when I was in the strawberry field and I was on my knees and climbing through the strawberries, and I was like, I hate this and I never want to do this
ever again. [00:20:00] Some re planters probably feel that way after a Sunday.
I hate this and I never want to do it again. And so just let me say, the plowing stage isn’t over in a day. It’s probably over in a a period of, of days, months, even possibly years.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So how, I mean, if you gave an a, a guest, how long a plowing stage would last in an average replant? I mean, what would be you think the average timeframe,
Bob Bickford: Man, I’m thinking probably at least three years, maybe five, depends on how long the church has been in decline. Typically, the longer the church has been in decline, the longer it takes to, to, uh, see new life and new growth. Come back to it.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think one of the things that you say, when I’ve seen you write about this and, we’ll, we’ll put some links, Stevenson, blogs you’ve written and, and there’ll be a new blog, written by our, our bootcamp bloggers on this. But the idea of the introduction of a disruptive force. Before we kind of close, I wanna hear just a little more on, the importance of not doing this alone, that [00:21:00]as that disruptive force like.
That can’t just be you, right?
Bob Bickford: Right.
JimBo Stewart: if if you’re alone man, it’s gonna end up being you alone at the end of a firing squad. and so talk to us just a little bit before we close on, on how to build people around you and not the importance of not being a disruptive force by yourself.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, if it’s just you that is pushing for, you know, new life and change and transformation of the church, it’s, it’s gonna be really hard. So I think one of the things is important is to, begin to meet with and disciple and train and. Pray with and strategize with small groups of people, from the very beginning, deacons, church council, people that you’re discipling and constantly, pour your life into theirs and. Think together and pray together and study the scriptures together about what does a healthy, vibrant church look like. And then as you do that over and over, multiple groups, multiple ages and stages in life, multiple [00:22:00] groupings of people in terms of, you know, men and women, that sort of thing. What happens is, is the hearts begin to warm to the gospel and they begin to be more excited about what the mission is gonna look like or could look like.
And they, the hard ground is then broken.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So if church planting is like construction, you’re building the trellis ready for the vine to grow on it. Then church replanting is, more like farming. And the four stages that the brilliant Bobby b the Yelp elite has, uh, written out here for us is plowing, planting, watering, and growing. Plowing is the work of God and preparing the ground through the preaching of the gospel with the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Uh, I love this so much cuz it’s just a reminder that this, this really isn’t about being. the Cool Hip church that looks cool on a website. ultimately this is about making disciples, and this reemphasize is something we’ve said a lot [00:23:00] and just that really church replanting and revitalization is, is kind of corporate organizational.
Discipleship like you, like, there’s a realigning of the church as a whole to back to the gospel. That has to happen because of mission drift and mission drift doesn’t make us villains. Mission drift makes us human and we all do this. So making sure we’re not standing there, in a position of self righteousness.
Oh, you guys mission drift. I don’t, No, we all mission drift.
This is a, an honest look and assessment at the word of God to change our hearts and tell the soil of our hearts so that we can plant the seeds of the gospel, back into our hearts for the work of the ministry, so that we can make disciples, that make disciples, that make the community noticeably better.