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EPISODE #97 – IS REPLANTING WORTH THE ROI (return on investment)?

Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp
EPISODE #97 - IS REPLANTING WORTH THE ROI (return on investment)?

The Bootcamp boys are back talking about why it’s worth saving dying and declining churches across N. America and around the world. Often, we hear pushback on investing time, money and resources in Replanting dying churches.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • A dying church doesn’t bring glory to God-that’s why Replanting is important
  • In history, a group of people determined that location needed a gospel witness-make sure to examine the history and see if that original decision still stands
  • Is there a pocket of “lostness?” Are there people to be reached?
  • Every church provides an opportunity to reach a person who is not presently being reached by the existing churches.
  • It’s worth the investment, you cannot buy in today’s dollars what was built with yesterday’s resources.
  • Replanting requires followers of Jesus to take a step of faith and live it out-primarily by dying to their self (and their preferences)

On very rare occasions you might consider repurposing and reinvesting the resources for kingdom purposes rather than replanting or revitalizing a particular church.

What are you thoughts? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line, leave a comment or contact us on the Bootcamp Hotline.

Are you a Replanter? Need some encouragement? Join us in Atlanta August 25-26, 2021. Register now for the Replant Summit  

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[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at the bootcamp yet again, and man, I’m excited. This is episode 97. and man, we’re getting really close to 100 couple of things that are coming up. If you’re listening to this on the day that it releases, if you’re in the South Carolina area, man, we’re about to be there with you. And we’re so excited to be in South Carolina.

in, in a couple of weeks, but, after that, at the end of this month, we have the replant summit and man, I’m excited about replant summit coming up in Atlanta,  some great speakers and great topics going to be going on.  with all of that with the Olympics going on with my birthday, just finishing my wife’s birthday, just finishing man.

It’s just a, it’s just a great, great couple of things going on here. And I’m excited to be on the screen with you again, the beautiful, brilliant below average, the guru Bob

[00:01:00] Bob Bickford: thanks for that. Interesting and dissonant, introduction, and I’m just happy that I’m alive during the summer of Jimbo. As you’re wrapping up a, a glorious summer in Jacksonville. Hey, and did you guys get some hurricane or tropical for storms? The other day? I was thinking I was looking at something on the news either, either this was happening.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Like every, every afternoon in the summer around two or three, it feels like a tropical storm.

Bob Bickford: Okay. All right. I couldn’t remember if I saw a tropical storm or something with somebody got attacked by an alligator and some like some or both of those things. I think, I couldn’t

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Those are, those are fairly, frequent occurrences around here. both of those things.

Bob Bickford: Well, we just have shootings here in St. Louis. So we got that going on for us.

JimBo Stewart: the big news in Jacksonville at the moment as a couple of things is one. there is, been commissioned at like $13 million sculpture, in [00:02:00] downtown at the landing. Uh, what’s called the landing right there on the river. That’s called jacks and it looks like it might be a curse. Jax J a X or could be a cursive L E X or a heart.

And there’s been just a massive amount of local memes on the internet about what is this thing from? Is it the, is it the old paperclip from Microsoft word or whenever you need help, is it, is it, uh, all kinds of great fun things about that? So that’s big in Jacksonville news right now. And the other thing is will Tim Tebow.

Make the roster. Will he be officially a Jaguar?

Bob Bickford: well, he got a lot better, a better things going on there in Jacksonville than we do here in St. Louis. I mentioned the aforementioned crime, and now Jimbo, we are under mass mandate once again, here in the land of the S T L.

So it is what it is

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it is what it is. There seems to be a rise of a lot of cases coming up. [00:03:00] And so, and so I dunno, man, who knows how that’s going to end up playing out,  all across the country. so episode 97, here’s what I want to bring up. Bob for discussion is. Recently, I got an opportunity to preach at first Baptist, orange park, as they are in conversation with a church to partner with them and a fostering replanting type situation. Where they will provide the, the pastor, the replant pastor and some leadership, and we’re going to partner them with some other churches. And so they asked me to come preach there, while the pastor from first Baptist, orange park, David Tarkington was at said, church in need of replanting. And so I preached on why do we invest in, dying churches?

And I got a follow up email from a member that was really great. And one of the things was just still trying to wrap his mind around, Is it worth the investment is the return on investment worth, what we get right. And what we put into it. And, and so I thought it’d be a [00:04:00] really great thing for us to discuss because ultimately, sometimes it does come down to, and it has been the prevailing thought of a lot of people.

Man let’s just let that church die. Is it really worth all the work? All the effort to go into, trying to be, bring that church back to life. Wouldn’t it be easier, better, more efficient if we let that die and use the assets, in some other way. and so, Bob, what, what is your kind of first reaction to that question?

Bob Bickford: Yeah. Is it easier? Yes. Is

it more efficient? Yes. It’s more efficient. Here’s the key. Is it better? Right. And that’s really where we need to jump in and kind of have this conversation. I think Jimbo. It goes through my mind is there was some point in time in history when a group of people said, you know, what, that particular location and that place in the city or the town or the country that plays needs a gospel, outpost, a [00:05:00] witness, uh, a church.

And so I think before you overlook that and don’t dig around and explore that, I think he probably should sh if you get your need to give that some attention to determine. Whether or not that that season has passed. So, there, there are times in places, very rarely where, you know, there’s a desertion of the population from a particular area, but most of the time I think there’s, there’s just a sense of look, we need to kind of consider the history here that some people got together and decided there needs to be a church here.

We need to understand that.

JimBo Stewart: you know, in the email that I got, one of the things he said is, is it really worth the time if we’re just subsidizing. Something that’s ineffective and we’re just funding something. And what I would say is, is if that’s all we’re doing. The no. Right. And so we got to go back to our LFA, our boss, El Capitan, uh, the man himself, mark Clifton.

so well ask the question [00:06:00] in his book, reclaiming glory. What about a dying church brings glory to God. And obviously the answer is nothing, right? This was his epiphany moment that he writes about that. There’s nothing that brings God glory about a dying church and what I would say. There’s also nothing that brings God glory about funding and offering financial answers to what are spiritual and discipleship problems. and so all we’re doing is. delaying the inevitable and funding, something that is not functionally, what it’s supposed to be. Then I don’t think we’re going to get the return on investment that we desire. and so, when we say that dying churches are worth rescuing, what we don’t mean is. We just need to keep things the way they are for as long as we can, that church is functionally already dead.

If that’s what we’re doing, we’re just funding it. and [00:07:00] so that’s not what we mean, but one of the here’s, one of the things I think about is if the community has a need for gospel centered churches than there. There’s a reason to replant that dying church. and so, to give the scenario where that wouldn’t be needed, if we’re in a community of a hundred and a population of 150, and that’s it, and there are already four other churches and the fifth church is dying.

then yeah, maybe, maybe we don’t need that fifth church anymore. The four is plenty to reach 150 people. but. More often than not, that’s not what we’re seeing. Right? The data shows us that the majority of dying churches are actually in areas that are growing in population, and not decreasing. and so if you consider the average.

Church in America is under 100 people. Let’s just be optimistic and say that we’re, we’re at a hundred. Uh, and are there lots of churches over a hundred? Yeah. There are a ton of churches over a hundred. but there are [00:08:00] fewer churches than you would imagine under two 50. Uh, I mean more churches than you would imagine under two 50.

And so let’s just even say two 50, uh, let’s say one church can realistically reach 250 people, which would put it. As a statistical anomaly, amongst all the other churches in America. Right. So if we just do 250 people, the means for every 250 people in the population, at least there, there needs to be a church.

and so I think you can, it’s not an exact science here, but you can do some basic math. And see, I know the church that I pastor redemption church and like, Three mile radius. There was like a hundred thousand people.  and that’s a lot of people, there are a lot of other churches in that three mile radius, but not near enough to reach a hundred thousand people with the gospel.

And so each there are a need for as many gospel lights as we can get in communities where the population is.

Bob Bickford: absolutely. [00:09:00] I think one of the things it’s important for us to bring this into the conversation as well is that every church provides an opportunity to reach someone who is not presently being. By the existing churches that are around, right? So let’s say you’re in a city and you’ve got five churches and the fifth one needs to be replanted.

And there’s not everybody in that. City’s going to church, not everybody in that. City’s going to any of those four remaining churches. So is it possible to replant a church particular style church or kind of church or a church that has a focus on a mission within a specific population group to reach more people?

one of them leads Jimbo when we haven’t mentioned this yet, but at the building is paid off and it’s in decent shape. Then why in the world would you not consider at least investing in it for a season to see if God can resurrect the gospel work there? And then it was kind of segues into this next point.

Here’s one of the reasons why I think you [00:10:00] should invest in dying churches. We cannot purchase into today. Dollars what we built with yesterdays dollars. It’s just impossible to do. That is an issue. Are you paying more for your Popeye’s chicken sandwich? Jimbo? You bet. You

probably all and pay more for gas for that 4runner.

I know I’m paying more for my little red convertible and so our money’s going. it’s not going as far as it has. And with construction supplies being crazy, like you just, you need to, to, reclaim for God’s glory and for kingdom purposes, those, those facilities in those gospel outposts that exists.

Right? Sure. They probably need to be freshened up. You probably need to take some wallpaper down and maybe take down some, you know, Cross stitch stuff. You need to clear out some plastic flowers, that sort of thing. You need to be slow on removing the flags from the podium, but you know, it’s a service in many places.

It’s [00:11:00] a serviceable building in, uh, in the nexus of a population center that you shouldn’t disclose it and let it become a subdivision, right. Or, uh, financial planners office, or, you know, something like that. You really need to consider how to redeem that, that property for God’s purpose.

JimBo Stewart: How much, how much was gas when you started driving Bob?

Bob Bickford: Timo. You’re asking me to remember a long time ago. And so I think I could answer that maybe in two ways I had this thing called a moped. Do you know what a moped is? Jimbo?

JimBo Stewart: Oh yeah. I know what a


Bob Bickford: Well, okay. Well, I had a Honda express and when I was 14, uh, I drove that sucker around. Yeah. Enjoyed it and, you know, had a little bit of a freedom as middle-schooler and Jimbo.

I think I paid maybe like 75 cents for gas, 75 cents a gallon for gas, maybe back in the day. And that I remember when I started driving my car, I don’t remember how much gas was back then, but I remember when I first started paying [00:12:00] for my own gas on my lawnmower and money was about 75 cents.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think it was 80, 85 or 87 cents when I started driving. And so it wasn’t long after I started driving it. It started to really climb a lot more, but yeah, you’re right. I mean, we cannot, you couldn’t build. What you ha what you bought, right? I mean, there’s just for the same amount of money, there’s just, there’s just no way to do it.

And so there is a stewardship of the assets and the resources there. And that takes me to one of my beliefs and convictions about replanting and revitalization. Uh, ultimately one of the options is that we can’t. Sell the property and take those assets and invest them in other kingdom works like church planting or replanting and other places.

And there are times when that is what is needed. but here’s, my bias is still towards replanting or revitalization with the existing members involved if possible. And here’s why [00:13:00] there is a significant spiritual difference for the existing members. And sticking around and helping a dying church grow and just handing over the property.

Now, both, I believe honor the Lord and are used by the Lord and, and, and, to advance his kingdom. But it’s kind of in my mind and correct me if I’m wrong here. you are the guru, but in my mind, it’s kind of like the same thing as like, if you were going on a mission trip, To a third world country, or you were a missionary to a third world country.

And I could either cut you a check, right. Which is in the investment part. And it’s a financial sacrifice, a sacrifice of assets, or I can get on a plane and go with you. And, uh, at that point, when I get to that other culture, it’s going to require me to die to self. To my cultural preferences, die to myself.

And just a lot of ways in order to be effective missionally, you [00:14:00] can’t be a missionary in another culture without dying to yourself. At least not a good one. and in the same way, you can’t replant a dying church and stick around and be a part of it. Without some level of dying to self and surrendering to Christ because the cultural preferences are most likely different.

That’s a big piece of why things have to change is the culture has changed. and so I think there is a really rich and beautiful multi-generational discipleship opportunity that comes with asking these existing members to go along for the ride. And be a part of the process and see what God does in their life.

And I’ll tell you, man, one of my favorite moments as a re planter, Bob, what two, two moments I can think of in particular is one. When a lady in her seventies shared the gospel with someone for the very first time in her life. And she had been going to church for a very long [00:15:00] time. And for the first time, She shared the gospel.

And she did that because she got stretched to embrace our community and, and share the gospel of her community. Another one was, I remember a lady who had some issues with the way that we were doing some things. And one of the things I. Try to do, as we’ve talked about before, is lead through the power of the word of God, to the authority of the word of God.

And I can remember years into the process and it took years, she in a conversation with some other members about some things going on, said as our pastor has taught. We have to look and see what the word of God says and surrender to that. That was not her posture. When I first got there, that was not the way that she viewed leadership.

When I first got there. And to me, there’s, there’s just some rich and beautiful discipleship opportunities that come along the, when the, when those members come along as a part of the process.

Bob Bickford: And it takes me, you know, that [00:16:00] that’s those stories take me to the re planner versus, you know, like Colossians one 20 and 29. And then part of our work is to help people become mature in Christ, present people mature. And last time I checked maturity is always a function of discipleship. The reward is discipline, and oftentimes when we experience discipline it’s at the point.

Of suffering to some degree, right? So we’ve, we are suffering the loss of our preference. We’re suffering the loss of our agenda before the Lords. And the reality is in many replants the reason they are in need of replanting is there’s been deficient discipleship. So the normal course of action to engage as a disciple of a dying church is to die to myself, right.

Rather than. Hold onto my preference. And so spot on analysis by you as, as you know, you explain those stories. I think there is a great joy to [00:17:00] see a long time Christian move into a new place of walking with the Lord and God does get the glory. And that does create excitement. And that’s much more than, than if you just gave the building, you know, to and became a, you know, like a partnership replant and all of a sudden.

The, the identity, the church goes away and you have this overnight flip, a switch off, flip a switch on, and then the folks just kind of hang out there. And they’re not quite sure what happens right now. There’s a lot of process that goes on before that happens. And so I don’t want to discount, so I don’t want the listener to say, you know, Bob’s who gets campusing or adoption or mergers or that sort of thing.

I’m not, but it’s a different story. When it’s a slower, longer process that requires the folks that have been engaged in, in ministry, in that dying church to really change. And, uh, I think there they are better for it and the kingdom is better for it. And Doug DOD does get glory from it.

JimBo Stewart: I think one of the other things that we see as a [00:18:00] positive benefit of replanting a dying church is that it becomes an encouragement. To other churches that are struggling in the area, and in, in many ways and can kind of spur them on and can give them hope. it can move people out of a defeatist mindset of, well, you know, churches are just dying.

They’re just declining. Culture’s so different.  Keep up. And when they see hope and another church that was dying and as eventually seeing God move in some mighty ways and seeing new vibrancy and health in that church, it lets them know that that’s possible where they are as well. Yeah. Where I’ve seen that really play out some beautiful ways is when I’ve seen those churches start to partner together on mission and, and move out of the mindset of competition and into cooperation.

and so man, as long as the, the size and density, a loss in the [00:19:00] population demands a need for more gospel. In that location, then I think there’s a need to replant. And I think it’s great if we can have the existing members be a part of it so they can be discipled. So we can, well steward the resources and assets that were invested in the kingdom at one point in a way that we could not do again, if we started from scratch at today’s prices.

And I think it, really does help other churches around the community.

Bob Bickford: exactly true.  And, really, I think that if you listen to, um, Clifton’s, you know, testimony when he got into replanting, it was, uh, switch for him because he talks about the fact that everybody, and even including him, was running away from dying churches saying it’s not worth it.

But I think the things that we’ve, you know, laid out here that you just summarized are, are indicators that it is worth it. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Is it maybe not [00:20:00] as quick and efficient? Absolutely. Is it a struggle. And do you have a guarantee success? Um, you don’t have guaranteed success success, and it is absolutely a struggle, but I think in the end, it, there’s some really awesome things about replanting.

And so I’m thankful to be a part of a movement that focuses.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Well, let me ask you one more question. Uh, as we come to the end of our time, what would be a scenario in which we would say, you know, probably what’s best is to just sell the assets and reinvest them and to some other form of kingdom.

Bob Bickford: man, that’s a hard one. You kind of put me on the spot there cause you, how could I say it? You know? Generally for 47,000 churches in our SBC family. And then, you know, thousands more beyond that. I think you’d probably have to look at a couple of things. one, you have to look at the area to see, are there pockets of lostness and people to be reached [00:21:00] to in order for us to do that in an effective and meaningful way, is it cost prohibitive for us to invest resources necessary?

In this facility, right? So, you know, if you’ve got a facility that has half a million dollars worth of repairs that have to be done and the largest capacity that you’re probably, you know, w w whatever reach would, you know, let’s just say, it’s going to be a handful because. You know, it’s a small lot of tournament.

I have seen some really small auditoriums, um, sanctuaries and it’s like, well, why did you, why did you build such as small sanctuary? Right. Like, I don’t

understand that.

JimBo Stewart: And why do they always put the bathrooms right behind the platform? So you have to walk past the preacher while he’s preaching in order to go to the bathroom.

Bob Bickford: I think people can hold it a lot longer back in those days. Jimbo. That’s my, my theory. Yeah. On the rare occasions [00:22:00] where you have a facility that is just a disaster and you have a population that is very small and kind of non-existent. And let’s couple that maybe with you’ve got some real effective churches that are right down the street or next door you might consider.

Repurposing and reinvesting the proceeds from that facility may be right, but I just want to caution, just be very cautious and saying, you know, it’s hard to say that in a general way, and it’s, it’s much more effective to do a full analysis of a specific location and ask, but those you’re just asking me, those are some reasons why I might say you, you take a look at it in a different way.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So I would say the large part, both of us would agree that, men more often than not, there are plenty of kingdom reasons. To invest in and help dying churches, uh, see a new day. so listener here’s the [00:23:00] deal. We would love some feedback from you. What, what do you see, are some reasons to invest in dying churches that we didn’t mention or reasons to not, give us some feedback, let us know and, see you guys soon.

Hopefully even at the replant summit at the end of August, in Atlanta, we’d love to see in person there.


church replanting, dying churches

Jimbo Stewart

Replant Bootcamp Co-Host

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