How might God be calling you to serve a dying church as a Replanter?
“What about a dying church brings glory to God?” Wrestling with this question is what led Mark Clifton to shift his focus from planting churches to replanting dying churches.
For a long time the prevailing wisdom was to avoid investing resources into the black hole of dying churches. It’s been common to run away from them, avoid them and let them die. Over the last decade, however, there has been a continual increase in awareness and effort given towards dying churches in North America. How might God be calling you to serve a dying church?
God is calling more people to the gritty and glorious work of replanting dying churches. How does a called and qualified replanter find a replant? Replanting is messy. It is often challenging, from finding a church ready and willing to be replanted to providing financially for a replanter and his family.
Replanting requires a commitment to radical dependence on the Lord. You aren’t smart enough, strategic enough, or dynamic enough to replant a dying church. But this is precisely why God is calling people to this work. Replanters are like Gideon’s army; we get to be co-laborers with Christ to serve his bride.
Like discerning God’s will for any area of our lives, pursuing replanting must start with prayer. Bob Bickford and Mark Hallock wrote a book called “Am I a Replanter.” Use this resource as a guide to praying through this calling for 30 days.
Pursue confirmation in your calling through guided conversation with a trusted ministry coach or mentor. The North American Mission Board offers a free Replanter and Revitalizer Characteristic Survey that is a self-assessment tool based on research.
The free report provides discussion questions and resources to help you learn more about yourself and replanting. Take time to wrestle with and confirm this call with the Lord, with your family, and with wise counsel.
Finding where God has called you to replant is more complicated than finding a place to plant or even finding a normal pastorate. Connecting with local planters who are already working with these churches can help you become aware of their need, and let them know of your calling. Leaning into your Baptist and association network can open these opportunities. Grab a meal together, and ask questions about churches in their area.
Once you have taken the survey listen to Episode #46 of our podcast for guidance from our podcast hosts on further exploration:
The free survey will give you a self-assessment score on each of the 13 characteristics. Do you think they are accurate? Did anything surprise you?
At the end of the online survey, you will have an opportunity to download a free report. Work through the self-reflection questions on your own first to get a better self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. If you are married you will want to follow up your own reflection by discussing some of the reflection questions with your spouse.
SIT WITH A COACH
The scores you receive may not tell you as much as you want. The real value of this process comes when you sit down with a trusted ministry mentor or coach and work through the reflection questions with them. You have already explored them in the self-reflection process but as Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in a person’s heart is deep water; but a person of understanding draws it out.”
The downloadable report will have several links to resources for further exploration. Take advantage of these to strengthen your weaker areas and maximize your strengths.
Replanting takes time. Leverage this season of waiting to prepare for the work ahead.
If you think your church may be in need of replanting or revitalization, you can find out by taking a quick, free online assessment.
This week the guys offer some insights on how you might actually find a church to Replant. In addition to finding out that Bob bailed on being a High School Teacher and JimBo a Professor you’ll gain some key insights into the practical steps you can take in finding a church to Replant.
Show Notes: want to read along while the show plays? Check out this episodes show notes below delivered by: Descript
JimBo: All right, back with the replant bootcamp, excited to be jumping back in. As a matter of fact, I’m excited in just a few days, I will be seeing you in person.
JimBo: And so the next episode will be an episode recorded with us, in the same place. probably in a hotel I imagine.
And I’m excited that we’ll get to do that together. We’ll be at the North American Mission Board Replant Summit in somewhere Missouri. I can’t remember where
JimBo: Greenwood, Missouri.
Bob: South of Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
JimBo: Okay. none of that means anything to me
Bob: Kansas city Metro area.
JimBo: there we go, Kansas city Metro area.
Bob: Yes. And the burning question in your mind. About the location is do the people there have teeth.
JimBo: Yes. Yes. This has gotta be better than the last hotel we stayed at in Missouri.
Bob: Jackson. Yeah, I think we got some hate email about that one. I’m not sure. No, man. I’m excited. We’ve got over a hundred folks who have responded to attend and we have made a lot of preparations to socially distance and keep everybody safe. And so pray for us that everyone stays safe. We’re gonna encourage replanters and encourage those who work with replanters.
And I’m super pumped about this years summit methods and models of [00:02:00] replanting, and it’s gonna be great. And I can’t wait to see you again, face to face. It’s been awhile. I’m trying to remember the last time. but, we’re gonna, have a couple of podcasts together, so pretty pumped about that.
JimBo: The last time I think we saw each other was in March, right before everything really escalated, at the AMS training, in Atlanta.
JimBo: Yea h , actually, if you can make it happen, there is still time to register, I believe. And you can, meet us up there.
We’d love to see you.
JimBo: so one of the things that I believe we’re going to see an increased need for on the other side of all of this COVID stuff is more replanters. I believe we have already had a pretty huge need for that, but I believe a lot of churches are going to be in a position where they’re going to need a replant revitalization pastor.
So we have this survey that we worked on published through NAMB. That we hope you’ve already taken. If you haven’t, we’ll have a link in the show notes for you, or you can just go to churchreplanters.com. Click ‘Am I a Replanter?’ And then click ‘Take The Survey‘ and you can do the survey will take you about 10 minutes.
It’ll give you a whole awesome customized PDF report on there. Then on the very last page, there’s an article that you need to read that Bob wrote talking about. Okay. So you took the survey, that you have the characteristics and qualities of a Replanter, but how do you find a place to replant?
I had a phone call just this week with a guy. From all the way across the country who has planted a church and is considering being a Replanter and him and his wife were open to it being pretty much anywhere in the country. And, And so we had a long conversation about what that might look like for him.
So I know there are going to be more guys as they take the survey or whether it take the survey or not, or maybe they had to resign from it church, as we’ve talked about that even basically, and [00:04:00] now they’re looking for a place where they can lead. Not only did I have a phone call yesterday with a guy, I just had coffee with a guy today who was talking about, Hey, I am convinced that this is what I’m called to.
He took the survey and said, The survey affirmed for me that this is my calling. It showed me a couple of areas that maybe I could grow in, but it affirmed for me that this is my calling and this is what I need to do. So we talked through some options today at, having a cup of coffee. So talk us through Bob. if you didn’t have any red flags shining, you feel confident. This is your calling. If you’re married and your spouse says, yes, I affirmed this. This is where we’re going. You’ve talked with wise counselors in your life that know you. And they say, yes, I would affirm this calling in your life. How do you go about becoming an actual Replanter?
Bob: man. I would love to say that there’s this app, that’s like a tinder for replants and Replanters.
JimBo: left swipe.
Bob: Yes, but there ain’t. that’s the more, the number one questions we get is how do, how does the church we’ll ask it’s? How do I find the planters and the Replanters say, how do I find a church? So the first thing I wanted to say JimBo is, and this might especially be true for the guys that are not currently engaged in ministry, but the seminary guys who has been in the process of preparing for full time ministry, they may be in a larger church, a more contemporary church, a healthier church, A church that has some size to it.
One of the things I would want to say is confirm your call by going and serving a struggling church right now. don’t wait, do it right now. Here’s true story. I changed my major about four times in college. first I went, and, wanted to be a, like a basketball coach and education guy.
So I love science. I won first place in the state science fair. so that’s pretty awesome. And we had a [00:06:00] great basketball team. So I thought, Hey, this has been great. I want to go be a science teacher and then they have this class, your sophomore year where you go and actually visit in a high school or a second middle school.
And you actually get to sit in there and take notes while the teacher’s teaching. And JimBo, you know what that did for me, it confirmed that I was not called to be a teacher. Sorry. What am I thinking?
JimBo: Yeah. Yeah. I had a similar experience when I thought maybe I needed to be a bi-vocational pastor and a professor at a college. And I got an opportunity to do a little bit of guest teaching in a few classes in a confirm for me. I do not want to be a college professor
Bob: Yeah, there’s nothing better than finding a struggling church and taking your wife. And if you have a couple of kids and going and being part of that church right now, right? You don’t go from like the big church with all the programs and all of the, Great staff and the multiple staff and, great restrooms and great bulletins and all that kind of stuff.
That’s not an easy transition from that to a replant. So my encouragement, especially if you not connected with a local church, if you’re in seminary, even if you’re like a person who’s evaluating the call to ministry, go check out the churches in your local area. Talk to the association leader. And say where’s the churches that struggling that I need to, that I could go and just be a part of, that’d be a good number and help, and then come alongside the pastor and don’t look to preach, but just look to help that church as the lay person and serve them.
And one, the pastor will be super glad that you’re there, but two you’ll really confirm your recall.
JimBo: Yeah, I want, you could even take that a step further if the opportunities are there. You could find a church in process of revitalization or replanting and ask that [00:08:00] pastor, if you would lead you in a residency process. And even if he so listen, even if he has no idea how to we’ll do that, if he’s open to the idea, then contact us or have that pastor contact us and we can help equip him on a way to.
Kind of create a residency process for you, where you could go and experience all sorts of things at a smaller church where you would serve for a little bit children’s and youth and senior adults, whatever you get exposed to those things, there’d be a reading list and it would help you become more exposed and equipped with what replanting is.
And so you might come out on the other side of that. with a much better understanding and equipping for that. There’s a guy that we did a residency with because very qualified guy master’s degree in church planting, but he had only experienced very large churches. And so he had no idea what it was like to be [00:09:00] in a.
Under-resourced or limited, much more limited resource church where you can have a huge idea, but man, you better figure out how to off because we don’t have the budget. the people for it, everybody’s already serving in seven different ways. and so you can, can’t just go, Hey, we’ve got this great new initiative.
Let’s build team, have a budget, do it. And he did a 10 month residency with us and just answered in view of a call two weeks ago at a church revitalization and has already called me and said, Man. I’m so glad I did. Yeah. 10 month residency. Cause it helped prepare me for things already that I’m walking into.
And so there could be a great value in just getting that exposure and equipping. But if you can’t find a residency or a pastor that feels ready to do that, just being a part of that church and a good member and serving and worshiping there, and having your family there will help either confirm or let you know that you’re not supposed to be a Replanter.
Bob: Absolutely. I would say to Mark hallux, starting an online residency, there are residency programs going along. So you got 40 weeks of training. Even if the pastor can’t train you or doesn’t want to train you, or is intimidated about training, you could do your own self paced training with Mark House.
We’ll put the residency link in the show notes. And you could just go through the corporate work by yourself, or there might still be time for you to sign up because I think it was going to begin in September. So that’ll be the first thing is, go be a part of a dying and declining church right now.
Second thing that I would say is consider context. And location. So context, urban, suburban County counties seat, rural. Those are your contexts, right? So some of us are urban guys or suburban guys. So most are rural guys. And here’s what I would really say are good buddies, Matt Hensley and Kyle Beerman have written a book called, replanting rural churches.
And if you’re a rural guy, grab that book and read, and think about it. But you might ask yourself a question, where did I grow [00:11:00] up or where am I? It was one of the live, like what kind of pace of life do I want? What, where are we as a family right now? Do we have a young kids, little kids do we need a Walmart or a K-Mart or, or Popeye’s chicken?
Are we okay with just a diner? that sort of thing, you just got to know your context and then you think about geographic location, where might God send us? I would think one of the things that is typically true. Is, we tend to stay within a geographical region, Jen, of where we grew up most often.
We might move three or four States away, but it’s okay. Very rare for me just to pick up and move all the way across the country, because it’s a completely different location, a different kind of life, a different kind of attitude, all those things. It does happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but it often doesn’t.
And so think about that with your spouse. You’re married. Think about your history, where your family is, where they’re from. if you have kids you’re going to want to be maybe within driving distance of your grandparents, of their grandparents, of your folks, of some other relatives you want to think about holidays, all those sorts of things, or you may just think, man, I have always had a passion for, The frontier areas.
And so you think men will want to go out to Montana or Idaho or Wyoming or something like that. but let God speak into that. Do a lot of research, think about the places where you might want to go. I remember I was a youth pastor JimBo and had some connections with some guys that were, went to a larger church and knew some other guys that went to larger churches.
And so I had a pretty extensive understanding of what a large church. Youth ministry was like, particularly in the South. And so that was back in the glory days. When, you gave, pizza feeds and concerts, give bikes away and all that kind of stuff. I got a call because I had grown up in a large church, youth ministry and an intern there.
I got a call from a pastor in Anchorage, Alaska [00:13:00] who wanted us to come and interview Alaska. Okay. So I’m not a Hunter. I like to fish. those sorts of things. But I remember he sent us a book about Alaska and we look at Barb and I started looking through that book and I remember very clearly, Barbara said, I am not moving to Alaska.
So guess what? We didn’t move to Alaska. But context is important. So you gotta think about that.
JimBo: Yeah, my wife said she wanted to be in any state in the Southeast, other than Florida
Bob: And look at you now.
JimBo: here we are for Liberty ans. okay. So one of the things I think it would be helpful when you, if you haven’t taken a survey already, when you take the survey. the very last question that we have on there says, is there anything else you would like us to know? it’s an optional one. You don’t have to fill it out, but if you have a particular context that you’re going to just ask whatever questions you have there.
You could say. Are there any Replants or who would I say, who would I talk to about finding a replant in st. Louis, Missouri, and if that’s where you want to be. And if you’ll put that in there, when we see that I’ll do everything I can to connect you to the right people. Now, I don’t know what replant opportunities are out there all across the country, but between me and Bob and others on the neon replant team, we can.
Probably connects you to the right denominational work. That’s going to know what opportunities are out there for you. And so if you can put that in there on that final question or anything like that you want help connecting with the right people, then I can’t promise you anything, but we can gladly try to help connect you with the right people.
Bob: That’s a great segue to the next point, JimBo with, if you’re looking for a replant, you [00:15:00] need to connect with local partners. So you’ve identified the context. Maybe you discerned the locale. There are so associational leaders, state, convention leaders, even some seminary professors, folks that are in particular locations that’s really key for you.
So nobody knows better what churches are in need of pastors and Replanters than the associational missional strategist. And so if you can get in contact with them and you can reach out, there’s some ways to do that. but find the association leaders, one of the easiest things you might just go to the state convention and the state that you’re considering, and you might contact the revitalization leader and simply say, Hey, I know you have connections across the state, or maybe there’s several regional guys that work with the state.
And you simply say, are there some churches in this particular area of your state, or if you get in [00:16:00] contact with the association, Hey association leader. Are there any churches in your local association that need to be replanted? They’ll absolutely have some in mind. I guarantee it. The great thing is if you’ve taken this survey and you’re able to share that with them, they’re able to understand and see where your strong areas are and where areas of growth are.
And in many ways, in many times we’ve worked with these guys to help them understand how to have a think about. Helping Replanters acclimate to a new position. We’ve equipped them to work with the local church to get it set up for a week planter. And so we’ve got a lot of partners across all of North America and even some into Canada who understand what replanting is more so than when I was replanting.
So I’m super pumped. So the good news is, we can help you make some connections. Now that connection is an introduction. It’s not a placement. And so you still have to understand that this is an opportunity for you to [00:17:00] introduce yourself to the association leader or the state convention leader, and begin a longer conversation.
And, I think if you can do that and connect with local partners, that’s really gonna help you.
JimBo: Yeah, I think one of the hardest parts about trying to find your way into a replant. Where it really vary so differently from being a church planter and feeling called to plant a church. If I feel called to plant a church in a particular community, man, I can literally start today. if I feel called to plant a church in st.
Louis, Missouri, and I live in st. Louis, Missouri, like you, then it’s as simple, as far as starting today as. Starting to prayer walk, go in and meet and people sharing the gospel, starting a small group and seeing where God takes it. But I know for me, We felt called to replant. We didn’t know that word yet, but we knew we, my wife and I both [00:18:00] felt affirmed that God was calling us to go to a dying church in an urban area, in a transitioning community.
And. It be under the foster care of a larger church for a season and see God do mighty things through the gospel. That’s what we knew. We knew that clearly that’s what God was calling us to, but Bob, it was over a year. Before we were given that opportunity and I put my resume. I didn’t put my resume out for a while.
I really just wanted God to give it to me on a silver platter. And for me not to put my resume out and I didn’t.
Bob: mysterious phone call or email. Hey. Yeah.
JimBo: Honestly, I didn’t, here’s what it was. I did not want the opportunity to make the wrong choice. I didn’t, I did not want, I want to choose to go to the wrong church. I wanted it to be abundantly clear that God was calling us there.
And in my [00:19:00] mind, that was the way to do it was just to pray and ask God to just deliver it. And for some people that may happen. But it did not happen for us. And so some mentors and people who love me, challenged me and said, Hey, I, we affirm that God is putting this calling on your life. We think you need to take the step of faith of putting your resume out there and seeing what happens.
Now, some people may feel differently about that. I know people who feel like you should never put your resume out, and I know people who feel like you should always put your resume out. and so wherever you feel on your conscience, you follow what the Holy spirit is telling you to do, but we felt called to put our resume out.
And so I literally just sent my resume to the state convention. A very Southeast state and even some outside of the Southeast. Cause I did ask my wife, how do you feel about that? She was not real comfortable getting outside of the Southeast. because of, culturally you get outside of the Southeast, it’s just a different culture and both of us grew up in the Southeast [00:20:00] and we just didn’t know what that would mean.
we did put some feelers out there and some other States as well, and I did it. I get a lot of kind of random calls from random churches. But none of them were specifically what we knew. God was calling us to, into an urban context with transitioning church. And honestly, Bob here’s one of the things that I dealt with was I wanted to control it.
And finally I felt. Like I just needed to release it and I just needed to forget it and just let God do what he is going to do. And so I let go, and it was a couple of months later that I got a phone call from Hybris about his church in Fleming Island. And they described exactly what we knew God was calling us to and in an urban area, transitioning community, we would be fostered by them.
And so we came down and man. Through a whole long story. I could tell you, God just confirmed that this is exactly where he was calling us. [00:21:00] And I’m so glad that he confirmed it in that way, because when it was very difficult, it was good to know that this is where God called us, but you gotta be patient because this is not probably going to be a quick process.
Bob: Yeah, you’re right. That’s the last point. And you just got to commit to patiently wait and prayerfully, wait, your story, the way you told it is one that I see over and over again is people who are pursuing a good thing and desiring a good thing. And wanting that to be delivered to them bright now.
And if you look at how God prepares somebody for ministry, there’s usually a desert or wilderness or preparation process, Moses went to the desert, Jesus apprenticed in wood shop, there’s this preparation that takes place, Timothy traveled with Paul for awhile, And You’ve just got to understand that the waiting time is not wasted time.
And so here’s what I would [00:22:00] say to the person who is waiting to find that next ministry location, particularly that replant do everything you can do to get yourself healthy, physically, mentally, spiritually relationally, and make sure that’s solid because he’s a, we know that you and I both know. Is just the first three years of replant will attack you on each of those dimensions. Like you are going to get nailed, right? You’re going to get nailed. You’re going to gain weight. Your marriage is going to be strained. You’re going to think that you’ve made the worst mistake of your life. You’re going to be stressed and depressed and all those sorts of things. So this is it’s like training for a tough Mudder.
Alright. That never ends that’s you gotta be in shape, bro. Like you and your everybody’s gotta be in shape and you gotta be clear and ready to roll and it’s going to be a long slog. So I just want to tell you, don’t waste your [00:23:00] waiting time. And enjoy it and then particularly enjoy this enjoy every Saturday night that you just have.
Free without that sermon hanging over you and then all of the responsibilities of Sunday, and then Monday coming back around and you realize that Monday that you got to ride in another sermon and you got to lead for another week at the church. Cause that’s a grind. And so don’t despise your downtime, your waiting time.
You use it to be prepared, prepare in every way possible that you can. And then just realize, I think like you did. You guys had a pretty clear picture about what you felt the Lord was calling you to, and here’s the reality that church wasn’t ready for you when you were ready to be a Replanter. And so that’s your, God’s doing a work on that church and he’s doing a work in you. And then when it’s the right time he brings you together. And I know that no, that sounds super spiritual in a sentence kind of mystical and all of those sorts of things, but it’s really true. and you just got to trust in the sovereignty of God and that he’s faithful.
And he’s gonna, he’s going to take you where he wants you to go and start. I just wanna encourage you read planner. If you’re out there, just struggling can think of man nobody’s ever going to call. I’m just resting in God’s timing in that and trust him in that. And I guarantee it he’s going to be faithful to you.
JimBo: excellent. Hey guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Do us a favor. If you did go to whatever service you listen to this on and leave us a review that helps us get the word out and let other people know. that we have this podcast and like it, share it on your social media, help us get the word out.
Also let us know what questions you have. We’d love to make sure that we’re answering the questions you want answered. Maybe even bring you onto the podcast with us. Hope you guys have a great day. See you again soon.