How do I find a church to replant?

By Bob Bickford

Over the past few years the Replant Team has been focused on arresting and reversing the death and decline rate of SBC churches. In cooperation with our local partners we have seen progress. Even still, about 1,000 churches close their doors each year.

We know this for certain: In the coming days many churches will need to be replanted and hundreds of called, qualified replanters will need to be resourced, developed, and sent. Our team has been working to assist replanters in evaluating and confirming their call through our 13 Characteristics Survey — which I encourage you to take as you consider your call.

The remaining challenge for us — one common to both replanters and the churches needing to be replanted — is connecting the two. We are regularly asked: How does a replanter find a church needing to be replanted?

Let me offer these four suggestions for replanters looking to serve a local church.

1. Confirm your call

There is a huge difference between someone looking for a church to pastor and the one who is intentionally seeking to serve a church needing to be replanted. Replanting is difficult, challenging, and hard for a variety of reasons-. If you are not fully convinced (and if married, your spouse must agree) that you are called to suffer, and you are committed to preach, pray love, and stay for at least five years, please pursue something else. One of the best ways to confirm your call is through serving a local church that is plateaued or declining right now. You don’t have to be the lead person. You may teach a class, serve in the kid’s ministry, help with hospital visits, or simply encourage the pastor. There are literally hundreds of churches in every community who are in dire need of servant leaders. By serving right now, you’re gaining experience that will be incredibly helpful to you down the road.

2. Consider context and location

When Isaiah prayed; “Here am I. Send me!” he was ready to go as God led. A replanter must live with that same sense of readiness and willingness to be sent wherever God calls. Over the years, I’ve seen God lead men many places. I’ve noticed there often is a specific passion, a personal affinity or familiarity for the people and the place God sends replanters. I would never be one to put qualifications or restrictions on the location and context to which God might lead you, so I recommend you approach your call with open hands. At the same time, God often calls us to people, places, and contexts that are congruent with our experience, history, and passion. Humbly approaching the “where” and the “when” of God’s sending call on your life is imperative.

3. Connect with local partners

As Baptists we are connected to a rich network of leaders at the local level. Associational Mission Strategists and State Convention Leaders have the best and most up-to-date knowledge of local churches in need of replanting. While our team may not possess a list of churches needing to be replanted, we do know leaders who can connect you with potential opportunities in their area. I encourage you to take the initiative and connect with these leaders on your own. Introduce yourself, ask them about the churches in their area, share your story, and talk about God’s call on your life. Then ask, “Is there a church in your I could potentially serve?”

4. Commit to patiently wait

This is the one of the most difficult steps in the process of finding a church to serve. It’s been my experience that declining churches are not usually in a hurry to select their next pastor. When I sent my resume to the church I would later replant, nearly six months lapsed between the time I had first contact with them in any significant way. As you wait and pray, work on your understanding of replanting. Continue to serve a local church and let God prepare you for the day you’re installed as a pastor. From that moment forward, it will be a long, slow, yet persistent run as you lead God’s people.

Potential replanter, these are the practical steps that God could use to bring you to a church he wants you to lead. It may happen a bit differently for you, but know this: God’s timing is always perfect, and He is always faithful!

Published July 28, 2020

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick