By Brandon Elrod
GREENWOOD, Mo.—Ten years ago, the future for a 175-year-old Southern Baptist church in Greenwood, Mo., did not seem bright after several years of decline. A sister church in the area, however, embraced the dwindling congregation and helped them recover their place in the community. Now, this August the church will host the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Replant Summit to help others learn how to do the same.
“The First Baptist Church of Greenwood has an incredible testimony,” said Mark Clifton, senior director of Replant at NAMB. “The gospel witness of any church is far too important to allow it to fade when adversity comes.”
The 1990s had been a good decade for FBC Greenwood, attaining an average attendance of around 600 people before a church split in 1999 led them into a troubled decade in the 2000s. Attendance fell to below 100.
In 2018, the Greenwood, Mo., campus of Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., became an autonomous church called Fellowship Church. Before becoming a campus of Lenexa Baptist, the congregation, First Baptist Church of Greenwood, had dwindled to less than 100 in attednance. As a replant, Fellowship Church averaged nearly 1,000 attendees before COVID-19. Fellowship Church Facebook photo.
In 2011, Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., came alongside FBC Greenwood. Greenwood’s leadership realized they were fighting a losing battle by trying to keep the doors open without seeking outside help. Greenwood’s congregation decided to donate all of its assets and become a campus of Lenexa Baptist.
“The recommendation was well-received at the time,” said Chris Williams, who pastors the congregation in Greenwood. “It was almost celebratory. They were ready to do just about anything because they knew where they had come from.”
The congregation became an autonomous church in 2018 under a new name—Fellowship Church. As they began nearing capacity, the church realized that they had a decision to make about whether or not to expand the facility. Rather than construct a bigger building, Fellowship Church began reaching out to sister churches in their community.
“We really believe that we can do our part to fulfill the Great Commission by partnering with some of the beleaguered churches in communities close by us and bringing them to life,” Williams said.
Fellowship Church in Greenwood, Mo., has regularly been baptizing new believers since becoming an autonomous congregation in 2018. The congregation, previously known as the First Baptist Church of Greenwood, revived after receiving help from Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., becoming a campus of Lenexa in 2011. Now, the thriving ministry has begun supporting other churches the way Lenexa supported them. Fellowship Church Facebook photo.
Fellowship Church has a vision of seeing a thriving church in every neighborhood, and in May of 2019, the First Baptist Church of Raymore, Mo., voted to become a campus of Fellowship Church after experiencing difficulty reaching out to their community.
“They were growing, before COVID,” said Williams. “They were averaging in the 160s before they became Fellowship Church, and I think our average after that was 260 or so. We grew by 100 in the first few months. We were seeing baptisms. The Lord is doing a great work there.”
On August 24-25, Fellowship Church in Greenwood will host NAMB’s annual Replant Summit. Attendees will be able to learn from church replanting practitioners about the value of and strategy behind replanting a declining church. This year, the focus will especially be on how churches can help sister churches.
Mark Clifton speaks to the attendees at the 2019 Replant Summit at the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) facility in Alpharetta, Ga. This year’s summit will take place at Fellowship Church in Greenwood, Mo., a church that underwent a replant process to become a thriving church in its community. NAMB photo.
“We are partnering with Lenexa Baptist who helped replant Fellowship Church,” Clifton said. “Those who attend will hear first-hand accounts of replanters as well as visit a church where this model of replanting was successful.”
Clifton also emphasized that this process is not one to be undertaken solely by large churches.
“This year’s summit focuses on the methods and models that churches can use to adopt and replant dying churches,” Clifton said. “Lenexa Baptist Church is a larger church, but churches of any size are able to engage in the process of helping to replant struggling churches. There will be practitioners from different size churches who have seen this work.”
Speakers will include Clifton, Williams, Chad McDonald, lead pastor of Lenexa Baptist Church, Mark Hallock, lead pastor of Calvary Church Englewood, Colo., Andy Addis, lead pastor of CrossPoint Church in Hutchinson, Kan., among others. Special worship music will be led by Selah.
Should the COVID-19 pandemic create problems for the gathering at Fellowship Church, there is a contingency plan in place.
To register and learn more about the Replant Summit, visit www.namb.net/events/replant-summit_2020/.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.