Associations and Replanting
While churches are autonomous under the headship of Christ, God has designed the local body of believers to be connected to His larger family for accountability and edification. In Southern Baptist church life, the local association of churches makes these types of connections possible. Such connections are needed most when a local church finds itself struggling and on the verge of closure and needing to be replanted. The assistance provide by a local association can vary greatly from context to context. Here are some of the ways St. Louis Metro Baptist Association (SLMBA) has approached partnership with a church needing to replanted.
Assessment and Shepherding: A church needing to be replanted requires practical help and deep love. Early in the process, it is important to help a church assess its unique situation and struggles in an effort to lead them toward clarity. This often requires a caring pastoral leader or leaders from outside the church body to serve as relational shepherds, leading the church through a spiritual process of rebirth. The strong relationships of associational churches allow both of these to happen naturally.
Solutions and partnerships: The association is able to suggest solutions and options to the struggling church. Unique to its role and position, the association can introduce a struggling church to a stronger church and assist in the exploration of potential partnerships with other churches. I believe churches are best suited to replant churches, and the local association plays a crucial role in discovering and facilitating those church partnerships.
Plan and process: Replanting is difficult, there is not a “one size fits all” solution. Each struggling church is unique. It lies in a unique community and has a unique history. The local association plays a key role in consulting both the replant church and partner churches in developing and implementing a custom plan and process that works towards a Christ-honoring replant of one of His churches.
Stewardship and ownership: The process of replanting often raises questions regarding the stewardship of resources, investments, and assets that have been funded through the gifts of individuals, churches, and denominations. A key question is: Who should manage or oversee properties and resources during and after the replant? The association can provide objectivity, credibility and guidance to assure these issues are addressed.
The role of associational leadership is critical as the need for replanting struggling churches continues to increase. I’m praying that God grants us clarity, courage, and great competency as we lead the replanting movement at the local level.