KANSAS CITY – Whether it’s a brand new church plant or an established congregation dating back to the Civil War, cooperative missions is the hall mark of a Missouri Baptist Church. In recent years, cooperation has even taken root in a church’s dying process, even to the point of springing new life and new ministry.
Mark Clifton, a long-time Missouri pastor in the Kansas City area, is the North American Mission Board’s go-to guy when it comes to “Legacy Church Planting,” and explained the three ways a dying congregation might decide to continue serving the Lord in a totally new way as a Legacy Church Plant.
Sometimes legacy church planting can mean a larger, healthier church taking over and converting the dying church into a separate campus. Other times, a new church plant might merge with a dying church. A third way is when the few remaining members turn themselves over to a sponsoring church, bring in a pastor, and with the remaining people replant from within.
“All three of those pathways are working in a variety of ways and contexts all across North America and Missouri,” Clifton said. “God is doing something in awakening these churches and not letting us see them close like we used to.”
In an age where a majority of churches are identified as plateaued or declining, the conversation surrounding replanting looks to increase. Although Clifton is quick to point out that the “Church” is not a building, “it does represent God to the unchurch in that community,” he said. “A vacant church can really rob God of His glory in a neighborhood. Rather than plant something new across the street, let’s see if we can reclaim this place for God.”
Just like a more “traditional” or “from scratch” church plant, funding may be available through the Cooperative Program from the church planting offices of the Missouri Baptist Convention to help the leaders and dying congregations take those first steps towards a new identity, new relevance and revitalization.
“We’re seeing tremendous traction,” Clifton said. “Not because of anything we’re doing, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit to awaken dying churches, calling men to replant them and calling other churches to embrace them. It truly is an act of God.”
For more information on legacy church planting, contact the Missouri Baptist Convention at 1-800-736-6227 or go to www.mobaptist.org/church-planting. Clifton is available at firstname.lastname@example.org and publishes replanting resources at www.churchreplanter.com.
“There is only one change a dying church needs to make,” Clifton said. “They need to embrace God’s plan for their future, not their plan for their future. God has a plan for every church. Dying churches must relinquish their plan and discover His plan.”