ST. LOUIS – A body on the brink of death is possibly healed with a transplant and Jim Breeden, Director of Missions (DOM) of St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, used this analogy to explain the church replanting of Bayless Baptist Church, 8512 Morganford Rd, St Louis.
“A church looking to replant has to acknowledge that they can not go forward,” he said, “without doing something different. They must do things totally different spiritually or in method.”
Breeden explained that the St. Louis Association is working with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to support churches when they make the decision to replant.
Rich Permenter, interim pastor, said he came alongside Bayless before the church made the decision.
“They were given the alternatives,” Permenter said. “They could search for a pastor with the usual system of a search committee and hope that he could right the ship or they could replant and funnel gifted people to the church to help select the new pastor,” he said. “The last choice was to close and to allow the association to start a brand-new church.”
Permenter said the church decided that they wanted to replant. “They were in survival mentality,” he said. “The vote was well over 90 per cent in favor of the replant.”
Larry Babb, 24-year member of the church serving on the leadership team, said that NAMB had a few requirements to work with the church.
“We had a dying church with declining attendance and financial issues. The church was asked to suspend the constitution and bylaws and establish a leadership team,” he said. “Part of the team came from within the church and others from outside. Pastor Permenter is serving on the team because he has experience with the replanting process.”
According to Babb, NAMB is handling the selection process for the new pastor. “NAMB will recommend and send a qualified pastor,” he said. “We may know what we want, but not what we need. NAMB has training and a qualification process that examines pastors to find those who have several characteristics for these replants. One of the qualifications is a passion for a multigenerational ministry, another is being a visionary shepherd which is characterized by looking at a point on the horizon and getting involved in lives as well as having a high tolerance for pain.”
Permenter agreed, from replanting experience, in this last quality. “Replanting doesn’t happen overnight,” he said, “it takes sweat, investment and a change from an inward focus to outward.”
Babb said the church is placed in a mission area. “We are in the northern part of South County and one mile from South City. We have an urban and suburban neighborhood with a mission field at our doorstep. The neighborhood has many internationals, especially Bosnians. We need to reach our neighborhood.”
“My work is to prepare hearts,” Permenter said. “We can’t be small minded, we can’t look back at what we used to be,” he said, “we need to focus on what we are called to be. I’m trying to share the message with love and encouragement.”
Babb agreed that the current mission for the church was heart preparation. “Unity under the banner of Christ is what we need,” he said. “We need to love each other as we get used to the new concepts.”
“We also must step out in obedience,” Babb said. “If God has impressed on our hearts to do this, we must know that God will bless the obedience regardless of money or manpower resources. He will do it.”
Permenter said the church is already seeing the blessing. “We’re seeing signs of life,” he said. “The last couple of months we’ve seen visitors. God is waiting to bless us by blessing others.”