Billy Sheets was just minding his own business. He was pastoring in Texas and seeing the Lord do some neat things. But God had other plans.
Well, God and Todd West. Todd is leading Oasis Church in Little Rock to multiply into several different church plants throughout the state. One of those places is Camden. A struggling church in Camden approached Todd about helping them figure out next steps. Todd was excited about the possibility but knew they needed someone to lead this effort. He called Billy. Year’s earlier, Billy came to know Jesus because of the ministry of Todd.
When Billy first heard about Camden, he had an immediate sense that this wasn’t going to work out. The challenge of replanting a struggling church felt overwhelming. Days before this conversation Billy’s wife said, “I think you would be a great church planter!” Billy wasn’t so sure but he’s been there 8 months now and on episode 79 of The Grind podcast, Billy says that things are going well. And he told us the main reasons why.
A Strategic Partner
Billy has what every replanter needs, a strategic partner. Oasis has years of church planting experience and a strong, seasoned leader in Todd West. In this case, the partner is what got the ball rolling for this replant. Without Oasis reaching out to Billy, he never would have made it to Camden. Oasis was the catalyst for the whole process!
We need more churches that take the lead in this type of work in the state. We don’t just need more planters seeking partners, we need more partners raising up and sending out planters. Oasis is doing just that. We say it all the time, “Churches plant churches,” but that’s got to be more than a conviction, it has to be a reality. Networks and Denominations are great partners for churches, but it is the churches themselves that have been given the mandate by Jesus to make disciples of all nations. If replanting is going to take root as a movement in Arkansas, it will be because churches took the initiative.
A Committed Replanter
Billy told us that replants also need a committed replanter. He was feeling led to join the replant effort in Camden. His wife was on board too! She started packing boxes before they even committed to come. But there was one problem. “I thought to myself, wait, are we even getting paid to do this?” Billy felt like the Lord was leading him to do this regardless of what the compensation might be. They were two weeks into the discussion before compensation even came up.
This doesn’t mean that every replanter should work for free, but it does reveal something about replanting. In order to be successful, the replanter must be utterly committed to it. It takes personal sacrifice and will likely mean enduring opposition. Every replanter must ask if they are willing to count the cost. If we choose ministry opportunities based on compensation alone, we can often miss the Lord’s heart for us. A successful replant requires a planter that is committed no matter what. They have a fire in them that says, “I have to do this!” Billy has just that and we need more planters just like him.
A Flexible Replant
According to Billy, the last essential element for a successful replant is the flexibility of the congregation. “We came in early and changed some things. We wanted people to know that something different was happening here. The name changed, even the location of the worship service changed. We moved from the worship center to the family life center. It wasn’t easy and there was some opposition, but we needed things to be different from the start.” Changing some things early and often is essential for the replant and the replanter.
The sad truth about many failed attempts at replanting is churches often prefer closing to changing. If the church isn’t willing to change then it isn’t willing to replant. The replant must be honored for its past impact, but it must also look to the future. And what got them where they are often won’t get them where they need to be. It takes some if not all of the following changes for a replant to be successful: a change in name, leadership, vision, strategy, systems, and structures. Just like the planter must count the cost, so should the church.
The ABSC sees an average of 25 churches a year close their doors. For this trend to reverse, it’s going to take partners stepping up to the challenge and leading the way in replanting. It’s going to take strong churches who can support struggling ones. It’s going to take committed replanters who are willing to sacrifice to see the resurrection of a dying church. And it takes a dying church realizing that unless it changes drastically, it won’t be able to bear future fruit.