By Sharon Mager
LOUIS, Mo.—Brad O’Brien, pastor Jesus Our Redeemer Church, Baltimore is still awed at how God brought him to Baltimore to plant a church, and then divinely partnered O’Brien with the few remaining members of the 161 year-old Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church. The struggling congregation that had a tremendous past was hanging on—barely. God brought the two congregations together in a beautiful “marriage,” and now children run the halls once again, families are attending, coming to know Christ, and the church is growing. “ It’s just a beautiful wonderful thing to see life, growth…”
O’Brien has shared his story multiple times, and he now serves as a member of North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) replant team. And now, he is thrilled to be part of the planning team that is hosting NAMB’s inaugural “National Replant Gathering” on June 11-12 in St. Louis, before the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting.
O’Brien said the conference is for those working to revive a dying church, men who God is calling to be replanters, and for laity that are aware that their church has a limited life span and are seeking new answers and opportunities. It’s for those who are seeking a new hope.
Over 70 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining and 10 to 15 percent are at risk or dying. Replanting is a viable option for those in the “at risk” stage,” O’Brien said.
“Nine hundred SBC churches close their doors each year. “That means 17 churches said their last benediction on Sunday,” he said.
O’Brien stressed that planting and saving dying churches isn’t an either/or choice, it’s a “both/ and.”
“We must start new churches and we must save dying churches, though ultimately, it’s up to God’s grace,” he said.
Author Richard Blackaby will be the guest speaker at the first session on Saturday, at Groves Church, Webster Groves, from 5 to 9 pm. The session includes dinner, and a signed copy of “Flickering Lamps: Christ and His Church,” written by Richard and his father, Henry Blackaby. The book tells the story of Dr. Henry Blackaby’s obedience in transporting his family from California to Saskatchewan Canada to serve a small, dying church. Both Henry and Richard have experienced first hand the power of God in breathing new life into a church that has dwindled.
Session 2 and 3 will be at the America’s Center, Convention Plaza, and feature several presenters including Brian Croft, speaking on “Leading for the Long Hall;” Jared Wilson, sharing about “The Pastor’s Justification—Applying the Work of Christ to Life and Ministry;” Scott Nichols, discussing “On making the Decision to Replant,” and and Russ Barksdale, sharing about “Leading in the Midst of Difficulty.”
Want to learn more about church replanting? Visit the Church Replanters Blog here.