Southern Baptists Work to Reverse Dying Church Trend Through Legacy Church Planting

Brian Frye, left, collegiate evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, interviews a panel on replanting dying churches June 15 at the CP platform in the exhibit hall of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Panelists included: left to right, Brad O'Brien, pastor of Redeemer City Church in Baltimore; Mark Hallock, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood, Co. and Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board. Photo by Adam Covington
Brian Frye, left, collegiate evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, interviews a panel on replanting dying churches June 15 at the CP platform in the exhibit hall of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Panelists included: left to right, Brad O’Brien, pastor of Redeemer City Church in Baltimore; Mark Hallock, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood, Co. and Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board.
Photo by Adam Covington

A dying and dysfunctional church robs God of glory, said John Mark Clifton, national legacy strategy leader for the North American Mission Board, speaking during a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Approximately 10-15 percent of Southern Baptist churches are at risk of dying. Every year, about 900 churches close and lock their doors for the last time, with as many as 70 percent of them situated in growing neighborhoods, Clifton said.

Through legacy church planting, Southern Baptists are working to reverse this trend by decreasing the death rate of existing churches and increasing the birth rate of new churches.

Joining Clifton in the June 15 panel discussion were Brad O’Brien, pastor of Redeemer City Church in Baltimore, and Mark Hallock, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood, Colo. NAMB national collegiate strategist Brian Frye facilitated the discussion.

In early 2013, O’Brien, along with a team of 25 people, moved from Durham, N.C., to Baltimore to plant Redeemer City Church. They began meeting in a building owned by Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church, a congregation with a rich history of witness and ministry yet facing the crisis of aging members with no pastor and limited financial resources.

“How could I work toward planting a healthy Gospel-centered church in the building owned by a church that was dying?” O’Brien asked.

Within months, the two congregations — one facing decline and possible death and the other poised to grow — voted to “marry,” joining together as one church. Redeemer City was officially closed, and the merged congregations maintained Lee Street Memorial’s charter. However, the church is “doing business as” Jesus Our Redeemer Church, O’Brien said.

“When God called me to give up my vision of the church plant for something greater, it was a call to walk by faith,” O’Brien said.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Margaret Colson

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