The three remaining members of Linwood Baptist Church, just west of Kansas City, planned to shut down the church when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It turns out that God had other plans.
They went so far as to call real estate agent Mary Knapp. She and her husband, Al, decided to try to help save the church instead. “God just really spoke to my heart and said, ‘This isn’t right. This is not what is supposed to happen,'” Al Knapp said.
He called Mark Clifton, senior director of church replanting with the North American Mission Board. Clifton met with the members and discussed ways they might revitalize the church rather than closing it. He explained that the church did not have to die, and they didn’t have to go it alone, either.
“They agreed after some prayer and thinking about it,” Clifton said. “They felt like that was what God wanted them to do.”
Things moved quickly. The members voted to align the church with the Southern Baptist Convention. (It previously had been aligned with another Baptist denomination.) Then, to Clifton’s surprise, they called him to be their pastor. Clifton said he was not anticipating the call but saw God at work in Linwood and in the replanted church.
Clifton connected with other churches in the area, and encouraged leaders to come alongside the replant and to help spread the word about the anticipated reopening. The first stage of replanting is building community through a weekly Wednesday evening study of “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby. The in-person meetings, which began May 13, are allowed under the state of Kansas’ reopening guidelines with social distancing and because of the small size of the gatherings.
The Knapps joined 10 others at the first meeting of the revitalized church and will continue to attend, even as they’re members of another church in Basehor. The group will meet through June then focus on training and outreach across the tiny community in July.
The re-birth of the church goes against the trend across North America. With most church growth in the world happening in third world nations, many would say this is a positive sign for Christianity closer to home.
“We live in a day when Christianity is waning,” Pastor Bronson said. “When a church dies and its building and land are sold, the gospel witness in that neighborhood is silenced.”
Bronson pastors West Haven Baptist church in Tonganoxie which is just s stone’s throw from Lindwood. He encouraged several of his own flock to start attending Lindwood as it starts to find new life. “To replant a church is to restore a vibrant gospel witness in a neighborhood or community. I can hardly think of a more fruitful work.”
“God is always at work all around us, so God’s at work in Linwood,” Clifton says.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice