In 2012, when Rob Shepherd came to pastor East Sherman Baptist Church, the church was in decline. The campus was older and not well-maintained, attendance numbers were decreasing and changes in the community left the church struggling to see new members plug in.
“Eventually, we knew it was time for a change,” said Shepherd. “After a lot of prayer, we knew God was in this and desired for us to flourish once again. He was calling us to another mission field, and the wheels started turning for us to replant and relaunch.”
Finding partnership in the replanting journey
The decision to replant a church is a big one. A replant is bigger than revitalizing a church — it is the rebirth of a congregation and can involve drastic changes to help the church restart. Shepherd and his staff found that replanting is not a process to be done alone. In fact, it takes a village to successfully breathe new life into a struggling church.
During the replanting process, a member of Shepherd’s congregation recommended that he reach out to Texas Baptists for support, so he called Tom Howe, associate director of the Center for Missional Engagement.
“Talking with Tom was such a blessing and a confirmation from the Lord that we were centered in His will,” Shepherd said. “We received such great support from Tom and his team in terms of being a sounding board. They didn’t dictate or strong-arm us during the process, they just walked with us. They asked how they could serve us, provided training, came to speak to our church and even provided me with some books and material on replanting that I studied.”
As a part of the replanting partnership, Texas Baptists also provided some financial support, which helped pay for outreach programs, provide new staff members and pay down some of the debt on the church’s new campus — a building on nine and a half acres of land on the west side of Sherman.
“During each step, God confirmed that He was with us. For example, when we met with the real estate agents, they told us it would be difficult to sell a building like ours because of its age, location and the fact that churches are such a niche market. They told us not to expect to sell quickly. But God provided a miracle and we sold it before the building was even on the market! They also told us not to look on the west side of Sherman for a new property and that we probably wouldn’t be able to afford more than one or two acres, but the Lord orchestrated that we should move there and into a new mission field,” Shepherd said.
Relaunched and revitalized ministry
In 2019, East Sherman renamed itself New Heritage Baptist Church and took possession of the new campus in December. However, the replanting process was far from complete; the church now had to relaunch ministry. This began as soon as it entered the new building, but they quickly ran into complications at the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“There were challenges, but the blessings were so rich,” Shepherd said. “Now, over two years later, it has shocked and stunned me at how different our congregation is. We have seen an infusion of younger and diverse members, and we are also much healthier in terms of ministry. These young families have really jumped in and done some of the heavy lifting bringing the church back to life.”
One of New Heritage’s new and thriving ministries includes a revived music ministry, which was once comprised of only a piano, organ and song leader but now includes guitar players, a bass player, a piano player, a box drum percussionist and many vocalists that fill the stage each Sunday. Several women have also gotten involved in Stronger Women, a member-launched ministry for abuse survivors. The church is also active in outreach programs to the homeless population in the neighboring city of Denison.
“Every last inch of ministry has been touched and transformed as a result of the relocation and replant,” said Shepherd. “God has positioned us to impact Sherman for decades to come.”
“The entire process has deepened my personal faith and encouraged me. If your church needs to be replanted, reach out to Texas Baptists and find partners for the journey. If for no other reason than just knowing that you are not on an island unto yourself,” Shepherd said. “You’ll find that there is a support structure that you can lean into. It’s far more than the monetary support. The partnership has meant more to me and my congregation than anything. Having Texas Baptists there to give encouragement, advice and counsel is priceless.”
To learn how the Center for Missional Engagement can support your church replant, click here.