My wife Genny and I arrived at The Open Door Church on the last Sunday of January 2009. The church was a relatively new church plant at the time. The first public service was held June 17, 2007 so it was about 2 ½ years old when we arrived. The church was planted with the desire to reach youth and young adults who were not being reached by the traditional churches in the Missouri Boot Heel. Their first pastor had just left under less than ideal circumstances and the congregation was very discouraged.
When we arrived there was an average attendance of 57. They didn’t realize it, but their focus had turned inward. So I spent my first year turning the focus outward. We developed the following motto: If it does not contribute to our doing evangelism, discipleship, or worship, we don’t do it!
The first breakthrough came when God used a highly dysfunctional family who started attending ODC in mid-2009 to give us what we call our Probation & Parole Ministry. A single mom with three sons started attending our service. She had recently been in prison on drug related convictions and had recently been released. She had regained custody of the boys, but had rotating men in and out of her home.
The oldest boy, Blake, was arrested on drug charges and court ordered to the Dunklin County Probation & Parole Center. His mom got permission to pick him up and Sunday mornings and bring him to church. After a few months she was arrested on drug charges again and sentenced to 120 days in prison. So I went to the P&P Center and asked if I could pick Blake up on Sundays for church. His probation officer agreed and our P&P Ministry was unexpectedly launched.
A several weeks later, Blake was released from P&P, but was under house arrest complete with an electronic ankle bracelet. I baptized him on a Sunday morning while one of our elders held his foot out of the water to keep the ankle bracelet dry. As he came up out of the water and walked down the aisle to the men’s room to change into dry clothes, the Spirit of God moved and completely changed the heart of our church. The place burst into applause, there were “cat calls,” tears, and laughter, all at the same time.
God used Blake to break the hearts of ODC’s people for broken people. Since then we have brought hundreds of people from P&P to ODC’s Sunday worship services and more than 100 of them have been saved, baptized, and discipled.
Another breakthrough came when we opened our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry in March of 2012. It is the most effective evangelistic ministry we have. Currently an average of 150 families comes through the Food Pantry & Clothes Closet on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. till noon. To date in 2018 a total of 49 people have prayed to receive Jesus as a result of that ministry. Before they get to the food and clothes, they must go through what we call our “Romans Road Room,” where they hear “The Jesus Story” and are given the opportunity to pray to receive the Lord Jesus and His gift of eternal life. More than 300 people have been saved as a result of this ministry!
Then ODC’s elders sensed God leading them minister to “the least of these,” which we defined in our region as drug addicts and alcoholics. So we partnered with a ministry known as “Mission Teens” to open ODC’s Freedom House Ministry. It is an 8-10 month residential discipleship program designed to help addicts and alcoholics gain freedom from their addictions.
There is a huge, two-story antebellum house on ODC’s campus which housed our Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry, but we believed God wanted that facility to be “Freedom House,” which meant we would need to build another building to house the other two ministries. So we prayed and told God, if He wanted us to open Freedom House, we needed Him to provide the funds for us to build a debt-free building for the Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry.
We didn’t know it at the time, but God had a better plan. The First Baptist Church in our town “went out of business,” and they donated their church building and parsonage to ODC. We moved our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry to the FBC building and rented out the parsonage to cover the expense of insurance and utilities on that facility.
God then provided $101,500.00 for the construction of a debt-free Christian Education Center on ODC’s main campus. So in March 2016 we moved ODC’s Children’s Ministry into its new home, and Freedom House opened. To date 169 people have come through Freedom House and received intense discipleship to help them gain freedom from their addictions. Forty-seven of them have been saved, and 51 have been baptized!
The next breakthrough came when our elders began to sense that God wanted us to minister to the huge Hispanic community in Dunklin County. So we prayed and asked God to give us a Hispanic Pastor. We contacted the General Baptist Bible Institute in California. God brought us into contact with Gaspar Cruz who quit his job and moved his family from Long Beach, California to Holcomb, Missouri to develop ODC’s Hispanic congregation. The first Hispanic service was held on November 6, 2016. They meet on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. in ODC’s Worship Center. Their current average attendance is 23, and 19 people have been saved as a result of this ministry.
As a result of spending 8 ½ years developing a ministry at ODC that is intentionally outward in its focus, the average attendance on Sundays at ODC’s two worship services has increased from 57 to 137 in a town of 635 people. ODC’s Sunday attendance is currently running 21.5% of Holcomb’s population! In 2016 ODC’s total conversions was 212 with 60 baptisms, in 2017 the total conversions was 196 with 67 baptisms, and thus far in 2018 total conversions is 122 with 54 baptisms.
Have a small town or rural church success story? I’d love to hear about it. Visit my contact page and shoot me an email. I might even share your story in an upcoming post.