The Open Door Church Story

Guest Post: Kenny Burns

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.

Kenny Burns is the pastor of The Open Door Church in Holcomb, Missouri.

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Open Door Church Story

  1. Love this article, but I was taken by surprise that the Church kind of forces people to go through the “romans road” thing before they can be served at the food pantry. That seems a bit disingenuous to me. I previously pastored at a large Church of just over 1500 people where we had a food pantry that did this, and we found that the population that the pantry served dwindled over the years because of that approach. Many of them became VERY vocal opponents in our community and over the course of time it created a community perception that we really didn’t want to “serve” people that we were more interested in getting them to say a prayer, even when in many cases they did not believe, they just did it to get the food. That perception became so strong in our community that the Church imploded because that one negative perception became hundreds of negative perceptions in our community that we lost our “community currency”. Had we chose to change that policy, I believe that Church would still be there today. Contrast that with the Church that I, and a few others who were disillusioned by what happened, planted a few years later. We created a food Pantry, where there was no spiritual litmus test or anything related to that where people could get served. The only thing we asked was about their financial situation and if we could offer them FREE financial counseling, would they take it? In that first year we grew to an average of serving nearly 2000 families per month. And as a sidebar, in that first year we baptised nearly 70 people from the pantry ministry WITHOUT having a forceful litmus test. They just saw that we were serving them in a genuine way and that we cared, and organically because of the relationships they built through the ministry, found them selves in Church and found their way back to God. One of those people took over leadership of the Pantry, which has now become “The Pax Center”, which houses a food pantry, a job search and job coach office, a weekly community meal, a free financial coaching service, afterschool programs, a community garden…and so much more!

    I love the story of “The Open Door Church” but I honestly wonder how much MORE they could have impacted the community had the just decided to Love and Serve FIRST and ask questions later?

    • Pastor Gary, thanks for the reply and personal insights. It certainly gives us all some things to think about. I’d love to hear some other opinions.