JOPLIN — On May 22, 2011, only five weeks after Brad Graves and his family moved to Joplin to become senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, the destructive winds of the EF5 tornado blew through the city. Since then, the winds of God’s Spirit and grace have blown through the church to accomplish some mighty things.
Baptisms and giving to missions have reached milestone marks. In the last 20 months, Calvary has given $200,000 to Great Commission projects and the church has had 211 baptisms.
“God just started blessing us,” Graves said, “and changing people.”
He said the tornado did have an impact on the hearts of the community.
“When lives are changed so dramatically,” he said, “hearts are disarmed. The tornado wreaked havoc and people dropped their guard against God and the church.”
Graves also discussed the impact of testimonies of disaster relief workers from the tornado.
“Many came to know Christ because they saw His love lived out in the many Christian groups that came from around the country,” he said. “As they saw Christ demonstrated, their hearts were opened and they accepted Christ. Many became re-engaged in the church.”
Calvary has also done a lot of changing in the last few months.
“We’re excited because we remodeled the sanctuary and revamped our bylaws,” Graves said. “We attached each point in our bylaws to Scripture. We are the bride of Christ and not a business, so every point needs to have Scripture backing it up. We wanted someone reading the bylaws to be saved. The gospel needed to be in it.”
The people of Calvary also began emphasizing the gospel outreach more in their giving.
“Giving to missions is up significantly from the $9,000 given in the last decade,” Graves said. “We now have a commitment to give $100,000 to mission giving each year. We are focused on Great Commission giving and we currently have three church plants in California, Florida and Massachusetts.”
The major giving thrust for Calvary is a conference held in November.
“We have the GCO (Great Commission Offering) Conference and we bring in the pastors of our church plants to speak and other IMB (International Mission Board) speakers.”
The speakers always have an impact on the members of Calvary.
“Listening to these speakers,” Graves said, “helps our people so that with their money, they can touch people across the world. They realize that these missionaries are speaking at our church on Sunday and that the next week, they will be on the field. This offering is about 33 percent of our collection and then through the year, we collect for other causes.”
With the emphasis on the gospel and outreach, Graves believes God is blessing Calvary.
“We’ve turned the church back over to God,” he said, “and God is honoring that.”