Given up for dead, Mt. Carmel church revived
By Brian Koonce
June 14, 2005
ELDON — Mt. Carmel Baptist Church recently baptized 14 new converts, more than 10 times the state average, but what is even more exciting is that it occurred after the church nearly disbanded six years ago.
“Most of our churches in our state will average baptizing one person for every 42-43 members a year,” said Jerry Field, director of church planting for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). “Here’s a church that in one week baptized 14, about a one per 3.5 members. It’s an incredibly good success story.”
Mt. Carmel closed its doors Jan. 10, 1999, and assigned its building and assets to Miller County Baptist Association (MCBA). In June of 2001, MCBA Director of Missions Gene Hodges proposed that association churches and the MBC band together to help restart Mt. Carmel.
The idea was to get several churches from the association to commit to a rotation of coming in, leading worship services and teaching Sunday School. At the end of the year, they hoped to have gathered enough people from the community that they could call a pastor and assume the leadership of the independent church.
“I’d never heard of that approach, but it was home-grown strategy and it sounded like a good idea,” Field said.
In the official parlance of church planting, it’s called an “indigenous plan.” And it worked.
After a few false starts and bumps along the road, the church has grown in attendance from three to a high in the 80s.
“That first Sunday, there were three people,” said Charley Kempf, pastor. “One was me, one was my wife and one was the pianist.”
Kempf, retired superintendent of Bagnell Dam on Lake of the Ozarks, served as a volunteer at Mt. Carmel with his church home, Riverview Baptist in Osage Beach, before answering the call to preach at the restarted church.
Now, nearly a year after Kempf’s arrival, Sunday morning worship service attendance reaches into the 40s. Indeed, in the past 12 months membership at the church has grown from three to 46.
“There is a spirit drawing people in,” Hodges said. “It’s a revival spirit. Mt. Carmel is the epitome of what a new church plant can do when they have a Kingdom Focus.”
Mt. Carmel does not have the facilities to baptize new converts, so they’ve been “storing up” those who accepted Christ since Thanksgiving and through the winter months.”
“I couldn’t wait anymore,” Kempf said.
The 14 were baptized in May at Riverview with the candidates ranging from ages 10 to 80. It was Kempf’s first time to baptize someone.
Field said one of the keys to Mt. Carmel’s success is that it was a local initiative.
“We will never come remotely close to planting the number of churches we need to plant unless associations like MCBA come up with their own projects and then allow us to come alongside and assist,” he said.
The work of laymen within the church also played a large part in the rebirth of Mt. Carmel.
“The MBC and the entire Southern Baptist Convention is made up of churches that were planted and established on the shoulders of layman,” he said. “They were farmers, carpenters, and store owners who also happened to be Baptist preachers. Guys like [Kempf] who was a layman who answered God’s call.”
Although 20 or so Baptist churches disband a year in the state, Field said Mt. Carmel’s growth as a church that was once considered dead is encouraging.
“I’d say it’s as healthy and strong a new church as there is in the state,” he said. “They’re a roaring success. There are tons of churches in our state that have closed their doors like Mt. Carmel. Their success could be duplicated hundreds of times.”