First Mountain Grove enjoys spurt of baptisms
By Allen Palmeri
August 23, 2005
MOUNTAIN GROVE – With an annual baptism rate among Missouri Baptists flat around the 13,000 mark, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) State Evangelism Director Bob Caldwell continues to look for 10,000 prayer warriors all over the state to pray daily for revival, spiritual awakening and 26,000 baptisms this year.
Success stories like the one at First Baptist Church, Mountain Grove, are what Caldwell wants to point to as examples worth noting. The church baptized about a dozen people Aug. 21 in Bryant Creek.
Pastor Gene Edwards has served 15 years at First Mountain Grove, a congregation that averages 260 in Sunday School and 320 in worship. Over the last few years, a tradition of summer baptisms in either the Gasconade River or Bryant Creek has sprung up, with folks desiring to be immersed.
“God’s just blessed us in the summers with people who’ve said, ‘Preacher, I’d like to go to the river,’” Edwards said. “It creates a lot of excitement. This outside experience is just something our church looks forward to.”
Following the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy, co-founded by Bobby Welch, pastor, First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., and president, Southern Baptist Convention, has paid big dividends.
“When we added the FAITH strategy, it just simply took us to another level,” Edwards said. “The first semester, the first 16 weeks, there was never a Sunday where we did not see the results physically, in church, as a result of that previous week. Not 9 out of 16, but 16 out of 16 Sundays.”
Edwards is quick to mention that First Mountain Grove has had its share of obstacles to overcome.
“Over the last two years, we’ve probably lost 18 families that their careers have moved them,” he said. “These are doctors, lawyers and administrators, and I’m thinking, ‘Dear God, please plug the hole. We don’t need to be losing these folks.’ But nobody’s upset. The church doesn’t have an issue. God in His sovereign will has just moved them out, and in the midst of God moving the people, God moves more in.
“We keep our focus on growth.”