June 3, 2003
WAYNESVILLE – Waynesville has always been noted for Fort Leonard Wood, Army fatigues and short haircuts – and a few other things associated with military bases.
The bustling town in south central Missouri – home of the nation’s largest military training base –may be in the process of earning a different reputation: a place where God is doing something special.
Harmony Baptist Church, for example, has baptized 65 people since Jan. 1.
Westside Baptist Church, located less than three miles down the road from Harmon, is on track to baptize about the same number as one year ago – 69.
"Things are going crazy right now," says Dwain Carter, pastor of Harmony Baptist Church, located a short distance west of the main gate at Fort Wood. "God has done some pretty neat things."
Since Jan. 1, there have been 75 salvation decisions through the ministries at Harmony, Carter said.
"People are excited about what God is doing," he added. "About the only change we’ve made is to go to a more blended music mix in our worship service. We’ve got a very casual church dress-wise. We’ve got a fantastic children’s and youth program. Our people are very mission minded, and I just preach the Word."
Harmony is a relatively new church. Founded in 1979, the church had only 48 in Sunday School and 62 in the worship service Carter’s first Sunday in the pulpit. Worship attendance now is about 200.
"We’ve been a pacesetter church every year since I’ve been here," Carter said. "But this year it has kind of exploded."
Carter describes Harmony’s approach as "very outgoing."
"We don’t do F.A.I.T.H. (the Southern Baptist LifeWay evangelism program). We are just a very intentional church and the people are very intentional about their faith. They look for every opportunity to share."
Harmony is Carter’s third pastorate. He previously served at First Baptist, Leeton, and First Baptist, Keytsville.
"I grew up in Salisbury and didn’t get saved until I was 26," Carter recalls. "What happened was that we got a letter from some friends inviting us to go to a high attendance day at Sunday School. My wife and I decided to go, and it was about 1 1/2 years before I accepted the Lord. I was very sporadic during that time."
It was about three months after the salvation experience that Carter felt the call to preach.
With Westside Baptist Church located nearby, Carter said he doesn’t see that church or any other church as competition.
"If we’re not building the Kingdom, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do," Carter said. "Our mission statement says that Harmony Baptist is striving to make Christ known. Everything we do has to meet two criteria. It must glorify God and edify people. If it doesn’t meet these two standards, we don’t do it.
"And there have been a few programs we’ve backed out of because they were more people-building, more ego-building than God-honoring."
One thing Harmony has found that Carter believes is God-honoring and is drawing people to the church is group meetings in homes.
"We have groups that meet every night with the exception of Wednesday and Friday," he said. "We don’t really do anything special to reach the Fort; nothing other than by word-of-mouth and a lunch every Wednesday on post where some of our people who work there bring someone with them."
At Westside, Pastor John Shaw has experienced a remarkable growth in attendance during his 3 1/2 years at the helm. Average worship attendance has shot up from 200 to 600 on Sunday mornings. Sunday School attendance has grown from 180 to about 450.
Westside now has three Sunday worship services – a traditional service at 9 a.m. and contemporary-style services at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m.
"At least 65 percent of our people are from the military," Shaw said. "We decided to begin the contemporary services because a lot of the people who are transferred to Fort Leonard Wood were used to that type of service in the church they attended.