June 3, 2003
ALTON – How does a church “off the beaten path” that baptizes in the Eleven Point River go from 8 to 85 people in 10 years?
Tucked away in a rural part of Oregon County is Riverton Southern Baptist Church.
“It’s a small, country church right out in the middle of nowhere, right on the Eleven Point River,” said Pastor David Case.
One has to look just as closely for it on a map as one does for the County Road A turnoff on Highway 19 that will take you to the church.
About 18 miles north of the Arkansas state line is the little town of Alton, population 692. To the east lies the unincorporated town of Riverton. The third leg of the triangle would be Couch, an unincorporated place. The church is in Couch.
“We’ve got people probably driving 20 miles to come to church,” Case said. “Couch is the community there. I mean it’s just a very small community.”
This little old country church in the middle of nowhere baptized 34 people in 2002.
“Our people are very mission-minded, and they’re very conscious of the Great Commission,” said Case, Riverton’s bivocational pastor who also serves as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s second vice president.
“As a pastor, you can’t reach all of them in the community. If your people have a burden in their heart for lost people, and they exercise that, carrying out the Great Commission in the community, God’s going to get the harvest.”
The Riverton church has harvested so many that a building program has begun. Construction has started on a new sanctuary/auditorium seating 200-250. The old sanctuary will be converted into a fellowship hall and a kitchen.
If a pastor can stay 10 years in one place, he can see growth like this, said Case, who stayed 10 years at Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Thayer before coming to Riverton in 1993. It takes that long sometimes for a pastor to build the body and encourage them to have a burden for those who are not Christians, he noted.
“Like I tell them, ‘If you really don’t have a burden for the lost, you ought to pray for a burden.’”
Case lives on a small farm in Alton. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service on March 1, meaning he has gone from being a bivocational pastor to a full-time pastor, of sorts.
“I’ve always considered myself to be a full-time pastor, but now it has freed me up to devote more time to the church and the people,” he said.
“There are probably more bivocational pastors in the state of Missouri than what we would consider full-time pastors. A full-time pastor is depending solely on their income from their church. A bivocational pastor, from my perspective, is a full-time pastor. He just doesn’t have full-time pay.
“We have so many smaller churches in communities all over the state of Missouri that don’t have a lot of finances. They need a pastor as well as anyone else. So I believe a bivocational pastor is very, very important to a lot of these smaller churches that can’t finance a full-time pastor.”
A total of 38.6 percent of Missouri Baptist churches in 2002 were led by bi-vocational pastors, according to MBC Leadership Development Specialist Monty Hale. An estimated 10-20 percent of all Missouri Baptist churches are without pastors, he said.
Case and his wife of 37 years, Rosemary, are mentoring a young couple in the ministry, Aaron and Angel Allen. As youth minister/associate pastor, Allen works with about 30 young people in the congregation and Case turns over the pulpit to him once a month for both the morning and evening service.
“They’ve done a tremendous job with our youth,” Case said.
The Eleven Point River has served as the church’s baptistery for all of these years, but now that the new sanctuary is being built, that will change, Case said. The new building will have a baptistery.