January 14, 2003
Evangelism at First Baptist Church of Oak Grove is not just a cliché. With Pastor Randy Messer at the helm, the church has started practicing what is preached.
And the results have been astounding!
The 150-year-old church was like many other Southern Baptist churches in Missouri – in a state of dormancy – before Messer moved from Texas to become the pastor in 1993.
The average Sunday morning worship attendance 10 years ago was 180 and not much was being done to take the Gospel outside the church’s four walls. The church now is averaging about 550 in worship and has baptized more than 100 a year each of the last three years.
But it’s more than a numbers story at Oak Grove.
The real miracles are in the people Oak Grove is reaching for Jesus Christ and how God is using different ones in the church to evangelize the community. There’s the story about the seven people reached by the pastor’s wife one evening. There’s another episode about the manager of a convenience store along I-70 in Oak Grove. And there’s the amazing incident involving a college professor at Central Missouri State University at Warrensburg.
And there are also other heart-warming stories about evangelism at Oak Grove.
First, however, read about the professor.
This story involves Stephanie Kallas, a First Baptist member and mother of teenagers. She decided to enroll at Central Missouri State University, located just down the road from Oak Grove, and begin work toward a degree. Kallas had completed the Southern Baptist FAITH evangelism training course at her church and carried a burden for souls with her to the CMSU campus.
Let’s let Stephanie tell the story:
“It was a speech class where we had to get up and give speeches. I already felt out of place because I was older than the other students. Everybody else was 18 or 19 and the teacher was a grad student in his 20s. I felt that everybody else was searching because no one had real strong views of their own. I felt this would be an avenue for me to witness to these people, and the Lord kept telling me this is what I needed to do.
“The first speech I had to give was about how to do something, so I gave a speech about how to be a Christian. We were told to be very specific and really give directions. I worked hard at trying to impact them.
“The teacher would always come in and talk about all the partying he had done the night before, so I really never thought about trying to reach him with the speech. I got discouraged when I didn’t see any impact on anybody, but the Lord kept telling me to sit back and he would take care of it for me.
“The assignment for the second speech was why we believed something. Our job was to persuade them, so I chose the subject of why they should believe that Jesus died and rose again. At the end of the speech I told them that I had given out a lot of information and that anybody could come and talk to me after the class if they had any questions. I even made a business card with my pastor’s name and phone number, but everybody left without stopping.
“I was getting my books together to leave when the professor came over and said he’d really like to talk to me if I had a second. He said he needed to be saved. I asked him a question or two and explained why I believed. He accepted Christ right there in that class room and went forward and made it public the next Sunday at First Baptist Church of Warrensburg."
Mrs. Kallas says it was definitely a life-changing experience for her.
Others have complimented her for displaying such a bold witness at a state university. And others are envious of Mrs. Kallas’ boldness.
How did she do it?
“Bro. Randy has had a large part to do with us having a strong walk with the Lord," Mrs. Kallas explains. “He is an awesome person," adding she’s only doing what she sees her pastor do.
“I believe in personal soul winning with a passion," the pastor says. “I believe if I’m not out doing it, nobody else will be out doing it. I believe the pastor ought to be out winning souls in front of everybody. The pastor should be driven as the top soul winner in the church.
“I always challenge the church and our men’s group with these questions:
– When was the last time they shared Christ with someone?
– When was the last time they thought about leading somebody to Christ?
– And, when was the last time you prayed to the Lord to show you somebody today?
“These are questions that always keep me accountable," Messer explains.
Messer said he and the church prayed about which discipling program to use. “We chose the convention’s FAITH program and modified it to meet our church’s needs," Messer recalls.
The results didn’t come overnight.
“It takes time to catch the passion for the people who stay with it," Messier explains. “And the first time it works, it’s like a shark getting a taste of blood. I’ve seen many people become soul winners."
Messer says he will never forget the night his wife, Becky, got her “taste of blood."
“My wife had led a lot of children to Christ, but never had been a real public person," Messer said. “One night it was her turn to share and she asked me if I would come to her rescue if she got into trouble. I told her that she was on her own. She led seven people to Christ that night, and that revolutionized her heart."
Reaching Eric Brinegar for Christ took a little more time than one night.
The manager of the local Quick Trip store became acquainted with Pastor Randy as he would stop by to help people in need. “He would come in to help people who had run out of gas," Brinegar remembers. “I would overhear him asking some of those people where they were in their faith.
“When one of my employees died in a car accident and the funeral was at the church, Randy did the service. That service was so moving that I started to question a lot of things about my faith. My grandparents took me to a Methodist church up in Nebraska when I was younger, but I didn’t know an awful lot."
The turning point for Brinegar came when his company asked him to deliver a benefit package to the deceased employee’s family.
“It was really abnormal for a store manager to be asked to do something like that and I really didn’t feel comfortable doing it on my own, so I asked Randy if he would go with me," Brinegar explains. “On the way back, he asked me what I thought it takes for a person to go to Heaven. I gave him a works answer because I believed at the time that a person had to be baptized.
“I started going to church and Randy came to our house on a FAITH team visit on Sunday night. I remember it was Randy, his son and Rebecca Reinbold. They walked us through the steps of salvation. I accepted Christ that night, and my wife and I got baptized on New Year’s Eve at the church."
Pastor Messer preaches that soul winning isn’t just for the staff. “I have a conviction that we ought to be doing it as a believer in Christ," Messer states. “I remember hearing the old evangelist Eddie Martin preach one time that he tried to share Jesus at least one time each day before he went to sleep. I remember him saying that if he hadn’t shared, he would go down to the motel lobby and talk to someone. That’s what I pray: ‘Lord show me somebody today.’"
Others at Oak Grove First Baptist apparently are praying the same way.
“We’ve got this one deacon who works for the state giving out driver’s licenses," Messer says. “He’s got 45 seconds to give out a Gospel tract. His supervisor kind of looks the other way, I suppose. He told me the other day that he wasn’t worried. He said God would give him another job if he lost that one.
But the deacon wasn’t smiling at a recent Sunday morning worship service. In fact, he was crying.
“Richard was in tears because somebody had given him the name of an elderly man in a nursing home," Messer said. “He wanted to go by but delayed the visit until Monday night because he had already had made plans for the weekend," Messer explained.
The man in the nursing home died before the deacon could visit.
“He (the deacon) said the only thing he could figure was that God was urging him not to miss the next person," Messer said. “That really got hold of my heart as the pastor."
Messer says focusing on reaching people for Christ has solved a lot of problems at Oak Grove.
“The old saying that if you start stirring the baptismal waters, it will solve a lot of troubles," Messer said. “That certainly is the truth. If the waters are stirred, people will follow you anywhere.
“People get excited when other people are coming to Jesus."