Back from the dead; FBC Dunnegan revived
By Bob Baysinger
December 2, 2003
DUNNEGAN – At what point should a Missouri Baptist church be declared dead?
Only six people, no pastor, a fractured fellowship and an old building with skunks underneath did not bode well for the future at First Baptist Church, Dunnegan.
And most Baptists would not have selected Bruce Reed – no seminary and no college degree – as the most likely candidate to bring revival to this church located in the northwest corner of Polk County.
In God’s timetable, however, it wasn’t time for First Baptist, Dunnegan to die.
But it was God’s time for Reed to be the pastor.
“Joe Coppedge, director of missions for the Mid-Lakes Association, called me the first week of October (2002) and asked if I was up to the challenge," Reed said. “I went to the Lord in prayer and asked Him if this was His will to pastor this church. He said ‘yes.’"
On Oct. 14, 2002, the handful of diehard church members voted to call Reed as pastor — and things started happening.
First, the church changed its name to Countryside Baptist. Soon afterwards, people started getting saved. Countryside recorded 10 additions Reed’s first four months in the pulpit. Since Feb. 9, 2003, the church has baptized 21.
Reed admits he asked himself several times why anybody would want to go to a church that was dead or dying as he contemplated accepting the pastorate.
“But I already knew the answer," Reed added. “With a little soil and a little rainfall, anything can grow. God was offering both, so my wife and I decided to go for it. If the Lord was in it, we could not fail."
Reed says there is no magic involved in the work at Countryside.
“I studied a lot under Dr. John R. Rice. I liked his concern for lost souls and his passion to spread the Gospel," Reed said. “I share that with all my heart. I believe that is the way for us. If we pray for an infilling of the Holy Spirit, the end result will be souls saved."
Reed cites a recent incident as a good example of his strategy.
“A couple in their 60s lives about halfway between Dunnegan and Stockton," Reed explained. “They were friends to the man who is the treasurer in our church. The treasurer came up to me one day and said his friend had just received word that he has less than three months to live and wants to talk to a minister.
“I went down and talked to the man and his wife about their lives. Within 20 minutes, both asked Jesus to come into their heart. That was five weeks ago. Since he has been saved, the cancer has stopped growing. Doctors are scratching their heads trying to figure out why."
Reaching the point in life where he is being used by God hasn’t been smooth for Reed.
“When I was a boy growing up in a little town in north Missouri , my mother made my brother and I go to church every time to door was opened," Reed said. “By the time I was 11 years old, two pastors of two different denominations had baptized me three times. I was told by the first that the water made me clean in the eyes of God. The other two times I believed it was time to be cleansed again."
Reed recalls a Sunday morning in 1962 when he went to a Southern Baptist church and heard the preacher talk about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“The preacher struck his fist on the pulpit to imitate the soldiers driving the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. I heard it all and was enthused," Reed said. “But we went home and I soon forgot the sermon."
Growing up in the 60s resulted in a trip to Vietnam for many Missouri young men. For Reed, it was with the 1st Marine Division. War injuries resulted in a medical discharge.
“I attempted to work various jobs, but my illness hindered me. Agent Orange as well as what was happening in America and Vietnam made me hate everyone and everything," Reed said. “I began to drink heavily and used drugs often. I couldn’t tolerate life anymore and thought about doing the unthinkable."
It was January, 1976, in a second floor apartment that Reed decided to take his life.
“With a weapon in hand, I walked over to the television to turn it on so the landlord who lived below would not be disturbed when I killed myself," Reed said. “When the TV came on, I heard a noise I had heard before. It was a hammering sound. I stepped back and, to my surprise, it was a movie about Jesus being crucified. The soldiers were driving the nails into His hands and feet.
“The entire sermon I heard as a child some 14 years before came back to my mind. I fell down to my knees and asked Jesus to save me."
Reed keeps reminding his people that God’s Word never returns void.
“That’s why it is so important to witness and preach the Gospel of Jesus when we can and where we can," Reed said.
But there are obstacles.
Reed still suffers from Agent Orange, a disease caused by contact with chemical agents used in the Vietnam War. Doctors have recently found some new tumors – three on the back of one of his legs, one on his pituitary gland and another on his arm.
Reed’s oldest daughter died in a car accident six years ago. “She was driving a pickup truck on Highway 13 close to Bolivar," Reed said. “My mother was in the truck with her. Both were killed. I let that bother me for a while, but God revealed to me that they were both in Heaven. So I decided what I was doing was nothing more than a pity party."
At Countryside, Reed sees himself as a “repairer."
“For the last few months the Lord has let us help two couples mend their marriages, and we’ve been used to help Christians who think they are not worthy to be restored to fellowship," Reed said.
“Another lady faithfully played the piano in a Pentecostal church for many years, but her health failed and she had to start using oxygen. Her Pentecostal church didn’t think it looked right for a person in their church to be using oxygen. She’s now playing the piano for us, and we’ve got her straightened out on the falling from grace thing, too."
Coppedge is impressed by Reed’s boldness.
“Bruce is on our association evangelism committee," Coppedge said. “He carries tracts everywhere he goes. I’ve seen him at Wal Mart passing out tracts, and I was with him at McDonald’s when he followed some teenagers outside and started talking to them about Christ. He’s what I’d call a real soul winner."
Reed is also teaching his people to win others to Christ.
“Our last baptism was Edward Lounsbury, a 19-year-old," Reed said. “David Atkinson and his wife, Ann, presented the Gospel to Edward in his home and brought him forward in service on Nov. 2. He requested to be baptized right after the service, so we went to the pond where we baptize.
“Even though the water was some 30 inches deep due to lack of rain, we were able to full put him under. It sure was cold."
Reed sees nothing but bright days ahead for Countryside Baptist Church .
“It was kind of like a dark cloud over this church," Reed said. “Some things needed to be mended. Things have been mended, and the Lord has blessed us the last 10 months.
“Right now, we don’t have a bus to bring people in, but I’m encouraging everybody to be a part of the bus ministry. I’m telling people if they’ve got a vehicle on wheels, they can pick somebody up and bring them to church.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know about the promise I made to God. I told Him that if He would open a door, I wouldn’t stand flat-footed. I would walk through. I believe God has opened this door, and I’m not seeking anything here other than to bring glory to God."