Calvary Baptist sees God drawing souls to Him
Humility, contrite hearts abound as congregation rapidly grows
By Allen Palmeri
December 9, 2004
HANNIBAL – Pastor Jeff Anderson attributes the ongoing move of God at Calvary Baptist Church to brokenness, humility and contrite hearts. When he lays out the facts, it is easy to see why.
“There have been times, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, where I’ve said, ‘God, I have no clue what I’m doing,’” Anderson said. “But it’s just been tremendous what God has done.”
Calvary went two years without a pastor at the same time that Anderson was reaching “a point of desperation” in his staff ministry position in Oklahoma. His longtime friend, Missouri Baptist Pastor Frank Whitney, saw a potential match, so he had Anderson put together a resume for the Calvary search committee. That led to him being hired in July 2000.
Anderson, 47, is amazed by all that God has done in his first pastorate. The church has added 300 members – more than 100 in the last 11 months – en route to growing from about 200 regular worshippers to 450. Since July, 27 people have been baptized.
“Lost people who know they’re lost are beginning to come to church here,” said Anderson, who also serves as a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board. “We’re getting people here who are being affected by relationships where they just want to come because the building’s kind of drawn them or they’ve had some Bible studies with some of our church members.
“We’ve had people saved over a period of weeks coming to our church. We’ve had a good number of Catholics being saved in the last 2-3 years just coming to this church and going, ‘I’ve learned more about the Bible in the last month than I have in my entire life.’ It’s the kind of thing where God’s drawing them.”
Anderson was a church member who wound up serving 12 years on staff at a large church in Oklahoma. He was a certified public accountant who held the titles of administrator and business manager as he ran the church’s family life center. He then switched to running the church’s singles ministry for four years.
“The last two or three years I was there, I began to sense that I had the gifts and the talents for pastor-shepherd,” he said. “Though I wasn’t preaching, I really felt God drawing me to pastor, but I didn’t know how to do that. I knew that if God called me to preach I’d probably go to Podunk, Okla., and they wouldn’t be able to pay me but a bi-vocational salary. I really was kind of afraid to step out in faith.”
He remembered how odd it was when he met with Calvary Baptist Church members in the spring of 2000.
“They were really stretching and taking a risk on a guy who had never ever been a pastor before,” said Anderson, who came to Calvary determined to preach transparently about his life.
Once the key Calvary people became convinced that God had sent them Anderson, the rookie pastor felt confident that God wanted him to move to Hannibal.
“There is a high level of trust,” Anderson said. “I don’t abuse their trust, and I know that they’d follow me through the fire.”
Anderson’s first concern was figuring out how to come up with 52 sermons a year. His flock had something else in mind. They wanted to build a new sanctuary, and Anderson was persuaded that they were correct.
A goal of $739,000 in pledges was established in November 2002. Two years later, $525,000 has come in, and a new 600-seat sanctuary has been built with all-volunteer labor. Builders for Christ, a church co-op out of Birmingham, Ala., took 730 volunteers from 36 churches last summer to build the auditorium in 11 weeks.
One morning a woman in a house dress drove up to the unfinished sanctuary and asked a volunteer worker when church started. She went home, changed clothes, came to the service and walked the aisle.
“Her story was, ‘I don’t know why I came to that church,’” Anderson said. “‘I was driving by and God told me to turn in. It was just an overwhelming urge.’ I’ve always said that when you see the supernatural happening, things that you can’t take credit for, you know God’s at work.”
Calvary has a great heritage of evangelism, Anderson said. On Easter Sunday 1934, 1,483 people came to church. Pastors E.C. Abernathy and Billy Heriford down through the years have seen hundreds of people baptized, Anderson said, and while the church could easily be described as traditional, its current pastor only tolerates tradition to a certain point.
“We’ve taken a 118-year-old Southern Baptist church and gotten rid of 17 committees,” he said. “We went to teams, and the seniors have embraced that. We’ve made some choices at our church to say, ‘We don’t want to be doing anything that God hasn’t called us to be doing.’”
Anderson was three years into his first pulpit ministry before he ever got a “no” vote in a business meeting.
“God has just given us a sweet, sweet cooperative spirit,” he said. “We’ve had zero issues. It’s all been a skyrocket.”
As such, Calvary’s ongoing “problem” is to find enough church workers to handle the steady stream of visitors.
“We’re constantly in transition,” Anderson said. “Our challenges are to simply keep up with what God is doing.”