Highview deacon has zeal for discipleship
CHILLICOTHE – Will Owens is excited about the transition that his church is going through and he feels privileged to be right in the middle of it.
Owens is chairman of the deacons as well as Bible Fellowship director at Highview Baptist Church in Chillicothe. His passion is discipleship.
He and his wife, Linda, traveled the world during Will’s 20-year military career, meeting and working with missionaries almost everywhere they lived.
Deciding to retire in 1995, the Owenses considered Missouri, where Linda’s family lived. Her brother, Kevin Smith, was pastor of Highview Baptist and he encouraged Owens that he would be a help in the church.
“I felt it was God’s calling to come to this area,” he said.
There wasn’t much call for military intelligence work around Chillicothe, so Owens became a satellite dish installer, worked in the prison system, and now is postmaster for the Marceline post office.
He began teaching a Sunday School class in the fall of 1995. He and Linda also joined the praise band, he on guitar and she on keyboard.
When the Bible Fellowship director answered the call to a church in Montana, Will agreed to fill in temporarily. That’s when he developed a passion for discipleship.
In 2004, Smith was called to another church, and Highview was without a pastor until 2005. They remembered a pastor who had once come to the rescue during a revival when their evangelist was unable to get out of the airport because of a storm. Bro. Randy Comer had filled in on very short notice.
Owens, who was on the pastor selection committee, said, “That made an impression on us. When we were interviewing for a pastor, we remembered him.” (Comer has been Highview’s pastor for the last two years. He is a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board; Owens is a member of the MBC Nominating Committee.)
The church had grown quickly under Smith, from 50 members to a membership of 400-500 in a short time.
“We were in a small building that could not hold more than 60 or 70 people,” Owens said. “We prayed for five new couples. Then we prayed for five more. We had baptisms almost every week.”
The church started a building campaign with 50 people. They raised the money needed to get a loan for construction, and moved into the new building in 1997.
Their nine acres spills over the city limit so that the new church building, the youth building (former church building), and the double wide housing classrooms are in the city limits while the storage building is in the county. There is room for future growth.
With the numerical growth has come another kind of adjustment.
“Kevin had been strong in evangelism. Randy’s strong in discipleship,” Owens said. “We had many new Christians we needed to disciple.”
Transitioning from a fast-growing church to a church with no pastor and then to a church with a discipleship emphasis was tough, he admitted.
As Bible Fellowship director, Owens has the responsibility and opportunity to make it work. “I see it as God using a weak vessel but allowing me to shape teachers and curriculum.”
He wants to make sure all Christians grasp the basics, whether they’ve been Christians for a few weeks or for years. “We want them to know what they believe and why they believe it. We believe discipleship is the key to our evangelism in the future. It is an exciting time for me.”
Small group studies will be a part of that effort, beginning this fall, and the church will start a new teachers class July 1.
“It has been a growing experience for me. I think God put a lot of mentors in the way when we were in the military,” he said. He credited his wife with being his main spiritual mentor. “She was the one who got me back to serving the Lord.”
Part of the church’s success, he noted, has been through pulling together as a family of believers. The church’s three different presentations of “Judgment House” had almost 190 people. Actors, seamstresses, sound system engineers, counselors, and many other volunteers contributed to the sense of intimacy among the believers in the church.
“We grow in Christ together. We serve together. When one celebrates, we all celebrate,” he said. “I think Highview is one of the finest churches I’ve ever been in.”
The Owenses have two adult children, Brandon Owens and Sheryl Ferguson, and four grandchildren.