New Hannibal church will be ‘relational, real and reformed’
HANNIBAL—Approximately 10,000 people live in the Hannibal area with no understanding of the Gospel and no connection to a local church. Sam Byers wants to change that.
Formerly a three-year youth pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in St. Charles, Byers now is the church planter for Believer’s Church in Hannibal. For six months he felt God giving him and his wife, Margaret, clarity about planting a church in Hannibal. After this process Byers decided to meet with Ron Cathcart, a Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) church planting strategist at the time and current pastor of Two Rivers. Initially they met to make sure this was properly motivated and that there were no hidden agendas. After this was done Byers prayerfully moved forward with the process of relocating and planting in Hannibal.
“We mailed support letters to over 175 people asking for one-time or monthly financial support, prayer support or other areas of involvement.” Byers said. “In response to these letters an older gentleman in Hannibal gave us two storefront buildings and a home to live in right in the heart of the downtown area. He also agreed to pay to make them functional for us. Calvary Baptist Church in Hannibal agreed to be our sponsoring church and sent a group of men to come down and do quite a bit of work for us, as well as helping raise money for additional start-up cost. It was a huge blessing right out the gate.”
The motto for the new church is “Connecting people to Christ and His church.” The church also has a statement that they are relational, real and reformed. They explain these three descriptions about themselves on their website, www.bchannibal.com. They are relational in that they aim to build strong relationships so that they might grow up in Christ together. They are real in that they still face temptation and struggle with sin. They are already saved, but not yet holy. This causes them to be real; real about their issues; real about their need for God’s help; and real with others. Finally they are reformed by this quote: “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in Scripture alone to the glory of God alone.”
One of the main goals early on for Byers was to talk with potential core group members and supporters about the direction for the church. He did this through two “Catch the Vision” meetings in their main storefront called “theCrux.” So what is the vision for Byers? He went into detail about that.
“After I graduated college I moved to a new community and began working full time as youth minister at a local church,” Byers said. “As I worked out at a gym in the town and got to know some of the 20-somethings that worked out there as well, it became apparent that church, more specifically Christ, was not on the radar for most of these young guys. Looking good, making money and having a good time were their main goals in life.
“And while the church I was working at was having a lot of success reaching families with kids and teens in our community, guys like the ones I worked out with weren’t on their radar. If our church was going to reach these guys, then it would mean them coming to a service, because the church wasn’t going to them. At that point God put a desire on my heart to someday, somewhere be part of a church that didn’t wait for the lost to come to them, but left their building and went into the world with the Gospel. After several years of asking God to show me where He wanted us to go and when He wanted us to go, we felt a clear calling to move to Hannibal to plant a church among the 10,000-plus people in that community without Christ.”
Al Groner, director of missions, Bethel Baptist Association, has helped Byers identify potential sponsoring churches. Calvary Baptist Pastor Jeff Anderson, who is also a member of the MBC Executive Board, has played a huge role in leading the church to reach the lost, Byers said. Believer’s Church hasn’t officially launched yet as they are still holding core meetings at “theCrux,” but Byers plans on moving to their location for Sunday corporate worship and do a month of “preview services.” And he said that Lord willing, they will launch the Sunday after Labor Day.
“It’s been an amazing thing of God orchestrating, bringing this all together,” said MBC State Church Planting Director Jerry Field.
The focus right now is to reach the lost in interesting ways.
“While things are still in the early part of the process, some of the most encouraging things have been the interactions I’ve had with people as I’ve given surveys in some of Hannibal’s downtown bars,” Byers said. “This has led into opportunities to give someone a tract or enter into a deeper conversation with them. Although I’ve had all kinds of different reactions from people, I’ve had quite a few encounters with broken people, without Christ, some even having knowledge of the truth, but no experience of its power. They’re the reason we’re here and we believe eventually we’ll see a harvest.”
Byers talked about his vision for the future of Believer’s Church.
“While we have several things we’d like to see in the near future, as far as different outreaches and opportunities to impact our community, one of our biggest goals is to send out a group from within our church and fully fund them to plant another church in our community within our first five years,” he said. “Being able to plant other churches is something we’re really looking forward to. Charles Spurgeon had the opportunity to help start 40 or more churches during his pastorate. That’s an incredible legacy which we would love to match or exceed. We also look forward to starting an after-school club in each of our local elementary schools that teaches kids without a Biblical worldview the chronological story of God’s plan of redemption.”