First Kimberling City thrives with town
KIMBERLING CITY – If it wasn’t for Table Rock Lake Dam, the Ozarks would be missing a growing, thriving community. If it wasn’t for First Baptist Church, that growing, thriving community would be missing a growing, thriving Bible-believing church.
The church just celebrated its 20th anniversary this summer. The town is only 34 years old.
“We’ve seen steady growth,” said founding pastor Randy Johnson. “We have a pretty good mix of people.”
Johnson gives God any and all glory for the growth of the church alongside the community – they now run 700 in worship each week in a town of less than 3,000 – but he also gives credit to the people that make up the church for their willingness to take any risk for the Lord.
“It’s hard to walk by faith without taking risks,” he said.
Johnson, who also serves Missouri Baptists as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said the church took financial risks, especially when it came to bringing on new staff positions.
“Every time we’ve added someone, we didn’t have the money to pay for them,” he said. “But we had faith trusting God to meet the needs, and that’s exactly what He’s done. Our people are generous in giving and faithful in living. The result is we’re poised to reach people that are moving here. Projections are that we’re going to be the fastest-growing church on the lake.”
First Baptist is in the process of relocating, so as to better reach those new residents of Kimberling City. They’ve already built their first building on a new campus a quarter mile away.
“Our purpose is to evangelize the lost, equip the believer and encourage the family,” Johnson said. “Everything revolves around those three things.”
Another reason Johnson gives for First Baptist’s growth is also one of their weaknesses.
“Everyone here is from somewhere else,” he said. “Everyone has migrated here so there are no longstanding, deeply rooted traditions that people aren’t willing to leave behind. Then again, sometimes you can run into trouble for that same reason.”
“You cannot substitute the Word of God for anything else,” he said. “I’m an expository preacher and I’ve stuck to preaching the Bible. It hasn’t always been popular, but I’ve tried to maintain that and not just stand up and tell stories.”
On the church’s website, www.fbckc.com, Johnson wrote about the people in the church, meaning the children, youth, and single and married adults. He then wrote about the theme of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, “We are Family,” which helped them win a World Series championship.
“Their ‘family’ took them through both good and bad times that season,” Johnson wrote. “After making a heroic comeback to capture the Series title, Willie Stargell said the reason for their ultimate success and victory was their commitment to and love for each other. We are a family of God who genuinely love and care for each other. Indeed, ‘we are family.’”
Johnson believes that every person needs to be involved in a small group. He said the main reason people drop out of church is a lack of friends. Friendships aren’t established in a worship service, so people must plug into a small group. Examples of this can be anything from a Sunday School class to a weekday Bible study or even a softball team, men’s fishing group, or women’s night out.
As part of the church’s commitment to evangelism, they have a thriving missions program. This summer they took a team to the tiny African nation of Malawi and saw thousands come to Christ; they are returning next year to work with youth there. The church will also help fund the mission trip for anyone who wants to go.
“It changes their hearts and lives,” Johnson said.
As part of the church’s 20-year anniversary this July, Johnson offered his 10-year vision for the church, including planting two churches and being more involved in evangelism at home and around the world.
“We want to take as many people as possible with us to glory,” he said.