First Joplin looks
to bright future
By Kayla Rinker
JOPLIN–Nearly 150 people gathered in a field Nov. 23, to celebrate the groundbreaking of the relocation building project of First Baptist Church, Joplin.
The 120-year-old church is currently located at 7th and Pearl Streets in the downtown area of Joplin and members are excited about the future expansion of their church.
In fact, “excited” may be an understatement because during the offering that Sunday, $220,000 was given toward the building project fund and another $50,000 was pledged.
“(Church members) understand that when they invest in the church, they are investing in eternity because the church will change hearts and lives,” said First Joplin Pastor Robert Morgan.
The church’s building plans include three different phases. Morgan said the church hopes the first phase, a multi-purpose family life center, will be completed by the fall of 2009.
“Once we get the life center done we hope to go ahead and start a service here in the new location and begin reaching out to people in this southern part of Joplin,” he said. “Also, once phase one is completed we will go ahead with building the rest of the church.”
The second phase of the project is an education and office building. The third phase is the church’s sanctuary.
Morgan said that if the church can sell its current property soon, members will transition into a temporary space for meeting.
“Ideally we would like to be in a temporary location by Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6,” he said. “If we can get in a temporary space, then we can immediately start building our second phase.”
The Joplin church actually had the vision for relocation more than five years ago, three years before Morgan became pastor there.
“Members were led to see that if they wanted their church to grow, they needed to get into a suburban area,” Morgan said. “They realized they were landlocked downtown and that there was really no space for growth. They wanted to relocate to reach more families, especially younger families with children and teenagers. Only recently have we as a church realized that we can still reach out to those younger families without having to be relocated.”
Mitch Stinnett is the chair of the building and relocation committee at First Baptist. He found the 20 acres of land set aside for the new site five years ago, which the church paid for in full the first year they acquired it.
“We have been using this land for Upward Soccer for the last few years,” Stinnett said. “We’ve had over 200 cars in this field for Upward Soccer and we would have games from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays for about eight weeks in the spring.”
Stinnett said since Morgan took over as pastor, the church’s vision of relocation has truly been realized.
“We’ve had Robert with us for almost two years now and since he’s been here our attendance has almost doubled,” he said. “We were running between 100 and 120 people in worship and now we never have less than 175. Actually we have had more than 200 people many times.”
“The building project has definitely created enthusiasm among the people of the church,” Morgan said. “And as long as we keep our eyes focused on faith and realize it’s not about the building because they are reaching people without it. Instead, it’s because we are reaching people that we are able to forward with the building project.”