By Kayla Rinker
CASSVILLE—“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”—Stephen R. Covey
“We have got to keep our head in the game and our nose in our business,” said James Weaver, pastor at First Baptist Church, Cassville. “And what is our business? Our business is God’s business. We must continually ask ourselves, ‘Does this program or ministry do His business?’ And if it doesn’t, we need to shed it. That is exactly how we want to operate.”
Weaver has been the senior pastor at the church for 1½ years, taking over for longtime pastor John Duncan, who is currently on the mission field in Chang Mai, Thailand. Before he became senior pastor, Weaver served as an associate pastor and in other staff positions at First Cassville for more than 17 years. During that time, he saw the church grow from about 150 people on Sunday mornings to an average of about 750.
“There hasn’t been any one thing that caused all the growth,” Weaver said.
He said Duncan once told him that the church experienced a season of growth in part because of what former pastors did prior to his coming to Cassville.
“They really laid the platform that Bro. John and I were able to enjoy and work from,” Weaver said. “John would say the pastors who came before him paid the price and did a lot of heroic things that paved the way for a pastor to come in straight out of seminary, like John did.”
Weaver said though there was not one specific thing, Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” Bible study played a significant role in the discipleship and unity of First Cassville. He called it “fundamental in figuring out who we are as a church, who we need to be and how we need to get there.”
Down through the years it has been made available almost every year to church members.
“The central focus is the love relationship believers have with Jesus Christ,” Weaver said. “If that’s not right, then nothing else we do in the church will have the right effect. We have to keep our people right with Jesus.”
Another key point was when the church partnered with Global Focus, an organization that exists to glorify God by helping pastors be more effective in mobilizing local churches to reach the world for Christ.
“Through Global Focus we started to change from a missions-aware church to a missions-involved church,” Weaver said. “We’ve since come to realize as a church that missions and ministry are one and the same. From the beginning God has had the world in His heart and if we want to get in touch with God, we need to be part of what He’s doing here and around the world.”
A more recent development has been the addition of a satellite worship service called First Baptist Church at NorthPoint. Weaver said the NorthPoint “come-as-you-are” service was started in part because the downtown location of First Cassville is too “land-locked” for any more external growth and because the church had the desire to meet people where they are, like Jesus did.
“Scripture doesn’t tell us to sit and wait for people to come; it says to go and tell,” he said.
The launch of its second satellite service, Lifetrax, which will be catered to young adults, is pending. The venue will feature a “Starbucks-themed” meeting place with contemporary worship.
To stay unified as a church, Weaver said each location will hear the same sermon message on video that the rest of the church body heard at the downtown location.
“That way everyone hears the same voice and leadership,” he said. “We are about loving God, connecting with others and serving the world. Whether at NorthPoint, Lifetrax, or at our downtown location, we are of one kindred spirit, mind and passion for Jesus Christ. We are not changing the message, just the methodology. We are putting it in a style they relate to.”
Weaver said he feels blessed to be part of the growth that has occurred at the church over the last 20 years. He said every season of growth is linked to members being willing to pay a price.
“If it’s a small church, you might hear people say, ‘We like our church. We know everybody and their children and even their grandchildren.’ That’s a price tag. If you’re not willing to have a church where you can’t know everybody, you will have a problem growing,” he said. “Also, if you can’t afford hiring staff or expanding the education building, then that becomes a price a church is not willing to pay.”
He said when a church is running between 75-100 people it is typically a matriarchal or patriarchal church. He said if that church wants to grow, the control must be passed on to the pastor. As the church continues to grow, Weaver said the pastor must then to be willing to pass some of the control to other church staff members to continue growth.
“Then, when it becomes physically impossible for the staff to be there for every ministry of the church, they must depend on the laypeople of the church to move forward,” he said. “You have to take risks and simply trust people with power and authority at each of these levels. And, always remember, the methods aren’t sacred but the Gospel is.”