By Mitch Shiffer
RAYMONDVILLE—When Frank White began a new pastoral challenge here in 2004, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native did not know what God had in store for him.
The First Baptist Church in this Texas County town of approximately 300 had split before White stepped into the pulpit as pastor, and the people had very little vision.
He recalled one incident that took place about two months after he arrived. A lady approached White’s wife, Pat, and asked if God had removed the Holy Spirit from the church. Sunday morning attendance was down to around 6-8 people, counting the pastor and his wife. On Wednesday evenings, attendance often consisted of just Frank and Pat; they then held church at the altar, praying.
Many in the congregation were without hope. They simply did not know what the Lord had bestowed upon them.
“There were people in the church that didn’t even know they had gifts,” White said.
Five years later, First Raymondville is a transformed church. By God’s grace alone, they now run around 40 on Sunday. On Sunday night and Wednesday night, the number is holding steady around 20. First Raymondville is returning to health.
Strife has arisen as well. With more people came some different denominational beliefs, so doctrine had to be established. White said some people held to false teachings, while others believed baptism was necessary for salvation.
White said he dealt with all of it by preaching the Word. He cited John 8:32, which speaks of the truth setting people free, to describe how First Raymondville became healthier in its understanding of doctrine.
“When the truth is out, the Holy Spirit will deal with the people,” he said.
White said the encouragement for other struggling churches that may be dwindling in numbers is that they need to return to their first love. He also stated that people need to get excited again about serving Jesus, starting with pastors. His inspiration on that is Charles Spurgeon, who said, “If you set yourself on fire, people will come watch you burn.”
A return to preaching potent truth is also on White’s list of recommendations for church health.
“The pastors need to quit pussyfooting around the pulpit and start preaching the Word of God,” he said.
He talks about the church now with great affection, remarking on how the loving atmosphere reveals First Raymondville’s transition from being sick to being well. When asked about his part in the turnaround, he said, “I just pray to be a vessel of His.”
White was saved in 1965 and came to Missouri in January 1970. His pastoral calling dates back to 1971, at Rocky Mountain Baptist Church in Eldon.
“I knew there was something there eating inside of me that I needed to do,” he said.
Over the years, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s, he has served as a interim pastor at various churches where needed. That led to him accepting a call to a non-denominational church for two years right before his current assignment.