At the Annual Meeting, a Cooperative Program (CP) survey was conducted and a large percentage of respondents commented that they wanted to hear the stories about the impact of our cooperative ministries. I couldn’t agree more and we are working at “taking our game” to the next level.
So when this letter about the Risen Ranch Cowboy Church and Pastor Steve Stafford and his wife, Debbie, hit my email box, I said, “We cannot keep stories like this to ourselves.”
I trust you will be encouraged by how the Lord uses multifaceted cooperative ministries to impact a man’s life and launch a new work:
“Hi guys [Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Church Planting Team], it’s been awhile since we talked, I miss working with you all. I have nothing but great thoughts concerning Church Planting of MBC—the folks that represent it and work so hard for it.
“Five years ago, Debbie and I came to Jefferson City for our assessment [the beginning step for a MBC church planter]. Nerves were running high. I had been on staff with Cowboys for Christ for 10 years, but never served as pastor of a church.
“In fact this was never my desire. Debbie and I were very content just where God had us. But we wanted to follow Him and answer His call. So, we surrendered to this new opportunity.
“We came to Jeff City, convinced we would never make it through the cut, but somehow we did. I still have the letter that Vince Blubaugh wrote on your behalf. This was a very exciting time and an emotional time for us. [After assessment and training, Steve became a funded MBC church planter].
“The next four years, full, exhausting, filled with joy and at times discouragement and fear. But always there was a sense of serving hand-in-hand with Father God.
“All we knew to do was to simply trust God during this process. We did, and He kept His promises! We started with four guys under a shade tree. Then we had 12 and moved to Arby’s restaurant in Carthage. Then, we had 17 and moved to the Civil War Ranch. Then we got kicked out!
“Homeless, scared, nowhere to go with a congregation of 75 people. What do I do? We did the only thing we knew to do. We trusted. We prayed. We expected God to move and He did.
“We moved to the Joplin Regional Stockyards. We’ve been there for the past two years, and God has grown us to 225.
“Last fall I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to start looking for our own land to buy and I had a strong sense of urgency. I called our leadership together, explained what I felt the Spirit of God was telling me. We prayed together. Even though we didn’t have enough money to buy anything, we agreed to follow God’s heart.
“We began to Dream Big, Pray Bold, and Expect Supernatural Results.
“One week later, a fellow in our church came to me asking if 20 acres would work for us. I told him it would but I was confused because he didn’t know we were looking. One week later he called. He wanted to show me something—it was the prettiest 20 acres I have ever seen.
“I told him that I didn’t know the land was for sale. He said it wasn’t but he knew he could get it bought, if I thought it would work for us.
“So I asked ‘How much?’ He said ‘$210,000.’ I thought, ‘You might as well tell me two million. We sure don’t have that kind of money.’ He said, ‘Well, I do and I’ll gift it to the church and then you can buy this land to build on.’
“I asked what his motive was, for if he thought by doing this he could tell me what to say and not to say, or to do and not to do, he could keep the money, for the integrity of this pastor and this church was not for sale. He assured me this was not the case but that God had blessed him financially in his life. And he wanted to bless ‘His church.’”
“So, on March 26 of this year, we bought the 20 acres, just a quarter mile west of the stockyards on I-44. I had presented a seven-year program to the church, two years to find and buy some land and five years to build.
“God had another plan. We moved into our newly built worship center on Oct. 7. That’s just seven months after we bought the land. Isn’t that just like God to take my seven-year program and turn it into His seven-month delivery?
“The first Sunday, two folks came forward giving their lives to Christ and we baptized them the next week. What a way to start!
“God has brought us a long way since that meeting in Jeff City, thank you for believing in us when we didn’t. Thank you for giving us a chance to serve our Father the way He wanted. I wish I had bigger and better words to say how I felt about all you folks, but I don’t, so I’ll just leave it with – THANKS!”
What a great story! Where would this congregation be had it not been for Missouri Baptists and their faithfulness to the Cooperative Program? The churches of the MBC giving to the CP enabled a church planter to receive the right kind of help, training, financial support and encouragement to make a difference.
By being faithful, God blessed this church miraculously and today the work of making Great Commission disciples in cooperating Great Commission churches thrives.