BOURBON — The year 2012 was unbelievable for Calvary Baptist Church here.
Not only are the church’s numbers up (they’ve doubled from 60 to 120 in worship attendance in just 12 months.) Add to that 48 baptism celebrations over the course of the year and both the congregation and its pastor, Ed Carter, have good reason to be excited.
“God is doing things here like never before,” Carter said. “As a pastor, I have seen God do some awesome and amazing things, but never like this.”
Carter, who has only been at Calvary himself for the last 18 months, said he believes there are several factors contributing to the church’s quick growth.
The first, he said, was that when he came on board as pastor, it was evident to him that the people of Calvary were ready to see God move in Bourbon. The vocabulary they used during the interview process spoke volumes about what they wanted to accomplish as a church.
“They said, ‘We want a pastor who will dream and lead us places we’ve never been before,’” Carter said. “They said if they didn’t do something quick, their church would die. They didn’t want to die. The people were ready to grow and become that beautiful fig tree Jesus talked about, where the birds will come, yes, the people will come and hear the good news.”
From that starting point, Carter and the church body adopted the phrase “Look Upwards” as the foundational focus of their ministries. The phrase is at the heart of everything Calvary does and is even displayed on banners inside the walls of the church.
“God’s heartbeat is evangelism,” Carter said. “And no matter what we decide to do as a church or how we decide to accomplish our goals, as long as we are looking upwards, God will bless our efforts.”
Another emphasis Carter has implemented at Calvary has to do with friendship and discipleship and how the two should go hand in hand in a healthy church.
“Friendship evangelism is how my pastor was able to lead me to Christ back in 1989 when I was a 27-year-old man who struggled with alcoholism and a disability,” he said. “People need and desire friendship and they need to know the best friend they will ever have is Jesus.”
As the church came together with these goals in mind, Carter said the people started to impact the community like never before, starting with their Upwards Basketball and cheerleading outreach.
Started three years ago with 48 children participating, it has grown to 122 children last year and they are expecting even more this year.
Like many Missouri Baptist churches, Calvary has also committed to the God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) outreach, a Southern Baptist evangelism initiative that’s helping many churches participate in the Great Commission in their communities.
“We have a mission team that basically goes through our town looking for things that can be done to positively affect and impact people,” Carter said.
In one instance, the group built a new front porch with wheelchair access for a family with a disabled child.
“The family of five started coming to worship service and then eventually they joined the church,” Carter said.
But because the church has grown so much in such a short amount of time, Carter said they are being intentional in the ongoing discipleship of the church, which is crucial as they look to the future.
“Strengthening the core of their faith, wherever they are in their walk, has to be a top priority,” he said. “And we are committed to doing just that.”