SEDALIA — Sheep are white. Shepherds know this.
But some sheep are black. Shepherds at Olive Branch Baptist Church know this.
Pastor Jason McClain and Associate Pastor Donnie Hayworth enjoy being called to a different type of flock in a different kind of place—a setting that is known for its rock n’ roll, bikers, tattoos, bandanas, blue jeans, and black sheep.
“We wanted to reach a community of people where they’re at—where they live every day,” McClain said. “The community I’m talking about is a community of a heart vs. of a location.
“Most people like us are welcome in a church, but we’re welcome as the black sheep. That’s what I experienced. Here, there is no black sheep. There is no black sheep in the Bible. We never really started this church to be focused on the black sheep of society, but they started coming here in droves—I’d say probably because there were two black sheep preachers.”
Daryl Stagg, director of missions, Harmony Baptist Association, is a member of Olive Branch. He attends the church’s business meetings and is serving as temporary treasurer. Stagg said that the church is certainly unique among the 27 in the association. Certainly its methodology has dramatically changed from its rural roots in 1889 when it joined the association.
“They run the risk of being misunderstood, and we’ll have to bridge that gap one step at a time,” he said.
Hayworth said that one of the plusses of attending a black sheep church like Olive Branch is that it can be marked by humility.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” he said. “My thought is, ‘I’m a least of these.’ Most of the churches that I’ve been to, even churches that I’ve been involved in leadership in, I was accepted, but I was still accepted as a least of these. I was accepted as a lower level because of my background, because of my appearance.”
Stagg said that he and his wife, Polly, were looking for a church to join and support. Olive Branch was it.
“They want to focus on the acceptance—God loves sinners,” Stagg said.
One of the black sheep at Olive Branch is Chris Joy. He was baptized Feb. 3 and aspires to be in ministry.
“I don’t really think I’m the type to run a church or stand up in front of everybody, but I can bring my little small group of people that I’m around to these guys,” Joy said.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress, who you are, you’re accepted here. If you’re hungry, come, we’ll feed you. I think that’s what the main basis of this place is.”