WAYNESVILLE – Some might say a new pastor has helped First Baptist make positive change. Steve Clark – the pastor – credits returning to the basics of evangelism and outreach.
“I had been in Africa as a mission pastor. I pastored for seven years at Claycomo Baptist, and at Lockwood for eight years. This enabled me to have a broad view of the denomination. I’ve been Southern Baptist all my life and part of the Conservative Resurgence in Kansas City. I was well informed of what works and what does not work,” Clark said.
“My wife and I were looking for a church home. I began pulpit supply at Waynesville in June or July, then I became interim, and in late 2018, they called me as pastor.”
“The church had been in decline. They were discouraged when we arrived. They hadn’t heard much of evangelism and outreach or how to enjoy themselves in coming to church.”
Since then, God has done some work.
“We’ve had some good stuff happen.” Clark said.
“There has been an uptick in attendance. By the grace of God we got a guy to help us with the music. We’ve had some people come who haven’t been regular church attenders. We’ve had better participation in Wednesday night and now Sunday night Bible studies. Some had only been here for Sunday mornings and not part of Bible study.”
At a community event last year, the church had a presence distributing home-baked cookies and Bibles.
There has been one baptism so far in Clark’s short time of service. This revealed the baptistry needed to be replumbed. A new Bible discussion class now meets near the front door for newcomers not used to Sunday School classes. A small choir has started again. Attendance has slowly climbed, from averaging 30-some people, to 50 some.
“Now, we’re looking for someone to teach the teens class,” he said.
“It’s all been little things any church would do in our situation. I think in two or three years, we’ll find the average age cut in half.”
“Evangelism and outreach hadn’t been our focus before. No one was able to bring it into view. I think the Lord will now bless us in this way.”
Now, Clark sees a member who works at Ft. Leonard Wood being intentional in inviting people to church. More visitors are attending. While there used to be a number of military people from Ft. Leonard Wood come and eventually go, the church now focuses on local resident to be part of the church.
His style has been “to demonstrate grace” for those dealing with what the world calls social issues, but Clark defines as moral issues, without compromising on God’s word.
“Instead of being driven away, they continue to come. When I was not a pastor, my wife and I were in churches where we wouldn’t want to invite people to the church we were in. We want to invite them now.”
Clark wants to develop an evangelism-focused small group.
“I want to get the church to do what we’re supposed to do. It gives the Lord a chance to bless, and I think he will.
“It’s a real life ride. There will be bumps in the road and resistance. Remember the climate you are in but don’t quit working. We can’t be ready to go across the world to do the Lord’s work, if we’re not ready to go across the street.
“The people are responding. I’ve told the church the number one reason people visit a church is because they were asked,” Clark said.