SAGINAW – While most churches across Missouri have likely seen a decrease in baptisms since the pandemic swept the nation last year, that’s simply not been the case for Saginaw Baptist Church.
“We had 19 baptisms in the last year,” said Saginaw’s pastor, Keith Wilson. “And the week after Easter we are planning to do three more.”
Wilson has served bi-vocationally at Saginaw for the last two years and in that time has seen an increase from about ten faithful attenders to now over 40. Quite an exponential increase… particularly for a country church located in rural Joplin and Neosho and especially while the country has been gripped by a pandemic.
He said of the new families in attendance probably around 70 percent were invited by new Christians who were saved and baptized within the last year and a half.
“It’s all mainly been word of mouth because, like everyone else, we haven’t been doing a lot of visiting,” Wilson said. “Basically people come, they like it, and then they bring someone with them the next time. I also think people are nervous about what’s going on in this world and all the politics and are looking for something. We are offering them the best thing there is.”
Also, while many churches were faced with whether or not to stay open, he said Saginaw never stopped meeting in person. They had a few parking lot services and they continue to stream live on Facebook to an audience of around 100 people each week, but they have never shut their doors.
“We stayed open all the time and practiced social distancing,” Wilson said. “We decided we didn’t like the idea of closing the doors if someone is needing to come.”
They have also been able to put on a few community-centered events including a fall festival in August and Christmas caroling in December. As the weather continues to stay warm Wilson said their plan is to host some of their services outdoors.
“One of our members lives in Texas but has a ranch really close to us and he is going to let us use it,” he said. “The plan is to put up a canopy and hold our services in a really relaxed way. Our desire is for everyone who comes to feel welcomed and we’ll try different things for that to happen.”
As far as pinpointing the catalyst that has resulted in more salvations and baptisms at their country church this year, Wilson believes there is only one reason.
“Preach the word and live by it and God will bless you,” he said. “Too many out there are not preaching the word the way it’s supposed to be preached. Preach the word of God and hearts will receive it.”