CHURCH IN FOCUS: SOVEREIGN GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Springfield, Missouri was birthed by necessity. There was a desire in the heart of Jerry Parks (deacon) to see an Evangelical, ‘Calvinistic’ (for lack of a better term) Baptist church. Thus, Mr. Parks and I set about to see if the Lord would bless any efforts toward such an endeavor.
Meetings were called, those who held similar beliefs were invited, and after a couple of months, this group moved into the basement of Bill Hines (now deceased) in Galloway, Missouri. Finally, a storefront building was rented on South Campbell Street in Springfield, wood chairs were purchased, and a new piano was bought (still the church piano). By May of 1970, we made the commitment to constitute the church.
The first pastor was Brother Wayne Lemons of Buffalo, Missouri. In October 1973, a church building (with pews, pulpit, etc.) was purchased on the east side of Springfield. In December of 1976, Pastor Lemons resigned and in August of 1977, the church called me to be the pastor, since I had been teaching and preaching as needed in the church since it began. I served in a bi-vocational capacity. The church has been blessed to have two other pastors as well -- Brother L. VanDeMark (who died in 2010) and Brother Wayne Walker, both men serving as co-pastors at different times.
The church outgrew the facility on the east side of Springfield and so a building was purchased on the southwest side of town in 1986. In May of 1991, I was asked to serve in a full-time capacity. In 2004 a new auditorium was built, and the old auditorium became the fellowship hall. The Lord has provided us with a lovely facility and a solid group of saints to make up SGBC. Folks are always ready to do whatever needs to be done.
The great blessing of SGBC has been the level of commitment of the people. The pastors have never been ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ at S.G.B.C., but the church itself. It has not been built around the personality of anyone but has been fully dedicated to the ongoing proclamation of the Gospel and growth in grace, whoever the pastor might be. We have three capable and seasoned deacons.
God has assembled a unique and special group of people who love each other and desire to grow in grace and the knowledge of His Son. We are learning that the whole is greater than the part and that being able to yield on minors, is the pathway to “being of one mind.”
Next year (2020), the church will be 50 years old and still holds to those things which called it into being. We also have a few “policies” that make us unique. We are unashamedly “traditional” in our music. We still uphold the Authorized Version of scripture. We practice closed communion (for members only). We leave “Christmas” out of the church and to the discretion of individual families. We have a “neutral” position on eschatology. We have an emphasis on male leadership in home and church, and we avoid all high-pressure methods.
One of our deacons told me many years ago that pastoring a church was like trying to carry a box of kittens -- they keep wanting to jump out. Losing dear folks for any reason is always difficult, but the Lord has reasons for what He does in His church. We have had to learn to move on, as the Lord always has other people ready to hear and learn.
We have been blessed to have many godly men visit and minister to us over the years, many who are now in glory. We are thankful for them. I can honestly say this congregation may be deficient in the pulpit, but certainly not in the pew. We had experienced a dry spell a few years back with respect to babies, and many asked the Lord to grant us the privilege of having the sweet sound of a crying baby again. That lovely sound has since returned, and we have had to buy three new high- chairs for the fellowship hall. The congregation is well balanced with mature adults, young married, and a sizeable group of young people that are second to none. What a blessing -- and responsibility!
My desire is to see the continued growth in grace that has been evident, and that Christ may receive greater honor and glory in our worship and service to Him. The fact that we live in a far different country than when this church began in 1970 is well known, and we don’t know what we will be called on to do. We only know what we are to be, and that is faithful subjects to the King of kings and Lord of lords. May God give us all we need to live in a country bent on “casting off his cords and bands” (Ps. 2). May Jesus Christ be praised!
Serving this congregation has been the greatest possible blessing. They have exhibited patience and kindness toward their pastor, and faithfulness and commitment to the Lord.
Testimonial: Jerry Parks, deacon, SGBF
Brother Gary Long and I were called by Jesus Christ 49 years ago to be included in the start-up of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Springfield. Through all the trials and accomplishments in the start-up of a church of Jesus Christ, it has been such a blessing. We all have our biological families, but what I gained was my spiritual family.
The church has been a source of strength, comfort, love and instruction for me over the years. We can all find reasons to leave a church, because it is made up of human beings that often times differ from us. What we have to do is find reasons to stay in a church. The reasons I found to stay with Sovereign Grace Baptist Church was the preaching and teaching of the gospel, the fellowship of the believers, love of the brethren, and a true desire that the lost come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I count it all joy to have been a part of SGBC these 49 years.