In my role as national representative, I find the opportunity of participating in church anniversary celebrations a privilege and a joy. On each occasion I learn more about the history and fabric of our great association as I observe the unique reflections of each church in its commemoration of 50, 75, 100, or 150 years of ministry faithfulness!
Recently Daria and I were able to participate in the 150th anniversary celebration of Walnut Park Baptist Church in Muscatine, Iowa. Pastor Dennis Hakes and his wife, Tonya, and the associate pastors and wives, Jacob and Loren Rosekopf and Walden and Pauline Askren, warmly welcomed us and made us feel like part of the church family. It was a treat to share the festivities with the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches’ state representative and wife, Joe and Marty Hayes; with former pastor Harold Pearson and his wife, Pat; and with Pastor David Hakes, son of Pastor Dennis Hakes. Walnut Park Baptist did an excellent job of retelling its thrilling story of God’s work. The church prepared displays by decades, shared an informative and humorous slide presentation, wrote and distributed a church history booklet, shared testimonies, and created a museum with engaging pictures, memorabilia, articles, and displays.
Daria and I made many intriguing discoveries through this retelling of the church’s history. For instance, we learned that the church began as a German-speaking assembly. The first pastor immigrated to America with his family to escape the persecution of Lutherans who opposed his Biblical preaching and his baptism by immersion of church members. Also, we discovered this was the last church in which Pastor Merle and Shirley Hull served before Merle became general editor of Regular Baptist Press. During Pastor Hull’s ministry at Walnut Park and for years following, the church evidenced a passion for the ministry of the Sunday School. It is no wonder Dr. Hull was asked to assume his role with the Press!
During the ’50s and ’60s, Tim Barrett was the pastor. Not long ago Brother Barrett went to be with the Lord at 101. By means of the articles, displays, and our personal museum guide, Marie Baker, we learned of the remarkable ministry of this man. What gripped us about this humble servant of the Lord was his underlying passion for ministry multiplication.
A newspaper article captured our attention. Its accompanying picture (see above) showed 40 men and women who were part of a teacher-training program started by Pastor Barrett to expand the educational ministry of Walnut Park Baptist and to equip Sunday School teachers who would travel to a nearby community that the church had targeted for church planting. During the years of Pastor Barrett’s ministry, the church started no less than six church plants, five of which continue today as part of the state and national Regular Baptist fellowships. One of those churches, Faith Baptist, Iowa City, Iowa, has since planted Harvest Baptist Church, Williamsburg, Iowa, and Harvest Baptist is now praying and laying plans to start yet another church. What a remarkable vision of ministry influence! Christ referred to this type of multiplication when He said, “I will build My church” and “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
During those same decades, servants such as Hal Miller, Gary Holtz, Russ Howard, Virgil Freyermuth, and Vera (née Ivey) Franklin came from Walnut Park Baptist. They in turn went on to have influential ministries of multiplication. Pastor Barrett would not rest until he saw his burden for ministry reproduced in young men and women who in turn would influence others.
Is the account of this man’s ministry reflective of a bygone era, or is it the norm that God intended for each of us to strive for in our churches? Only God can call someone to ministry, but I am convinced He uses passionate servants who wholeheartedly commit to accomplishing His mission of servant and church multiplication.
Our fellowship of churches is on the front end of another golden era of ministry potential. I say that because of the rising profile of ministry multiplication that is growing through endeavors such as future preachers’ programs, mentoring relationships, and a recognition that the mission field has come to our churches through the multiethnic infusion of our cities. I am observing the first ripple of renewed interest in church planting among pastors and existing churches. I pray that ripple will grow into a tsunami!
Ask yourself, Is our church multiplying its ministry by equipping and sending men and women into ministry? Is our church participating in a nearby church plant? If a revival is to come in the GARBC, I pray it may come in the form of ministry multiplication!
John Greening is national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.