It doesn't seem like one year ago when Jeff Smith, the former pastor at Genesis Church in Noblesville told me he was ready to go plant a church in his hometown of West Plains, Missouri. Well, as soon as he made it official, I told Jeff I was coming to see him on Spring Break next year, so he'd better be ready.
Well, on April 5, 2009, we got the chance to visit Genesis Church in West Plains. Here are some of the highlights and pictures.
Genesis Church meets in the Opera House in downtown West Plains, a town of about 10,000 on the edge of the Ozarks. One great thing about meeting in the Opera House is that you don't have to tell anyone in West Plains where that is. You can just put up a yard sign that says, "Opera House, Sundays at 10:00," and people know where to go. Or, if you'd rather, you can put up a billboard, like Jeff and Kim have done in 2 places in West Plains.
Or, you just park your "Hillbilly Billboard" smack dab in the middle of the courthouse square on Sunday mornings, so people who aren't paying attention will drive right into it (by the way, this is one of the trailers that used to belong to Genesis- Noblesville).
Another advantage of the Opera House is that it is a beautiful building, well-appointed for crowds and with a little more class than other options. Check out the bathrooms...
And check out the Genesis Cafe... they have both kinds of donuts!
Now, for the meat of the report. What I know you've been waiting for. The week we were there, April 5, was week 8 for the church. They had 204 the week before we arrived, up from 156 the previous week, and were afraid of what might happen due to yard signs all over town and a direct mail piece accidentally going out a couple of days early. Well, on week 8, there were 254 people there, 50 more than the previous week. Fortunately, the auditorium in the Opera House was big enough and well-equipped to handle the crowd.
Where the high attendance became a bit of a problem was in the kids' rooms. But, by God's grace, the Opera House management has been very accomodating in letting the church basically take over the kids space. They have been able to really deck out those rooms and make them exciting for the kids.
But what got me really excited about this church were the people. Just think about this... 254 people on a Sunday morning, most of whom were not active in a church before 10 weeks ago. And there were great stories, too. Guys whose marriages fell apart and found Genesis at just the right time. One kid who plays in the band who had drug problems and was blown away by the love shown to him by people in the church. Look at these people... all of them created by God and on a journey to find Him!
I was really encouraged by what we saw at Genesis-West Plains. And, I'm excited to see how God is going to bring us together again in the future. Jeff and Kim are right in their element there, by the way. Jeff's a bit of a celebrity around town (though he would never admit that) and Kim is at home with family and friends. They are very nervous, but expectant about what God is busy birthing in their hometown.
By the way... Easter Sunday? 317 people. God is on the move in Southern Missouri!