Owens Cross Roads celebrates revived ministrycomment (0)
October 27, 2005
By Sarah E. Pavlik
Since charter member Burt Morris and his now deceased wife, Pat, gathered with 80 others in the backyard of their home in New Hope to start a new church in 1980, the congregation that came to be known as Owens Cross Roads Baptist Church has seen its ups and downs.
At times, the membership waned to only a dozen members, but as the congregation gathered Sept. 18 to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the rural Madison Baptist Association church was flush with a renewed vision.
“When we started our church, evangelism was our main goal,” Morris said. “No one that we knew of was reaching out to the children in that area, and we know that’s what God wanted us to do.
“So we started what I would call a ‘quasi-bus ministry,’” he joked. “Pat would pick up as many as 12 children every Sunday in her Colony Park station wagon — you know, the kind with the seats that face the other way. They loved it.”
As the church shifted from the Morrises’ backyard to a community center and later to its current location on Wilson Mann Road in Owens Cross Roads in 1982, Morris, his wife and several others nurtured the fledgling children’s program into one of the largest in the area.
The ministry, which includes weekly Sunday School classes and a summer Vacation Bible School that draws record numbers of children, has continued uninterrupted for the past 25 years.
By 1996, the congregation had outgrown the original building and started a construction project that would eventually include a choir loft, baptistry and new sanctuary.
Even with all the growth, the church’s attendance began dwindling during the past decade as the church faced ministry difficulties and the 2002 retirement of its longtime pastor, Wayne Kimbrough. The church struggled without a shepherd for two and a half years.
Last October, however, the beleaguered congregation found the right fit in Charles Miller, a bivocational pastor who also works full time as a salesman in the automotive department at Sears.
Since Miller entered the pulpit, the 15-member church has added 35 members and is returning to its evangelical roots.
“The night they voted to accept me as their pastor I told them if you don’t want to grow, if you don’t want to bring people in to hear the gospel and if you don’t want to reach the people of this community, then don’t vote me in as your pastor,” he said.
Not only does Miller have a vision for the children who live in the booming Owens Cross Roads area, he wants to reach the adults, too. “You should see the homes popping up around the church,” Miller said.
“There are tons of people out there we need to reach,” said Miller’s wife Brenda, who has compiled the church’s history.
Miller’s plan to grow his church includes a lot of old-fashioned door knocking and a discipleship program to train the believers at Owens Cross Roads so they can, in turn, share the gospel with others. “In a year or so, I hope we’ll be averaging about 100 in service,” he said.
Morris said he sees his congregation moving in the right direction. “When we started, I never knew exactly what God expected us to be, but I knew we were called to work with children and Charles (Miller) has stayed true to that,” he said.
After weeks of preparation, the anniversary celebration started with a performance by The Singing Ambassadors.
Mark Ray of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission was also on hand to present the church with a certificate honoring its 25 years of ministry.
Sam Wolfe, a traveling evangelist who encouraged Miller to consider taking over the pulpit at Owens Cross Roads and longtime friend of Morris, delivered a fiery message for the anniversary celebration. At the close of the service, Wolfe’s 17-year-old grandson Shane Wolfe surrendered his life to Christ and a family joined the church.