The Grove Church—God is at work in SE Kansas
Editor’s note: Pastor Brandon Pearce and his family and The Grove Church in the town of Arma in southeast Kansas are featured in the 2017-2018 KNCSB Associational and State Missions Offering—50 percent goes to the association where the money was given and 50 percent goes to Kansas-Nebraska mission causes. Find offering promotional materials
By Leah Pritchard
KNCSB Regional Staff Writer
When Pastor Brandon Pearce first drove his family through the small community of Arma, Kan., to inspect the 103-year-old tiny white country church he had been asked to pastor, his first response was an immediate and emphatic “No.”
The steeple had long since been taken down. There was no education wing or visible room for expansion. The church was a small white shoebox of a building and for five years it had been struggling to keep its doors open with only single-digit attendance numbers.
From a human perspective, the prospects for any kind of successful church plant appeared slim to none. However, Pearce found that he couldn’t get the small white church and the community of Arma out of his mind. He drove by the little church three more times over the next several days. As he began praying for the people of Arma, God laid on his heart a heavy burden for the church and the community.
On Sept. 15, 2015, Pastor Brandon and his family stepped out in faith and opened the doors of the little white church. They gave it a brand-new name: The Grove Church.
“A grove is a natural gathering of fruit-bearing trees,” Pearce explained. “Our prayer for the church is that we would be a genuine community of fruit-bearing Christians—a community which is a natural by-product of following Jesus. In a natural grove, the trees grow just because the seed falls. A grove can start from one apple, one orange. As a tree drops its fruit, other trees can grow up in its place.”
God is blessing this vision. Over the past two years, The Grove has begun to grow and blossom. God provided the church with a committed staff who all serve the church on a volunteer basis. Today new members are driving from up to 45 miles away to be a part of this growing community of Christ followers.
Pearce’s heart beats with a burden not only for Arma, but for all of Southeast Kansas. He estimates there are more than 30,000 lost people in Crawford County.
“I am not OK with those people not knowing the Lord,” he exclaimed. His passion for the lost has spread to his congregation.
The Grove Church has prayerfully stepped out in faith and set a goal of seeing 100 people in Arma and surrounding communities come to Christ in the next two years. That would be one-third of 1 percent of the lost people in Crawford County.
Earlier this year Pastor Brandon led his flock through a sermon series on evangelism to prepare them for this challenge.
“A lot of people felt ill-equipped,” he explained. “They were so encouraged to learn that evangelism can take place naturally in everyday conversations.”
The church is already seeing fruit from this training; church members are catching a vision for community engagement and discovering that many of their neighbors are wide open to having conversations about Jesus.
Some of the biggest and most exciting victories the church plant has seen so far, however, have been centered around the spiritual growth of its members.
“In small communities people are carrying around baggage their families have carried for generations. God is re-writing the script of their family history. He’s changing their family, their culture, their kids’ lives—all of it,” Pearce shared. They have seen members who were out-right hostile to the church becoming involved in the church body at a deep level.
Church planting is, of course, never without its challenges.
Arma is heavily Catholic—at least culturally. Many families would call themselves Catholic but haven’t attended Mass in years. They view themselves as religious but see no need to attend church. Because of this, the church has experienced definite spiritual resistance from the community as well.
“One guy in town actually cussed me out like a sailor,” Pearce related.
Also, the congregation has grown to a point where they have run out of ministry space in their current building. They desperately need room to start a children’s ministry. This is a challenge, but God has seen their need and is already working to provide. The owner of a house across the street offered to sell his house and three plots of connecting land to The Grove for a miraculously low price. The church is now praying and trusting God to provide the funds they need to purchase it. They are overwhelmingly grateful for their partnership with KNCSB.
“We’re poor,” explained Pearce. “The county is poor, the church is poor, the people are poor. If it weren’t for North American Mission’s partnership with the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists we wouldn’t exist.”