“We just had another family move to a different state, which can be discouraging. We have actually just had four families transfer to four different Orthodox Presbyterian churches in the four points of the compass of the U.S.—a family to Neenah, Wisconsin, a family to Orlando, Florida, a family to Long Beach, California, and a young man to Vienna, Virginia.”
It would be easy for any pastor to be discouraged by such local losses. The bigger picture sounds even more discouraging. Almost fifty people have moved away in two and a half years, leaving a morning worship attendance of thirty to thirty-five. The mission work is in its third meeting location.
But organizing pastor Todd Wagenmaker is not discouraged. He writes, “In spite of folks moving around, God is still very gracious to our efforts. We continue to bring good news to our neighbors by knocking on doors and sponsoring seminars, but our ultimate trust is that God will send people to us.”
Gateway OPC in St. Louis, Missouri, is an answer to your prayers. Beginning in 2003, the people of the OPC were asked to pray for the establishment of churches in five urban centers and five metropolitan areas. St. Louis was one of the metro areas identified. It seemed that we needed a congregation there to help us expand into that region. A few young men at Covenant Theological Seminary had expressed interest in pursing ministry in the OPC. Without a local congregation nearby, pursuing that possibility was almost impossible.
St. Louis, the home of the famous Gateway Arch, has a population of over 300,000 people. The Greater St. Louis area is home to 2.8 million people. This is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Midwest. Many of its residents need the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In answer to your prayers for this region, God brought the Wagenmaker family to St. Louis in 2007. Julie taught at a Christian school. Todd practiced law and initiated efforts to plant a new OP congregation.
The Wagenmakers and others involved in the church plant became part of Christ Presbyterian Church. This was an established PCA congregation in Hazelwood, a northern St. Louis suburb. That congregation and its pastor, Scott Churnock, moved into the OPC in the spring of 2008. God gave the OPC a congregation in this region for which we had been praying.
But God was not finished. The Wagenmakers and some others lived at a distance from Christ Presbyterian Church. They were in the south and west of St. Louis County. So Gateway OPC, a new mission work, was started in January 2010 in southwest St. Louis County.
Two months later, the presbytery received another mission work in Missouri. Sovereign Grace Reformed Church in Doniphan is three and a half hours to the south. A state that had no OP congregation in 2006 now has three! Praise God for his gracious answers to our prayers!
Gateway OPC has put a strong emphasis on pastoral care. In many churches, people do not have a connection to their leadership. At Gateway, house visits and discipleship are key parts of the ministry. Discipleship of dads had been an important focus. For now, God has taken most of the families with younger children away. They have been replaced by households with mature couples and singles in their forties and fifties.
God is doing good things at Gateway OPC. An inquiring new Christian is being helped to study the Bible. A wayward teenager is being counseled and directed in the way of Christ. The congregation is encouraging an international student.
The congregation is growing in its sense of being part of the whole of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. One aspect of this is tithing its local offerings to Worldwide Outreach. The people want to be part of the church’s Great Commission ministry of foreign missions, home missions, and Christian education.
Todd usually functions with a plan. But the ministry at Gateway has had “a surprise a month,” making planning a challenge. So Todd has tried to focus on faithfully preaching Christ, ministering to the sheep, and telling their neighbors about Christ.
Pray that Gateway OPC will become a strong, gospel-preaching church that focuses on the marks of the church—the preaching of the Word, the faithfully administration of the sacraments, and discipline (discipleship and shepherding).