by Mark Sumpter with Nate Blank
Hello? Hello, my name is Mark Sumpter. I’m with the OPC. Picking up the telephone and having conference calls with dear saints who are making a first-time inquiry about starting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church makes up a good part of my work.
Back in late September 2017, just such a phone call led to an informational meeting and eventually a Bible study in a city in north Texas near the Oklahoma border called Wichita Falls. From the start, with two or three families and three or four singles, Living Stone Fellowship began to build.
A Young Congregation
Wichita Falls, with a population of nearly 105,000, is home to Midwestern State University (5,000 students) and Sheppard Air Force Base (8,700 military residents).
Like most church plants, Living Stone has seen the ebb and flow of people coming and going. But with slow, steady growth leading to twenty-two people ready to sign the petition to be recognized as an official mission work, our presbytery certified this action last year in September 2021.
Now, in recent months, Living Stone Presbyterian Church has witnessed the Lord working in mighty ways! Our God has been gracious in providing an overseeing session from Covenant OPC in Abilene, Texas, and he has been faithful in working through the presbytery to provide consistent pulpit supply, counsel, and prayer for the growing maturity of the mission.
Living Stone is a young congregation with nearly as many pre-teenagers as adults! You can hear regular prayer for the Lord to bring local, spiritually mature saints into the church to help shepherd the young families in the faith. That prayer is being answered. Weekly worship attendance has increased by twenty to over forty-five; a recent Lord’s Day brought over fifty people.
Prior years’ growth has mostly been from military families, which is wonderful but temporary. What is great about this last year is that most of the growth has been from local North Texas families. There are currently five couples (with a combined thirteen covenant children) and six singles who are seeking church membership—two of these are Air Force families.
Living Stone is thriving on the simple but nourishing ordinary means of grace. The congregation is hungry for the pure, unadulterated Word of God both read and preached. She is committed to intercessory prayer and congregational singing of praise to God with grace in the heart. We know that faith is strengthened by the regular administration of the sacraments, and we know that the ministry of the Word carries over into interactions throughout the rest of the week. A weekly fellowship meal provides the opportunity to have rich discussion after the service. Living Stone’s midweek prayer meeting is well attended, and the evening always begins with singing from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.
One growing signature feature of Living Stone’s weekly ministry is using the program Kids’ Quest Catechism from Great Commission Publications. If you stop by on a Wednesday night, you’ll hear parents asking, “Who made you?” “God!” say the kids. Next, “What else did God make?”The children sound off, “God made all things.”Around ten children gather for the teaching, sharing, and fun. They participate in singing, memory games, and filling out the colorful handouts, all while learning the First Catechism.
This weekly ministry serves as a great way to fold in families and to help them feel that they are a part of the congregation. The adults who lead or help show a commitment to the nurture and discipleship of covenant children. Dads and moms take part in assisting with the activities. During the fellowship meal after worship on the Lord’s Day, children practice their recitation for the rest of the congregation, who respond with applause and support.
The men meet bimonthly, once for a prayer breakfast and another time for a book study and fellowship. They finished The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips and are currently reading John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. A pastoral intern from the Fort Worth, Texas, area has graciously agreed to lead this discussion. The ladies meet bimonthly and have completed the Book of Job study series by Ligonier.
Ministering to One Another and the Community
The biblical, Reformed doctrine sown during Lord’s Day worship is working itself out in the saints with gratitude and love toward God and neighbor. Families are coming together to minister to each other’s physical and spiritual needs.
When folks move across town or out of state, the church shows up to help them pack. If a family has a baby, the church organizes a meal train. Mothers help one another with cooking and cleaning, men assist with house projects. Members arrange weekly rides for four attendees, one who is no longer driving, one university student, and two with mental disabilities. When a single person or a family experiences hardship and the church is able, they provide temporary financial support. There is regular communication between families and a growing accountability to their temporary elders.
Living Stone has a website and posts its sermons to Sermon Audio. Its outreach also includes word-of-mouth invitations to worship, door-step visitation to neighborhoods, outdoor singing in a public venue, and setting up a prayer station outdoors to express the compassion of Jesus Christ. Recently a man at the downtown farmer’s market approached an OPC intern, who serves at Living Stone from time to time, and asked questions. He’s a man who is investigating the Christian faith. Follow up and care for him are ongoing. Pray for this man.
From a Phone Call to a Mission Work
Pray for the mighty outpouring of the Spirit in the Living Stone saints of Wichita Falls. There’s a growing need to consider calling a church planter to serve there. The mission work is gaining more and more momentum. What started in 2017 with a phone call has now turned into a stronger work, showing dependence on the Lord, and seeking to build a church community. Living Stone finds her spiritual union with her living Savior, the Lord Jesus, who is the chief cor- nerstone, as that vital, fruit-bearing strength for what’s ahead.
In all this wonderful working of God—in her worship, service, witness, and fellowship—our mission church in north Texas relies on God’s grace, wisdom, and power to bring to completion the work he has begun.
The author is regional home missionary for the Presby- tery of the Southwest. Nate Blank, member of Living Stone, contributed to this article.
Kids’ Quest Catechism Club
Living Stone Presbyterian uses the Kids’ Quest Catechism Club material for a weekly club for elementary-age children. What is Kids’ Quest? Published by Great Commission Publications, it is a fun-packed 36-week program designed to assist churches to incorporate the teaching and learning of catechism into their Christian Education programs. As the GCP materials describe, “Music, games, art, written activities, and lots of repetition reinforce the teaching and help the children memorize the answers to the questions [from the First Catechism].”
This article was originally published in the November edition of New Horizons.