ROGERSVILLE – “I’m not interested in building a crowd, but I am interested in building a community.”
This is how Chris Ballard described his vision for The Story Church, a Missouri Baptist Convention church plant located here in Rogersville. According to Ballard, the church’s founding pastor, the church is designed to appeal to the broken, unchurched and de-churched.
“We believe that every story can be redeemed,” Ballard said. “The name of the church is based on Psalm 107:2 which says, ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.’”
The church’s story is intertwined with Ballard’s own. As an SBU student in the mid 1990s, Ballard served on the youth ministry staff at FBC Cassville. He loved ministering to students and soon felt a call to enter vocational ministry. Over the next 20 years, that call would lead him to serve in various capacities in churches throughout Missouri.
Early in Ballard’s ministry, the Lord placed a seed in his heart to someday plant a church.
Ballard appreciated the ministry of established local churches, but he also recognized many people were passing through the nets. He felt a deep desire to reach those who would not normally darken the doors of a church. For Ballard, that included those whose brokenness might make them feel like a church wouldn’t accept them, as well as those whose prior experiences with the church had left scars.
“My desire was to reach the unchurched,” Ballard said.
In August 2015, Ballard began to pursue his long-time dream. His original intention was to work as a “tentmaker,” a reference to the Apostle Paul who supported his own ministry by building and mending tents.
But as he shared his vision, Ballard saw God connect him to several strategic partners whose contributions made it possible to pursue a church plant full time. Among many church and individual partners, two were Second Baptist Church in Springfield, who gave Ballard a three-year pledge of support, and the Missouri Baptist Convention, who took on Ballard as a Cooperative Program-supported church planter.
The Story Church launched in August of 2016 at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Three years later, the growing congregation now worships in an event center called the Honor Co. in Rogersville. In three years, a core group of about 40 has grown to a congregation of over 140. Since launching, they have seen 25 baptisms. For Ballard, however, the success of the church is not defined by numbers.
“We want to build around healthy community,” he said. “The people who are in are all in.”
The church’s heartbeat is to serve the community and reach out to the unchurched by showing deep hospitality. They are currently working to open a new coffee shop, The Storytime Coffee Co., to provide the community with a common place to gather. The coffee shop adjoins the event center where the church meets.
Adam Stoddard, who oversees the South region for the MBC’s Multiplying Churches team, worked with Ballard through the process of planting the church, and now they work together to equip other church planters.
Stoddard said that even in areas such as Greater Springfield where there are many established churches, more work needs to be done.
“We’ve got to have church planters who think like missionaries, who go into the community and translate the gospel into the heart language of the people,” Stoddard said.
“If the MBC can be a force multiplier to bring resources and tools to help church planters, praise the Lord!”