Sunday, October 26, 2014 marked the opening day of the Shawnee Baptist Church, a church plant that has been in the works since May 2013. Shortly after the May 19th tornado ripped through Bethel Acres and Shawnee, Oklahoma, the Southwest Baptist Church of Oklahoma City sent Rick and Grace MacQueen to the affected areas to help with the recovery efforts. It was through the endeavor to relieve very real physical needs that the MacQueens saw the first family in that area come to known the Lord. During the summer of 2013, Southwest Baptist Church hosted three evangelistic services in a weathered tent that the community had set up for aid workers. The Lord blessed these services and strong relationships were built as a result of the services and constant follow-up visits.
The Southwest Baptist sought the Lord about what the next step ought to be, and could clearly see Him leading toward starting a church on the West side of Shawnee, which would enable the church plant to reach into Bethel Acres and the surrounding area. In May of 2014, the MacQueens moved to Shawnee with the firm belief that Biblical church planting begins with evangelism. Southwest Baptist organized two more major outreach efforts in July of 2014-"Declare His Glory" Vacation Bible School and the Hope Conference. Many members and church staff helped with the door-knocking (handing out 17,000 invitations), services and the special music. Evangelist Joseph Knouf, and his wife Cathleen, who share a burden to see churches planted, were a great help with the outreach efforts and follow-up after the Vacation Bible School and Hope Conference.
A small number of believers began gathering for Wednesday night services in the MacQueen’s home, and the search for a more suitable meeting location began. After looking at numerous buildings, the decision to rent was made, the new church plant and Southwest Baptist worked to remodel a building next to the field where the Hope Conference was held.
As the Opening Day approached, the new church, with help from Southwest Baptist Sunday School Classes, Youth Department and College Department passed out over 13,000 invitations to Opening Day. The first Sunday was a great day with 19 adult guests responding to an invitation left on their door or at local businesses. There were 58 people in total attendance, and the Shawnee Baptist Church had a dinner on the grounds following the morning service to get to know the guests a little better. The Shawnee Baptist Church is excited to see what the Lord has done and will do in the future. When asked about the work Pastor Jason Gaddis of the Southwest Baptist Church said; “I remember speaking with Bro. Rick MacQueen early in his internship regarding my limited experience in church planting. I confessed that the endeavor was new to me and that we would simply have to follow God’s leadership. It is a blessing to look back and see evidence of how the Savior has led us all the way! While there is much more to be accomplished and decided, it is reassuring to see God’s hand at every turn.”