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The Lord recently challenged leaders of First Church of the Open Bible in Ottumwa, Iowa, to look outside the church’s four walls to their community and say, “We are here to serve the Lord and to serve you!”

Led by their pastor, Mark Hornback, church members prayed and fasted for the month of January, not wanting to move forward until they felt the Lord directing them. In April members of the Wednesday night Bible study group read through the book The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. The Lord challenged the group to start circling their community in prayer, speaking the promises of God’s Word over it.

A few weeks later, Mark passed an empty parking lot in front of a vacant Target building. He felt the Holy Spirit was telling him that God wanted to use that space for HIS glory. Mark laughed it off at first, thinking there was no way the church could afford the Target building, but the feeling didn’t go away. Soon Mark started to park in the parking lot and pray to gain clarity about God’s plan.

One day as he was driving, Mark felt the Lord say, “You can’t afford the building, but you can afford the field. Use it for me.”

Mark returned to his office and shared the experience with Kurtis Rupe, the church youth leader and summer intern. The two began to plan a community outreach for the Fourth of July. Within an hour, they were making phone calls, spreading the message, and praying for the event. Two weeks later Mark shared his plan with the church. More than 100 people (out of a church of 170) said they wanted to be a part of the outreach either through financial backing, service, or prayer.

MSG News Ottumwa outreach 0918Mark said, “This was the first outreach of this magnitude the church has done in more than eighty years since its opening, and over half the church said, ‘We want to do this!’”

Within a week, the church had funds, food donations, giveaways, Bibles, bottles of water, and kids’ games lined up. Mark shares, “It was incredible to see 75 volunteers show up in 102-degree heat to stand by a grill and cook hot dogs, sit in a dunk tank, run bounce houses, offer prayer, Bibles, and prayer books, or just engage in conversation. It was amazing to hear the stories of those that came. These were people we had never seen step foot in the church, but now they know they are welcome!”

One crew of trash collectors offered to pray with people as they gathered the trash. Two other crews drove ATVs through adjoining parks and parking lots handing out food, bottles of water, and Bibles. Even the children were handing out Bibles!

The church served over 600 meals, handed out 500 Bibles, and gave away 200 Bible Promise books. Since the event they have seen more visitors than ever before. They are receiving phone calls and emails asking for prayer and encouragement. The congregation is thinking of more ways to reach out and share Christ.

Mark said, “I praise God that the Body is living out the Great Commission, not just to make converts or grow the number of people sitting in the church, but to make disciples!”

About The Author

Open Bible's Publication Since 1920

Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.