Franklin Baptist Church
For 9-year-old Hunter Parsons, the death of his church wasn’t an option.
His father, Brent Parsons, was the new pastor of Franklin Baptist in Norman, Oklahoma, and the church was in trouble. On his first Sunday, Parsons remembers scanning the congregation from the pulpit as he preached — there were only about a dozen people scattered throughout the small 14-pew sanctuary.
Instead of being discouraged, he saw potential. “I didn’t know how, but I sensed that God would do something special at Franklin,” Parsons says.
Hunter felt God working, too. Instead of playing outside or watching TV like most boys his age, he wrote a letter for his father to read at the church’s next business meeting.
The letter challenged the church to have 50 people in Sunday worship attendance for four consecutive weeks. If the congregation met the challenge, Hunter promised to give $50 of his own money to an offering benefiting Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. The church rose to the occasion, and Hunter gave his $50.
What Hunter and his dad didn’t yet realize was that the missional challenge was the beginning of a chain of events that would breathe new life into the historic church.
“I believe God had a reason to establish our church over 120 years ago, and He had a reason for sustaining it through some lean and difficult times,” Parsons says.
As Sunday attendance slowly rose, Franklin’s leadership soon realized that the church needed to expand its facilities to prepare for future growth.
“Without expanded space, it was hard to motivate people to see that we could offer meaningful ministry to entire families,” Parsons explains. Church members voted to remove all existing structures and build a new facility, including a sanctuary, fellowship hall and Bible study space. A loan of over $250,000 from WatersEdge Ministry Services allowed Franklin Baptist Church to construct the new facility.
An unexpected and substantial gift from an Oklahoma City businessman’s estate energized church members to pay off the loan in just three years. “Everyone could see God was at work,” Parsons says.
Soon, with another WatersEdge loan of $325,000, the church acquired a nearby church building which would be remodeled, doubling Franklin’s space, increasing its parking and “lifting the lid on our growth,” Parsons explains.
“Building and purchasing additional space did not guarantee our growth, but neglecting to move ahead in faith would have guaranteed our stagnation and eventual death,” he adds.
From only a dozen members in 2011 to an average of 98 today, Franklin Baptist continues to grow and reach its community.
“When Hunter gave his offering, it’s not like there was some big ‘boom’ that went off and people just showed up at Franklin,” Parsons says. “But it was a turning point. It’s been a long 7 years, but we’ve simply sought to be steadfast and provide godly leadership to keep the church moving forward.”
Parsons credits Jerry Vaughan, WatersEdge president, with helping lead Franklin Baptist to focus on the future with the facilities needed to reach the community with the Gospel.
“God made the growth, construction, expansion and renovation at Franklin possible through WatersEdge Ministry Services. What God wants done, He makes a way for. The future of Franklin has never looked brighter,” Parsons says.
(Featured Image: Pastor Brent Parsons baptizes a girl along with her sister, mother, and father at a “Big Sunday” church celebration.)
Story by Margaret Colson
Photos by Anna Dellinger