“Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed,…”1 Well, not really; rather come and read a story about God’s grace and how it is visible in the history of my local church. By the way, I just want to go on record up front as saying that my local church is the absolute best church anywhere. I know you may disagree and frankly I hope you do because I really hope you think your local church is the best church anywhere!
Well the name of my local church is Stansbury Park Baptist Church and I am privileged to serve this church as her Pastor-Teacher. We are located in the community of Stansbury Park, Utah which is in Tooele County – Home of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Like most churches everywhere my local church didn’t just show up out of the blue one day. Way back in the dark ages of 2004 a man serving on staff with the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention (UISBC) had the idea that Stansbury Park seemed to be a field white and ripe for the harvest. This man’s name is Bobby Melton and seeing the need for workers he went on a quest to find a few. His search extended all the way east to the great state of Tennessee (second only to Texas and of course my new home state of UTAH from my point of view) to locate a co-laborer in the faith by the name of Scott Stout. Bobby entreated Scott to consider whether or not the Lord would have him to move to Utah to serve as a church-planter with the UISBC. Scott, his family, and his local church committed to pray for the Lord’s will to be made evident to them concerning His direction in this endeavor. After considering all of the things to be considered it seemed the Lord was at work in moving the Stout family, so Scott relocated his family to Utah in late summer 2004.
Not being a man to rest on his heels, Scott began a Bible-study in his home located in the neighboring town of Tooele, Utah in the fall of 2004. The Bible-study in Scott’s home very quickly outgrew his ability to host it, so the group began the search for a place to meet which would accommodate their weekly gathering. By God’s grace the group was able to
move from the Stout family living room into a community center type venue known locally as The Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is more formally known as The Stansbury Park Clubhouse and it is located on the shores of the Stansbury Park Lake just across from the community golf course. So as locations go this one is a pretty sweet one.
On the occasion of the move, which took place in February 2005, the group took on the name Stansbury Park Baptist Church. Over the course of the next year many folks were added to the church while Scott and a council of men were busy at work with all the behind the scenes tasks of constituting and incorporating a local church. In the spring of 2006 that work was completed and the church was officially constituted, incorporated, and launched as Stansbury Park Baptist Church.
Upon the official constitution of the church Scott Stout was recognized as the pastor-teacher serving alongside five other men in the leadership of the body. During the tenure of his service Scott was supported by his labors in a secular occupation as well as his service as the pastor-teacher which is a fairly common occurrence in small churches. The church was blessed to have Scott as its pastor-teacher from its infancy up until May of 2008, what some might call its “toddler” years. At the time of Scott’s departure one of the men serving in leadership stepped into the void left behind to become the second pastor-teacher of Stansbury Park Baptist Church. Andy Roberson served our church from May 2008 until he was called to minister to the body of South Main Street Baptist Church in Greenwood, South Carolina in August of 2009.
For the next year the church would rely heavily upon the men who served in leadership to shepherd them, preach to them, and administer the ordinances of baptism and The Lord’s Supper to them. Fortunately, the Lord was gracious during this period as well by supplying co-laborers in the form of various men committed to the ministry of the many local churches in Northern Utah. The majority of these men came from the churches making up the Salt Lake Baptist Association. Then in September of 2010 the church was able to call Jeff Hurlbut to serve as an interim pastor-teacher. Jeff was able to serve in this capacity until October of 2011, at which time he moved to plant a church in Morgan, Utah which is currently thriving and named Morgan Grace Fellowship.
As one may conclude, the men who were serving in leadership were diligently praying that the Lord might provide a man whom He would leave in place for a longer period of time. It was during this time of prayer that a local church in Southern California was beginning a ministry meant to serve in strengthening both new churches (plants) and existing churches who had been experiencing difficulties. The name of this ministry is Grace Advance and it is a ministry of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. One of the many ways that Grace Advance serves other local churches is to partner with them in finding and matching them with a suitable candidate to serve them as their pastor-teacher. By God’s kind providence the men in leadership at Stansbury Park Baptist Church became aware of Grace Advance and sought after the opportunity to partner with them in finding the man God would have to be the next pastor-teacher of their local church. This is the point where the history of my local church blends with my own personal history.
So at the same time the men of Stansbury Park Baptist Church were beginning their partnership with Grace Advance in order to seek out a pastor-teacher, I was coming to the end of my studies at The Master’s Seminary. This reality had caused me to begin, along with my wife and others, to pray that the Lord would provide a place for me to serve in a local church. I was particularly drawn to the region of Southern Idaho, Utah, and Northern Arizona as I knew this was an area that many folks considered a very difficult area in which to minister. Furthermore, the Lord was growing in me the desire to serve a local church in this area for that very reason. It was through a series of providential events that the Lord connected me with Grace Advance as well. This all occurred in the fall of 2012.
Shortly after both Stansbury Park Baptist Church and I were independently vetted for inclusion in the program by a team of Elders at Grace Community Church, we were introduced to one another through that wonder of modern technology known as the tele-conference. Following a few of these meetings it was decided that the church would like me to come for a visit in order that the people would have an opportunity to hear me preach God’s Word and enjoy a time of questions and answers with me. I was blessed to visit the church on the weekend of June 1, 2013 with my lovely wife, Lori, and one of the Elders serving in the Grace Advance ministry.
From June until September of 2013 the church continued to meet with me via teleconference as we worked to strengthen the relationship we had begun. Then in September 2013 the men in leadership with the affirmation of the entire church body extended to me the call to relocate to Utah and be the pastor-teacher of Stansbury Park Baptist Church. I was thrilled to accept for God had granted me exactly what I had asked Him for in hours of prayer.
The only hitch in our giddy-up was that I was in the middle of my final semester of seminary, so what to do? Well, the church provided the opportunity to visit and preach once in October and once in November as well as the chance to visit for an entire week in December in order to find a place to live. Then in January 2014 my family and I moved from Panorama City, California to Stansbury Park, Utah.
Since January I have enjoyed the privilege of serving this, my local church – the best local church anywhere by the way – as their pastor-teacher. Of course, this privilege has brought with it many opportunities for sharpening, loving, serving, and growing in the love of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus for both me and this wonderful body of Believers.
So there you have it folks, a little picture of church history. It probably won’t go down in the annals of time as much more than a speed bump, but it’s our speed bump and we love it. So if you’re ever in Northern Utah on a Sunday morning and you’re looking for a place to worship our risen Lord, stop on by we’d love to meet you.
Acknowledgements: I could not have written this post without the help of the following men: Scott Stout who provided information regarding his initial call to Utah in order to plant the church; Dick Fisher, Joe Gearo, Don Howsden, and Dave Teague who prepared much of what is presented as part of the vetting process to participate in the Grace Advance program; as well as Dan Walker, Executive Director of the Salt Lake Baptist Association, who provided much helpful information on our history from a supporting ministry perspective. And of course the many Saints of Stansbury Park Baptist Church who have been examples of trusting in God and not man as they have stayed the course not abandoning ship during rough seas.
- Paul Henning. “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” 1962. ↩