Conversation: Owen C. Carr
The octogenarian church planter
In 67 years of ministry, Owen C. Carr has been a pastor,
evangelist, president of Valley Forge Christian College, founder of Channel 38
in downtown Chicago, head of the Assemblies of God National Youth Department
and a tireless fundraiser for causes in the Fellowship. In 2006, Carr, with his
son, David, planted a church in Springfield, Mo. Carr, who turned 86 on May 19,
recently sat down with TPE News Editor John W. Kennedy to discuss the venture.
tpe: Why did you plant a church at age 83?
CARR: My wife, Priscilla, and I had moved back to Springfield
in 1998 to be near friends and relatives after helping a troubled church in
Chicago. One Wednesday when I was praying, suddenly the Lord laid a burden on
my heart for downtown Springfield. That surprised me. I never went downtown. In
fact, I would go around downtown. We were attending Central Assembly of God at
the time, and that evening Pastor James Bradford asked me to pray for the city
of Springfield. As I walked down the aisle something happened in my heart, and
I prayed with a passion I never had before.
tpe: Didn’t the new church meet at a funeral home at first?
CARR: We made arrangements to meet in a funeral home for a
few weeks until we found another building, but we stayed two years. Now we’re
in a former health food store that has been completely renovated to become
Grace Assembly of God.
tpe: Had you retired before starting this church?
CARR: I hadn’t retired. I was still speaking where doors
opened. One year on the field I preached 366 times.
tpe: How did you find a congregation?
CARR: We did everything wrong. We ran a two-column ad in the
newspaper on Saturday and opened the door on Sunday morning. But we had quite a
lot of word of mouth, and 52 people came. Four weeks from the day we started we
took in 39 charter members.
tpe: In your long career you’ve helped start four churches.
What have you learned about the value of planting new churches?
CARR: Church planting has always been the best way to
evangelize, particularly where the need is, where the people are. I came to
find out more than half of the downtown Springfield population never go to
church. It’s a needy area. Many people don’t have a car, so they walk to
Number one, a church must have strong and consistent Bible
preaching from the pulpit. People come to hear the pastor preach the Word.
Number two, a pastor must have 100 percent moral and financial support from the
board. Number three, a church must have room to put people. If you have the
first two, people will come, but if you don’t have room, they can’t stay.
tpe: What are some foundational principles that church
planters must have in mind when they are raising money to finance their
CARR: The important thing is to communicate the burden. When
God wants something done, He chooses a person. He gives that person a burden to
see what needs to be done, then He gives a vision to see what can be done.
Finally, God provides the faith for the person to believe he or she can do
something about it.
The one ingredient God doesn’t give is the daring to step
out and risk everything to see the vision happen. A lot of people fail because
they are afraid to risk everything. If you’re going to plant a church, you have
to risk the possibility of failure.
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