From the very beginning of it’s humble start, God’s hand has been upon First Free Will Baptist Church of Ozark in a special way. The church was born out of a vision to start a thriving Free will Baptist Church in one of the fastest growing areas in Southern Missouri. State Missionary Gary Mitchener, along with his wife Brenda and their three children, Christi, David and Rebecca, moved to Ozark in May of 1993. Pastor Gary came to this area with a great burden and desire to establish the church.
Forty-eight people gathered together on July 11, 1993 at 1300 S. Third Street. On this special day, after much prayer, hard work, and direction from the Lord, a new church began. The Missouri State Mission Board provided guidance and financial support; along with other churches, women’s auxiliaries, and individuals. The Lord has confirmed His blessing on the work by sending faithful, dedicated people who have been with the Church from the start, and others who have joined later. Many precious souls have been saved, needs met, and prayers answered.
As the church and ministries grew, the need arose for more space. On April 3, 1994, the church relocated at 201 E. Church Street. By this time, the congregation had grown to 100 in attendance. This location provided a sanctuary that seated approximately 275 with a two story education building and a gymnasium. The church reached self-supporting status on April 11, 1999.
Greg and Kim Smith, along with their two sons, Layton and Daylen, were hired in July 2000 as Associate Pastor of Music and Worship. Greg is a 1992 graduate from Free Will Baptist Bible College, Nashville, TN, where Kim also attended. In 2007, another son, Caysen, joined the Smith family. Several areas of music ministry have grown since then. Kim joined the staff as Church Secretary in August, 2002.
Other volunteer Ministry Directors and laypeople have been instrumental in the continued growth of the Church.
In January, 2009, the church purchased the former 84 Lumber Company and 6 acres of property (at 2106 W. Evangel Street, Ozark) at the intersection of 65 and 14 hwy. The building was remodeled and services began on March 22, 2015. The church continues to grow with a vision to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community and around the world. Presently, the church averages about 350 in attendance with plans for continued growth!
Chuck Meppelink, along with wife, Kay, joined our staff in September, 2015 as Administrative Director. Chuck has been a great asset in directing the church with great experience and organizational skills.
In July of 2018, Layton Smith, with his wife Stephanie, was added onto our staff as Children's Pastor.
Layton and Stephanie spent most of their childhood in this church, meeting around the age of 7. On August 1, 2018 they welcomed their first boy, Micah! Layton graduated from Welch College in May of 2018. He got his degree in General Christian Ministry, while following the tracks of their Youth and Family Ministry program. They looking forward to what God is doing and what he is going to do in our church!
In May 2018, we adopted Heritage Campus! Rev. Gene Crewse joined our staff in June, 2018. Heritage continues to grow and give. They are a loving family that is excited for what God is doing in our church.