By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
With the dark shadow of World War II hanging over their heads, nine students began meeting for Sunday school in a one-room schoolhouse. The year was 1942 -- the first year for Prairie Flower Bible Church.
Next month the Webb City church marks its 70th anniversary, thanks to a humble beginning and the foresight of missionary Hugh Reed.
Reed traveled to the Joplin area under the auspice of the American Sunday School Union in 1942 with the intent of starting Sunday schools in area schoolhouses. After polling the parents of the children who attended Prairie Flower School, where the Joplin Regional Airport is today, Reed found that only four kids attended Sunday school.
With the school board’s permission to use the building for Sunday school classes, Reed began Prairie Flower Sunday School. Later that year, as attendance picked up, the Sunday school was turned into Prairie Flower Community Church, a forerunner of PFBC.
In 1953, the church family completed construction of its own building on donated land just south of the school.
Nine years later, following reorganization, the church joined with the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (now IFCA International) and changed its name to Prairie Flower Bible Church.
The church was remodeled in 1966 and by 1977 had grown to more than 100 members. A new building was added in 1984. Ten years later, Dave Ernst took over as pastor. Ernst came to Prairie Flower from Springfield Bible Church, where he had been associate pastor for six years. His original congregation of 140 members has blossomed to 220 today.
Ernst calls his church conservative. With a few minor philosophical differences, it could be compared to the Baptist denomination, he said.
“We like to say we are fundamental in doctrine and lovingly conservative in our ministry philosophy,” he said. “The focus of our church and everything we do is based on the preaching and teaching of the Bible.”
That is part of Prairie Flower’s uniqueness, he said. It is good that a lot of churches try to teach the Bible, he added, but where PFBC differs is that it does it in an expository way -- verse by verse.
Ernst, whose father was also a pastor, said the biggest problem churches face today is compromise. People compromise the integrity of the Bible, he said.
“People don’t read or study their Bibles so they are ignorant of what it has to say,” he said. “They live in their ignorance and that is why they compromise so much.”
Prairie Flower Bible Church is an obvious source of pride for Ernst, largely because of its strong emphasis on the Bible.
“I have often used the phrase that a lot of churches are going after buildings, bodies and bucks, rather than just preaching the Bible,” he said. “My Bible tells me that as a pastor my job is to preach the word.”
Prairie Flower Bible Church services are held every Sunday. Sunday school begins at 9:45 a.m. Morning worship starts at 10:45 a.m. Evening worship is held at 6 p.m. Details: 417-623-8896.