By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
SHREVEPORT – “I want to challenge the church and pastors to fall on our knees before God and ask for His anointing on Louisiana Baptists.” says Rod Masteller, who holds doctoral degrees in divinity and in sacred theology.
[img_assist|nid=6139|title=Dr. Rod Masteller|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=61|height=100]Masteller is Senior Pastor of Summer Grove Baptist Church, a 160-year-old church that now meets in what was one of the largest shopping malls in Shreveport.
Masteller said he believes, “the most wonderful people on earth are the members of Summer Grove Baptist Church, who had the faith and commitment to buy this mall and turn it into a church.”
Masteller is also president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention – elected in November 2009, for the first of what could be two, one-year terms.
Masteller said he wants to encourage Louisiana Baptists to realize, “all of our progress and plans, without the power of God, are useless.” He said he wants pastors to be on their knees so that God will give His anointing to Louisiana.
“I hope to be able to travel to every part of the state, to meet with pastors, hear from them about what’s going on in their lives, give them hope and give them encouragement,”
Masteller said. “We’re going to come together as a state and touch this state for Christ. We serve the God of the universe and He wants our churches to be on fire for Him and doing things that bring Him honor and glory – reaching people, touching lives and transforming families in ways that cannot be explained except that He did it.”
The pastor who graduated with an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1974 (and two doctorates since then from other schools) said the main thing he wants to accomplish as LBC president is to “give hope and encouragement to pastors and churches,”
Masteller said. “This is a great time, even though it’s a tough time, even though there is great adversity and great opposition to Christianity, this is a great time.”
He reflected earlier in the day, before his interview with the Baptist Message, about Acts 12, with Peter in prison, behind iron gates, and the church gathered in prayer for him, Masteller said.
They had no political clout nor money to get Peter out. All they had was prayer.
“In the same way that an angel came and unlocked iron gates for Peter because people prayed, so can the iron gates in the lives of 21st century Christians and 21st century churches be swung open through the power of prayer.” Masteller said. “That’s what I see is going to happen here in Louisiana. We may not have political impact or money to influence our culture. But we do have the power of God and prayer.”
Summer Grove Baptist Church this year is going to use the One Focus evangelistic initiative designed to get every member praying for and loving on one specific person, and inviting them to church.
“Just imagine,” Masteller said, “if we could get every Louisiana Baptist, or even half of the 200,000 to love on, to pray for, to be concerned about one individual, just think what could happen in Louisiana and across the nation, if 200,000 people came to Christ in a year because the pastors got on their knees and the people got on their knees in prayer. If indeed we get back to one-on-one, and we are praying for individuals and loving individuals, not only are we becoming disciples and making disciples, we are making devoted followers of Christ – and those disciples praying for and loving individuals – look at what could really happen.”
How did it happen that Masteller became the LBC president?
His mother prayed.
When he was 20 and newly surrendered to the gospel ministry, Masteller told his mom about his decision, and she told him that when he was 3, he caught pneumonia and was seriously ill.
His mom prayed then that if God would spare her son, she would do all she could so that the boy would become God’s servant.
Masteller’s father, a cable splicer, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Rod was 14.
His uncle stepped in and did “dad-type” things with Rod, until he died six months before Rod’s dad died.
The 18-year-old had planned on becoming a businessman and making an impact on the world. But the deaths within six months of the two men he thought the most of, provided a clear illustration of the brevity of life to the teen.
“I realized how quickly life could change and how short life is,” Masteller said. “God used my experience through a godly home – especially my mother – to cause me to realize the only thing that really lasts is my relationship with Christ and helping others know Christ. I realized through adversity what really matters. God uses challenge and adversity to make us who we are. … The word of God transforms us.”
It’s not enough to merely memorize the word of God, Masteller said. “We must meditate on it and allow The Word to change us,” he said. “Romans 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” A man from the congregation came up to him one day and told him he started reading Romans 15:13 at least five times a day. Now, everything in his life is different.
“He’s experiencing excitement, hope and joy because he’s thinking the right thoughts,” the pastor said. “I’m so convinced that if we, with the spirit of God and the Word of God, get truth back into people’s hearts, our nation can be restored. It’s the only way.”
In mid-August, 2009, a man in the church – not one of those who usually volunteered – called the pastor to say he felt impressed to gather some men to pray for the pastor. Ten men gathered in the worship center. That number grew to 30 when the men decided to gather every weekday to pray, and now the group numbers 50 or more men. They fashioned a cross about five feet tall, and on it are the names of about 100 other men who need the Lord’s transforming presence in their lives.
“There’s something really powerful about men crying out to God in desperation,” Masteller said. “I think a lot of the apathy in our churches is because of financial blessing. So many of us have plenty to eat and drink and … we’re apathetic about things of God. I think He’s getting us to a point of desperation. At any rate, He has me there!”
The LBC president cautioned about pride.
“Be careful with the flesh because God will resist the proud,” Masteller said. “He’ll humble you. I know about that. I’ve experienced that. … But when we are broken, when we’re on our face, that will turn out to be the best time because we’ll get really right with God.”
He’s learned that from personal experience, Masteller said. The purchase in 2003 of South Park Mall continues to be an administrative and logistical challenge.
But he’s glad of it, because as a result, he’s closer to God than he ever has been.
“Just realizing we are in over our heads and only God can bring us through that – to me that’s a good thing,” the Summer Grove pastor said. “I really believe that’s where God wants pastors to be: on their knees. God’s Word tells us in 1Peter 5:5 – God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself. God will resist the proud and that can happen to any of us at any place in our lives …”
Summer Grove’s ministries include Summer Grove Baptist Preschool and Summer Grove Baptist Academy.
Many people from the community have become faithful “mall walkers” who find this a “safe place to walk,” the pastor said.
Businesses who lease space at the church include the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s White Collar Crime Unit, a GED classroom by the Caddo Parish School Board, two caterers, Firestone, Long John Silver, Burlington Coat Factory and Willis-Knighton Medical Center.
Adjacent to Summer Grove’s facility is the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s five-acre “Safety Town,” where children are taught how to avoid needless accidents and develop good safety habits.
“The one thing I want to see before I die is the power of God transforming individual lives, and therefore families, and therefore churches, and therefore the culture,” Masteller said. “I see no reason why this couldn’t start in Louisiana.”
LBC president Rod Masteller has been married to Linda for 42 years. They have four grown daughters and nine grandchildren.