With just one member still in regular attendance a year ago, the Osceola Church was about to close.
That all changed when Bill Ruble entered the picture. He and his wife, Carol, immediately got to work inviting old members back to church and visiting with prospective members, many of whom had previously attended evangelistic meetings but had not joined the church. They also recruited help from others who had been active with them in a home-based church plant for several years prior.
After a year of these joint efforts, there are now 25-30 people in regular attendance at the Osceola Church. Bill, who now serves as the church’s volunteer lay pastor, credits its revitalization to prayer. “I often wake up at 2:00 am and pray for help to bring the church back,” he said.
On a typical day, Bill gets up around 4:30 am, has worship with Carol, then gets ready and heads to his fulltime job as a school bus driver. He spends the rest of his time giving Bible studies, preparing sermons, gardening and raising pigeons.
Bill is one of two lay pastors currently participating in the Iowa-Missouri Conference’s Volunteer Lay Pastor (VLP) program. The program just launched this year and offers resources, mentoring, coaching and training to those who want to plant a church or bring new life to a dying church.
I recently had the privilege of attending a dedication service for Bill’s ministry. Pastor Eddie Cabrera, VLP program coordinator, joined with members of the Osceola Church in praying over Bill and Carol. “There is already fruit from their ministry, and we praise You for that,” he prayed. “We thank You for their service. We give them into Your hands. We pray for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we know that the Holy Spirit always brings grace—grace for each other, grace for the congregation, grace for everyone who comes seeking Christ.”
Before presenting Bill with a special certificate and a gift of an evangelistic series on DVD, Pastor Cabrera invited Bill to reflect on Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4. “Preach the Word. Proclaim its message,” he said. “Share it in such a way that it moves people—that it moves you—to minister to people with longsuffering. You’re not a boss but a servant leader. So how is that going to happen? You need to have a personal experience with the Word yourself. That which moves you, feeds you, inspires you, and opens your eyes is going to impart an experience when you preach the Word to others.”
Bill plans to hold an evangelistic series this fall. “I hope to see the church grow to the point it was years ago,” he said. “That is going to take a miracle, but I believe in miracles! I will continue to encourage people to come and pray for them.” Beyond raising up a healthy church, Bill also hopes to build up leadership that can one day take his place, when the time comes.
When asked if there was anything else about his experience as lay pastor he’d like to share, Bill expressed gratitude for Carol’s support and was quick to give the Holy Spirit credit for anything good that’s come out of his ministry. “I could not even begin to do this without my wife. She is the backbone of the whole thing,” he said. “Second, it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the work. I do the visiting, but without the conviction of the Spirit, it would all be for nothing.”