Matthew Ward has been preaching at Locust Grove Baptist Church of Wills Point for over 10 years.
“It was an overwhelming sense of God’s grace that brought me into the ministry,” he said.
Ward holds a bachelor’s degree from Christell College in Dallas and plans on getting his master’s degree there in the fall.
He and his wife, Diane, homeschool their six children. On more than one occasion, several of his children have come up to him and given him a hug before or during his sermon. He very endearingly tells them “Go find your mother.”
His third child, Cydney, passes out the table of contents for the Bible lesson for the week. She is very down to earth and unpretentious.
Ward is the Head Pastor of Locust Grove Baptist Church which was established in 1891, with its steeple and velvet pews. The congregation sings like nightingales. You can feel the love.
There are three other ministers of the church; Tim Mabe, Mike Jones and Jonathan Loghry.
Tim Mabe has raised seven children in the Baptist religion. He teaches English in high school and college. He has had Ward in his classes. He said, “Matt thought deeply. He reads deeply. He wrote deeply.”
One Sunday, Ward spoke about an incident in which he was driving, and a man drove in front of him very intoxicated.
He said he sincerely felt for him and genuinely wanted to trade places with him. He knew the police would be coming and he would likely receive a DWI and be put in jail.
Matt explained, “God has given us a conscience to do right or wrong. God opens our eyes and causes us to be ‘reborn.”
Mike Jones, who teaches Sunday school, spends five to six hours a week preparing for a sermon. His wife, Susan, homeschools their six children. They sing beautiful duets occasionally.
The third minister is Jonathan Loughy. He and his wife, Erica, homeschool four girls. Two of his daughters, Hayna and Abigail, play the piano beautifully. Hayna went on a mission trip to Costa Rica.
The largest homeschooling family is Kevin and Rachel Schaeffer with seven children. They sit on the front pew and look like a Norman Rockwell photograph, all different heights with the boys wearing matching blue Polo shirts, the girls wearing blue dresses and their parents wearing blue to match. The boys all have clean cut haircuts.
Rachel Schaeffer said, “We wanted a church where the word was used and not man’s ideas. We came because we wanted a family-integrated church where children were protected by their parents, not peers. In homeschooling, they have the emphasis on building church (of Christ) verses academics, preparing them uniquely to impact the world in the ministry.”
The oldest members of the church are Helen Boothe and her sister and brother. Their mother and grandmother joined the church in 1941. She was 13 years old when she joined the church and was baptized in a pond close by.
The Locust Grove Baptist Church and the Locust Grove School were once in competition as to who owned the property.
The church won the property. Records state, ‘In the mid-19th century, Locust Grove was a very well-established community. In 1893, Locust Grove changed its name to Hiram Road. Preachers preached there once a month. A new building was established in 1919 and remains here today’. The school closed there in 1920.
Worship times are:
Prayer Meeting 8:30 a.m.
Sunday School 9:30 a.m.
Fellowship 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Worship 11:00 a.m.