MADILL—Located nine miles east of Madill’s town square is Madill, Little City. The rural church sits on Highway 199, surrounded by a few blocks of houses and a whole lot of farmland. Cecil Mackey has been Little City’s pastor for 16 months, and during this time, God has brought revival to this community.
Since Mackey arrived, Little City has observed 32 baptisms. According to Gary Dempsey, director of missions in Johnston-Marshall Association, Little City has not reported 20 baptisms in a year in its history before this recent movement of the Lord.
Little City also increased its Sunday School attendance average from 35 to 80. The church recently experienced high attendances of 117 in Sunday School and 172 in worship. With extra chairs and seating people in the choir loft, the small sanctuary had standing room only that morning.
How has this happened? What led the Lord to abundantly bless this small church near Lake Texoma that currently has a pastor who surrendered to preach two years ago with no seminary training and has only been a supply preacher before accepting Little City’s call to be its pastor?
The story begins with looking at the church prior to Mackey’s arrival, then how the Lord worked in Mackey’s life, concluding with how God brought both church and pastor together.
Refining Little City’s focus
Little City is not much different than other rural churches. It is a family-oriented, Bible-believing body of Christ. For years, Dempsey said, they have been calling similar
pastors and following a common trend of church attendance.
“Little City has been one of those churches in their history that has typically had a seminary student (as pastor),” Dempsey said. “It seems like they were on a roller coaster. They would get a pastor, and they would grow. Then the pastor would leave, and they would decline. It was just a roller coaster.”
The list of seminary students who pastored Little City includes Hance Dilbeck who is now senior pastor at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs. Little City still treasures the years Dilbeck served, and Dilbeck thanks the Lord for his time at Little City, saying it is the church that “taught me how to be a pastor.”
Recently, Little City had a pastor named Kenneth Stacy who had a little longer tenure than previous pastors. Dempsey said Stacy helped give Little City more purpose and direction on functioning as a church body.
“(Stacy) instilled a mission statement in the church, and they bought into it,” Dempsey said. “He eventually left, but they didn’t decline as much after that. They weren’t just dependent upon a pastor to lead them. They were more inclined to do the work of the church. They have been steadier with their membership, and when good leadership came, it has just taken (Little City) to the next level.”
The next level Dempsey describes is currently demonstrated at Little City, but the pastoral leadership they now possess came from a rural fire coordinator from Atoka, who admitted he was not answering the Lord’s call on his life. But that soon changed.
Putting Mackey on the path
Mackey lived in Atoka his whole life. He had a secure job, working as a state liaison with 125 fire departments in 10 counties. He and his wife Tammy and their son Jeff and daughter Leslie were faithful members of Atoka, Southside. But God had other plans for Mackey.
“I knew for at least five years God was dealing with me,” Mackey said. “I didn’t want to do it, but I finally submitted when we were having a revival in our church. Doug Miller was the evangelist, and during one service he said, ‘I believe God is dealing with somebody here about ministry.’”
That’s all Mackey needed to hear. He answered God’s call to ministry that night, and it did not take long for Mackey to fulfill the call. He started doing supply preaching at various churches.
“For the next eight months, I probably went to my home church on Sunday mornings about five times,” Mackey said. “I was preaching at different churches almost every Sunday.”
During this time, Little City needed someone to full its pulpit. A call was made to Atoka, Southside, as a Little City member heard about a young man who surrendered to youth ministry. The young man said he had an obligation but recommended they call Mackey.
Bringing church and pastor together
The next phone call was made to Mackey, and the caller and Mackey hit it right off.
“You’re country, ain’t ya?” the caller asked Mackey.
“You can tell on the phone I’m a redneck, can’t ya?” Mackey replied, and they both laughed. “Don’t wear a tie because if you do you’ll be the only one wearing a tie,” the Little City member advised Mackey who accepted the request to preach.
For five Sundays Mackey preached at Little City. At one point, he was asked if he would be interested in being Little City’s pastor, but Mackey said he thought he should just do supply preaching and still work his regular job. In his heart, though, Mackey struggled.
“I lived in Atoka my whole life,” he justified. “I lived in the same house I grew up in. I had a good job.”
After that fifth Sunday of preaching at Little City, Mackey walked back to his truck and was stopped by Mike Pickens, chairman of deacons, who told him this was the last Sunday Mackey would preach because the church was planning on calling a pastor.
On that drive home, Mackey’s heart sank. He told Tammy, “God’s calling me to this church.”
“I know that,” she replied. “I’ve just been waiting for you to figure it out.”
The next day, Mackey called Pickens, asking him if they could meet. They met for lunch, and Mackey noticed when Pickens arrived he was having a long phone conversation in the parking lot.
Pickens eventually came in the restaurant, and as the two men talked, Mackey said, “You probably know why I want to meet with you.”
Pickens replied, “Well I hope I do, but let me tell you something.” He explained to Mackey that Little City has a rule that the church confers with one pastoral candidate at a time in order to be fair with the candidate.
Mackey started to get discouraged, but then Pickens said he was just on the phone with the candidate who said he withdrew his application. “He just felt Little City is not where God wanted him to be,” Pickens told Mackey.
Little City asked Mackey to come in view of a call on Easter Sunday in 2016. Pickens told Mackey beforehand the church’s rule was the candidate needed 70 percent of the votes, but Mackey said he would not come unless he got 90 percent of the votes. The church voted 100 percent in favor of Mackey to be pastor.
“That just confirmed for me what God wanted to happen,” Mackey said.
Blessings abound at Little City
The Lord began to bless the work at Little City. Mackey said one reason for people coming to Little City and giving their lives to Christ is from hearing people share their stories. Mackey himself started, as he gave his testimony soon after he became pastor. In that service, four people came forward to make professions of faith.
“Every Sunday night that we don’t have business meeting we have one or two share their story,” Mackey said. “It speaks to people. It’s not academic. It’s from the heart. The stories have varied widely from ‘church kids stories’ to the ‘wrong road stories’ that involve drugs and alcohol to the ‘good person who never went to church stories.’”
From there, Mackey said the Lord has led people from all over to come to Little City. Some live by the lake, he said; most are “just country folks around the county.” But they come, and many give their lives to Christ. Of the 32 baptisms, many were regular members who were never baptized or knew, when they actually surrendered their lives to Christ, they needed to follow up with believer’s baptism. Still others were new converts who heard the Gospel for the first time.
“If you come hear me preach, it’s nothing I do,” Mackey said, admitting he does not have a seminary degree but does attend Bible conferences. He plans to do online studies with Oklahoma Baptist University. “For me, what I preach most of the time is love. The Bible says God is love. If you don’t have love then God is not in you. That’s the way I go at it.”
Dempsey believes Mackey’s humble demeanor bonds well with Little City members.
“He fits the community,” Dempsey said. “He has a like mind and a like heart. He connected very well.”
Dempsey also believes Little City was ready for God to work in this church. “The pump was primed, and they just took off,” he said. “It’s been exciting to hear the reports and about the good things happening.”
God continues to provide big blessings at Little City.