MANGUM—It’s a story of God working through a newspaper man to help revive a church.
Casey Paxton has been the owner of the Mangum Star-News since 1999. Though he has lived elsewhere, he has a deep passion for his hometown and for the people of Mangum, including the members of Mangum, First.
His family were longtime members at Mangum, First, as his father led the music during worship services for 54 years. Paxton’s history with Mangum, First includes being involved with Mangum, Trinity, which started as Mangum, First’s mission church, and this is where, as a young man, Paxton made a profession of faith in Christ.
Life continued for Paxton. He and his wife Karla married in 1971, lived in different places, but eventually came back to Mangum. Life also continued at Mangum, First, but the church went through a long, dry spell. Paxton was attending a different church, but his passion for Mangum, First remained strong.
In 2017, Paxton went through what he believed was God telling him to go to Mangum, First. “I kept hearing God talk to my spirit as clear as I’ve ever heard Him,” Paxton said. “God said to me, ‘I need you to go (to Mangum, First) and speak for me.’ This was the farthest thing from my mind. I reminded God of two things. First, I no longer attended that church. Second, they had not asked me to come speak. But God told me, ‘They will.’”
The next day, one of the deacons from Mangum, First came to Paxton’s office. “I saw a really broken man that day,” Paxton said.
The deacon told Paxton, “Casey, we need help. Would you please come help us?” Paxton preached that Sunday on God telling Joshua it was his time to lead the people of Israel.
Eventually, Paxton became Mangum, First’s interim pastor. He admitted he never served previously as a pastor of any church. Most of his leadership experiences has been as a youth or music minister.
“I prayed as to what God wanted me to do,” Paxton said about beginning his interim at Mangum, First. “(God) simply said, ‘Right now I just want you to love them and tell them that you love them.’ I let God love them through me. I’m not a pastor, but I love the Word, and I love those people.”
To put into perspective where Mangum, First was before Paxton became the church’s interim pastor, attendance dropped to averaging 35-40 people on Sundays. Steve Martin, a deacon at Mangum, First, said he thought the church would have to close its doors because bills could not be paid.
“Our spirit was really low,” Martin said. “We thought we were going to lose this church. We kept praying for God to give us another chance. We’ve done enough on our own. We needed God to work through us, and God did every bit of this.”
God began to bring people. During Paxton’s interim, which was during the summer of 2017, God changed Mangum, First’s approach to how they did Sunday morning services. Mostly, it involved the welcome time at the beginning of the service. Paxton said they extended that time to “allow everybody to love on everybody.”
People kept coming, and the church kept changing positively. Paxton said members were coming to him and asking how to reach more people. He would tell them to talk to people about where they were going to church.
“If they attend church somewhere else,” Paxton would tell members, “you encourage them to go to that church. But if they are not going, you invite them to join us one Sunday.”
To encourage the church body, Paxton gave them a challenge. As an avid fan of the University of Oklahoma, he agreed that if 100 people would attend a Sunday morning service, the next Sunday he would preach wearing an Oklahoma State University football jersey.
It happened one August Sunday. Mangum, First had 100 people attend, and Paxton made good on his promise, sporting a bright orange OSU jersey the following Sunday.
God continued to bless Mangum, First. Since Sept. 1, 2017, 35 new members joined the church. Also, Paxton said, a number of people who left have returned to Mangum, First.
“God has done a work,” Paxton said. “God is the God of second chances. He really changed my heart, and you can see the change in the people.
On Aug. 13, 2017, Mangum, First voted unanimously for Paxton to be its full-time pastor, and the church continues to see great things happening.
“I love this church so much, and I tell them every week how much I love them,” Paxton said. “God has blessed this church. It really has changed.”
Paxton is insistent the blessings that Mangum, First has experienced are not about him but totally about what God has done. In a time when “fake news” is raging, this newspaper man is sharing the Truth.