MIDWEST CITY—Down-to-earth. People person. Flexible. Humble.
These descriptions could be used to describe Bob Rutherford, Tom Poe or Kent Epling, and all three men used such traits to describe the other two. Not only do they have respect for each other, but they also have been blessed with longevity of serving together many years at Midwest City, Meadowood.
“I feel really blessed to have a staff that has been with me for a long time,” said Rutherford who will celebrate 32 years as Meadowood’s pastor next April. “It’s part of both the church and the staff. Some think that to have a great church you just need a great leader, well that’s not true. Moses was a great leader, and he had to spend 40 years in the wilderness because the people were rebellious. Meadowood has been super supportive. They have been extremely loving and supportive of my family.”
Poe recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as the music minister at Meadowood, and is considered to have the longest tenure of any music minister at one church, possibly of all Southern Baptist churches.
When he arrived in 1974, Poe had an innovative approach to leading a music service. Though it is common for a church song leader to stand in the pulpit to lead congregational singing, Poe led while playing the keyboard. He also introduced guitars and drums as part of the worship service, which was not customary at the time.
Today, Poe still incorporates a variety of music styles, including praise songs and hymns, and remains consistent in having choirs performing in the services. Rutherford described Poe as an “excellent worship leader,” and said the key to Poe’s effectiveness is involving church members who have musical talents to be a part of the services. Along with serving Meadowood for 40 years, Poe has played keyboard for the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma for 22 years.
When Poe was asked to describe Rutherford, he said the pastor “makes himself available. He’s very strong in the pulpit and is always prepared to deliver the message. He understands the importance of family.”
Compared to Rutherford and Poe, Epling may not have as many years on the job, but considering his involvement of working with teenagers for 22 years, some would say he’s made greater achievements than the other two.
Epling understands he has overachieved the common tenure of a youth pastor, but he takes great joy in his experience, knowing he has made great “in-roads” in the local schools and the community. He is called upon often by school and community leaders to be a part of their events, whether it involves a death of a student or being asked to work in different roles of activities and meetings.
“He has a real heart for young people,” Poe said about Epling. “He made sure there is a baccalaureate service for (high school graduates). He does not play favorites. You can’t find a better model for someone who loves the teenager and really wants to be an example for them.”
Rutherford shared his appreciation for Epling saying “He’s got a great heart for kids. He’s always trying to help students in any way he can.”
Epling shared how he appreciates the leadership and example of both Rutherford and Poe. He said Poe has been a great influence on how to deal with people in humility. He admires Rutherford’s willingness to be available for the student ministry and how the pastor is approachable when sharing ideas.
Longevity does not stop with the three “iron men” of Meadowood. Rutherford is quick to point out how 13 staff members have been serving the church for seven or more years. They include Clint Percefull, childhood education minister, seven years; Mike Stephenson, facilities manager, seven years; Jay Ramer, minister of education and administration, 10 years; David Summers, graphic designer, 10 years; Gayle Minyard, children and youth assistant, 11 years; Alex Aaron, director of Mission Mid-Del, 14 years; Brad Watkins, custodian, 19 years; Bonnie Hunt, music assistant, 23 years; Iral Martin, education assistant, 23 years; and Carol Gathright who has been the pastoral assistant for 28 years.
There are many ways to recognize a growing, fruitful church. Longevity in leadership is a valued characteristic. God bless Midwest City, Meadowood, and may He use its established roots to continue bearing much fruit.