Lighthouse in St. Louis
I would want Keith Gilming as my shepherd if I was a sheep without a flock. Don’t think his friendly, easy going manner is all there is. He’s a man of passionate love for God, deep commitment to biblical authority and dogged, determined persistence. Dr. Keith Gilming has pastored Lighthouse Baptist Church in St. Louis MO for 28 years. Keith and Becky Gilming’s son and daughter Kit and Keri are both active at Lighthouse.
Question: How did you begin in St. Louis?
Answer: We arrived in 1982. I knew without a doubt God was calling me to plant a church. I just didn’t know how I was going to pull it off. I wish I had come with more experience. About 10 years into the plant we were still running 51 people. We just couldn’t get off the ground…it was an endless circle of finances and too small a congregation to offer anything with limited facilities. So, I finally got DONE with it. I told the Lord if this was what He wanted, I was good with it. I refused to feel bad that we were still at 51. I would work just as hard, but the numbers were His problem! Looking back, I believe it freed me up to be who God wanted me to be. I just let God sort it out. We began to GROW and finally relocated 4 years later with the help of a miracle piece of property.
Q: What are a couple challenges you’ve faced in the urban context?
A: My family has paid a very high price emotionally, spiritually and financially. The first generation of every church sacrifices the most. God has richly blessed me with a great wife. If your wife is not on board you will never make it. Urban family life is very difficult because of the huge expense to just stay alive financially. When you plant a church your kids don’t have a good kid’s ministry. At the same time you are living in a dangerous or difficult environment.
Q: How has your community changed over three decades?
A: Our area has become much more ethnically diverse. We don’t want to give mere lip service to welcoming people; we want to incorporate them into the body. They must be a part of the family. We have a number of bi-racial marriages. It’s good for someone to come in to a service and see diversity not just in the congregation but on the platform. This doesn’t happen by accident. We make a conscious effort to not be a white church, but to be a church that reflects the community.
Q: Are there things you wish you could do over or do differently?
A: I wish I had taken greater risks sooner. There is this challenge to be willing to go all in, to put it all on the line, to risk what you have in order to achieve or obtain at a higher level.
Q: Give us a snapshot of fruitfulness over the long haul.
A: I took two boys, David and Gabe Jr. to a Cardinals game. David and Gabe got saved. Then their mother Rhonda came to Christ. In seeking to talk to Rhonda about baptism, I had opportunity to win her husband. David is now at BBC and his brother Gabe was a Deacon at Lighthouse before taking his wife and twin sons to BBC. Recently the family was remarking how different their lives would be had not Christ come into their home. This is the fruit of Gods work in one family over almost fifteen years.
Q: What do you see in the future?
A: By the middle of 2011 we should be debt free, paying off over a million dollars in just four years. We are so excited. I also have an overwhelming burden to plant another lighthouse in St. Louis.
Q: Closing thoughts?
A: Planting a church and taking a lifetime to do it is one of the greatest challenges in Christian ministry! It is exciting, and devastating at the same time. Exciting to see lives/families/generations changed and devastating to put all your eggs in someone’s basket and it not pan out. Becky and I were driving away from the church last week and Becky said, “I think it’s been a good life’s investment, and we’re not done yet!” I feel the same way.
Q: Prayer requests?
A: Transiency has a great impact on us. Over a period of time, we lost seven of ten key leaders. We need to be producing mature believers who can function as leaders and teachers at a rate that keeps up with our losses. Secondly, we would like to see the Lord provide the right man to plant a new church.