Celebrations and transitions: The Rev. Mike Shupert has been on staff at a church for 32 years

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Pastor Mike Shupert is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The Rev. Mike Shupert has been a staff member at a church for 32 years. He's been the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Cape Girardeau since 2004. Shupert lead the church through its 175th anniversary celebration in 2009. He was a member when the church moved from Broadway to Lexington Avenue, has been a missionary in Taiwan, loves Cardinal baseball and plays guitar.

How long have you been involved with a church? All my life.

How long have you been a member of your faith? I became a Christian at age 9 in my home church in Mexico, Mo.

What drew you to serve in a leadership role? A key element of my philosophy of leadership is that God has uniquely shaped each of us to serve him using our unique gifts, personalities and backgrounds. I love the church and my passion is to help Christians come alive and find their unique place in the Body of Christ. I started working with youth when I was in college and have served in about every kind of staff role -- music, education, media, small groups -- in several different churches.

What education/background/studies did you go through to become a pastor? I graduated from Southwest Baptist University in the early '80s and received a master of religious education degree at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. Along the way, my wife Brenda and I served as two-year missionaries in an English language Baptist church in Taipei, Taiwan.

Where are you from and when/why did you move to Cape Girardeau? I grew up in Mexico, Mo. We moved to Cape Girardeau in 2000 from Independence, Mo., where I was youth minister at First Baptist, Independence.

Were you involved with your church before becoming the pastor? Yes. I began as youth minister, then moved to music, then interim pastor and wore the church down, and they made me pastor.

What do you think makes this church special? I could talk about this all day. First Baptist Church is 176 years old and has a grand history. About eight years ago we had the opportunity to sell our old facility on Broadway by Houck Stadium and build at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Cape Rock Drive. So in a sense it's like a new church start. We love our new location and are thankful for God's new beginnings.

Our blended worship services are incredible. We have a strong music program. There's an openness to new ideas and a welcoming spirit among the people. The people are the strength of First Baptist Church. They are gifted and committed to serving God and helping people. Our focus is on finding our niche -- using our unique personality and situation to do what God has called us to do.

What's your favorite verse and why? I believe God is a God of new beginnings, so a favorite verse of mine is 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

What program have you done with your church that you are proud of and why? We have a heart for college students. We've begun feeding college students for free at our Wednesday night family supper. We're big supporters of the Baptist Student Center on campus. Also, we have two "Mothers' Mornings Out" a week during the school year. I'm proud of how we blend our services with pipe organ, praise team, drama, multimedia, lay involvement and other forms of creative communication.

We raised money to send our youth group to Hawaii last summer for the Baptist World Alliance and Passport Camp. We have a Chinese Bible study and ministry. We respond to many hands on ministry requests that come our way to help people locally.

Another thing I'm proud of is our transportation ministry that includes two limousines to transport senior adults to and from church. The limos are much easier to get in and out of than a church van.

What events or occasions does your church have coming up? Our youth are doing a spaghetti supper fundraiser Wednesday night. Our annual Christmas Eve service is at 4 p.m. Dec. 24. I look forward to this all year. This service features a lot of music, family atmosphere and candlelight communion.

What's your favorite day of the week and why? Is this a trick question? I love Sundays, but I'm a fan of the other days as well. Especially ones spent with family, Cardinal baseball or Mizzou sports.

What's your favorite part of being a pastor? I love worship planning. I love helping people find their place in the Body of Christ and watching them come alive. Our church is very musical, and I love the creative nature of our worship experiences. I enjoy being able to counsel with people and help meet real needs. I enjoy helping people see that church/Christianity doesn't have to fit into some stereotypical mold -- that authentic faith is real and honest and messy sometimes. I love sharing hope to those who desperately need it.

What else do you do besides serve as pastor? I spend a lot of time at my kids' activities like soccer, tennis and music concerts. I like leading retreats and small groups.

Do you have a prayer, psalm or verse you would like to give our readers for the day? I think this prayer by Thomas Merton is a good one as we look toward a new year.

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, Though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me alone. Amen."

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