The husband and wife ministry team of Tom and Shelli Baggett have recently started serving as pastors at Crossroads Community Church in Raymondville. They will be officially introduced this Sunday when the church hosts a "meet the pastors" day.

Not that many months ago, Tom Baggett and his wife, Shelli, were on the verge of making arrangements to move back to the Branson area after living in Texas County for less than a year.

The dentistry office in Licking where Tom was employed had run into problems and there didn’t seem to be much reason to stay.

But then a door of opportunity opened last December.

One of Tom’s work associates brought up the fact that her church –– Community Crossroads Church in Raymondville –– was in need of a new pastor.

“She said, ‘Our pastor just left, so would you come and take care of our church until we can find somebody?’” Tom said. “We went, and the very first day they introduced us as the new pastors. We stayed with them and had a couple of great services, but what really developed was a love relationship with the people.

“Now they’ve had their elections, they want us, and we’re happy to be there.”

The Baggetts have been together close to three years. They met after one of Tom’s two daughters –– who managed a Branson clothing store Shelli frequented –– suggested the two get together. The idea eventually led to a marriage.

“She told me he loved the Lord and raised his daughters as a good father,” Shelli said. “She also said he took them deer hunting and made hot chocolate in the deer stand. That’s what got me –– hot chocolate in the deer stand.”

Tom graduated from dental school at Louisiana State University and has been in ministry since 1988. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather (who helped start several pentacostal churches in Louisiana and east Texas), and his father (who was a dentist and a pastor), he pastored at two churches in Louisiana before moving to Branson with his girls.

Even with his dad and grandpa involved in ministry, Tom for years didn’t see himself doing the same thing.

“I was a rebel and ran from all of it as hard as I could,” Tom said. “But God arrested me in 1988 and I soon entered into ministry. Since then I’ve spent my life in the Bible and the word of God.”

Tom recently began a dentistry practice in Houston, known as the Houston Dental Center.

“My dad always told me that dentistry and ministry go hand in hand,” he said. “He would pray with people in the office, which we do as well.”

Shelli’s background includes a strong connection with the Cherokee Indian nation. Her father was part Cherokee, and his grandfather was on the first Constitutional Congress when Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

“We’re card-carrying Cherokees and we’re very proud of that,” Shelli said.

She attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., and then went to Kenneth Hagen’s Bible school in Broken Arrow, Okla. Her mother, Billye Brim, was involved with Hagen’s ministry and now heads up a large Branson-based ministry and is often seen on TV and heard on radio in association with her own and other well-known ministries.

“I followed after her and have literally been around the world many times,” Shelli said, “from Australia, to Europe, to Israel.”

Raymondville’s new ministry team will operate with Tom as its head, but as a duo that shares many responsibilities.

“God’s been good to us,” Tom said “We’ve learned to minister together and we both sing and preach. I told this church they’re really getting two for the price of one, because I’m not called here by myself – I’m a pastor here with a pastor. At times, we literally get in the pulpit together, and tag-team back and forth like it’s a conversation. People seem to like that. But we’re always open and never interrupt each other, like ‘I’ve got a better thought than your thought.’

“We’ve really learned to go with the flow.”

Tom said people who attend Community Crossroads Church can expect to receive sound teaching designed to create a firm, Godly foundation.

“We want to see them become stable,” he said. “Teaching is a really important thing for them right now, and you can get a lot of scattered teaching these days. I like to use the example of an acorn becoming an oak. If you don’t have the proper ground to sow that acorn into, you don’t grow anything. You have to prepare the ground, sow the seed, and then continually nurture it.

“And of course, the root system has to go out. We want to develop the roots of Christian character among this congregation.”

The Baggetts’ vision for the church includes having a profound effect on area youth.

“We want to have a vital impact on young people in the whole county,” Tom said. “We want to grow up the next generation to become mighty oaks.”

A couple of months ago, the Baggetts’ sphere of ministry expanded when they became involved with Teach for Israel, an organization based in Israel that was started by Jewish Rabbis wishing to build relationships with Christian pastors and leaders. They’ll be doing some traveling for that purpose, but they believe that their primary duty lies in Raymondville.

Community Crossroads Church will host a meet-the-pastors day at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tom and Shelli Baggett will be available to talk with anyone wishing to attend.

Standard Sunday service times are Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and worship at 10:30, and Wednesday night worship at 7 p.m.

The Baggetts are also planning an event called “A Night to Honor Israel” set for 7 p.m. March 16 in the old Storm Center building in Licking.

The couple believes the small country church they have been called to can be the center of life-changing events for many people.

“We come into this church not trying to make tremendous changes, but change is inevitable,” Tom said. “We’re very focused and we know why we’re here, and we’re really glad to be a part of this community. We really are one together, and God is allowing us to hear the need, see the need, and then create a way to meet that need.”

“And love the people,” Shelli said.

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