MADISON, Miss. (BP)–In October, Robert Washington’s life changed in ways he never expected. The bricklayer’s truck, along with all of his tools, was stolen, leaving him without a vehicle and the tools necessary to do his work. His insurance covered the cost of his truck, but not the tools.
He went to John Temple, pastor of First Baptist Church in Madison, Miss., for help. “He came to me in private and asked for prayer,” Temple said. “I asked him if I could share it in church the next day. All I did was ask for prayer.”
Temple may have asked for prayer, but he received much more — $7,200 — enough money to cover the $7,000 worth of tools Washington lost.
To Washington, it affirmed something he had been telling his son for years. “If you give to the Lord, your time, talent, service and goods, in your time of need He will take care of you,” Washington said. “I can only thank God for the God-like people He put in my life.”
First Baptist Church’s deacons operate differently than most churches. Seven years ago, the deacons asked for a different style of work than what they had been doing. Temple and his deacons formed an administrative-type model of deacon ministry teams.
In the system, all the deacons pick one ministry to focus on, allowing them to wholly devote themselves to the ministry. Instead of doing all the work themselves, they enlist the help of church members, getting the entire church a chance to serve in their various projects.
Temple attributes First Baptist’s generosity to Washington to this mindset. “Because they had developed the habit of volunteering whenever God put a fire in their heart about something, they were willing to step up and give when it was needed.”
John Dent, editor of Deacon Magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said deacon ministry teams are good for churches, allowing deacons to be servant-leaders.
“It really follows the picture of the early church in Acts,” Dent said. “Needs are expressed, and a church meets those needs in Christ’s name. It’s much more effective than things that have been tried before.”
Temple, who has contributed to Deacon magazine in the past, is writing “Unleashing the Power of Deacon-led Ministry Teams,” a book about deacon ministry teams to be published by LifeWay in spring 2004. It examines this model and its effectiveness in the local church.
“The premise of the book is that the whole church membership should meet the needs of the entire church fellowship,” Temple said. “Deacons should lead the way to help mobilize and minister to one another.”
Washington’s story doesn’t end with a new truck and tools. His son became a Christian after he saw the love and kindness First Baptist showed Washington.
Washington, who had been praying for his son for years, told Temple, “It was worth losing my truck to see how Christianity is supposed to work.”
Washington currently is taking extension classes from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to become a Baptist minister. He had been learning to witness to people but had never actually done it until after First Baptist met his needs.
“He went to Wendy’s and witnessed to a lady in line,” Temple said. “He told her about the church and how they loved him. That’s what Jesus can do, he said.”
The woman received Christ as Savior, and the Gospel continues to spread because of a church’s act of kindness.
“The one thing that grabs me about all this is that it’s really not about a pastor,” Temple said. “It’s really about a church membership, a church family, that has learned how to love each other. Because of that love, the Gospel is shown.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: REPLACEMENTS OF LOVE.