EUGENE, Oregon (BP) – Alan Gayle keeps several “hooks in the water,” he says, in his quest to lead the church he’s pastored since 2004, Fairfield Baptist, to share God’s love with the people around them and throughout the world.
One of those is a six-week, new-member class Gayle leads every two months. During it (and during church services throughout the year) he talks about the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together in missions and ministry in the United States and throughout the world.
“I was born on the mission field, in the Baptist hospital in Kediri, Indonesia, and got my seminary education from Southern Baptists,” Gayle said. “My knowledge of the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program goes all the way back.
“My heart beats for people to come to know Jesus and I think it does because my parents were always so concerned for people who didn’t know Jesus and instilled that in me,” the pastor continued. “We’ve always had a commitment of at least 10 percent for our Cooperative Program giving. The biggest problem in our world is lostness.”
Another “hook” is the Children’s Development Center bringing youngsters and their families from the community to the church since 2008 with insightful age-appropriate nurture as designed by longtime member Sue Thornton, an early childhood education specialist.
There’s the Tuesday noon lunch program for “street kids” between 16 and 24, in partnership with the parachurch Hosea’s Youth Ministry. Five of Fairfield’s “excellent cooks,” the pastor said, whip up a bountiful meal with caring conversation for those who might only eat that one full meal a week. This is just one aspect of the church’s ministry to this group.
There’s One Hope, a connection between about 50 churches in the Fairfield/Springfield area in various ministries, most recently with Thanksgiving baskets of items purchased at wholesale because of the group’s connections and buying power. This connection also provided for back-to-school stuffed backpacks and winter clothing, which the 50 churches together distributed to at least 3,000 students, and monthly prayer gatherings.
Fairfield members go out in “Lighthouse teams” each Thursday, visiting those who visited the church, absent and homebound members plus others whose names have been given to them so those visited learn or are reminded of God’s unconditional love for them.
Evangelistic techniques are “whatever they’re comfortable with,” the pastor said. That includes John 3:16 or the Romans Road or more structured evangelism methods.
Members also gather in one of 14 “Grow” connection/accountability/discipleship groups each week, in part fulfilling the church’s mission statement: Gather, Grow and Go.
“It’s coming together to worship the Lord, and as He moves in us, growing in Christ,” Gayle told Baptist Press. “We believe maturity in Christ leads to missions and ministry in Christ.
“We want to put people on mission, and the starting point is gathering with us,” the pastor continued. “Then start maturing. After they grow, we want to put them out there in ministry.”
Fairfield has a global vision, Gayle said. Global includes local. Each of the 14 Grow groups find ways to minister in their neighborhood, in their community and in ministry in far-away places, such as Indonesia, where the pastor was born in 1973 to missionary parents John and Sharon Gayle.
The Gayle family were on furlough the following year in the Pacific Northwest after their first four-year stint with the International Mission Board. Speaking engagements across the two-state convention – Washington and Oregon – led to a call to pastor Fairfield Eugene.
John Gayle stayed there 30 years, and the Sunday after he retired, after two years of preparing for the role, Alan Gayle picked up the pastoral torch of evangelism and shepherding that had characterized the ministry – and life! – of John and Sharon Gayle.
Now in an assisted living residence in Arizona, John continues with one-on-one conversations, which routinely lead into spiritual matters. Sharon recently came up with a new ministry idea: sharing with other residents and workers the first two seasons of the highly-acclaimed Angel Studios series, “The Chosen,” about the life and ministry of Jesus and His first-century followers.
“I was baptized when I was 6,” Alan Gayle said. “Mom and Dad were very evangelistic. I remember my mom sharing with me ‘The Silent Book,’ similar in concept to today’s color bracelets.
“The book went through the different things of Jesus. Black: Sin separates us from God; we’re born into sin,” Gayle continued from the memory of hearing The Silent Book read to him many times. “Red: The blood of Jesus shed for us. White: We can be washed as white as snow. Green: Start growing in Christ, being His disciple, walking with Him. And then there was the golden page: heaven.”
As a teen, Gayle “had great youth leaders, volunteers in our church.” Naturally athletic and a natural-born leader, he started noontime devotions in the team room at his high school where he played football as a freshman, and then soccer, basketball and baseball. There he led many to Fairfield Baptist Church, and some of them to faith in Christ.
“I had a real interest in leading my friends to Christ,” Gayle said. In college he became a Youth for Christ leader and was a volunteer youth pastor at Fairfield Eugene while playing college basketball. He coached high school basketball, football and JV golf at two Eugene high schools.
“Between 1994 and 2004, we had over 200 kids come to Christ through Youth for Christ, and I was able to disciple some of these kids into Fairfield Baptist,” Gayle said. “Many others went to churches that my volunteer staff went to.”
Since becoming pastor, Gayle has continued to use sports among “hooks in the water” to reach students and their families. He and Kelley have three daughters. He coached them all in basketball and soccer through the eighth grade.
Other hooks: being visible in the community, working with successful ministries in the area to maximize effectiveness, sharing the church’s facilities with two other churches, and new in 2022, a plan to expand its building to better serve members and the community.
“Evangelism is a strength we’re building on here,” Gayle said.
Post-pandemic, “We’re starting to grow again,” Gayle said in mid-November. About 150 attend Sunday morning services. “This year is a good baptisms year. We’ve baptized 10 so far in 2022, half adults and half youth.”