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A vision for Africa & the local poor
Polly House, Baptist Press
September 09, 2010

A vision for Africa & the local poor

A vision for Africa & the local poor
Polly House, Baptist Press
September 09, 2010

RIDGECREST — The idea of a

transformational church is nothing new to James Gailliard. It’s just business

as usual.

“Transformation comes by

making daily adjustments that make you look more like Jesus,” said Gailliard,

pastor of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount.

Gailliard was one of the

evening preachers at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at

LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, which drew more than 1,000 participants

to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

In every sermon at Word

Tabernacle, Gailliard asks the congregation to find at least one thing they are

willing to change about themselves to draw them closer to the goal of becoming

like Jesus.

“Real church forces change,”

he said. “Always.”

Gailliard said he constantly

challenges the status quo. “It’s just too easy to sit back and take it (God’s

message) in without letting it out. Too many of us brag on what we learn when

we spend time in the Word instead of letting it be about self-assessment.

“You get closer to God, not

just because you read the Word, but when you get challenged by it and make

those daily adjustments,” he said.

Sensing God’s vision

Being willing to adjust has

consistently been part of his church planting ministry through the years. As a

church planter in Philadelphia in 2003, he sensed God giving him a vision for

starting a church in Africa.

“I was willing, but I’d

never been to Africa. I didn’t even know anyone in Africa to call about it,”

Gailliard said. Even so, the idea intrigued him and didn’t go away.

“One day I was sitting in my

office and my phone rang,” he said. “It was Johnny Hunt (pastor of First

Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.) and he asked me to go with him and a group of

pastors to South Africa to start churches.”

Photo by Kent Harville

James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount, brought the message on Monday and Tuesday evenings of the Black Church Week event.

What made Gailliard certain

this was God’s divine planning was he didn’t know Hunt and Hunt didn’t know

him. The only connection was that Hunt had read about Gailliard being named one

of the North American Mission Board’s church planters of the year.

“I couldn’t believe it,”

Gailliard remembered with a laugh. “I guess if God wanted me to plant a church

in Africa, He could make it happen and use Johnny Hunt to do it.”

Gailliard’s ministry as a

church planter has led to him being involved in starting 24 churches in the

U.S. and abroad.

“I love planting new

churches,” he said. “I can’t believe God has let me be a part of that.”

In 2005, Gailliard went to

Rocky Mount, for a church planting training event and sensed God telling him it

was a place of opportunity. Word Tabernacle opened its doors there in 2006 with

14 people in attendance. Today, it has about 1,800 members. Its growth is

somewhat atypical, Gailliard said.

“About 55 percent of our

members have been baptized there,” he said. “We have communion and baptism

every Sunday afternoon. We haven’t missed a Sunday baptizing since that first

Sunday.”

Hands-on baptisms

At Word Tabernacle,

Gailliard isn’t the only one who baptizes, either. Any church member can

baptize new believers they have led to Christ. The church always looks to

Scripture to make decisions rather than tradition, he said. “It’s not my

perspective, but what does the Bible say,” he noted.

“We looked at the Great

Commission (in the Gospel of Matthew) and didn’t see that it said a preacher

had to do the baptizing,” he continued, adding that it is meaningful to see

parents baptizing their children and students baptizing other students.

“When you lead someone to

the Lord, then walk with them through baptism, it puts a level of

accountability like nothing else,” Gailliard said.

Another unique aspect of the

church is that the invitation is at the beginning of the service rather than

after the sermon.

“We have our deacons and

other members explain salvation and invite people to come forward to make a

decision or ask questions,” Gailliard said. “We use the same wording every time

on how to lead someone to receive Christ. Our people hear it repeated every Sunday

so they learn it by heart. That way they know how and don’t have to worry about

what to say. You have to remember that most of our new people aren’t Christians

so we keep it simple and consistent.”

Economic opportunity

The church is located in

Edgecombe County, one of the most economically disadvantaged in the U.S.

“About a third of our church

is unemployed,” Gailliard said. Recognizing the opportunity to help, Word

Tabernacle has developed approximately 50 active ministries in tandem with its

spiritual ministries in the areas of food and clothing assistance, a medical

clinic, an apartment house and a relationship with a local community college

for job training and life skills.

“Last year, our church had

the most hires of any ‘business’ in the county,” Gailliard said proudly.

Having solid resources at

the church has made teaching and discipling easier and better organized, the

pastor said, voicing appreciation for what LifeWay has to offer in terms of

consultation, training and curriculum.

“We use the ‘YOU’ and ‘KNOWN’

curriculum as a part of our church-wide study,” he said. “Of course we do some

tweaking to make it work for us, like anyone would do, but it’s really good and

speaks to our congregation. I use ‘Facts and Trends’ all the time for sermon

illustrations, statistics and resource information. It’s on my desk right now.

And Jay Wells (LifeWay’s director of black church relations and consulting)

always has great suggestions and advice whenever I call him. We use all kinds

of LifeWay stuff! I trust it.”

Gailliard said he has been

attending Black Church Week, held July 19-23 this summer, for about 10 years

and always appreciates the fellowship and training but had a cautionary word

for those who might confuse having an enthusiasm with the event with having an

experience with God.

“Whenever I’m having an

encounter with God, it becomes an event,” he said. “I come here and get

wonderful training and have a great time, but it’s my time with Him that

sustains me.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is a

corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources.)