FBC Cleveland hosts ‘multi-generational’ service-day ministry
By David Dawson
CLEVELAND — Jordan Easley, senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Cleveland, has developed a radical, visionary, outside-the-box evangelism strategy at his church.
It’s called — the Great Commission.
“Revolutionary, right?” said Easley.
Although Easley was being tongue-in-cheek about the newness of the concept, he is completely serious when it comes to making sure that the Great Commission — found in Matthew 28:16–20 — is the anchor point for all outreach ministries and events at First Baptist.
An example? Last month, when FBC mobilized more than 2,000 people to participate in a church-wide “acts of service day” that spanned throughout the Bradley County area. The one-day ministry included more than 100 service projects — all with the purpose of spreading the Good News of Jesus.
“We, as a church, really feel like God has called us to go across the streets in our own community, across the states, all across our nation, and really across the seas,” said Easley.
“We believe that if God is going to bless our work all over the world, then it needs to start right here in our own backyard, in our own Jerusalem,” he said. “So, my focus is really on leading the church to be maximized in our own Jerusalem,” he said. “And that begins by developing people and mobilizing people to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own community.”
The church-wide service ministry included members from every demographic in the church: youth, senior adults, college students and even young children (who served with their parents).
The event featured service projects that were completed at various schools in the area, along with home-site projects (such as maintenance and yard work) and many other projects.
Several FBC staff members — including senior associate pastor Jeff Lovingood, missions and senior adults pastor Jim Gibson and teaching pastor / evangelism specialist Ernest Easley (Jordan’s dad) — helped serve as the point men on the project.
Lovingood said he was excited to see so many different age groups represented, and said he believes the door is now open to similar events in the future.
“We took a multigenerational approach,” he said. “You had children going with their parents, you had middle-schoolers going into the hospitals, college students, all the way to senior adults. … And (in the weeks ahead), we’re going to be developing an across-the-street strategy where we can do this type of thing on a weekly basis.”
Easley said the idea for the event — which was described as “tangible acts of kindness through organized projects” — came together in less than a month.
“It wasn’t like we were getting ready for this thing for a long time,” he said. “I mean, (about three weeks prior to the event), I stood in front of our church and said, ‘I want you to be a part of this one-day event.”
Easley told the church his goal was to mobilize 1,500 people with 100 different mission projects. “And that’s what we did,” he said. “We put a banner up on Facebook and I got up there in front of our people two weeks in a row and encouraged them to do it. And we ended up mobilizing over 2,000 people.”
Some teams delivered gifts of appreciation to First Responder units in the area, while other teams were organized to visit homes and pray. Some teams went door-to-door, sharing the gospel.
“It was awesome,” said Easley. “I made my way around to as many projects as I could. I was able to personally visit 18 different sites. At one place, I saw the president of a Fortune 500 company on his knees, spreading mulch in an elderly widow’s yard. And that’s just an example of some of the wins we saw.”
Easley said each project represented a chance to bear witness to what being a servant of Jesus is truly about.
“It was really about people being the hands and feet of Christ and people doing things they maybe wouldn’t do normally,” he said.
“They were getting uncomfortable, breaking a sweat for the Kingdom. And as a result, we saw a lot of fruit that we didn’t necessarily know we would see. It was a really encouraging event, for sure.”
The church partnered with several outside organizations, including The Boys & Girls Club, New Hope Pregnancy Care Center, Foundation House, and numerous others.
The one-day service project ministry was excellent preparation for the upcoming Crossover Cleveland — a ministry that is focused on door-to-door witnessing and is modeled after the crossover event held each year just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Ernest Easley helped the FBC members prepare for the one-day service ministry, and for Crossover Cleveland, by guiding them through the most effective ways to share the gospel.
“Earlier this year, I did a five-week course for 130 people on personal evangelism,” said Ernest Easley, who noted he will be leading many more courses in the weeks ahead.
“My hope is to have an army of trained people that we can count on to do house-to-house, block-by-block gospel sharing,” he said.
Jordan Easley said he hopes the service project ministry wasn’t just a one-day event, but rather an attitude that permeates throughout everything the church does. He said he also hopes it becomes commonplace for the community to see church members performing acts of service.
“I hate that these kinds of events are so shocking to people,” Jordan said. “I mean, I hate that this event is newsworthy, to be honest with you, because I really believe this should be what the church is all about. It should be what we’re known for.”
Easley said he wants his church to focus on its neighbors, and then branch out from there.
“We want to be a church that engages the people in our own backyard,” he said. “We want to establish relationships with people that are not connected to our church right now, and we want to do so for one reason — to point them to Jesus as our source of hope and life and salvation.”
Simply put, he wants to see his church take on the challenge of the Great Commission. As radical as that might sound. B&R