By David Dawson
CLEVELAND — Jordan Easley understands the value of gathering, but he also sees the importance of scattering.
Easley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Cleveland, wants his church to be in motion; he wants his members to be on the go.
As a means of putting that into practice, the church recently hosted its second “acts of service” day. The ministry — officially called “Go. Love. Serve.” — mobilized more than 2,500 participants, who went out into the community and performed various tasks for families, businesses, schools and more.
The churchwide event, held on Sept. 12, included participants from every demographic, ranging from elementary students (who served with their parents) to senior adults. Together, the volunteers combined to complete 108 projects.
“As a pastor, there’s nothing more exciting than to see the church fully embrace the call to go, to love and to serve,” said Easley.
“I stood before our church on Sunday (of the event) and said: ‘My prayer is that one day, our church will be known (by those in our community) by what happens outside the four walls of our building instead of what happens within the four walls of our building,” Easley said. “Days like today play a vital role in making that missional dream become a reality.”
Easley noted that many individuals who were unable to participate in any of the manual labor projects still found ways to contribute.
“(They) served by writing notes, baking 6,000 cookies, and more,” he said.
Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said the acts of service day was the perfect way for the church to connect with its neighbors and show God’s love in action.
“(As a whole), churches have lost a seat at the table in our communities,” Pearson said. “By serving our communities, we are not only gaining a seat at the table but one at the head of the table.”
TBMB baptism-discipleship team leader Mark Miller said the TBMB is going to create an initiative in which churches all across Tennessee will host “acts of service” days, using FBC Cleveland as a model.
FBC held its first “acts of service” day in 2019, when roughly 2,000 people volunteered their skills. The church planned to host the event again last Fall, but it was canceled due to the pandemic.
This year, the projects that were completed had a far-stretching range in terms of size and complexity. Some were simple enough for one person to complete. Others involved large groups, such as a car-washing station (more than 200 cars were washed).
A large number of youth from the FBC student ministry went out into the community to hand deliver batteries, light bulbs, gospel tracts and other goodies to over 2,700 homes. At most of the stops, the youth prayed for the residents before they left.
Other projects that were completed by the FBC volunteers included:
• Baking and delivering over 6,000 cookies to first responders and other people in the community;
• Working in downtown Cleveland, weed-eating and clearing overgrown brush. (A group of 50 people performed this project);
• Going to local churches, painting and revitalizing their properties;
• Working at 11 local schools, cleaning and beautifying;
• Completing various projects at a total of 34 homes (some that were in bad shape);
• Working with 15 local non-profit organizations;
• Serving in 10 local nursing homes;
• Completing seven projects where participants partnered with the City of Cleveland working on projects that included local parks, government properties, roadways, the greenway, etc.
Pearson said one of the most impressive aspects of the ministry was seeing the various age groups that were involved.
“The impact of this event is multiplied simply because every generation was served and every generation was serving,” Pearson said.
Pearson said the ministry created an almost limitless amount of evangelistic opportunities.
“Our job (as believers) is to reveal an invisible God to a watching world,” he said.
“And wow! That happened Sunday in Cleveland, Tennessee! When a citizen of Bradley County looked up on that Sunday they probably saw someone showing and sharing the love of Christ. And when some of the people asked, why are y’all doing this, (the volunteers) responded with ‘because we wanted to show you how much Jesus loves you … no strings attached.’ ”
Those who were interested in participating in the “day of service acts” were able to sign up for assignments that best fit their particular skill set.
Easley noted that the church invited people to join the ministry in several ways: “We had a text system that allowed people to text the word SERVE, and they were sent a link to register immediately,” he said. “Also, (individuals could register) through our website, firstbaptistcleveland.com and social media.”
Easley said he heard many inspiring stories from those who were involved with the event. There was one story, in particular, that moved him.
“One of our members (volunteered that day) at the Salvation Army location, serving the homeless,” Easley said. “He said, ‘Pastor, before I met Jesus, I was homeless … and then Jesus changed my life. Today, you’re giving me the opportunity to serve homeless people in our city … and I’m hoping that as a result, my hope can become their hope.”
On the same day as the service projects, FBC baptized 11 new believers, including a girl named Michaela.
Easley said that Michaela mentioned to him that she was excited to participate in the acts of service ministry.
“It’s pretty cool,” she told him. “In the past 24 hours, I’ve gone all-in with Jesus. I’ve been biblically baptized, and today, I’m getting to do what Jesus told us we’re supposed to do once we’re saved!” B&R