By Connie Cavanaugh and Christine head
Pastor Steve Gallimore rode his Harley into worship
Photography by John Swain
Steve and Marylin Gallimore soon figured that out as they sought God's
guidance for reaching unbelievers in Paris, Tennessee. What became apparent was
that many hurting people live in Henry County who might never walk through the
doors of a traditional church.
"People needed to hear that God can help them today as well as eternally,"
says Pastor Steve. "The message never changes, but the methods of reaching them
do. Adaptation has to happen in every generation."
With help from the Tennessee Baptist
Convention and Germantown Baptist in Memphis, the Gallimores teamed with 20
others and launched Tennessee Valley Community Church (TVCC) in August
"We don't try to clean the fish before they're caught," says Steve with a
laugh. "God has worked through this body by reaching out to people where they
are, accepting them but then loving them too much to leave them
TVCC calls itself a Life Support Ward: a place where the members provide
critical care to hurting people. "Our church is full of people who have trouble
in their homes or marriages," Steve says. The leadership team doesn't try to
hide its hurts or troubles-they live transparent lives-believing that
shoulder-to-shoulder ministry brings hope.
Recently a man walked into one of the three farm machinery dealerships
co-owned by Steve, a bi-vocational businessman/pastor, and asked the
receptionist if she knew of anyone who could help him. He was distraught,
because his wife had left him. She gave him "the boss' " phone number.
Steve received his call at seven the following morning. "He doesn't go to
our church," Steve explained. "But when he called his church, he got a
recording directing him to press various buttons for different offices." There
was no number to press for his problem, the man told Steve.
On another occasion Steve got a call from
a man he baptized three weeks earlier who was having trouble with a teenage
son. Steve discovered that this man's wife and son had been in church the day
Steve had ridden a Harley into the service. The young son was impressed and
told his mom he wanted to return.
And as for the Harley? "We're in competition with the world whether we want
to admit it or not. In order to reach people we have to get their attention,"
Steve says. "Churches can't carry on with business as usual; they must be
willing to take risks."
Working on the spiritual "trauma unit" can take a huge emotional toll on
ministers. "It's impossible not to be emotionally spent," Steve admits. "In
fact, Christ was totally spent. I figure I may burn up, but I won't burn out.
Jesus is the doctor, and the shepherd-leaders are the nurses." TVCC's job is to
point people to Christ, not to try to take His place.
TVCC practices a broad-based style of servant leadership where every
believer is a minister. Steve believes the testimony of a layperson carries
great weight. "When seekers hear laypeople share their faith, they'll listen
and many will believe."
People who came from backgrounds of drug addiction or even atheism-who never
had opened a Bible in their lives before coming to TVCC-are now involved in
To illustrate what God is doing there, one member said: "It's really cool
that the guy who used to serve me drinks across the bar now serves me the
Lord's Supper instead."
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