LONDON—Call it the face off over a beard.
Members of Victory Baptist Church in this southeastern Kentucky city had a good-natured contest over whether pastor Jared Gullion would keep his whiskers that had grown nearly long enough to rival the Duck Dynasty cast.
Half of the congregation wanted him to shave the beard, and they were willing to pay up to get their way. The other half wanted him to keep it, and they were just as willing to write fat checks to save that facial hair.
Seizing an opportunity, Gullion issued a challenge: The side that shelled out the most cash would get its way.
That contest ended Sunday with better than $160,000 in pledges over the next decade and Gullion’s beard falling in red locks onto the sanctuary floor. It was a sacrifice the preacher gladly made to better position the church for ministry in London and around the world.
“Some people might ask ‘why in the world would a preacher grow a big bushy beard anyway?,’” Gullion said. “But that beard is helping pay down our mortgage so we’ll be able to direct more resources to fighting the drug epidemic in this region and so that we can better support the Cooperative Program to get the gospel to every corner of the globe.”
Gullion, a student at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College outside Pineville, had allowed his beard to grow since he arrived as pastor of Victory Baptist last June. Gullion confided that he had grown tired of the whiskers, and that he and his wife, Megan, put their money in with the anti-beard crowd.
More than 100 people made their way into Victory Baptist Church to see Gullion’s transformation to a clean-shaven pastor. Doing the honors was London barber Michael Carroll, one of 25 people who have accepted Christ at Victory Baptist Church since Gullion arrived seven months ago.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with this, but the purpose is quite serious, to free up money to do ministry,” Gullion said.
The 29-year-old pastor said the church’s $233,000 mortgage has been a hindrance to broader ministries. Serving in an area ravaged by drug abuse, Gullion said he wants the church to have a stronger ministry to recovering addicts and their families. But he also wants the church to be a stronger contributor to the Cooperative Program that he sees as vital to spreading the gospel.
“Right now, our church might be able to afford to send a missionary out of the country for a week,” Gullion said. “But through the Cooperative Program we can help support missionaries in countries around the world.”
To do that, members of Victory Baptist Church committed to contributing an additional $1,356 a month to pay down the mortgage. That’s $16,272 a year or $162,720 in 10 years, which, along with the existing payments, will allow the congregation to be debt free much quicker.
“God’s will is for us not to remain in debt,” Gullion said. “We have much to do for Jesus, and the sooner we pay that off, the sooner we direct more resources into our community and our world. And if sacrificing my beard helps, I’m more than willing.”
by Roger Alford, KBC communications director