Whitesburg member evangelizes middle schoolerscomment (0)
December 21, 2000
By Sarah E. Pavlik
From the stark school grounds of Malawi’s largest middle school to the smartly decorated halls of north Alabama’s public schools, Russell Medley has been busy spreading the gospel through Mustard Seed Ministries.
Unofficially, Mustard Seed Ministries sprouted in Africa where Medley first started conducting enormous school assemblies during summer missions trips. Sometimes the gospel was presented to 7,300 students at a time. In just four summers, Medley and his team evangelized 259,000 African students; mostly middle school. Oftentimes almost the whole school accepted Christ, including the teachers and principals.
“They are just poor, poor, poor,” Medley said. “They’ll just about knock you down trying to shake your hand. If you give them a tract they’ll keep it for the rest of their lives. It’s a treasure to them.”
With a few legal adjustments and a little more hype, Medley believed these assemblies could have the same kind of impact in Alabama’s public schools.
Medley, a chemical engineer by profession, is deacon vice chairman for evangelism and outreach at Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville. He also serves as Sunday School teacher for the 5th- and 6th-grade boys inner city Sunday School and directs the church’s bus ministry that goes to poorer areas of Huntsville to pick up children.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Medley led five middle-school assemblies in Huntsville during the 1999-2000 school year.
He plans to hold assemblies at all Huntsville public middle and high schools and also move into Madison County schools. At several of the middle schools, Medley watched as more than150 students filed in for his “pizza party” rallies. To his delight, the majority of the students at his first assembly made decisions to follow Christ.
State and federal laws prohibit religious organizations from rallying during schools hours, so Medley schedules his assemblies shortly after the school day ends. Mustard Seed Ministries must pay to rent the school halls, a provision guaranteed by a Supreme Court decision — Lamb’s Chapel vs. The City of Moreches. And of course, attendance must be kept voluntary.
As for the school system, Medley reports that, “although they cannot become involved in the assemblies or support them, they are by and large very much in favor of what we are doing.”
“We start at 3:30 p.m. with prayer and singing, then one of our adult volunteers gives a personal testimony,” Medley said. “Then I come in with a 20-minute evangelistic message. I use the wordless book, which is very simple, and lots of Scripture.” A wordless book is a picture book that presents the gospel in a simple format. It is used primarily for children and when witnessing to non-English speaking people.
Medley said he also goes through the “Roman Road” with them. “They get an opportunity to talk to a counselor and then I ask for a show of hands for those who have believed.”
Then Medley breaks out what he alleges to be “the best pizza in town,” leaving the kids with full stomachs and full hearts.
“Discipleship is a very important part of our follow-up,” Medley added. “The best way to reach the world for Christ is to use not only addition but multiplication. We want to reach people who will reach people.”
“I’m also currently trying to get local church members to volunteer to do follow-up work, like calling the students who made decisions,” he said.
So far, Medley has recruited volunteers at two local Baptist churches and has plans to visit 15 more after he returns from a month-long missions trip to Zambia where he will hold 15 assemblies.
Wall Highway Baptist Church in Madison was Medley’s first stop. Carol Mader, a member there, jumped at the chance to be part of Mustard Seed’s follow-up team.
“Anytime I hear about a mission to public school kids I want to get involved,” Mader said.
“It is so important to reach them where they are. We can’t expect them to come to us.”
As the Mustard Seed Ministries team grows, Medley looks forward to a time when public school students across Alabama get the chance to attend an assembly and hear the gospel.
“We make a wonderful impact on society,” Medley said. “Parents are so happy to hear that we are going to give their kids free pizza and tell them about Jesus.” If you would like to start a Mustard Seed assembly in your area or for more information, call Russell Medley at 256-955-1055 or e-mail him at