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FBC Madison staff marks 20 years serving togethercomment (0)

July 26, 2007

By Chris Mills

At First Baptist Church, Madison, the team concept is one that has worked pretty well for the last 20 years. 

On June 10 a special service was held at the Madison Baptist Association church to honor Mark Gessner and his wife, Mary Jo, who have served as music minister and youth minister respectively for the last 20 years.

And when you add the fact that pastor David Tew has served for 22 years at the church, the situation becomes even more unusual.

John Long, director of missions for Madison Association, said he believes this is a record of service in the Southern Baptist Convention. “There are pastors and music ministers who have served together for 20 years. However, when you add a youth minister to serve a congregation for the same 20 years, that is unique,” he said.

The church has grown in every way possible under the staff’s leadership for the last 20 years.

“We have doubled our Sunday School attendance, doubled our building square footage, tripled our budget,” Mary Jo Gessner said. “We have also added a fourth minister, and we are looking to add a new minister of children and youth as I move into the position of pastoral care.”

Tew credits the opportunity for long service with the staff as one of the main reasons he has felt called to stay for so long at First, Madison.

“I have been given the profound ability to grow along with the other ministers. We are also given opportunities to lead, grow and change together with the church,” Tew said.

The church members’ trust has encouraged the leaders, too, Mary Jo Gessner said.

“They trust the church staff to try new things. And our trust is mutual as the church staff relies on the church at large to ultimately decide which direction we will take,” she said.

Her husband agreed.

“The church has been very vocal in support of our ministry, this is a very affirming church,” Mark Gessner said.
The Gessners both say they are thankful to be able to see their children grow up in one church.

“First Baptist, Madison, has been right by our side as we have raised two wonderful children who have been amazingly helpful and supportive over the years and have come to love the church as much as we do,” said Mary Jo Gessner.

According to Anna Claire Vollers, a lifelong member of First, Madison, and former member of the youth group there, all three of the ministers are giving people.

“I think all of us in the congregation know if we have a need, Mark, Mary Jo or David — or all three — will make sure we are taken care of,” Vollers said.

Both Long and Vollers said the “solid leadership” of the staff in the church, association and state convention has played a role in the success of their ministries.

Vollers said, “One of our church’s greatest strengths, I think, is its stability. 

“As a congregation, we are rarely shaken and I think it takes strong leadership to keep a growing church together.”

David Tew said, “Our ministry team intentionally works together with a unity and vision to honor God.”

It’s a ministry team that may be at work for many more years at First, Madison.

“Until God says differently, we are looking forward to another 20 years,” said Mark Gessner.

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