- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2017

Brian Jump, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clever, Missouri (near Springfield) recently told me about a young deacon at his church who ended up winning a seat on the local school board. Why?

It started when his daughter was introduced to a book in her school library — the kind of book that doesn’t belong in a school library.

The man was pretty upset, but he did the right thing — he went and talked directly with some of the school administration. He told them he wasn’t a crazy, book burning kind of person, but he wondered if they were even aware of the book’s presence in the library. And if so, what was their rationale?

“These are kids, not adults,” the man explained. “Their minds are still being formed. Part of your job is to help form my daughter’s mind, and I don’t want it to be formed like this book.”

Jump said the meeting didn’t go well. “It’s not that the administration was rude or angry. They just saw it differently.”

So Jump asked his friend and congregant: “Why don’t you just run for school board?” The man did, and he was elected to the board.

Growing up, Pastor Jump assumed he was a Christian. He would have identified as one if you asked. His parents event got him to church during the Easter season — and with some new “church clothes” too. But it wasn’t until a few years into his marriage that he awoke to the realization that though he owned a nickel’s worth of religion, he had no relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jump met his wife in high school, graduating a few years ahead of her. Then, during her senior year, she began to realize that her life was not going the direction God would have it to go.

“From the outside, she was an honor roll student and an all-district athlete,” Jump said. “She didn’t get in trouble for anything. But she still felt a sense of sin. Her dad was a non-practicing Buddhist, but they had a Bible in the house. She got the Bible out and found her way to Psalm 51.”

That is the Psalm David wrote when he confessed his sin to God after his adulterous and murderous actions with Bathsheba. Jump’s wife realized that she felt and thought the same way as David — ashamed of her sin. She turned on the radio and found the local affiliate of the Bott Radio Network — a Christian station with Bible teaching round the clock.

She doesn’t remember who the preacher was, but thinks it may have been Adrian Rogers — the late pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis, Tennessee —because she recalls the preacher talking about “coming to Jesus.” And that’s when she had true clarity: “If I’m going to come to this God, then I’ve got to come through Jesus.”

She prayed to receive Jesus and Jump said “it was an 180-degree change in her life. I saw it up close and personal. She had a real hunger and desire that wasn’t there before.”

Jump went to church with her. And why not? He considered himself a Christian anyway. Besides, he reasoned “she’s way prettier than me, and I don’t want some Christian boy stealing her away.”

They got married, went to church all the time, and Jump even took on some volunteer leadership.

“I tried to convince myself I was ok, but that didn’t work for long. When I saw up close the way my wife was, the way she thought and acted, I began to realize that not everybody was playing a game or pretending.”

So, Jump picked up his Bible. “I began reading through the book of Romans on Saturday night. The next morning, I woke up still under conviction and I just cried out to God for him to save me — and he did.”

There were a multitude of things that led Jump to a genuine relationship with Jesus, but he credits his wife: “She was probably the biggest earthly influence on that. Her genuine testimony led me to conviction.”

Fast forward a few years later. Though Jump intended on being a high school teacher, he also began to sense a call to preach and teach the Bible. He followed that sense of direction and entered Bible college, while receiving counsel and mentorship from a local pastor. Through this process, Jump entered pastoral ministry and has not looked back.

After serving in a couple of South Carolina churches, Jump returned to his home region in Missouri, to pastor the church where he has now been for three years. And the church has experienced incredible growth and unity since he arrived.

As Jump preaches through the Bible, he points out a continual theme within Scripture: God’s people are to be “salt and light” in this world. Christians are to “engage the world around us. Instead of cursing the darkness, we should try to inject some light into this world.”

Specifically, people are to “use their giftedness,” as Jump explains it. “Use your sphere of influence and maximize your leadership — and then you can start talking about the problems around you. If you’re not doing this, then you’re really a part of the problem.”

Though he doesn’t know him personally, Jump considers Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Arkansas (a former president of the SBC) to be a mentor from a distance (only a few hours south of him, technically speaking).

“I know what he’s accomplished at his church,” Jump said. “Pastor Floyd has been able to have a wide influence in his community, not just because he built relationships with the officials who govern the community — though that is very important. But Floyd understands that, from a local standpoint, the actual people in government positions can be his own church people — they can get elected and put into those positions.”

Jump’s logic makes great sense: “I can know my people, and then by extension, know they’re actually the best person in that community to be making key decisions for the betterment of the community — Christian or not.”

Jump says it’s not about moving the agenda forward of one’s own church, but working for the good of the entire community and inundating local regions for the kingdom.

“More than that, our community should be better because we are here,” Jump told the Missouri Baptist newspaper. “It’s our goal for the city of Clever to mourn for us if we ever went out of business. God’s church should saturate its community with Jesus.”

So, remember that deacon who got upset about the books in the library but now sits on the school board? He’s not the only deacon of Jump’s to leap into the public square. Another man did the same thing and in the same year —though in a different school district within the county. 

“He’s also a local boy, so one of the ways I encouraged him is to think how he could influence our community by influencing our schools.”

The man wondered if his extra involvement in the public square might mean a cut back somewhere else — his family, his church. Jump helped him understand that his service on the school board could be part of his overall commitment to all of those.

“We get angry at the world,” Jump says, “where the direction is going, what Washington is telling us we have to teach our kids, all of these sorts of things.” But as in the case of Jump’s two deacons, “if we would win a seat on the local school board, then that board determines the superintendent, curriculum, funding and direction of the school. If every church in America would make sure the majority of the school board were members of their church, the world would be a lot better place.”

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