Murrayville Baptist Church
Address: 5407 Hubert Stephens Road, Murrayville
Phone number: 770-287-8887
Editor’s note: This series introduces one minister from a faith-based organization in the community each month.
BY JENNIFER LINN
Before being selected as pastor of Murrayville Baptist Church, God had already told the Rev. T John Dell he was going to plant him in the Hall County church.
Dell had spent almost all of his life in his hometown of Waycross, but he resigned in 2000 under the leading of the Lord after 13 years.
“Soon after I resigned, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,” he said. “It attacked my eyes and my eyes drifted from each other. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t see without wearing a patch over one eye.”
Shortly afterward, Murrayville Baptist Church members contacted Dell and invited him to preach one Sunday.
“As soon as I walked in the door (at home in Waycross), they were calling me, wanting (me) to come back and meet with the pulpit committee,” said Dell, who has a degree in theology from the Gulf Coast Bible Institute as well as a doctoral degree.
Dell returned to meet the committee and was told they would vote on a new pastor soon. They asked if he would mind if his name was on the ballot.
“The Lord had already spoken to my heart and told me he was going to plant me here,” Dell said. “And so I told them yes. They voted that first Sunday in February. They called me that night and told me it was 100 percent for me.”
Dell returned the following week to assume his role as the new pastor, but he flew since he still couldn’t see well or drive. His wife, Debbie — who he says has been a major part of his ministry — joined him later.
After arriving in Gainesville, he was touring the town when suddenly he noticed a change.
“I was sitting (in the van) and all of a sudden my eyes straightened up and I said ‘I can see,’” Dell said. “I believe the Lord did that in my life just to get me to where he wanted me. I say the Lord thumped me upside the head and messed up my eyes long enough to get me to where he wanted me.”
He refers to this story as a “God story.”
It’s been 16 years since Dell and his family (he and Debbie have two adult sons, Cory and Matt) arrived in Murrayville. Since then, his eyes have improved. He still has some issues, such as a lack of peripheral vision. And some weather conditions make his eyes feel strange.
But Dell loves his work at Murrayville Baptist Church.
“I love these people. They’re good people,” he said. “They love the Lord and I love pastoring them ... I love seeing God work in people’s lives ... to a point where it changes them forever. I love seeing that and we seen a lot of that here at Murrayville.”
He sat down with The Times to answer questions about the church.
Question: What is your favorite part of being a pastor at Murrayville Baptist Church?
Answer: My favorite part of being a pastor at this church are the people. They have such a heart for the Lord. There’s a great heritage in this area. We call this the Bible Belt, and there’s a great heritage of tremendous, great men of God (who) have labored in this area. The people have such a reverence for God. I love serving with them. They’re the kind of people (who) see the need and just put their hands to it. You don’t have to do much begging. They just have a heart to serve the lord.
Q: What are some of the strengths of the church community?
A: This church has a reputation of being a very, very friendly church. This church has such a friendly heart. They make everyone seem welcome. It’s nothing that I do, it’s just in their heart to be that way. They’re just simple people, sincere people and they make anyone feel welcome.
Another big strength that this church has is the unity of the body. We’re all focused on the precepts of the Bible to help others, to be there for others. It’s about honestly opening your heart and letting people come in here and meet with the Lord themselves and find the Lord and we’re here to help them in that endeavor in life.
Another strength of our church is prayer. Our people are a praying people and God has answered so many of our prayers as a group and for individuals. We have a ministry I call, “Pastor’s Prayer Ministry” in which, on a monthly basis, we pray for a given pastor and their church.
Q: Are there any areas of improvement or growth you’d like to see?
A: We’re such a strong church in so many areas, but the one area that I’m focusing on and see the need for, is the need for an inter-youth program. We used to have a youth choir but our youth choir grew up, got married and went their own way. We’re being fruitful, multiplying and replenishing here at the church. I say I’m a grandpastor here of all these babies. I would like to see an inter-youth ministry, a youth choir again. I believe that the youth need to know that they’re just as much a part of the church as the adults. That’s the concept I’ve always had here. Right now if you would call it a weakness, that is a bit of a weakness with us right now.
Q: What are your hopes or goals for Murrayville Baptist Church?
A: I would like us to maintain what God is doing here. We’re not a contemporary church. We don’t cut the lights out and have smoke coming off the platform. We’re more of a traditional. As long as I’m here as pastor, I’d like to maintain that tradition. People come in and say the songs they hear were songs they used to sing as a child. There’s still a body of people who love that. To maintain what God is doing here and to keep reaching the community.