After more than a year of traveling 40 miles round-trip to lead weekly devotions at a Mauldin landscaping company, pastor David Walker of Impact Community Church in Duncan has witnessed 21 people claim Jesus as their Savior and has baptized several of them on the company’s property.
This story of chaplaincy in business, with all of its chapters, has gained national attention through a network of Christian business owners.
The story begins with Derek and Heather Gracely, who started Capstone Landscape Management in Mauldin about 10 years ago. The business has grown from operating out of their home’s driveway to a small business employing about 30 people. The Gracelys attend NewSpring Church’s Greenville campus.
Derek is also a member of a local C12 Group, which, according to its national website, is the “nation’s largest network of Christian CEOs, business owners, and executives.” Derek’s group meets one day per month. Each of the members is assigned a monthly meeting and presents a lengthy report on how things are going spiritually, personally and financially in business.
“Each meeting is like a board of directors meeting,” Derek says. “The presenter gets unbiased feedback, pushback and suggestions. At one of our 2016 meetings, a very successful businessman gave his presentation, and everything seemed to be focusing on his financial progress. Another member, an attorney, raised his hand and asked, ‘This all sounds great, but what have you done to impact your company for the Lord?’ You could have heard a pin drop.”
“I was so burdened by that question,” Derek says. “What if it had been asked of me? I felt God mashing on my heart.”
The next morning, Derek walked into his office and called together his wife, Heather, and his administrative assistant, Fotini “Fanny” Mason. He asked, “What can we do to make a spiritual investment in our employees here?”
Fanny spoke up and said her pastor, David Walker at Impact Community Church, had just been talking about reaching out and getting involved in the community. Right then, the trio assembled in the conference room and called David, who is a member of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Immersion network and a church planter. Impact Community Church (www.impactcommunity.church) meets on Sundays at the Middle Tyger YMCA in Duncan.
“David was excited, and came to see me,” Derek says. “We talked for over an hour. He was a great fit for us, and I knew he would relate well to our employees. I wanted to make sure that he would speak the gospel, and he did not disappoint. In fact, that first devotion meeting, I thought it would just be about introductions, and David began preaching.
“I was listening and wondering how my employees would react, and it was all positive,” Derek says. “In fact, some of the ones I thought would be offended were the first ones to thank me for having David visit with us.”
David says, “I began traveling to Mauldin on Fridays, leaving home at 6 a.m., to lead the devotion for the Capstone Landscaping crews before they went out to work. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew the Lord was using those mornings.”
About 18-25 employees regularly attended the devotions as David built relationships with Derek Gracely and his employees.
In October 2016, on a Monday, one of the Capstone employees died tragically in a motorcycle accident on his way to work. Derek immediately reached out to David, and David asked if he could visit with the company’s employees the following day.
“So the day after this tragedy, I went with one of my church members, and we met with the other employees, about 25 people,” David says. “After a time of remembrance for their friend, I shared the gospel with them. God blessed that time, and 16 people immediately gave their hearts to Jesus.”
Excited and blessed, David and Derek began talking about how wonderful it would be for the employees to have Bibles. Impact Community Church purchased new Bibles for each employee. David delivered them.
But that’s not all.
“We had the idea to baptize these new believers in the yard behind the landscaping company’s shop,” David says. “But we had no idea how to put that portable baptistry together.”
That’s where NewSpring’s Greenville campus stepped in. Derek reached out to Greenville campus pastor David Nasim. After a meeting with Derek and David Walker, NewSpring provided the portable baptistry and donated four containers of shorts, T-shirts, and even underwear, kept on hand for spontaneous baptisms. Derek transported the portable baptistry on one of his Capstone Landscaping trucks.
“So, with four of our Impact members, we visited Capstone for our regular Friday devotion, and I talked about next steps after salvation,” David says. “I explained baptism, and you should have seen their faces when I told them everything was on hand for them to be baptized right there. I gave another salvation invitation, and five more responded to the gospel. That was 21 salvations. When I said that those wanting to be baptized could step forward, nine new believers responded. Others said they wanted to be baptized later in a church or with family present.”
David says, “There are so many things to celebrate about this story, and God gets all the glory. I think it’s a beautiful example of an SCBC church plant taking the church out into the world to push back the darkness in people’s lives. Not least in this story is the fact that NewSpring — one of the largest churches in the country — enthusiastically supported an SCBC church plant and provided what we needed to minister to people. I was really blessed by NewSpring’s generosity. This is the kingdom at work in South Carolina, and we need to celebrate it.”
While David continues to visit Capstone each week and lead devotions, Derek Gracely’s C12 Group heard about the partnership. One of the organization’s objectives is to promote workplace chaplaincy.
“C12 heard about our work on a national level and wanted to produce a video about it,” Derek says. “That video was shared with C12 groups all across the country. God is so much bigger than we think He is.” (The video can be seen at http://bit.ly/2joHyQO.)
Not long after the video went public, Derek received a telephone call from a larger landscaping company in Charlotte. The owner said he was not a member of C12, but the video had appeared in his inbox.
“I went up and visited with their management team and told our story,” Derek says. “His crew is much larger than ours and is much more diverse. He asked someone in his office cleaning staff if she knew of a pastor who spoke both English and Spanish. She called her pastor, but before her pastor could return the call, another pastor called and offered to help. The pastor calling was responding to a message from another business and called the landscaping company by mistake. The landscaping owner thought he was talking to the pastor he had originally called.
“God sent that pastor,” Derek says. “And, from what I’ve heard, he is the perfect fit for the Charlotte company’s needs.”
Just recently, Pastor David at Duncan’s Impact Church was able to show the C12 video to his congregation, inviting more of them to participate, not so much at Capstone, but at their own place of business.
“I ask the question of our folks and of churches across the state convention, ‘What are the possibilities where you work? Is there a way your church can sponsor a group that meets at your workplace? Is there a way my church can sponsor a workplace meeting for our members?’”
“Remember, Impact Community Church partnered with Capstone for a solid year before life suddenly happened, presenting an opportunity to get real with people,” David says. “We were in a position to respond. We must take advantage of our relationships, be there for people, and pray for them at their workplace to have a great day. I believe the door is open for that within South Carolina businesses, probably more than we really realize.”
Derek, of Capstone Landscape Management, says, “When Heather and I started our business, we kept saying that we weren’t called to ministry someplace, but we wanted to be about something greater than ourselves. We wanted our business to glorify the Lord we love and serve. Heather has been a wonderful part of this story by helping keep us focused that way.
“I believe those of us in business miss such an opportunity to minister in people’s lives,” Derek says. “We spend so much time with the people where we work. We talk about a lot of things at work, and yet we seem to sweep Jesus under the rug and act like it’s not appropriate to talk about Him. We are missing a huge opportunity to have an impact every day. I encourage churches to get out into the workplace and make a difference for the Lord.”
Churches or individual South Carolina Baptists interested in workplace chaplaincy can reach out to pastor David Walker at 864-263-8406 or firstname.lastname@example.org for encouragement and answers to questions. To reach Derek Gracely at Capstone Landscape Management, call 864-270-6769.
— Scott Vaughan writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.