Victory Baptist pastor and church see success in long tenure
WALTHAM — One key reason for the dramatic growth of Waltham’s Victory Baptist Church was probably already in place when Pastor Tim Taylor and his wife, Sandy, arrived in 1988.
A few years before, the members of the 19-year-old church had bought an antique shop and several acres on top of Woodman Hill, right on Route 7.
Services at the former shop were drawing about 30 to a church that was founded in 1969 and earlier had gathered in the Bixby Library, the Weeks School chapel and in Ferrisburgh’s Union Meeting Hall before buying its new home.
Now, about 200 attend Sunday morning services at Victory Baptist Church as the congregation prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Taylors’ tenure this Sunday.
Taylor, a 57-year-old native of a small town outside of Worcester, Mass., agreed the church’s location — familiar to many for the sign out front offering pithy sayings that are changed weekly — has helped Victory Baptist grow.
“It was a great location,” he said. “Once the buildings became repaired and new, then you become an established church. It’s inviting.”
As for other reasons Victory Baptist is now a sprawling complex of buildings with white siding and gray metal roofing, Taylor starts at the top.
“Obviously, the first and foremost thing would be God’s blessing,” he said. “And the people have a very welcoming spirit. They make other people feel comfortable when they come. And we just have a good working relationship.”
A helping hand from a former neighbor, late longtime Vergennes Fire Chief Ralph Jackman, also made a difference. When the church first wanted to expand, it discovered the site lacked suitable soils for an in-ground septic system needed for more buildings. Jackman donated more than an acre of land that fit the bill.
“Ralph was a special guy,” Taylor said.
Taylor also admitted he works every day on the church’s several ministries, and that his labors might have made a difference.
At the same time, he called church growth a mystery.
“I know lots of guys who go to communities and they work their heart out, and their churches don’t grow,” he said. “It’s a spiritual phenomenon when a church really grows and thrives and does well. I really can’t explain it.”
Still, Victory Baptist now offers a daily preschool, a Wednesday night youth Bible club, and a half-dozen Sunday morning adult Bible classes as well as Sunday school, which are overseen by Rachel Boyce and two teachers; supports a youth and music minister, John Kaufman, who oversees a two-dozen strong choir and a six-piece band; helps fund 40 missions around the world as well as performs local charitable acts; and sends its own members abroad to missions on a regular basis.
Those efforts can make a difference in the community, Taylor said, and in the health of a church.
“Attendance is only a small reflection of your overall ministry, all the families and lives that you’re always ministering to and touching that are much more than come to worship,” he said.
Victory Baptist could also be a case of the right message at the right time in the right place. Taylor noted the success of other Christian churches in Addison and Chittenden counties.
“It’s the right fit, and God’s blessing on that fit … The Champlain Valley has a stable Christian community, which not a lot of Vermont has,” he said. “When you talk to other pastors, too, they’ll say there’s just a Christian presence in this valley.”
Even the sign, which the congregation put up after Sept. 11, 2001, and church member Gene Fairbrother changes every Sunday, attracts attention to the church.
“I’ve had people stop and come up into the office just to tell me, ‘Hey, listen, your sign ministers to me every week,’” Taylor said. “So we try to find something inspirational, reflective, something to make people think.”
He calls the church’s Sunday 11 a.m. services “blended,” with “more modern worship songs” performed by the choir and band added to traditional hymns and Taylor’s weekly sermon.
Victory Baptist has not gone the “rock and roll” route some churches have chosen, he said.
“That’s not what we’re talking about. People would not be comfortable with that,” Taylor said. “They really like the more traditional worship, but they like the newer choruses and praise songs, too, without the real rocking out.”
Certainly, as Sandy Taylor — the daughter of a Texas Baptist pastor — pointed out in an email, a tenure as long as her husband’s is not typical.
“It is quite an accomplishment for a church and a pastor to work together well for that many years,” she said.
Victory Baptist Church is part of the Baptist Bible Fellowship, which Tim Taylor described as an affiliation of independent Baptist churches. Pastors are first voted in by local churches.
“It’s a process of interviewing,” Taylor said.
And they remain only as long as all agree the partnership is productive.
“You come in and work well together, and it’s your choice to stay, and their choice for you to stay. And when it goes very badly, people leave,” Taylor said. “It’s been 25 years of a good, cooperative, sweet relationship.”
Unlike his wife, Taylor did not grow up in a religious family. He converted at the age of 16 on a construction site, when working for an injured Vietnam veteran who himself had recently converted. The veteran operated a backhoe, while Taylor helped and listened.
“He ran the backhoe, and I was his legs and his arms,” Taylor said. “While I worked, he would talk to me about Jesus Christ. Because my family was completely non-religious … I had never heard the gospel. And that fall I received Christ in a little church that was starting in a little elementary school in Holden, and from there, my life changed.”
He attended Baptist Bible College in Missouri, where he met Sandy. Taylor then worked as an associate pastor in Virginia and Massachusetts before spending four years as a pastor in Kansas. Then Victory Baptist came calling in 1988.
And, while Taylor said, “The Lord is in charge of those things,” he has no plans to leave.
“I’m a loyalist. I like to work with the same people, the same community, and build relationships over a lifetime,” he said. “You pastor in the same place over 25 years, you’ve married people, seen them have children, and ministered to their children.”
There are some short-term plans, however, for this Sunday’s anniversary.
“We’re just going to get together, have a big dinner after church,” Taylor said. “The people whose lives have been touched by the church, we’re reaching out to them and saying, ‘Hey, come and let’s just celebrate the partnership of Victory Baptist Church and Pastor and Sandy Taylor and working together for 25 years.’”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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