A congregation reborn
BY NICK POWELL
When pastor Jeff Saylor, his wife Yolanda, and their two teenage sons returned to SLO County to lead the Templeton Assembly of God about a year and a half ago, they found a small but tightly knit parish of just eight people. The church had lost its connection with the community in a lot of ways, and Saylor believes God has called him home to address the matter.
“I knew God was speaking to me and calling me to the ministry,” said Saylor. “My only proof is that I didn’t want to do this. God had to drag me kicking and screaming, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. There’s nothing like doing what God wants of you.”
Saylor grew up on the Central Coast and was raised in the church. Still, he never wanted to lead one. He was more interested in surfing and studying science at Cal Poly. Eventually though, the pull toward preaching grew too strong to ignore, so he transferred to Vangaurd University for a degree in theology.
Along the way, Saylor did screenwriting for some animation projects, and his experience there helped him get into a teaching abroad program. He went to Xian, China where his official purpose was to teach screenwriting. His personal mission, however, was ministry.
It’s illegal for foreigners to start churches, but he was able to minister one-on-one, pointing people toward newly instituted, state-run churches. For decades, organized worship of all kinds was heavily restricted under the communist government, but more religious freedoms were granted in the 1980s. The message of Christ can finally be heard.
“It was life changing. It expanded my understanding of how God is working in the world,” said Saylor. “Chinese Christians are amazing, very sacrificial.”
Since taking over at the helm of Assembly of God, Saylor has instituted a number of new community programs. Every Thursday evening, kids from middle and high schools meet for bible study, music, and games. Saylor said that roughly 25 kids attend each week, and the group goes to Yosemite every year for a winter camp.
A men’s bible study takes place every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and women meet at the same time on Wednesdays. Also on Wednesdays, Assembly of God partners with the SLO Food Bank Coalition to distribute free food as part of a hunger ministry from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The program helps 20-25 struggling families put food on the table every week, and it’s open to any who need the assistance.
As far as Sundays go, coffee and tea starts at 10 a.m., and the sermon starts after everyone has had a half an hour to greet one another and chat about their week. Saylor likes to pick a single section or theme and focus on it for weeks, really exploring the depth of God’s message. Currently, he’s doing a series on Exodus and the journey from the bondage of sin to freedom in God and love.
Regular attendance at the church is up from eight to 70 parishioners, and Saylor said the main purposes of a church are to provide family-like support and to point people toward Christ. When life is good, the congregation is there to share in the joy and to celebrate, but disaster and hardship can anyone at anytime. If it does, the church is a safe place people can turn to for help, comfort, and guidance.
“Ministry is about people. When one person hurts, we all hurt,” said Saylor. “You invest love and time and help, sometimes money… It’s incredibly fulfilling to see a return on that investment, for people to turn their lives around and connect with God.”
Templeton Assembly of God Church is located at 925 Bennett Way, just off of the Highway 101 exit at Vineyard Drive. Call the church at 434-2616, or visit the website: templetonassemblyofgod.com.