John Terry smiled when he heard his foreman’s request. “Will you lead the toolbox safety meeting today after lunch?” It was a busy day, but he was willing to take the time. In fact, his eyes twinkled and his apple cheeks shone as he told the foreman, “I’ll be glad to do it.”
The founder and president of the Terry Construction Company of Greenville SC had been waiting for this opportunity.
In addition to toolbox safety tips, John brought the 670 workers on the job in Winston-Salem NC a “soul-safety” message. Laying out God’s plan of salvation for them, he concluded the meeting by inviting the men to pray with him to receive Christ as Savior.
After the meeting two men thanked Terry for the message. “We’ve really been concerned for the men on this job,” one of them told him. The response gratified John, who had been searching for a way to bring the message of salvation to his workers.
“We hire local men for construction jobs throughout the South,” John explains. “For the most part they’re a rough crowd. Some have never gone to church or heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Through his soul-safety messages, which he has since delivered as the opportunity arises, John has seen changes in language and behavior among the workers. Some have told him of their decisions to receive Christ as Savior.
How a good church leader came to know the Lord
John’s goal to share the gospel message on the job is one he has pursued since a construction worker shared that message with him. John had been on a flight to Dallas to visit one of the company’s job sites. Sitting next to him was a brick mason. After chatting for a while, the man asked John, “Where would you go if this plane fell?”
Although he had served as chairman of his church board and taught Sunday School, he had to admit that he did not know what would happen if the plane crashed. The mason asserted that he knew he would be with the Lord.
“How can you know that for sure?” Terry asked. “Are you that perfect?”
The mason then explained that all have sinned but that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins. Before the plane landed, John Terry asked Jesus Christ to be his personal Savior.
A good church leader becomes a new man
“Since that day, everything has changed for me,” John says. “For one thing, I experienced an exciting new hunger for the Word of God. I began a practice that soon became a habit, getting up at 5:30am for daily Bible study and prayer. As I understood more of the love of God, I saw my own restless character mellowing.”
That change was to prove providential.
“Business-wise, my company had three of its most dismal years,” John relates. “We lost more money during those years than in the 35 years we have been in operation. But I didn’t lose an hour’s sleep. I just placed it all in God’s hands.”
The Lord rewarded John’s trust with a dramatic upturn in business during the following year, a trend that has continued. But John believes the depression his business suffered was useful. It provided him with an opportunity to grow in faith. “When things get tough, we pray a lot more,” he says.
Bringing God into the business
With all his responsibilities, John is a great believer in prayer. He starts all staff meetings with prayer. Whenever a construction problem arises, he asks the Lord for wisdom. If he receives a phone call while working at his desk, he uses the opportunity to lift a quick prayer to the Lord.
Twice a year the superintendents from all his far-flung construction sites come to Greenville for a meeting, which John begins with prayer – and a spiritual message. “We try to let God lead us in all our work,” John says.
Several years ago a foreman with John’s company started a construction company with his blessing. John took this man, William Carpenter, to a meeting of EPA officials in Atlanta. On the long drive he shared God’s plan of salvation with William. “Then this quiet, humble man bowed his head and received Christ as his Savior,” John says.
Since William wanted to learn how to read and write, John offered to teach him. He and William began meeting every Saturday morning in his office at 6:30 and William learned quickly. They started their lesson time with prayer and the bible was one of their textbooks. Through this means John was able to encourage William in spiritual growth. William now attends church regularly with his wife.
John also started a weekly bible study for his staff in the home office in Greenville.
“Sometimes I’ve led my employees in a prayer to receive Christ,” Terry relates. “I’ve seen a transformation in the atmosphere of the office.”
As an example, John cites a project manager who invited Christ to control his life.
“It’s amazing the changes that took place,” John reports. “I’ve noticed the greatest turn-about in his work ethics. He bends over backward now to make sure that a client gets more than what the specifications call for.”
That’s the kind of transformation John Terry would like to see throughout his company. And that’s why he’s a soul-safety advocate.