He said many Baptist churches don't tell about all the things they do for surrounding communities because they don't want to brag. Gentry said at the same time, there are congregations “who don't see opportunities all around them to serve.”
Gentry said he thinks some churches have been discouraged by communities that rejected church aid to public schools over the years. He said times have changed and there is so much that needs to be done that ways can be found to help and serve without violating any rules.
“There are so many needs out there. People aren't going to ask what church we're from, they'll just say ‘thank you,'” he predicted.
Gentry said “Serve Oklahoma” recommends that churches encourage their small groups like Sunday school classes to develop and implement community projects. He said the initiative provides a list of service projects ranging from recycling cans and sending the money to local mission programs to building Habitat for Humanity homes.
Each church that gets involved with “Serve Oklahoma” may purchase lime green wristbands with the initiative's logo. Proceeds from the sale of the wristbands will go to the initiative's charity of choice: Tulsa's Dayspring Villa, a faith-based certified domestic violence shelter for women and their children.
Sandy Phillips, the principal of Mark Twain Elementary, said she is grateful for the support of Tri-Church.
She said in addition to the various art and music projects provided by the church, Tri-Church also provides emergency help for students and their parents. For example, she said Tri-Church bought groceries for a family after a student's father told her he had no food for his loved ones. She said the pastors also counseled a parent who was going through a rough time.
“They meet a lot of physical needs for my families — they just do a lot of the community,” Phillips said.
As for Tullis, he said the church hopes to offer after-school programming for students after a 2014 school expansion project is completed.
He said he told his wife that it would not be a bad thing if the church remained in the neighborhood for 20 years and never acquired its own building.
“I said what if we didn't build any buildings and our name wasn't on anything but we simply saw God change lives?” Tullis said.
“I can live with that.”