At Faith World Church, a Fayette County ministry couched in Gallaway, Tennessee, Bishop David Gillard and his wife, Elder Toya Gillard, are at the helm of a growing Church of God in Christ ministry.
With Bishop Gillard having planted four churches in Ghana and another in Sikeston, Missouri, the Gillards believe they have many more churches to plant and many more lives to touch.
The key, they say, is transparency.
“I believe the Lord has blessed our efforts because we have been transparent,” said Bishop Gillard. “We are truly one in marriage and one in ministry, but we nearly divorced in 2009.”
The Gillards were sitting in divorce court, resigned to a failed marriage.
“Our attorneys were fighting and lying in court,” said Gillard. “But one day, I sent my wife a text, saying, ‘What are we doing?’ She sent a one back, ‘I don’t know what we’re doing, but I know it ain’t right.’”
During their last appearance in court, they walked out together.
“We got up and walked out of that courtroom hand in hand,” said Gillard. “God has knitted our hearts together.”
Toya Gillard said sharing their near-divorce experience helps couples get through their rough spots.
“How will people know that God can fix our issues and solve our problems if we never share what the Lord did for us,” she said. “People respond to truth. In this day and time, they need authenticity and truth. God’s word is truth. My husband and I know what God can do. We share our truth to broken and hurting people.”
Their near-divorce experience was not the only life-changing trial.
“We lost our son in August of 2020 from a fentanyl overdose,” said Dillard. “Our son died on Thursday, and I preached our son’s funeral on Monday, which was my birthday. We have gotten through the grief with tears, prayer, and many conversations with our six children.”
Toya Gillard said they “minister to addicts because of our son. Many have gotten clean in our Toya Wilson Gillard Foundation through medical attention, counseling and prayer.”
Gillard, 41, became a bishop at 34. By age 3 he had become a Christian under the guidance of his pastor and father, Apostle Kenneth Gillard, who was based in Chicago at the time.
He first planted a church in Memphis before ultimately transitioning to Galloway.
“I had preached in Galloway on various occasions,” said Gillard. “Then, one day, a man called from Gallaway and said they needed help because the pastor just up and left. I was sending a pastor, but the Lord said, ‘No, you go.’”
Gillard didn’t know how a small, impoverished city would support a church. In 2019, Galloway had a population of slightly over 700 with a poverty rate of 48.5 percent. African Americans accounted for 60.5 percent of the residents.
“I said, ‘Lord, if this is You, give me a sign,’ Gillard said. “When I got to Gallaway, the man said, ‘Pastor, I am deeding the church and property over to you.’ That was my sign. And God has blessed us to grow and prosper since. We will keep showing others our wounds to help them find healing.
Along the way, the Gillards have developed a church filled with entrepreneurs, many of whom weren’t even employed when they came.
“My wife and I believe in entrepreneurship,” said Gillard. “About 40 percent of our members are business owners. That’s what the gospel does, lifts and gives hope.”