SPRING HILL — It's been an exciting and busy year for the Rev. Robert Barnes.
Not only has he increased growth since arriving in September 2007 at Dayspring Presbyterian Church, he also has helped the church undergo a complete renovation.
In July, Barnes, 41, learned that the Discover God Study Bible published by Tyndale Publishing, for which he was managing editor before coming to Hernando County, received the Gold Medallion Award for study Bibles from the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association for 2008.
Last month, Barnes, who previously served churches in Orlando in youth and music ministries, played guitar and sang at a concert sponsored by several local churches for the purpose of replenishing their food pantries.
In his spare time, he helps his wife, Kim, homeschool their two children and cares for his ailing mother.
Barnes, who was described as a "dynamo" by one of the concert organizers, is enthusiastic about all of it.
"Some folks go to work every day and they make widgets," he said. "That has not been the direction my vocation has gone."
Keeping very busy is nothing new to Barnes.
His writing, editing and church ministries have overlapped for the last 14 years. He served as associate editor for another study Bible, the ESV Study Bible published by Crossway, that will be released this fall. For seven years, he served as senior editor of Table Talk magazine, as a part of Ligonier Ministries in Lake Mary. He worked for Third Millennium in creating a seminary curriculum in every major language. At the same time, he was on the editorial staff for the Spirit of the Reformation study Bible.
After he interviewed for the pastorate at Dayspring, Barnes went to Liberia for a few weeks to do missions work.
"I'd always wanted to be a pastor and asked God to open up that opportunity," he said. "While I was in Liberia, everything was worked out, and they were ready for me to come on board."
Since last August, the small church has grown from 56 to 92 attending Sunday worship. There are several new younger families that have joined. The food pantry has served as many people by the half-year mark as it did the entire previous year.
Barnes attributes the growth to several factors, not the least among them "being committed to the basics."
"I think the basic, fundamental things about leadership have not changed and will not change in our society," he said. "I use those basic principles of taking the initiative, being resilient, of respecting your employees and volunteers and such, just the basic principles. I used those in my previous projects and everything worked out fine. I came here not promising to change the world because of some book I'd read but talking about loving Christ and loving others and being a community of Christians who care about each other."
Barnes said the services at Dayspring appeal to younger families and older folks alike.
"The older folks have stayed because they are enjoying the worship service, and we haven't taken away their worship voice," he said. "At the same time, we want children to be honored and involved in the worship service."
Barnes said his previous work experience has been a big help to him here.
"My work as a project manager came in handy because I immediately found myself thrown into the work of a renovation project. They just needed someone to head it up," he said. "It's been a challenge, but it's not that different than any other project I've been in — to know how to accomplish things that take a while to get done and get done right."
One thing Barnes emphasizes to his church is not to think, because of the downturn in the economy, that they are poor.
"All these things we're always marketed with (make us think) we have to buy this and that and smell this way and look that way. We can't afford them all, so we've gotten used to thinking we must be poor," he said. "The people have begun to open their eyes and see the resources they have and that the church has. We're incredibly rich as a culture financially and with our opportunities and time and health. Part of my ministry is convincing people of the resources they have and then pointing them in a place to use them."
The messages Barnes preaches are taken verse by verse from the Bible.
"We have a sign in front of the church that says, 'We are recovering God's truth one verse at a time.' I think it's that commitment to looking at the Scriptures and dealing with them in a very honest, practical way that has attracted people."
Barnes, who said he wants his church to focus on ministering to people who desperately need help and have been ignored by society, said he has a hope for his church's position in the community.
"I would like us to position ourselves in such a way in this community that if Dayspring Church were to disappear tomorrow, that we'd be missed."