Standing in the waters of the Mediterranean, Allen Maddox experienced a moment he would never forget. As a pastor plunged him into the salty sea and raised him up, he couldn’t keep from smiling. The waters themselves had not changed him, but a decision to follow the One who created them had. Wrapped in an aquatic breeze that blew warm and free, Maddox walked out of the water a new man. After years of hopping from job to job, never staying anywhere long, he had needed a fresh start. His years in the military had provided structure and guidance of a sort, but this was something more. He’d been born again.
“I was so hopelessly lost in life,” Maddox said. He had been raised in church by parents who taught him what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus, but he had never fully trusted in the saving grace of the cross. It was only after four years in the Coast Guard and a second tour of duty in the Navy that the great transformation occurred.
Maddox served as a radarman and in the process saw the world—far-flung places like the North and South Poles, Norway, Saudi Arabia, the Fiji Islands, Djibouti, Iran, and Italy to name just a few. But with each country he visited, he realized all the more that a location couldn’t calm his restless heart. So he began reading the Bible his mother had given him when he’d left home and testing the things he’d been taught growing up. After weeks of seeking, questioning, and praying, he chose to place his faith in Jesus Christ.
Eager to learn more about his faith, Maddox attended church with his family while he was home on leave. They’d been visiting a new church, First Baptist Atlanta, and Maddox was intrigued by its pastor, Dr. Charles Stanley. “As soon as I walked in the front door, I could feel the Holy Spirit saying, ‘This is where I want you to stay and grow.’ So I joined the church that Sunday,” he said.
“I can’t wait to come here every day and see what I got in the mail.”
Not long after that, he returned to his post with the Navy and was sent to Italy. That’s where he met Bob Wolf, the pastor who baptized him in the Mediterranean—the same sea where the great fish swallowed Jonah and on which the apostle Paul traveled. When Wolf suggested Maddox write his pastor back home to let him know about his decision, Maddox laughed, “My pastor doesn’t know me. I just joined the church, and I was only there two or three Sundays before I left,” he said. “Dr. Stanley has no idea who I am.” However, after a bit more prodding, Maddox put pen to paper, expecting nothing in return. Much to his surprise, he received a personal reply, which he has kept to this day. In addition to commending the decision to follow Christ’s example in baptism, Dr. Stanley wrote that he would pray for Maddox’s spiritual growth.
And grow he did. Maddox was hungry to learn the Word of God, and once his time in the Navy ended, he returned home and began getting involved at First Baptist Atlanta. It was there he met a man named Mike who had an amazing knowledge of the Bible and who encouraged him to push his own study of it to a new level. So Maddox enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where after many long years of questioning and wandering, he found a place to root himself.
He spent several years there, earning an associate degree in Theology, a bachelor’s degree in Religious Education, and finally a master’s of Divinity. For a time, he even pastored a small church in Paluxy, Texas, often using notes he’d taken from Dr. Stanley’s sermons to help him prepare for his own messages and Bible studies. But his favorite experience throughout those years of study was learning about Scripture. “My first semester, we were talking about how the Bible came about, and it fascinated me,” Maddox said. He vividly recalls the time a professor brought in fragments of original manuscripts that usually hung in the seminary library. “I didn’t even feel worthy to touch them,” he said.
That awe and reverence for Scripture drove him to seek out a career where he could use his newfound knowledge. But even with his seminary credentials, Maddox didn’t begin his vocation quite where you’d expect. He was hired at In Touch Ministries to work in the Duplication department, making cassette tapes of Dr. Stanley’s sermons each week. And though this was good work, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was meant to do something different. Rather than run machinery, he wanted to make the Word of God alive, active, and accessible for others—to help them become as passionate about the Bible as he was.
“There is almost no question he doesn’t have an answer for, and that's why we call him our walking Bible encyclopedia.”
For that reason, he had his eye on the Counseling department. Some of its staff members answered phone calls from people needing spiritual guidance, and others wrote letters, answering questions about faith, life, and Scripture, using information gleaned from Dr. Stanley’s extensive catalogue of sermons. Now, 17 years later, Maddox serves as the Writer for Doctrine and Theology at In Touch and is an essential member of the staff he’d once longed to join.
Now known as the Christian Guidance department, this team responds to correspondence on Dr. Stanley’s behalf. Thousands of people send letters and emails to him each year, a volume much too high for one man to handle on his own. It’s Maddox’s job to answer the biblical questions from partners, and Scripture always serves as the basis of his reply. It’s deeply satisfying for him to help others who are eager to learn—a feeling he knows well. “This is my hobby and my calling; I love what I do,” he said. “I’ve got the perfect job, and I just couldn’t be any happier.”
This is especially evident each year when his supervisor forces him to use his vacation days. Maddox finds such satisfaction in his work that he rarely takes a day off. And for one who was once a wanderer, finding a place of such permanency is no small feat. Maddox is firmly rooted in a life of service and joyfully buries himself in the shelves of Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and concordances that fill his office. Most days, he can be found at his desk, eyeglasses positioned just so as he sifts through piles of letters with a stack of books at the ready.
“We love Allen, his dry wit, and his willing heart,” said Dennis Boyd, Director of Christian Guidance. “And we depend on him for his biblical and theological knowledge. There is almost no question he doesn’t have an answer for, and that’s why we call him our walking Bible encyclopedia.”
Above all, Maddox loves studying God’s Word, and there’s nothing that gives him greater satisfaction than seeing a fresh stack of letters on his desk each morning. “I can’t wait to get here every day and see what came in the mail,” he said with a chuckle, and a smile on his face as always. “I think about that letter I wrote to Dr. Stanley when I was a young believer,” he said. “Back then, I never dreamed I’d be here someday, answering similar ones. Who’d ever have thought?” And with more than 33,000 responses under his belt to date, Maddox is the perfect man for the job.