FARMERVILLE, La. (BP)–When Cross Roads Baptist Church realized they had more income than budgetary needs last fall, it didn’t take long to decide how to spend it.
They upped their giving to missions through the Cooperative Program from 10 percent to 12 percent.
“The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that stewards are to be found faithful,” said Andy Johnson, pastor of the Farmerville, La. congregation. “Rather than roll those finances over into a CD or put them away in a rainy day or a building fund, we decided that they would be put to better use for the Kingdom’s sake in the Cooperative Program.
“The CP missionary force is, in my opinion, one of the most important arsenals that we as Christians have today,” the 30-year-old Johnson said of the national and international outreach supported by 45,000 Southern Baptist churches. The missionaries “are on the front lines … think of it as a military operation: You wouldn’t send the military into battle without making doubly sure that they were properly funded, armed and taken care of, would you?”
Johnson, who is known for his homespun talk, also likened churches’ gifts to missions through CP to that of a young boy who gave five loaves of bread and two fish to help Jesus.
“If He can do that with a sack lunch, then He can certainly take what we have to offer Him, no matter how big or small, and multiply it for His own glory,” Johnson said.
“I would compare the Cooperative Program with a politician’s war chest for a political campaign,” the pastor continued. “The more financial resources you have at your disposal, the more apt you are to win — and in our case, winning means seeing more souls come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Redeemer.”
Cross Roads does not love money, but it loves what money can do through the Cooperative Program and other mission causes, Johnson said.
“The church is supposed to be more about the ‘soul-saving’ business than it is the ‘money-saving’ business,” he reflected. “And besides that, we know that the Lord will sustain and bless us because of our faithful giving. We just want to be effective tools in the hand of God for His Kingdom and His glory.”
About 100 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Cross Roads in Farmerville, which is north of Monroe, La. Despite what some would say is the limitation of an annual budget of about $131,000, the church regards the Cooperative Program as “an engine that drives the message of the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth,” Johnson said. “It is a necessary engine to provide continuity to the cause of local, state and global evangelism and missions opportunities.
“I know that some would say that all the Lord requires for tithing is 10 percent, and they wouldn’t be wrong by saying that,” the pastor said. “But there is something more that the Lord does require of us that goes beyond just tithing. Micah 6:8 says that the Lord requires us to ‘do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.’ We chose to implement that by giving above and beyond just what the Lord ‘requires’ of us.”
Cross Roads gives an additional 10 percent of its receipts to several other causes, including 5 percent to Concord Union Baptist Association and monthly financial support for Tim Williams, a church planter in Canada; Randy White, a volunteer missionary with Xtreme Missionary Adventures; Randy Pierce, a volunteer missionary with Macedonia Missions; and a student at Louisiana College.
“God has richly blessed us because of our giving,” said Johnson, who is in his first pastorate at Cross Roads, which was operating on about $99,000 during the 2006-07 budget year when he was called. “To say that God has been faithful to us and has blessed us beyond measure would be a gross understatement,” he said. “Mere mortal words can’t describe it.”
But the church doesn’t just give to missions; they do missions.
Some — such as Randy White and Randy Pierce — have given up secular employment to become faith-based missionaries. Some — such as the youth group who helped renovate a hurricane-ravaged church last summer — participate in short term missions. Nearly everyone in the congregation steps up when someone hears of a local need.
“It’s almost as if God just brings us together with a game plan and says, ‘Now, go do it,'” Johnson said. “This church has always been ready to mobilize and ‘Go ye therefore’ to help in any way possible, no matter what the situation is.”
The pastor extends his ministry by writing books, having released in December a study of the New Testament story of the rich man and Lazarus titled “Hell to Heaven – Heaven to Hell; Rags to Riches – Dynasty to Destruction.”
“This is the single most evangelistic book that I have written as of yet,” Johnson said. “It has a powerful message about how lavish living and a ‘have it my way or the highway’ attitude instead of a fully submitted relationship with Christ can reap eternal consequences.”
Earlier in 2009, he self-published “The Secret is Out! Sex is Biblical – Rediscovering Marital Intimacy,” a book exploring the Old Testament Song of Solomon.
Although Johnson is excited that Cross Roads attracts 20 youngsters for Children’s Church, he is grieved by the disinterest of many young people from their teen years on.
“I can relate to them because I’m only 30 years old, but it still is hard to understand why we can’t draw more young people into our churches,” Johnson said. “For the most part, young men and women my age and younger just do not seem like they care about spiritual things, and it’s heartbreaking! … It pains me to see so many of them choosing the broad path and staying away from a house of worship.”
Amid America’s current struggles, Johnson said, “A specific challenge for me personally — and, from what I hear, many other churches during this time in our nation’s history — is to bring a message of hope to our people. If they are not affected personally, many in our congregation know someone who has suffered from financial loss or job loss and cannot find adequate means with which to sustain their lives and families. And many who are making it are tightening their belts for what is imminently on the horizon.”
Johnson said Cross Roads members have ministered to the best of their ability as they hear of needs.
“But the overwhelming majority of stories that are being told today are those of gloom and doom, and it has affected the way people receive spiritual things,” Johnson said. “So, in essence, trying to stay relevant to the culture and the financial degradation of many, while still bringing a message of hope that will help, is a challenge in and of itself.”
On the other hand, the pastor continued, “While there are many who are struggling right now, there also are many who are allowing a tragedy — financial, emotional, physical or whatever — to transform their mentality. In other words, where they would not have submitted to the Lord Jesus three years ago, if faced with the same crisis, they are now much more open to His presence in their life.”
“We have seen God allow His Spirit the liberty to move on hearts and touch lives in a profound way this year alone,” Johnson said. “Personally, it was a thrill for me to baptize four people this year who were over the age of 50.”
Cross Roads has baptized 14 people since Johnson came as pastor, after no baptisms, rededications or other apparent movement in response to the Holy Spirit in the two previous years, according to church records. But that has changed.
“The Holy Spirit has moved and healed the hearts of a lot of people. It just speaks of the prevailing willingness that some people have to submit to the transforming power of Christ,” Johnson said.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.