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Georgia megachurch retires debt, quadruples Cooperative Program giving

Pastor Todd Wright stands outside Midway Church in Villa Rica. The church has quadrupled its funding of missions through the Cooperative Program. (Index/Roger Alford)

VILLA RICA, Ga. – When Pastor Todd Wright arrives at his office each morning, he sees what only God could have built – a megachurch in a rural swath of Carroll County an hour west of Atlanta.

Midway Church, with more than 3,000 members, has always had a major gospel impact in Georgia and beyond, baptizing scores of new believers each year and supporting missionaries who are winning souls in Georgia, across the U.S. and around the world.

But Wright and his church have taken a decisive step to do more by quadrupling their giving through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention initiative that funds more than 3,600 missionaries who take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, including a number of countries where merely mentioning the name of Jesus publicly can be a capital offense.

“There’s never been a system like the Cooperative Program,” Wright said. “No other initiative does a better job of accomplishing so many things with every dollar.”

Last year, after retiring the debt on their 100 acre, $15 million campus, members of Midway Church decided to double their contributions to the Cooperative Program, a Southern Baptist Convention initiative that funds the missionaries who take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world.

This year, they decided to double it again, voting Sunday to raise their annual giving through the Cooperative Program to $200,000, becoming one of the Top 25 churches in Georgia in overall contributions.

“We have billions of people in the world who are spiritually lost and on their way to hell, and the Midway family has purposed to do something about that, to point them to Jesus,” said W. Thomas Hammond, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Hammond said God has truly blessed Wright and his church to be not just a soul-winning station at home, having baptized 2,691 people over the past 25 years, but also to introduce lost souls to Christ the world over.

When Wright arrived here in 1996, Sunday morning attendance was about 200 people. Constant growth over the next 25 years brought the church to a pre-COVID Sunday morning attendance of 2,100.

“We really wanted to build an Acts 1:8 kind of church in which we had a congregation that focuses on the whole world – our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria and the ends of the earth,” Wright said.

In developing the blueprint for such a church, Wright encouraged his congregation to think locally, regionally, nationally and globally. That began with prayer for every resident within a five-mile radius of the church, followed by home visits to each of those residents.

Along with that, Midway participated in evangelistic events across Georgia, particularly those done in conjunction with the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meetings. The congregation also ministered to the homeless in Atlanta, helped with church plants in Las Vegas and Chicago, sent mission teams to South America and Africa, and adopted an unreached people group in the African country of Burkina Faso, which, 20 years later, has a strong Christian population and numerous churches.

“Those things personalized missions for our church by helping our people to see and feel the mission field,” he said. “We were giving through the Cooperative Program, but we also were trying to find strategic ways to help our people participate in the process.”

Meanwhile, at home, the church was working on the BOTH initiative, an acronym with a twofold meaning: “Build On The Hill” and “Bring Others To Him.”

Wright’s predecessor, Pastor Jesse Leonard had developed the BOTH initiative long before the church even owned the property on the hill where the expansive church now stands. It was Leonard who originally cast the vision for modern-day Midway when the church was meeting in what’s now the office building, which was large enough to seat about 200 people.

By 2007, Midway had been recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in Georgia. That meant a series of construction projects and land acquisitions to keep pace with the growth. It also meant taking on debt to pay for them.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Wright said. “We retired the debt a year ago in the middle of the COVID pandemic. That allowed us to sink more money into missions. We had been giving $50,000 a year to the Cooperative Program for many years. We doubled that $50,000 to $100,000 last year, and, this year, we doubled it again to $200,000.”

That’s not all Midway designates for missions. In fact, 16 percent of the church’s budget goes to missions, including feeding orphans in Kenya, training church leaders through the International Leadership Institute, and, within the U.S., being one of west Georgia’s largest supporters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Midway also appropriates $50,000 a year for the Lottie Moon Christian Offering that goes to support international missionaries serving through the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and  another $30,000 for continuing ministries in Burkina Faso., the third poorest country in the world.

“For years, I had felt that our church should be doing even more for missions,” Wright said. “I have always had this tug in my soul to do more. I know the challenges the Georgia Baptist Convention has faced, the restructuring that was necessary to be the best possible stewards of God’s resources. When I see someone working diligently – like Thomas Hammond has – to make sure those resources are used wisely, it makes me want to give more.”

Early in his ministry, Wright went with a group of other Georgia pastors for a week of ministry in Africa.

“I have never been the same,” he said.

Wright preached indoors and out on that trip and, afterward, explored the possibility of becoming a missionary himself. The Lord instead put him at Midway Church where he would have a global impact by recruiting and supporting missionaries.

“I was disappointed at the time that I wasn’t able to be a missionary myself, but God knows what he’s doing and He had better plan in store for me,” he said.

That, he said, is why he feels so strongly about the Cooperative Program, which allows every church, no matter its size, to be on mission.

“A church running 20 or 50 or 2,000 can equally share in being a part of God’s global plan through the Cooperative Program,” he said.