Pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga., since 1981
President, Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, 2006
Information from the 2009 Annual Church Profile for Johnson Ferry reports 459 baptisms and average weekly worship attendance of 4,383, with 6,121 resident members. The church reported it gave $1,420,441 through the Cooperative Program, but actually half, $710,220.50, was given through the Georgia Baptist Convention CP and half was given directly to the International Mission Board. With total undesignated receipts of $16,074,014 in 2009, the church gave 4.4 percent through CP and 4.4 percent to the IMB. The church gave a total of $3,048,759 in missions gifts, with $12,859 in designated gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in addition to the church’s budgeted LMCO gifts, $20,565 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, and $160,740 for associational missions.
It surely wasn’t on my radar, but in the same week at the end of 2009, a couple of pastors in different parts of the country called and asked me to pray about it. Reluctantly, I agreed. I just love pastoring Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and leading Right From the Heart Ministries. But after over two months of praying and giving God one reason after another as to why I was reluctant and didn’t feel qualified, He brought me to a peace about being nominated.
Now I’m very excited about the possibility of serving in these very challenging and crucial times in the life of Southern Baptists. I am committed to challenging Southern Baptist Christians to return to their first love of Christ, and in the process, love the lost with the radical reprioritization of reaching the unreached for Christ. The call to be willing to serve is very clear and strong whether or not I’m elected.
I’m so thankful for Johnny Hunt’s leadership in forming the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to help our denomination reprioritize reaching the world for Christ. I support the Task Force’s recommendations in that I firmly believe we’ve got to get more people out on the mission field in order to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission. The recommendations of the Task Force are a hugely important first step, but they are only a beginning. The selection of the men to lead the IMB and NAMB are also hugely important.
As the one called to plant Johnson Ferry, I am encouraged that the Task Force sees the importance of planting churches in the areas of greatest need in the United States—particularly in our pioneer states and large cities. And I agree with the Task Force that every church should be a “missional center.” My prayer is that every local church will consider going on a mission trip in the coming year, as well as focusing on their local community as a mission field.
Most of all, I would love to see people all over our convention—in the pulpits and pews of every church—return to Jesus as their first love. Materialism, Hedonism, busyness, and worldly priorities constantly pull at all of us to lose our first love for Jesus.
I’d love to see churches of all sizes become passionate about missions—going on mission trips, giving to missions, and sending more missionaries out to the field. This is a passion on my heart and the passion of so many at Johnson Ferry. It is hard to describe the spiritual impact of people going on mission trips from Johnson Ferry. In 2009 God led over 1500 adults and students to go on 70 trips to 27 nations. What this does to the spiritual vitality of the church cannot be overstated. The call to reach this world with the Gospel locally and globally is a fire in my bones.
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