Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, received its largest one-day offering for Great Commission causes in the church’s history in a special collection Nov. 3. The offering, which totaled $5,104,848.09, honors outgoing pastor Bryant Wright and his wife, Anne, for 38 years of service and is totally devoted to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.
“I am speechless,” said Clay Smith, Johnson Ferry’s incoming senior pastor. “I’m a younger pastor, and we are new to the church. We have never participated in anything quite like this.”
The church voted Aug. 4 to call Smith to succeed Wright, who is the founding pastor of the nearly 40-year-old church in an Atlanta suburb. Smith preached his first sermon as incoming senior pastor Sept. 1.
“This is giving with very little strings attached,” Smith said. “It isn’t tied to a building campaign or a specific capital project. It is giving as an act of worship to reach people around the world with the gospel.”
Putting the Great Commission first
The receipts will be divided among the International Mission Board (IMB), the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the church’s ministry budget, Smith said. Not only will the offering be used to further the Great Commission around the world, Smith and Wright also hope it will motivate churches to set similar record-setting goals for their mission offerings this year.
J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, thanked Johnson Ferry for their leadership and the example they have set for fellow Southern Baptists.
“D.L. Moody famously said that the world had yet to see what God could do through one man fully surrendered to him,” Greear said. “I believe the world has yet to see what God can do through one congregation fully submitted to Him, too. While the amount of money the people of Johnson Ferry gave is inspiring, what it represents about the surrender of their hearts to the Great Commission is even more so. I am grateful for their leadership and pray that many more of us will follow in their footsteps of putting the mission of Jesus first in our hearts.”
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of the national Woman’s Missionary Union, stressed the unity that results from a clear vision for the nations and how unity within a faith community inspires generosity.
“What unites us as Southern Baptists is our passion to take the gospel to the nations,” Wisdom-Martin said. “When you challenge your congregation with God’s proclamation mandate and make them aware of God’s work in the world, people will respond. And more will hear the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Accepted with gratitude
With the tagline, “Make History. Reach the World,” the church set a goal of $3 million — the largest one-day offering in Johnson Ferry history. Actual receipts of $5,104,848.09 exceeded the $3 million goal by more than 70 percent.
Johnson Ferry’s church leadership decided to give two-thirds of the offering to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® for international missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for missions in North America. Of that two-thirds, 80 percent — or more than $2.72 million — will go to Lottie Moon, and 20 percent — more than $680,000 — will go to Annie Armstrong. The remaining one-third — nearly $1.7 million — will be given to local and community mission efforts through the church’s ministry budget.
IMB President Paul Chitwood and NAMB President Kevin Ezell, whose organizations receive the majority of the funds, expressed gratitude for the gifts.
“We praise the Lord for the incredible gift the members of Johnson Ferry have given to support missions around the world,” Chitwood said. “The gift signifies a commitment by this church to do its part in getting the gospel to those who have never heard it, to help achieve the vision the Lord has laid out in Revelation 7:9. We pledge to faithfully steward this gift — and every gift given by Southern Baptists — toward this worthy goal.”
Since 1845, the IMB has partnered with churches to send missionaries to live and work among those around the world with little to no access to the gospel. As of Oct. 31, 2019, IMB has 3,678 Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world, supported by the Cooperative Program and 100 percent of gifts given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“This offering is the largest gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering we have ever received from an individual church,” Chitwood said. “Thank you, members of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, for setting an example of how we all can stretch ourselves to give obediently.”