Passion for evangelism: Pastor's desire to reach the lost catalyzes church's growth
EDITORS' NOTE: The following story is part of a Baptist Press series exploring how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (BP)--Although Crosspointe Baptist Church in Millington, Tenn., opened a $10 million facility in August 2003, it already is bursting at the seams.
Baptizing 561 people and accepting 250 transfers in the first 10 months after its move propelled Sunday morning attendance past 1,700. That compares to 200 when Steve Flockhart became pastor six years ago.
Three Sunday School times and two morning worship services are needed to handle the influx. Needless to say, excitement has touched veteran members and newcomers alike.
"It's phenomenal," said Jason Dupree, who joined the church in 1976 when it was known as Second Baptist of Millington. "Nobody wants to miss church because they're afraid they'll miss something."
Another member, Jimmy Ray, joined Crosspointe four years ago.
"We have someone who's saved every church service we have," Ray said. "It kind of makes you hungry."
While calling Steve Flockhart one of the greatest pastors in America, Dupree noted, "But he's not that good. It's God."
Staffers and members alike point to Flockhart's passion for soul-winning as a key ingredient in the explosive growth of the suburban Memphis congregation.
A member of the pastor search committee, Dupree watched with interest as Flockhart witnessed to their restaurant server when they took the candidate to dinner.
That practice continues today, Dupree said.
"I've never gone anywhere where he didn't spend time witnessing," said Dupree, who works for a brokerage firm.
"If I called my pastor right now and said I have a buddy in the hospital who isn't saved, he would go with me to make sure."
Flockhart said he was a 20-year-old mess who had been into drugs, alcohol and in jail when he went to hear evangelist Freddie Gage preach at a revival sponsored by Longleaf Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C.
The Sunday after accepting Jesus as his Savior and Lord, Flockhart was baptized at Longleaf by Johnny Hunt, now pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.
"My personal driving passion is I know what it is to be lost," said Flockhart, now 39. "I know what it means to be lost and I know what it means to be found. I want to take as many people to heaven as possible."
Then working as a grocery store stock clerk, five months after his conversion Flockhart became Longleaf Baptist's part-time associate pastor of evangelism.
Soon, Flockhart reunited with his wife and enrolled in Bible college. After graduation, he spent four years at First Baptist Woodstock as minister of evangelism before serving as a pastor in Dalton, Ga., for six years.
The personable pastor points to several factors for the growth at Crosspointe, which changed its name last year to avoid confusion with nearby First Baptist Church:
"You can't explain it," Flockhart said. "Every Sunday I shake my head in utter amazement. A few weeks ago I preached a strong sermon on tithing, giving and sacrifice. It was one of the boldest sermons I ever preached on tithing, and 18 people got saved and 25 rededicated their lives to Christ."
-- A strong emphasis on evangelism.
Everything from women's missions to Vacation Bible School -- which reported 100 salvations in June -- focuses on salvation, Flockhart said.
On the first Wednesday night of each month, the pastor cancels all youth and children's activities, adult discipleship classes and choir rehearsal so everyone can gather for prayer.
-- Visitation. Although cut to once a month during the summer, the weekly program usually draws about 300 participants. Some make phone calls, others write cards and others go to homes of visitors who have expressed interest in knowing more about Christ or the church.
Since taking office, Flockhart has trained 600 people in soul-winning by using his own material. He reinforces an evangelistic emphasis in his preaching and by going out to share his faith.
"It's not about us, it's about Him and winning people to Jesus," the pastor said. "Evangelism is more caught than taught. [Members] have caught it and they've done it."
Ray, a Christian for 23 years who learned to witness in the popular Evangelism Explosion program, said Crosspointe's emphasis on soul-winning attracted him and his wife to the church.
Flockhart's evangelistic emphasis stirred his own efforts, Ray said.
"He has re-energized and challenged me to go and reach souls," Ray said. "He's very evangelistic in preaching."
But Ray points to other reasons for the church's amazing growth in recent years, including the pastor's "whatever it takes" attitude and a love for people.
Although the church is predominantly white, there are some Hispanics, African-Americans and mixed-race couples, Ray said.
Several former homosexuals have accepted Christ and left their old lifestyle because they were accepted when they came to Crosspointe, Ray added.
"We don't turn anyone away," Ray said. "We have a close fellowship and people from all walks of life, [including some] who are living on the edge of society. Our dress code is 'come as you are.'"
Flockhart inspires Johnny Lane, the minister of education who also oversees evangelism. A diesel mechanic for 20 years before he joined the staff in 2001, Lane said any church takes on its pastor's attitude and demeanor.
"It definitely motivates you," Lane said. "He's that kind of guy. He's so passionate about (evangelism), when you get around him, it's contagious. When you see him, you understand that's the passion God wants us to have. I've grown more spiritually the last five years than I have my entire life."
In addition, Lane said enthusiastic worship services, visitation and outreaches let the community know that members care about what happens outside the building. The church hosts community memorial services and will hold its first car show Nov. 6.
"God's given us the ability go be innovative and creative," Lane said. "We don't want the community to say, 'They've got it going on, but they don't reach out to us.'"
That underlying desire to reach others for Christ is what keeps laymen like Ray involved. Not only does he sing in the choir and teach a young couples Sunday School class, but he is active in the visitation program.
"On our visitor card, we ask if the person died today, would they go to heaven?" Ray said. "When they fill out the card and say, 'I don't know' or 'I'm not sure,' they're practically begging someone to share the Gospel with them. I want to be faithful to that."