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Ronnie Floyd: ‘We’ve got to make a difference’ (part 2)

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

SPRINGDALE – This is the second of a two-part interview with Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In this installment, Floyd is asked about his church’s commitment to giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) and how churches today should support CP giving, his small church roots, his involvement in LifeWay Christian Resources curriculum, the role of state conventions and associations and the question of Calvinism in the SBC.

ABN: The first time you ran for SBC president in 2006 your church was criticized for not giving enough through the Cooperative Program. Since 2006, you have led Cross Church to increase its CP giving. Can you explain? Why the change? (Editor’s Note: Cross Church is now the top giving CP church in Arkansas. In 2013, Cross Church had $17,209,876 in total undesignated receipts and gave $716,827 – 4.17 percent – to CP).

FloydFloyd: Well, first of all for clarification, we were at times not represented in what we were truly giving through the Cooperative Program. Our church had made a decision, two or three years earlier maybe, that we give a smaller portion through our convention and then the larger portion toward the other (missions causes). Well, by Southern Baptist definition of the Cooperative Program, at least at that time, they did not count the other (causes). They counted only what came through the SBC state conventions. That word never got really out there, fully, what we were doing. But I want to make it real clear – we were not doing what we needed to be doing. I’m not by any means saying we shouldn’t have done more. Through all that, I came back from that convention and, if I am not mistaken, within 30 to 60 days, we recommitted … because there were also some things going on at the state convention that were encouraging to us and I lead our men and made a strong appeal. And slowly we started making a track through this, and when GCR (Great Commission Resurgence) was brought about, … we were already making a starter commitment. … And when GCR was passed, one of the major things we did was that I chose to get off national television so that we would have quicker money accessible toward allocating toward and through the Cooperative Program. We got off national television. I stood up and told my church we were doing that. I’d been on national television since the early 1990s. So, we made that commitment and will continue to excel in that and we will continue next year’s budget excelling in that. (We) have done that in the worst economy that has ever affected this region in my 27 years. But we’ve done it convictionally, and the Lord has just blessed, unbelievably.

ABN: So, I’m hearing your commitment is to continue to lead Cross Church to increase (CP) funding?

Floyd: Absolutely. That’s right. Up to a point we will. And whatever that point is, God will decide, or the situation will decide. Because there are moments when, I mean, you know, I don’t have any control over that – if the economy goes bust or whatever it is. It is really remarkable that the church has done what it’s done.

ABN: What do you see as the right percentage for a large church, megachurch or multisite church to give to CP?

Floyd: Well, obviously I’ve thought about it. I don’t think many churches today think from a percentage basis and some can say, “Well, that’s wrong or that’s right.” It really comes back to a local church. A local church has got to do what it believes the Lord wants it to do. I think our challenge is to be so good at telling the story of what we do together as Southern Baptists that churches are compelled to give more and that needs to be the storyline to me. I don’t know what the proper amount is, I really don’t. What’s the proper amount of people that should be reached through everyone’s churches and baptized every year? How do you gauge that? It is a little hard to gauge all those matters, so some of that is up to the Lord. But it is also up to us making decisions, just like Cross Church made a decision, and I would hope that, Ronnie Floyd and Cross Church, we’re very committed to that at this time in our lives and I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be long-term. But the other side of it is that we live in a day and time, whether we want to admit it or not, which is extremely challenging for those who lead SBC entities and lead our state conventions. All of us have got to be challenged to do one thing. Let’s give more. It’s not about giving – it’s not about a giving issue as much as it is about “man, we’ve gotta make a difference in the world!” And, it’s going to take resources to make a difference, so let’s give!

ABN: You wrote a blog post last year about your roots in a small church. Share  a little bit about having roots in a small church and how you feel that prepared you to be pastor of a megachurch today, how it prepares you to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention and then, thirdly, how it helps you identify with pastors in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention which are, for the most part, coming from small churches, small congregations and small towns.

Floyd: I grew up in a town of about 5,000 people. The church I grew up in was 30 to 40 people on a given Sunday morning. Periodically, if we had 50, we thought we had Pentecost. I grew up with a bi-vocational pastor most of my life, in fact probably all of my life that I remember, and I didn’t think “bi-vocational” then. All I knew is that he taught school or he painted houses or he did something, but that didn’t register in a teenager’s mind. But honestly not until the last five months have I really thought through that again. You know, I really did grow up with a bi-vocational pastor, and I think it prepares me to identify with pastors because those are my roots. It prepared me because many times I preached, and I would have never gotten those opportunities in a larger church. So I think it prepared me – it prepared me so that if the Lord would so will me to be the president of the SBC, I would never forget them. How could I forget that? That would be like forgetting my mother and father. That’s what we grew up on. I mean, that’s who we are. You can cut me and that’s what I am. So how did you get where you are? I don’t have a clue! I don’t know. All I know is I didn’t know anybody. I just tried to have a walk with Jesus Christ, be what I needed to be, served Him faithfully when I was in that small church and I pastored several small churches before I ever came here. And the Lord brought me here at a pivotal time and God’s blessed. I’m grateful.

ABN: Tell me a bit about your involvement with LifeWay curriculum and how you got involved.

Floyd: I was approached by LifeWay about a year-and-a-half ago at the Southern Baptist Convention about me praying about becoming the general editor of the Bible Stories for Life curriculum. It is their largest curriculum series line, and in that meeting they really wanted to imply to me they really wanted a local church pastor to be the general editor. If I’m not mistaken, they told me that I was the first pastor, really the first general editor outside of the building to ever be asked to do that. They wanted to roll it out (in a) brand-new and different format. They wanted somebody who could think that way, rally a large constituency of a task force together and from all walks of life and call them together to help rethink this and help re-engineer it and then help roll it out. So, I did that. We had the gathering of our group; we met with our staff team. Since then, it has been me and their staff team. And we established … what they would call a scope and a sequence and we moved forward. And so we’re still carving all that out. In fact, Nick (Floyd) and I just happened to be able to write one of those curriculum series, they wanted us to do one, and just right now, I think it is being studied. I think it is called “Productive.” And we know that there’s somewhere around 1.5 to 2 million people that study that curriculum every Sunday. I’ve done some work with the North American Mission Board. I am the lead pastor strategist for that, and I’ve also done work as general editor for LifeWay. … They want to hear from pastors, they want to hear from leaders. They are willing to shape their ideas because they have one commitment alone – they want to minister to the local church. Sometimes those of us who are sitting out here wonder to ourselves, … “Do they get it?” Well, I want to tell you what I know, what I know inside – they want to listen and they want to learn and they want to grow. And I commend both of those SBC entities for that, and I’m sure it is that way everywhere.

ABN: What do you feel the roles of state conventions and local associations are today in the Southern Baptist Convention?

Floyd: I think the state conventions are naturally closer to the churches and they can do certain things that the national entities really should not have to worry about doing. I think local associations, overall, need to work within the state convention when possible, and not all of them are set up like that – I’m not advocating that – I’m just simply saying that when possible, it can help create a dynamic partnership that can really go even deeper than what a state convention can toward those churches. Many of the small churches look to the director of missions to help them and rightfully so. I promise you at my church, when I was growing up, when the pastor left, he (the director of missions) was the first person we called. You know that still happens today, and that’s not bad. That’s good. … So, while autonomy is our great blessing, you know, we have to also have that tension of cooperating together. 

ABN: There are those who feel the issue of Calvinism will eventually split the SBC. How do you feel about this issue? Do you feel there is an attempt by Calvinists to take over the Southern Baptist Convention?

Floyd in his Springdale office.Floyd: I don’t believe this issue will cause a split, nor do I believe either side in this debate is attempting to take over the Southern Baptist Convention. I commend Dr. Frank Page (CEO of the SBC Executive Committee) for his wisdom in convening the 2013 task force that studied this matter and issued a report. I was encouraged by the task force’s unanimously recommended report, especially since it was comprised of leaders of both sides of this debate. I think the report is balanced, and I personally concur with the heart of it. What’s most important is that we’re all committed to the gospel, that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. For those of us who are committed to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we can work together for the glory of God. I think the task force report made a difference in two ways: I don’t hear as much chatter about it as I heard a year ago, especially in a condescending way on either side, and I think it has given us a frame of reference for our future together. I like what Dr. Al Mohler (president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) recently said about this issue in urging that all involved in the conversation should have better “table manners.” We need to always keep before us our shared conviction to advance the Great Commission, refusing to get distracted from it. 

ABN: Is there anything you would like to add or communicate to Arkansas Baptists or Southern Baptists as a whole?

Floyd: Well, I would say that I am praying daily that God’s will be done related to this (being a candidate for SBC president). I believe that 1 Peter 5:6-7 really have ministered to me in this, that I am to humble myself in the sight of the Lord, and in due season, if He so wills, in due season, He will lift me up, and until that moment if He ever chooses to, I’m to cast all my cares upon Him, for He cares for me. And, after several months of people asking me, appealing to me from all walks of Southern Baptist life, I finally got serious and started praying about it. I finally got real serious and started fasting and praying about it and started getting deep level counsel relating to it in my church and outside of my church, in the life of some SBC folks. I think the real question that I had to resolve was simply be willing to do what God want’s me to do. What I put back on people is this one thing: “Who is God raising up?” … If that’s true, then, God will confirm that, if it’s not, then He will not confirm that. And, I’m just prayerfully going to Him and asking Him to do what He wants to do, and if He does it, I will lead out of who I am. I’ve always been who I am. I don’t have to work up a different guy; I’ve always been very committed. Everything I have talked to you about today I have been committed to – everything. So it is not like I’m going to go do this new gig. If it appears to be new, it’s because people don’t know that much about me. I have just really started asking God if He so wills to do it, that He pours in me what that vision is. “What is it, you know, Lord? I’ve got to have it. … I’ve got to know what to do if You are going to entrust this to me.” I would just ask for Arkansas Baptist people, which is the core of your readership, to pray for me, that if God so wills that the door opens, and that if He so wills and the door opens, that He pours His vision into me, prepares me and that I will be ready for the task. You know it has been many, many, many years since anyone from the state of Arkansas has been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and it would be an extreme honor, I think, if I’m not mistaken, to be the first pastor in the history of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention to ever be elected as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. And, so, it would be a real joy for me to be able to do that in my home state today, that I had been committed to now for over 27-and-a-half years, and I am grateful for the privilege.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org. Click here to read part 1 of the ABN's interview with Floyd.

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