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.

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Greg Addison named ABSC associate executive director

LITTLE ROCK – Greg Addison, 49, pastor of First Baptist Church, Cabot, since February 2007, has been named associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

AddisonAddison, who was ABSC president from 2012-13, is expected to begin his new duties July 1. He replaces Jimmie Sheffield, who has served as interim associate executive director since 2013.

"It is exciting and a great honor to have Greg Addison working for the churches in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention," said J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director. "The state fell in love with Greg as they got to know him while he was serving as state convention president. His experience as pastor, service as state convention president, passion for evangelism and his background as an attorney will make him a valuable asset to Arkansas Baptists."

Prior to serving at First Baptist, Cabot, Addison was pastor of East Side Baptist Church, Paragould, from 2002 to 2007.

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'The Church is not a building'

The Valley church in Vilonia was left without a building following the April 27 tornado. The church, along with visitors from across Arkansas, met for a special Sunday service on their former church grounds May 4.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

VILONIA – “The ‘Church’ is not a building,” is a message Matt Rothacher, pastor of The Valley, Vilonia, and Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planter, reiterates to his church on a regular basis. But the phrase recently gained a new meaning to the congregation.

On April 27, a tornado that was a half-mile wide tore through central Arkansas, killing 16 people. In the early morning commotion, Rothacher awoke to the voice of a church member, the local fire chief, telling him the church’s facility had been caught in the storm’s path.

The Valley's praise band leads worship May 4.The pastor said his first reaction was surprise. He had heard reports that bad storms could hit the area that evening. And while he and his family had only lived in the area for a short time, he had been told stories about the devastating effects of the tornado that hit Vilonia on April 25, 2011, almost three years before to the day. 

Rothacher had decided that if in fact the town was to be affected, that The Valley would be front and center, doing all they could for the victims. It didn’t cross his mind that The Valley’s facility, like many homes and businesses on Main Street, would be directly impacted by the storm.

Upon revelation that The Valley’s facility was destroyed, Rothacher was concerned – but not by the loss of the church’s physical structure. To Rothacher, and the rest of The Valley’s congregation, the facility was simply a meeting place and held no sacredness apart from the people who fellowshipped and worshipped within its walls.

Rothacher“This was our church building. But I am happy to say that our Church will not be affected, because this was not the ‘Church,’” said Julie Rothacher, wife of Pastor Matt Rothacher. “Our Church has already been on the ground with several members who lost their house this morning (April 27). After we made sure all of our people were safe and had what they needed, we all kind of wandered over here and realized there was stuff left.”

Chris Colley, member of The Valley, met with other church members, and numerous volunteers, at the church’s grounds April 28. They attempted to salvage items left scattered by the tornado from the night before.

“The way we (The Valley) look at it, the building itself wasn’t the Church. We are the Church,” said Colley. “A tree fell on our house, but we are not really worried about that. Several people I know are dead or severely injured. It has been real bad.”

“The tornado took our entire facility. But our people hear me say every week that the ‘Church’ is not a building. We met in an old Dollar General. If you used to could have bought Doritos there, then it is not a holy place” said Rothacher. “The Church is actually the followers and disciples of Jesus that are chasing God together.”

A sign denoting The Valley's special "We Will Praise You in This Storm" Sunday service May 4.The Valley was planted by Rothacher and his wife, Julie, on March 31, 2013. According to Matt Rothacher, the couple wanted to start a church that would reach the entire community of Vilonia, especially those who were tired of the trappings found in many traditional evangelical churches.

“We planted here, through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, to be a church for people that were burnt out on religion and legalism. … We have begun to see a tremendous amount of life change,” said Rothacher. “We just celebrated a year anniversary, and the spiritual growth has been amazing.”

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Vilonia was originally called “Vilsonia” when pioneers founded it in the early 1860s. When the founders applied for a post office, the approval letter came back misspelled “Vilonia.” The name stuck. 

The meaning of “Vilsonia” is the “land of two valleys,” and years later, after hearing the story of how Vilonia got its name, Rothacher decided to name his church plant “The Valley” as an ode to the history of the town and as a symbol of the peace that he wanted the church to bring to people’s lives through Jesus Christ.

On May 4, The Valley held a special We Will Praise You in This Storm service on the cement foundation where their church building used to sit. Members of the church were joined by members of other churches who came from across Arkansas to show their support for the church. Visitors included members of The Church at Argenta, North Little Rock, other churches in Ruston and Hot Springs, as well as numerous volunteers who were working with disaster relief organizations in the area and saw the service and stopped by.

Tommy Castleberry, a member of White Hall United Methodist Church, White Hall, and owner of Excel Construction, heard about The Valley losing their building and brought a semitrailer packed with church pews for the church to use during their service. Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Cabot, supplied chairs, and a family from Central Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, fed the church lunch following the service.

The Valley’s praise band led the large group of attendees in worship before and after Rothacher shared a message. The pastor spoke on the importance of understanding that the storm that destroyed Vilonia was a product of the sinfulness that is part of humanity following the fall of man. He emphasized that the storm should not be seen as a judgment on the people of the town, but as a symbol of the reality of sin’s ugliness and Christ’s amazing gift of salvation.

Rothacher asks Arkansas Baptists to pray for the future of The Valley, but to first pray for the families affected by the storm.

“Pray for Vilonia as a whole. There are some families that are hurting. We had several causalities. One is too many, but we had more than I think anyone expected. On top of that, I know some families that have lost their houses for the second time in three years. This is a very resilient community,” said Rothacher.

Rothacher said the church’s “grand plan” is to “serve here and go there,” and they believe that the destruction of the recent tornado is simply another circumstance in which The Valley is looking forward to seeing God at work in their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

“We are pro-Vilonia. We desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community. We want to make much of Him and bring glory to Him. We want to show people there is hope, even in the midst of the desolation and destruction that a tornado brought,” said Rothacher. “Ultimately, our God is sovereign. He is working behind the scenes for our good even at times when we don’t see that. … He has not abandoned us, and He is to be found even in the midst of the storm.”

“I was telling my wife as we were standing watching people pick up trash and sift through the rubble for things we might could use (that) I just wanted to cry. It had zero to do with the loss of material things,” said Rothacher. 

“It had everything to do with the joy of watching these people pull together for the love of one another, and for what they feel like The Valley means to Vilonia as a whole.”

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29 salvations recorded at Acts 1:8 One Day events

FOUR ACTS 1:8 One Day Community Mission Trips were conducted in Arkansas communities April 26 – involving hundreds Arkansas Baptists and resulting in 29 salvation decisions.

Mission outreach events of various types were held in Greene County Baptist Association, Mississippi County Baptist Association, Tri-County Baptist Association and Little River Baptist Association, said Breck Freeman, interim team leader of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) mission team.

“Over 500 volunteers have been reported and 29 salvations,” said Freeman in an email about the Acts 1:8 One Day events and the Connect 2014 event, adding, “Praise the Lord for our ABSC churches and associations making kingdom impact across our state.”

The last statewide Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip was held in October 2013 in Harrison. More than 2,700 volunteers participated representing 207 churches and came from five states besides Arkansas. Professions of faith recorded at the event numbered 36.

The 2014 Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip is scheduled for Oct. 4 in El Dorado. For more information, contact 501-376-4791, ext. 5150, or email


270 attend Easter block party

MAYNARD – About 270 people attended Passion in the Park – a block party held on Easter Sunday by Witt’s Chapel Baptist Church, Maynard. It was a sizeable turnout considering the town only has a population of about 400.

The event, true to its name, took place in a park. 

Stone“I was convicted last Easter about trying to reach out to those who might not feel comfortable coming inside our church building because of their preconceived ideas about us ‘Christians,’” said Bruce Stone Sr., pastor of Witt’s Chapel Baptist Church. “I wanted to give them a more relaxed, less formal opportunity to encounter some of us and the Lord on Easter Sunday.  Passion in the Park was the result.”

He added that most of those who attended were unchurched.

“Several of the young adults there personally thanked me for getting to go to church, rather than thanking me for all the food, games, prizes, etc.,” Stone said.

He described the event as a “big step of faith,” noting he wasn’t sure how many people would attend. 

But he didn’t need to worry. Crowds enjoyed games, prizes and food, in addition to worship and a message. And Current-Gaines Baptist Association allowed Witt’s Chapel to use its block party trailer.

Stone said, for him, the “highlight” of the event came in the form of a conversation with a mother standing in line for food. 

“She said she wanted to thank me, and I said, ‘Well, you’re welcome,’” related Stone. “And she looked at herself – kind of head to toe – and said, ‘I wanted to go to church today, but I didn’t think I could. I heard y’all were doing this. I knew I could hang around some Christian people at least on Easter Sunday.’ And she said, ‘I didn’t know y’all were singing and preaching too, and I got to go to church.’ And she had a big smile on her face.

“That was worth it all to me – because that was the whole reason we did it,” Stone said.

He said the church wants to hold similar events in the future.

“This was the first step in us getting out of the pew and into the street and trying to reach our community,” he said. “(We) plan on doing more events like it.”

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