Life: God's Renewable resource
from pea ridge to cane ridge
by David Crowe
Find out more about the ministry of Free Will Baptist Home Missions at www.homemissions.net.
LIFE AND MINISTRY ARE FILLED WITH TRANSITIONS. We live in an ever-changing world surrounded by changing cultures and societies. My earliest memories of church are at Free Water Free Will Baptist Church in a little community in northwest Alabama called Pea Ridge.
As you can imagine, Pea Ridge is not a thriving metropolis. Free Water was a small country church where they sang Stamps Baxter hymns with shaped note music. Services were sometimes loud and often emotional. When people prayed, they all prayed out loud and really loud. Our pastors didn’t have college degrees and most of their sermons had no outline (imagine that). But over the years, God has called preachers from that little church that minister in almost every area of our denomination. My childhood experiences remind me that God can use small churches in rural and remote places for His glory and His honor.
When I was nine years old, we moved to town. In Winfield, Alabama, we joined the Winfield FWB Church where we were introduced to the many ministries of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. It was here as a boy and teenager that I first heard men like Roy Thomas, Fred Warner, Charles Thigpen, Bobby Jackson, Joe and Nate Ange, Bob Shockey, and many other great Free Will Baptist preachers. I participated in Bible Sword Drill, Bible Tic-Tac-Toe, and Bible Bowl, learning more about the Bible and memorizing hundreds of verses of Scripture. I met my wife, Kathey, and during a youth revival preached by Nate Ange, I surrendered my life to Christ and answered the call to preach at age 19. It was at the Winfield FWB Church that I preached my first sermon and was encouraged to attend Free Will Baptist Bible College (maybe because they heard my first sermon!).
After four years of Bible college, several years of seminary, four years as a youth and assistant pastor, two years as a full-time evangelist, and four years pastoring two different small rural churches, I found myself in Tennessee, the 28-year-old pastor of the Cookeville Free Will Baptist Church. God blessed my ministry, and I thought I would either die or retire while pastoring the Cookeville church. In 1995, however, Trymon Messer came to Cookeville and told me that he had been chosen to be the general director of Home Missions after the retirement of Dr. Roy Thomas. He said that he had prayed about who he would hire as his associate, and I was the man. I had no aspirations for the job, nor did I intend to apply. However, I promised him that I would pray about it, and Kathey and I prayed for seven months before God finally convinced us that this was His will for our lives.
I began working for Home Missions on the first day of February 1996 as the director of missionary assistance. I moved my family to Antioch, Tennessee, and for five years I visited 20-25 home mission families each year to preach, fellowship, train, and encourage them. During this time I also preached in many established FWB churches and promoted Home Missions.
Richard Atwood joined our staff and became director of missionary assistance while I became the director of ministry helps. My new role was to promote church growth, evangelism, and encouragement in established churches. With Larry Powell as general director, my title was changed to director of church growth and evangelism and eventually shortened to director of church growth. I have served in this capacity for seven years.
After 12 years, my title is about to change again. When Dr. Richard Adams, director of development, retires in January 2008, I will assume his responsibilities. I will be in charge of the Church Extension Loan Fund and responsible for raising a million dollars for the Richard Adams Build My Church Endowment, as well as planning and hosting the Heritage trips that are sponsored by Home Missions.
Please pray for me, my wife Kathey, and my secretary Sarah Hadley during this latest transition. It’s been a long journey from Pea Ridge, Alabama to Cane Ridge, Tennessee. The journey has taken nearly 50 years. Along the way, I’ve preached over 1,000 revivals, conferences, and youth camps in every state where we have Free Will Baptist churches. I’ve been an assistant pastor, youth pastor, pastor, full-time evangelist, and have held more titles at Home Missions than I care to remember. It looks as if I will have one more title in February 2008, but I’m more interested in helping pastors, people, and churches than I am in holding a title.
Pray that God will use me to continue to promote the Heritage Book Club, the Benjamin Randall Offering, the Church Extension Loan Fund, the Richard Adams Endowment. Ask Him to give me strength to continue visiting our churches, encouraging pastors and their families. My heart is—and always has been—with our pastors and our churches. Without you, there would be no need for Home Missions or any other department.
God has brought me from one ridge to another, and while many things have changed during these 50 years, Jesus has never changed! I still preach and love His unchanging Word. From Pea Ridge to Cane Ridge…imagine that.
ABOUT THE WRITER: David Crowe is the director of church growth for the Home Missions Department in Antioch, TN.