ronniefloyd.com welcomes guest writer Dr. Jeff Crawford. Dr. Crawford is the President of the Cross Church School of Ministry, which launches in August 2013, and he also serves as a Teaching Pastor of Cross Church Northwest Arkansas.
Fifteen days ago I left a thriving pastorate of seven years at my home church in Fort Smith, Ark. Grand Avenue Baptist Church is where I was saved. It is where I was baptized. It is where I was called to the ministry. And it is where I preached my first sermon while on a youth mission trip. Last year at Grand we baptized over 100 people (for the first time in over 20 years), had one of the largest giving years in our 78 year history, ended the year $200,000 ahead of budget, were a top 200 church in giving to Lottie Moon, and sent over 10% of our people on a mission trip somewhere around the world. Grand is going and blowing. So why would I leave such a church? Some have wondered if there was a problem. There wasn’t. Some have probably (and privately) wondered if there was a scandal. Nope. I am sure some people just think I am crazy. Perhaps, that’s debatable:) The gut honest truth is that it’s all about the call. In fact it’s always been about the call for me.
Answering God’s Call And Preparation
The call of God is a powerful thing. I was called when I was 14 years old. I made up my mind to make the most of my call and that included the best preparation I could find. I graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in philosophy. I went on to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for my masters of divinity in biblical languages and then to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for my doctor of education degree, writing a dissertation on biblical literacy. That was my “formal” preparation. Formal preparation is important. But it’s not the only preparation. The informal preparation comes when the rubber meets the road. It comes in the local church. Along the way of my formal preparation I was fortunate to pass through many great churches in various capacities – youth, discipleship, singles, etc. I also passed through some bad churches. Not that the church in itself was bad, but the situation was not healthy. There was one point early on that could have ended my ministry had I allowed myself to become disillusioned by the experience. Let’s face it. Some churches just aren’t nice. And some church people and some pastors don’t really give a new college or seminary graduate much slack when it comes to learning HOW to actually DO ministry.
So How Do You Learn Ministry?
Enter the Cross Church School of Ministry. There is a need. A huge need. Needs tend to arise from holes. Something is missing. Something is not getting done. There’s a gap. A hole. A need. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And so have most all my friends in the ministry. In fact, since coming to lead the Cross Church School of Ministry I have had many conversations with pastors and colleagues in ministry. I can tell you that without exception they all identify with this hole of which I speak. They’ve seen it too…and lived it. In fact, it seems to be the elephant in the room that we all try to not talk about. Well, now we are talking. And not just talking, we are doing.
The Cross Church School of Ministry is for the called. The call of God is too awesome and too precious to not handle with great care. God’s called deserve the best preparation for the ministry to God’s people that is available. It is time for the informal to become formal. Because I am called, and because I understand this call, and because I have a heart for that next generation of the called, I have answered a new call – The Cross Church School of Ministry. It really does not get any more complicated than that.
And that brings me to the Church. I believe that the Church should own the preparation of those called by God. YES, there is a place for colleges. YES, there is a place for seminaries. That place is to come along side the Church and to assist the Church as it seeks to prepare the called – not replace the Church. Our problem has been this: the Church has passed off its role of preparing the called to the college and the seminary alone. They have owned none of it. And so we have what we have. Graduates who have excellent theological education and preparation but don’t have a clue how to actually do ministry. The answer to this problem is not in the college or seminary but in the Church.
And so Cross Church has begun a School of Ministry. We are officially 15 days old today. And my goodness what a 15 days it has been. If there was any doubt that God is in the Cross Church School of Ministry, these first 15 days should wash that away. I have had numerous young people, called by God, seeking me out via Twitter, email, phone, and even in person. They want to know more. And they are serious about preparing for their call. The Cross Church School of Ministry does not compete with our colleges and seminaries but complements them. In these first 15 days I have communicated directly with the presidents of all six Southern Baptist seminaries and various others. I have communicated with major regional universities. And after just 15 days, we have secured partnership agreements with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the College at Southwestern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the College at Southeastern, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Union University, and doors have been opened wide for the development of similar partnerships with Oklahoma Baptist University, Ouachita Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University, Criswell College, Liberty University and Liberty Seminary. And we have also secured a tremendously exciting partnership with the North American Mission Board whereby we will become a major training center for church planters. Listen, if God is calling you to plant a church, you need to come to the Cross Church School of Ministry this coming fall!
So the stage is set. In just 15 days. We are ready to roll. We are ready for God called men and women to come to the Cross Church School of Ministry in August of 2013 to be a part of our first cohort of students. To experience our unique one-year residential ministry preparatory experience. And then to go out and change the world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For more information on the Cross Church School of Ministry, contact Dr. Jeff Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org