Small church is large in faith

Sun News correspondentNovember 14, 2012 

  • Haynesville Assembly of God

    Address: 806 Grovania Road, Hawkinsville
    Phone: 987-5154
    Leadership: Rev. Marcus Johnson, pastor
    Worship: Sunday school 10 a.m., worship 11 a.m., Wednesday Bible study and Bible Kidz 7 p.m.
    Website: Facebook.com, search Haynesville Assembly of God

HAYNESVILLE -- Seventy-five-year-old Haynesville Assembly of God might still be Clinchfield Assembly if dust and debris from a nearby cement plant hadn’t started eating away at the original church’s bricks, mortar and foundation.

But the fact is the church had to move.

The Rev. Marcus Johnson, Haynesville Assembly’s pastor since 2008, said the church had its beginnings from old-time brush arbor meetings. That led first to the church’s formation in 1937 in south Houston County’s Clinchfield community then in 1974 to its move to the current location just off Ga. 341 in Haynesville.

“There were a number of pastors who came and went in the early years,” Johnson said. “It was a place ministers seemed to come to, get their feet wet, then move on. But in 1972, Brother Gene McKinney came as pastor and led the church for 35 years until he retired in 2007. Brother Gene served well through all those years and provided a great foundation through his teaching God’s word.”

Johnson said the church and the Assemblies of God grew during the Great Depression years of the church’s founding. He said south Houston County flourished with plantations and schools and, of course, the cement plant. Now, he said, the community is largely a place where people settle who are looking for a few more acres than they can get in the north part of the county.

“We’re admittedly a small church,” Johnson said. “We once were larger, and I’m glad to say we’re seeing growth. If you’re just a consumer Christian and want to go where you can pick all kinds of ministries off the shelf then we may not be the place.

“But if you want to be where you’ll feel accepted as part of a loving family and want to grow and pitch in to help us grow, then we’re that place. We believe in God’s word, and we believe in prayer.”

And, Johnson said, in spiritual gifts.

“You know, we’re not unlike most other churches, and there are a lot of good churches all around,” Johnson said. “But one distinguishing thing might be we believe in the current operation of what Apostle Paul referred to as gifts of the spirit. We believe the gifts available to the early New Testament church are still for us today, but it’s not a spooky thing. We believe they should be very natural.

“It’s not about being overcome by some power but a lot like that still small voice and urging most Christians know as God leading and speaking to them.”

While Johnson said there’s not often an expression of tongues and interpretation in services, there’s always an offering up of the prayer of faith and often what’s known as words of knowledge and wisdom, leading to prayer for others.

“We believe in healing and miracles,” Johnson said. “Again -- nothing spooky. We just believe God loves us and wants to act in our lives in large and small ways. We’ve seen him do it.”

Still, Johnson said there’s something more important. Echoing the Apostle Paul again, Johnson said love is the greatest thing and is what needs to drive all church activity.

“It’s true about the gifts and everything else,” Johnson said. “Love is paramount. Most churches look to the book of Acts and get ideas like service, growth, connecting and going, but even these have to be energized by love from God and for God. These things can become dead programs otherwise and be worthless. It’s all about a first love for Jesus that we have to go back to and live out of.”

Haynesville Assembly is Johnson’s first church as senior pastor. Originally from Tennessee, he attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., and has served in New Jersey and south Georgia, primarily in youth ministry. He and his wife, Jaynea, have three children.

“I guess I never had the dramatic calling like Paul on the Damascus road,” Johnson said. “Mine’s more of an unfolding. It’s just been, ‘I’m following you, Jesus.’ I have no doubt I’m right where I’m supposed to be and that I’m a product of God being faithful even when I wasn’t.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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