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News for Thursday, March 6, 2014

Church Blesses Another Church
By Connie Davis Bushey
news editor, Baptist and Reflector

MEMPHIS — “I didn’t want to leave the hood,” said Ronnie Johnson, a pastor here referring to the neighborhood he had ministered in for 18 years.

But God directed him to do so in the middle of the night after waking him up, he said. 

Since then it has been quite a journey for Johnson.

“God provided. God provided,” said Johnson. “Some things you just cannot explain outside of God.”

He and some of the members of Miracle Baptist Church, Memphis, which he pastored, were asked by God to move from “Jerusalem to Judea,” explained Johnson, and when they did, “God provided.”

The experience was not without the testing of his and their faith, he added. But several months later on Feb. 9 when a new church, Miracle of Redemption Baptist, met in a worship service in its own facility — the former Orchi Baptist Church, Memphis — it was a happy time, said Johnson. Amazingly, about 300 people gathered that day.


Beginning of journey

In the fall of last year Johnson felt called by God to leave his role as pastor of Miracle Baptist, which was associated with the Ronnie Tullos Evangelistic Association and its ministries in downtown Memphis. Johnson felt called to start a new church though he helped begin Miracle as a new Christian and had either been a member or a minister of it for 18 years.

After he was saved in 1995 “from the streets,” said Johnson, where he was “an ex- gang-banger and drug addict and dealer,” he and a small group of new Christians from the hood helped Desi Guinn start Miracle Baptist. 

In leaving, Johnson was giving up his salary. Yet Johnson said he knew God was calling him and was thankful when his wife and the church leaders of Miracle Baptist supported him, he said.


Next step of journey

Through contacts including Mitch Martin, director of missions, Mid-South Baptist Association, based in Bartlett which is in metropolitan Memphis, Johnson learned of a possible meeting place for the new church at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Center of the University of Tennessee Health Sciences School, also located in downtown Memphis. In about two weeks working with Bryan Gill, BCM director, a contract had been signed for the new church, Miracle of Redemption Baptist, to meet there.

Though the cost was $1,000 a month, Mid-South Baptist and Kirby Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, agreed to give $600 a month toward the cost of rent for three months. Kirby Woods Baptist knew Johnson through his work at Miracle Baptist.

Thankfully, over the next couple of months the new church grew slightly to about 50 people though it had a lot less children than Miracle Baptist had. A lot of children attend Miracle because many children in the nearby Claiborne Homes attend without their parents, explained Johnson. The fourth month of meeting at the BCM Center — January — the church barely paid the rent with only a little help from others including Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova.

Thankfully Martin kept encouraging him, said Johnson, but he didn’t know how everything could work out in their current situation.


Orchi Baptist Church, Memphis

Amazingly, at the end of December Martin had been visited by Judy Lowery and Janie Brazzell of Orchi Baptist Church, Memphis, to discuss closing the church and giving the facility to another congregation.

Immediately Miracle of Redemption Baptist came to mind, said Martin.

“He had a full-blown ministry and really needed a facility,” said Martin of Johnson and Miracle of Redemption.

Soon Lowery and Brazzell met Johnson and two of his deacons at the Orchi Baptist facility.

When Martin met Johnson at the facility he was not only overjoyed, he was “literally shouting and singing with glee,” recalled Martin.

Soon the decision was made and at the Feb. 9 service Lowery and Brazzell and other members of Orchi Baptist were publicly thanked for the gift of the building, which is debt-free, to Miracle of Redemption. Also the facility was dedicated.

Of course, Martin and the former Orchi Baptist members are glad that the church is “continuing to be used for the glory of God,” he said. He wishes more congregations would be proactive in making such decisions so facilities don’t end up in the “hands of the enemies of the cross,” said Martin.

He added that Johnson also should be commended because with God’s help he made a transition very well which could have been very difficult for him and others. Martin also noted that Miracle Baptist Church, now under the leadership of Ronnie Tullos as pastor, and the Ronnie Tullos Evangelistic Association are still doing the Lord’s work.

Currently, Miracle of Redemption Baptist draws about 50 people to Sunday afternoon activities, reported Johnson.

In this new neighborhood Johnson has quickly discovered that many different ethnicities are represented. “God literally has brought the nations to us.” 

At one time, he thought God wouldn’t save him because of how he had “messed up.” Then he realized that there were “many Ronnie Johnsons out there.”

In this new neighborhood which Johnson calls Judea, “we have accepted the call to minister in the area where we’re not used to being … to be obedient to the Great Commission.”

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