Pastor says the biggest challenge for Christians is 'staying focused'
by Mark Ledbetter


In the past storefront churches were once the hallmark of Pentecostal churches. The Holy Faith Temple facilities today utilize portions of a strip-mall in Childersburg to house several community outreaches.

The sanctuary now occupies the old Giant Food grocery store next to the old Bill’s Dollar Store. The adjacent buildings house a fellowship hall with kitchen, a learning center, and a shelter.

Pastor Billie Crawford is the congregation’s spiritual leader and she believes that people should put God first. “I really feel that if we take care of His business, He will take care of ours,” Crawford said.

Putting God first and financing church operations through tithes and offerings are two principles Pastor Crawford has instilled in her congregation’s mind-set. Gladys Lawson, Sunday School teacher and school secretary said that in the eight years she has known Pastor Crawford she has always put God first regardless of the circumstances.

Saved early in life Crawford said she drifted away until she rededicated her life and accepted the call to preach.

In 1989 while traveling on U.S. Highway 280 Crawford received her call to preach. She described her call: “It’s like an anointing.” She said that she believed God expected her life to be the “very example of the Word of God.”

With her call Crawford felt God urging her to read the Gospels and the Book of Acts. She said she argued with God that she had already read the Bible through. “That didn’t impress Him much,” Crawford said.

Crawford evangelized from 1989 to 1998 before beginning an outdoor service for kids in the local community. With a donated tent, ten folding chairs, and an amplifier purchased from a pawn shop, 17 children attended the first service. Crawford said, “We had to borrow chairs from the neighbors.”

The children’s ministry continued to meet under the tent until it grew to 37 kids. When the kids wanted to know why they couldn’t move into the church building, Crawford moved the meeting into church facilities.

Impressed by God to pastor, Crawford’s response was to argue that she didn’t have any money to start a church. It was then she said God instructed her not to use fund raisers but to depend solely upon tithes and offerings.

An obstacle Crawford faced as a female pastor was being accepted in a male-dominated vocation. She said male pastors would acknowledge her in public but rarely in a church setting. Two pastors came to her and told her it was wrong for her to serve as a pastor.

Crawford found comfort and direction from a story found in the Gospels. In prison John the Baptist sent two disciples to ask Jesus if He was indeed the expected Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to return to John and report what they had seen.

Crawford said the message she received from God was similar to the message Jesus sent to John. “If you don’t believe my words, then believe my works.” Crawford resigned herself to not respond to her critics but allow her works speak for her.

She said that God reminded her that it wasn’t her ministry but His and a work no man could deny.

In 1998 the congregation moved into the building now occupied by the shelter. In 2003 the congregation moved into the renovated Giant Food building. All facilities were renovated by the principles of putting God first and financing church activities through tithes and offerings received by the local church.

The shelter was opened for people displaced by Katrina. It remained open and serves as a refuge.

The shelter is open to anyone in need for a refuge. It is subdivided to accommodate the needs of several people. Individuals can remain in the shelter up to a month.

People are referred by other faith-based organizations or by the local police department.

A temporary resident in the shelter, whose identity is withheld for security and privacy reasons, said that the shelter provided everything they needed and is thankful for the care and compassion they and their child received.

Facilities also house a training center. According to the mission statement, Defining of Ministry is designed to “equip the Body of Christ for the work of ministry, to help us to be effective witnesses for God. All are not called to preach but we are all called to reach others as we serve in ministry for we are all God’s workmanship.”

Eight-week training sessions teach the basics of the Christian faith and are offered each Monday and Tuesday evenings and Wednesday morning. Fees cover the cost of all books and materials.

Beginner level courses include The Basics of Christianity, Knowing Your Ministry, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, and The Doctrine of the Church.

Individuals completing the course are recognized with either a Certificate of Completion for completed individual courses or an Associate Degree in Biblical Studies for students completing all studies.

Advanced classes in Christian Counseling, Effective Leadership, Bible History/Paul’s life, Dynamics of Worship, and Men and Women of Bible Time are offered.

One outreach program Crawford is especially proud of is the annual Back-to-School Kick-off Rally. On the first Saturday before school begins each year children gather at Pleasant Valley Ball Field. They receive food, school supplies and enjoy rides.

Recently the church launched a new radio program. Pastor Crawford can be heard on WFEB each Sunday morning at 10:30 am.

Holy Faith Temple also offers activities for youth, young women, and men.

In 2000 Crawford was given the opportunity to conduct a crusade in Nairobi, Africa. The invitation to come to Africa was the result of her hospitality to a bishop from Fountain of Life in Nairobi. The bishop contacted his pastor and the pastor extended an invitation to Crawford to conduct the crusade.

Crawford said that she had never flown before because she feared flying. The flight to Africa was her first flight.

Prior to the invitation Crawford felt impressed to give $1,000 to the church. She said she didn’t realize at the moment that she was actually “sowing seed” into her crusade. When she later needed money for trip expenses she received an unexpected financial gift.

Crawford said that the biggest challenge for Christians is “staying focused.” People are too distracted and need to put God first.

Crawford attributes the lack of focus upon entertainment.

“Entertainment is hurting the church,” Crawford said. “It hurts us because we are entertaining the flesh rather than feeding the spirit-man. People need to put God first.”

Holy Faith Temple is a non-denominational Pentecostal church located at 192 9th Ave NW in Childersburg.

Sunday School begins at 10 a.m. and morning services begin11:15. Sunday evening services are held on the second, fourth, and fifth Sundays and begin at 6.

Crawford’s daughter Wanda serves as the youth pastor and daughter Debbie serves as the praise and worship leader. Crawford’s nephew, Stacy Swain serves as the associate pastor.

The message on Crawford’s heart is for people to dare to be different for God. She said that for many Hebrews 11 is looked upon as people of faith but she sees them a people that dared to be different for God.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2012