Anyone looking to join the Rev. William Franklin Blue in Wednesday night Bible study must travel a fair distance from the 6,000-member congregation where he was mentored by the Rev. Clifford A. Jones Sr. at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
On Nov. 23, Blue was installed as pastor of Great Joy Baptist Church in McConnells, S.C., a rural congregation of 120 people some 30 miles southwest of Charlotte.
Blue says he is exactly where God would have him be. Friendship trained him well, he says, for the work that’s now before him at Great Joy.
“If I can shepherd a flock,” he said, “and know that I am ministering to them spiritually, physically and mentally, and doing it the way God would have me do it, I don’t care about how many it is.”
Blue recently sat with Qcitymetro to talk about Great Joy and his long-term goals for himself and the church.
What follows is an edited transcript of that interview:
Most people in Charlotte probably don’t know about Great Joy. Tell us a little about it.
We are located at 3383 Chester Highway, McConnells. We are a Baptist church and we are a mission church. But our membership is confined to the local community, so we don’t extend beyond our walls in a global respect at this point.
What are the needs of the community you serve?
There are quite a few members of our congregation who have been laid off from time to time, and the economy has begun to take a toll. We do have members in our church and in the community who are truly in need. So trying to do the things that we can to promote missions is a little more difficult when people are just trying to manage the basic necessities of life.
How old is the church?
The church was formed in 1983. I hate to say the word “split,” but we were given birth out of Mount Zion (Also in McConnells).
What is the church’s relationship now with Mount Zion?
Mount Zion and Mount Do-Well, which also is on Chester Highway, we had a Thanksgiving service. The three churches come together each year, and we had our Thanksgiving service at Great Joy.
I have worked with the pastor of Mount Zion. We had dinner together and talked about our vision for Mount Zion and Great Joy going forward. We do intend to do some things with them. Right now what we are trying to do is work on our own spirituality, and as we do that we will begin to branch out and do things with a lot of (local) churches.
So how is Great Joy doing?
The church is doing very well. We have a very nice facility. I have not visited a lot of facilities in the area, but we certainly are one of the nicer facilities in terms of being able to meet a lot of the needs of the community.
We have a fellowship hall that the local community uses for wedding receptions and things of that nature. Of course it’s in a country setting. We can seat about 400 in our sanctuary. Our membership generally is about 70 to 100 people who attend each Sunday, so when you spread that out over the church it makes the attendance look much smaller than it really is. They built this facility with growth in mind.
What are your long-term goals for the church?
We will be passing around a survey getting the members’ perspective of where we should be heading and the things that are near and dear to their hearts. We will be asking each member to tell us what the top three concerns are to them, and we will begin to develop our goals and objectives with that in mind.
Having attended Friendship, which is one of the largest churches in the Charlotte area, how does it feel to be in a small, rural setting?
Moses lived to be 120 years old, and his life was split into three periods of 40 years. He was raised first of all in Egypt under Pharaoh’s household. The second 40 years was spent out in the desert, where he met his wife; that’s also where he met God. He spent 40 years there, and then God prepared him to come back and say, “Let my people go.” And that was the third 40 years after he lead the people out of Egypt.
So having spent some time at Friendship, it prepared me, particularly when I went into ministry. When I accepted invitations to go to other churches, I was speaking, sometimes to my surprise, to as little as 10 people.
And the 10 people, I looked at them, and I understood that even though they were small in number, they wanted to hear a word from the Lord just like the 3,000 you would be preaching to at Friendship on Sunday. So I promised myself that no matter where God sent me, whether it was 10 people or 10,000, I would preach with the same fervor and the same passion, regardless of the number.
Would I like to be a T.D. Jakes or a big-time preacher like Pastor Jones at Friendship? I recognize that time has passed me by in my life. But I also recognize that I have every opportunity to be as good a pastor as anyone who has ever been on the face of the earth.
Why do you say time has passed you by?
Because generally when you start looking at mega churches and things of that nature, they’re looking for young (pastors) to start them out and take them to some place. I’m in my 50s, and when you’re talking about going to some larger church, you want to start out with someone young who can be with you for a while.
I don’t see myself becoming the pastor of Friendship, but I do see myself having the opportunity to help Great Joy grow and develop. And, yes, we can become big-time or a big church right where we are.
But that is not my focus. My focus is to do the thing that God would have me do to help improve the quality of life for people. I’m truly committed to Great Joy. We have 120 folk, and when we are sitting in the sanctuary, you can see how much opportunity we have for growth right there, knowing it’s going to probably take five to 10 years to even realize the things that we are talking about.
Now if God does something and sends me someplace else, then I will follow the direction of God.
This is your first church. Have there been any surprises?
I don’t think there have been any surprises. I’ve been with Pastor Jones for a pretty good while. I’ve preached in other churches before. And my own home church in Dillon, SC, New Bethel Presbyterian Church, they were without a pastor for seven years. Even before I claimed the title or answered the call to preach, I was going down to speak to them. That’s when I was calling myself a speaker or when I was doing my bootleg preaching, if you will. So I’ve been in quite a few places and I’ve experienced a lot of things.
What are the primary issues facing the Christian church today?
It would be very difficult for me to say exactly what the primary issues are. But I did ask my congregation — we’re studying Genesis right now, and we are investigating the first murder, when Cain killed Abel — and I asked why were black people killing so many black people. It’s unbelievable how many black people are being killed.
You heard Michelle Obama when they were talking to her about her husband perhaps being at risk when he’s president. She said that, because Barack is black, Barack can be killed at any time, just because he’s black.
She was referencing how black people are killed in this county. I truly do not know why we have such a disconnect, a tremendous disconnect in our community, where there is absolutely no regard for human life, property or anything along that line.
Now, that may not be a church issue, but somewhere along the line, I believe the folks who are perpetrating those crimes do not have the spirit of God in them, otherwise they would not be doing those things.
So what does the church have to say to this problem?
Somehow we are unable to reach them. I believe that is because we are not where they are. We’re going to have to go to the streets.
The people who are perpetrating these crimes, they are not going to come to the church. So the only way you’re going to get the word of God to them is you’re going to have to go out. How you do that and will they make themselves available to receive it, I do not know. I do know that somehow we’re going to have to get the word of God to them.