Published December 15, 2011
HAMPTON — The site: the Atlanta Motor Speedway – with a grandstand seating capacity of 125,000 and the home of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. That was the location for the first celebration Dec. 1 of Johnny (and Janet) Hunt’s 25th anniversary at the helm of First Baptist Church in Woodstock. The second celebration occurred at the Woodstock church the following Sunday, Dec. 4.
More than 250 guests, mostly pastors and church leaders from out-of-state, were given the privilege of riding the Speedway’s pace car that zoomed around the 1.54-mile track at speeds of up to 130 mph. A splendid buffet dinner followed with entertainment provided by a comedian from Branson, MO.
The Woodstock pastor stated, “This is just incredible and I am so thankful for the celebration in this venue, because Janet is in her element. She is so excited she will not be able to eat or sleep tonight. I think she took four different rides in that pace car.”
A small team of First Baptist laypeople who had the responsibility of planning the event wore black t-shirts with “Team Janet” imprinted on the back. The pastor continued, “I am so glad the church is catering to Janet’s delights today and giving her a little of the limelight, because my joy and passion is fulfilled every time I stand up to preach the Gospel.”
The Hunts’ impact upon Woodstock and beyond is almost unfathomable when one begins to measure the scope of their influence; and it is impossible to think of Johnny without thinking also of Janet. Both have affable and charismatic personalities and have endeared themselves to people just about everywhere.
Statistical information will not tell the whole story, but when Johnny Hunt became pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock in 1986 the church had 1,027 members. Today the church has 19,199 members.
Total giving in 1986 was $407,892 compared to total giving in 2011 of $20,252,992. Average attendance has increased from 275 to 6,270. Perhaps the most important statistic of all is that more than 13,300 persons have been baptized in the 25 years of Hunt’s pastorate at Woodstock.
Today the church is involved in a CARE ministry to the community, an extensive counseling ministry named HopeQuest, a job assistance program, a military support ministry, the City of Refuge for troubled and displaced pastors, a church planting ministry, and the Timothy/Barnabas ministry just to name a few.
The influence of Hunt upon young ministers is remarkable indeed. He has mentored hundreds, if not thousands of young preachers all over the world.
One of his mentees, John Welborn, pastor of Calvary Cross-link Baptist Church in Harrisburg, VA, commented at the 25 year anniversary, “Pastor Johnny is widely admired, but seldom duplicated. He has taught, modeled, and led me to constant dissatisfaction with the status quo in pursuit of excellence in ministry. He is a trailblazer and a risk-taker for the Gospel who infuses courage into young pastors like myself and others around the world. Johnny Hunt is my pastor, my hero and my mentor.
Trevor Barton, pastor of the Hawk Creek Baptist Church in London, KY, said, “Pastor Johnny was a hero of mine before I ever met him. And after having the opportunity to get to know him – he is even more of a hero.
“With some pastors, their ministry is their life, but with Pastor Johnny his life is his ministry.
“When Pastor Johnny says that he cares about the next generation of pastors, people take him seriously. He models a life of ministry and has leveraged his platform to impact a generation of younger preachers to be fully-devoted followers of Christ and faithful, passionate communicators of the Gospel.”
Praise and congratulations
Jeremy Morton, pastor of Crosspoint Church in Perry, testified, “Few people in the world challenge and inspire me to go the distance for Jesus like Pastor Johnny. On a deeply personal level, he’s spoken with authority and compassion into my life about remaining close and clean before the Lord.
“Pastor Johnny always reminds me to let the overflow of my devotional time totally guide my approach to the ministry. Traveling with him and just hanging out has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
The Sunday morning service at First Baptist was devoted to celebrating God’s goodness in recognition of this quarter-century anniversary. Pastor friends presented congratulatory videos throughout the service and evangelist Junior Hill brought the morning message.
Hill described the Woodstock pastor for his likeability, his approachability and his stickability, saying “Once you become his friend he will stick to you like glue on a piece of paper.”
The church received an offering for five of Hunts’ priority ministries and each one was generously funded through the special gifts received.
Hunt, who served two terms as Southern Baptist Convention president, has an influence that has permeated Southern Baptist life and Christendom in a significant way.
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus ministry of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and chairman of the SBC Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, declared, “Johnny and I have both been at our respective churches for 25 years. We have walked much of this road together as colleagues and close friends.
“One of the greatest memories of our partnership in ministry is that we were able to champion together the Great Commission Resurgence. First Woodstock and the Southern Baptist Convention have been influenced by one of God’s special and favored men of God, Johnny Hunt.”
Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL, stated, “Everyone who knows Johnny Hunt know that he has a passion for winning others to Christ. We have all watched as he has grown one of the most significant churches in the first half of the 21st century. Those who have sat under his ministry know his deep love for the Word of God and his commitment to pastoral ministry and missions.
“What I want everyone to know is how dedicated a personal friend he is. Solomon writes in Proverbs 17:17: ‘A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.’ My life has been blessed because God saw fit to send me a friend named Johnny.”
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