Ellis Baptist Association
EBA is an exciting, growing association committed to helping churches reach and disciple people for Christ in Ellis County, Texas and among the Lenca of Honduras. We welcome you to our site. May God bless you.
Larry Johnson ends a 32-year career of service as executive director of Ellis Baptist Association on January 31. It’s been time spent “watching God do things that are absolutely amazing,” he said. “And it’s been all God.” His commitment and years of service were recognized at the association’s annual meeting at First Baptist Church of Waxahachie, October 18. A retirement celebration was held at 4:00 p.m. followed by dinner at 5:15 p.m. and the annual meeting at 6:30 p.m.
The son of a Baptist minister, Johnson grew up poor on an Iowa farm and had a desire to be wealthy. Trying to get as far as he could from the home and the farm, he attended LeTourneau University in Longview, got a degree in 1968 and worked for the university personnel department for two years before being laid off. In spite of the job loss, it was good experience, and while there he met and married his wife, Yvette, They have three sons, Brent, Bryan and Sterling, and have four grandchildren.
In 1970, Johnson began a 10-year career as a salesman with Flexsteel in Waxahachie, and he and his family joined First Baptist Church. Traveling for Flexsteel, Johnson often found himself alone in a hotel room at night and began to read scripture and consider his commitment to God. “God began to teach me things,” he said. “One of the biggest was forgiveness, and how to love. It was a growing time for me. I was ready to do whatever He wanted.”
A passage (Matthew 6:19-20) in the sermon on the mount about “laying up treasures on earth” took care of my desire to be wealthy and was also my call to ministry,” Johnson said. “It became important for me to lay up treasures in Heaven.”
He told his pastor, Leroy Fenton, that he felt a call to ministry and joined the church staff as minister of evangelism and missions in 1981. The church had already ordained him as a deacon and then ordained him to the gospel ministry. Fenton, he said, was a great influence on him.
Johnson also graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1981 with a master of arts degree in religious education. He thought he would be a minister of education, he said, but in 1984 was asked to be missions coordinator for Trinity Brazos Area, which encompassed Ellis, Johnson and Paluxy associations. When the TBA broke up in early 1994, Johnson became executive director of Ellis Baptist Association, and for 21 years he has helped guide it through great changes.
When he assumed the reins of the association, he said, there was a “functional connection between the association, the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention—we acted as one.” Changes in the SBC sent all three of those entities off into different directions, Johnson said, and the association had to find God’s will for itself. And about 20 years ago it shifted from being program-driven to a team-based ministry.
“What we had been doing wasn’t working,” he said.”We were at the bottom of thefunnel. What they dreamed up in Nashville, burped up in Dallas and passed on to us to implement wasn’t working. We had to change.” “For the first couple of years not much happened,” Johnson said, “But slowly they began to figure out what God wanted us to do.” “We have done some conferences and seminars, though not as many, but our focus has been on church planting, understanding international missions with work with the Lenca Indians in Honduras and disaster relief. We started the Ellis County Women’s Job Corps and have touched dozens of lives with the Gospel. We are ministry driven.”
Diversification has marked how the association has changed, Johnson said. “When we started,” he said, “We had Anglo churches of various sizes, a Hispanic church, and all of them did everything alike. Now there is so much diversification, so many models, and the diversification of approaches is vast. Music is vastly different from cowboy bands to traditional choirs and all kinds of combinations of that. Our churches are all over the board doing all sorts of things.”
During his first 10 years he led in the starting of new churches, but when the shift was made to a team based model, he shifted more toward empowering people to do ministry. “By nature I could be a micro manager,” Johnson said. “but I learned I had to let others do it and I had to be available to support them. We’ve gotten a whole lot more done.” The association has a responsibility to have a clear vision and be committed to work with everyone and partner with those who help move toward that vision. A plaque in his office states it clearly: “Lead with Vision.”
He was influenced by Henry Blackaby, Johnson said, in recognizing that the association is a spiritual organization, not a business or secular organization and that it is to be approached in a spiritual vein. “Seeing God’s will is what we are trying to do, and that is all I want to do—find it and follow it.”
Johnson will remain active in ministry as chairman of the board of SOCII (latin for social) Coffee, working with missionaries around the world in coffee-producing countries, helping farmers improve their crop and get more for their coffee beans. He will work with some missionaries to establish coffee shops.
Under the Kingdom Growers brand, SOCII now has coffee from Honduras, Sumatra, China, soon may have some from Ethiopia and next year hopes to add 8 to 10 more countries. The coffee production—improving the lives of countless people—has the potential of breaking down barriers and reaching many with the gospel.