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Arkansas Church Sees Lowered Debt with Increased Missions Giving

Getting out of debt seemed nearly impossible for one Arkansas church until they began increasing their missions giving.

Powerful praises filled the sanctuary of Butterfield Church in Van Buren, Arkansas, on August 20, 2023. The joyful congregation laser-focused their attention on the platform.

Surrounded by former and current board members, AG General Superintendent Doug Clay, Arkansas District Superintendent Ronnie Morris, and Patrick Kimberland, Butterfield AG’s pastor, fired up a metal urn and burned the church’s original $2.7 million mortgage. Grateful Hallelujahs reigned.

Morris congratulated the church for continuing to keep the mission of the gospel foremost and cited Paul’s encouragement to the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8:2, stressing their rich generosity.

“Our 380 Arkansas District churches have been encouraged and blessed by Butterfield’s testimony,” he says.

What happened in Butterfield’s testimony unveiled a faith-building lesson birthed in December 2012 when Patrick Kimberland took over as the new pastor. Formerly an AG USA evangelist for 11 years, he sensed God leading him to Butterfield Church.

However, unanticipated issues surfaced following the church board’s favorable vote to install him as the new shepherd. A cohort of congregants had opposed the choice to have Kimberland succeed the previous pastor who had resigned.

“Our first two years were rough for my wife, Kristi, and I,” Kimberland admits. “There was a slow leak of the 500-member congregation after I came on board, plus a crushing financial burden.”

The church had invested in a major building project adding new family life, youth, and worship centers. But the project called for a huge debt requiring three separate monthly mortgage payments totaling $24,000.

Van Buren, Arkansas is a small city of about 24,000 residents near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border line. The city is home to mostly middle-class families and is not a wealthy community. The federal government reports a 18.8 % poverty rate.

Kimberland battled additional discouraging news when several staff members resigned and 150 congregants departed, including lifelong friends.

Amid these hurdles, he knew God still wanted him to pastor Butterfield, as did a more vocal cohort of congregants who prayed for Kimberland to stand firm. Rather than fleeing, he petitioned the Lord for wisdom, bold faith, and a workable plan to get out of debt. The Holy Spirit intervened.

Studying the church’s 2013 missions budget grabbed his attention. “I wanted to find a worthy project to inspire us,” he remembers.

He presented the congregation with a new project to help build a medical clinic in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, a ministry founded by the late AG world missionaries Mark and Huldah Buntain.

The congregation’s response was overwhelmingly positive. They sacrificially gave $25,000 for the first major project under Kimberland’s care.

Next came a decision to schedule an annual missions convention weekend.

Within two to three years, the church stabilized. Finances improved and new people joined. “Then the Lord gave me a plan to help us get out of debt,” Kimberland says.

In January 2016, Kimberland launched a program that he named Financial Freedom, where families were challenged to give an extra $25 monthly over their normal tithes. Many congregants embraced the vision. Some even upped their monthly pledges to $50-$100. Giving to missions increased and spilled over to general offerings.

By the end of 2016, the church had paid down $90,580 from the mortgage principal. In addition, it refinanced the outstanding debt with one bank, reducing the monthly bill to $17,100.

In 2018, missions giving topped $100,000 for individual world missionaries and projects such as Speed the Light and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC).

Every age group caught the vision for lost souls and helped raise funds. Students mowed lawns, cleaned cars, ran yard sales, worked part time jobs, and donated their earnings. One 17-year-old earned $2,500 for Speed the Light and Sunday school children raised $35,000 for BGMC.

Inspired by missions, about ten of Butterfield’s youth have answered God’s call to enter the ministry.

In 2019, missions giving increased to $140,912. In 2020, when COVID ravaged the nation and weekly church attendance collapsed to less than 200, missions giving shot up to $160,701. Offerings have continued to grow during the last two years, totaling $182,556 in 2021 and $321,760 in 2022.

Greg and Kandatha Rose, Butterfield members since 2009, were personally blessed with recent salary raises. “We were led to double our missions support and God has wonderfully provided for us,” Rose says.

Many other families have experienced similar blessings.

The church currently supports 75 missionaries but expects to add another 25 by the end of 2024.

Reflecting, Kimberland believes the emphasis on missions has been a catalyst to pay off the church’s heavy debt burden and reach more people for Jesus, both locally and globally.

“It was a supernatural and divine accomplishment,” he explains. “There is no way man could have done this.”

Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.