|James Barfield taking a break from his Upward Coaching duties.
Jonita Barram recently interviewed James Barfield for an article she is writing for the Baptist Bulletin. James and his wife, Christi, have been members of Faith for 11 years. James has served on the deacon board for 4 years and is in his second year as chairman of the deacon board. James owns and operates Barfield Insurance & Financial Services.
Jonita: For people like me, who are basically ignorant about construction and finances, why is it so significant that this 2.1 million-dollar building is completely paid for?
James: The largest issue is that our church and our pastor have long held the view that the church should not go into debt to build, that if the Lord would have us to build, He would provide the resources that we need to do so. In a practical sense, what it really means is that the church will not have to make mortgage payments, won’t have to pay interest for an extended period of time. There are many churches that have borrowed to build, and they finance it over a 10-, 15-, or 20-year period. They’re having to make mortgage payments over that long haul that results in tens of thousands of dollars being spent just in interest payments alone.
Jonita: I heard many references to cost cutting. Had God not enabled the men and women involved in the building project to cut expenses, ballpark figure, how much do you think this building would have cost?
James: It’s hard to say, because I don’t know every single item, but just in one area alone, which was the tax savings that James Berry was able to get for us, was in the neighborhood of $35,000. That’s a tangible expense that we would have incurred, for sure, had he not been able to have the church purchase the items that were purchased versus the contractor purchase them. In addition to that—this is a little harder to quantify—James was able to get the lighting fixtures in the gym changed. Usually the lighting fixtures in a gymnasium are slow to come on and go off, and they use a lot of electricity. He got energy-efficient lighting for the gym, which is more practical and, at the same time, it’s estimated to save the church about $400 per month in our electric bill. Without question they are energy efficient and will save the church a lot of money over the lifetime of that gym.
Jonita: You said Sunday (April 3) that you thought God had prepared James Berry for this project. Could you elaborate?
James: James has had an extensive background in construction. He has worked on many projects and on a variety of types of projects. They equipped him very well to work not only with the builder but with the different vendors that were involved. He basically spoke the language. Speaking to a builder about different aspects of a project is almost like speaking a foreign language. James is very well versed in it. He can sit down by the guy hammering the nails and have an intelligent conversation, or the engineer, or the electrician, or the lights vendor and understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
It’s like Esther. James was brought along by the Lord for just such a time as this. He did a great job. He is high energy person who loves to work and is fully engaged. So, he was meeting with the contractors and the vendors on a weekly basis and communicating with them even more often than that. I think the number of e-mails measured in the thousands that were sent back and forth. I myself had to sign some of the work orders as chairman of the deacon board. I was just amazed at some of the things that I saw come through, where James had found things and savings. He was on top of the project from Day 1 all the way through to the completion.
Jonita: I heard Gerry Hill’s name mentioned a few times. Could you talk about his involvement?
James: Gerry was the guy on the ground. He was there every day and was the go-to person for the people working on-site. He was a good resource for them and a good resource for us as well. Gerry is on the staff of Faith Baptist Church, but he is also on the Building Committee and the Risk Management Committee. He was well able to keep us informed about what was going on and was also the liaison for those good folks who were actually working on the church grounds. He was able to give James Berry, chairman of the Building Committee, good information on a day-to-day basis of where we stood on the project. He was the guy that was there and could see what was going on.
Here’s just one example. At one point during the construction process, they had some metal items that were being stored over a little closer than what we would have like to where the cars park. So Gerry communicated that, and James got right on it, and they were able to move that stuff to a safer location so that no cars would inadvertently run into it and no children would be tempted to play on it. Gerry would be able to spot a thing like that right off the bat and be able to communicate it, and we could get it addressed before it became a problem.
Jonita: What, if anything, would you like people who read my [Baptist Bulletin] report to know (beyond what I’ve asked about)?
James: I would like them to know a couple of things.
- One, in the midst of this terrible economy—and you know from living here, Polk County has been exceptionally hard hit because of the heavy concentration of construction-oriented jobs that we have in Polk County—in the midst of that (and by the way, that hit our own church family hard as well) the Lord provided a brand new building—100 percent paid for, completely debt free—that we’re able to open as a testimony not only of how great God is but also the vision that our pastor had. Now we are able to bring a hurting community into this building and minister to them. We’ll do that through outreach programs like FX and Awana, through the gymnasium with Upwards Basketball. So it’s going to be beacon to a hurting community at a very difficult time. I personally believe we’ll see a harvest of souls for the kingdom as a result of this building. Of course, all the praise, honor, and glory goes to the Lord, but we also have to recognize the vision that our pastor had in wanting to move forward through this project.
- Second, it’s an incredible testimony to the community that saw the building go up, and saw the great ceremony that we had on Sunday. They know that at least on the corner of Crystal Beach Road the Lord is doing great things and we have been good stewards of what He has allowed us to have.
Jonita: Do you have anything you would like to add?
James: I am so excited to see what God has done. We’ve talked about the building, and the building is a wonderful thing. I praise God for that building. But beyond the building, what the Lord has done at Faith Baptist Church—He has increased our membership; we have seen new members come forward on a regular basis; we’ve seen people coming forward to get their marriages right; we’ve seen people coming forward
to know Christ. Two weeks ago, we had a 78-year-old man get saved and a 16-year-old boy get saved. That is what the Lord is doing. We have seen the baptismal waters move. We had three baptisms this past Sunday. I believe we have more baptisms coming up this coming Sunday.
I drove by the church on a Monday night about 7:30, and the parking lot was half full because they are using the facilities. Our church is alive and well. There are churches that have quit having Wednesday-night services, and you drive by them during the week, and there’s nobody there. But you’re hard pressed to drive by Faith Baptist Church and not see it being used for the cause of Christ every day of the week.
It is a joy and a privilege to be part of what the Lord is allowing to happen here.