Simple living in a complex world

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

HARPERSVILLE – Pastor Billy “B.R.” Johnson began conducting Bible studies at Lighthouse Community Church in Harpersville 10 years ago. He never knew how susceptible he would be to small-town charm.

Johnson’s experience with this charm struck a humorous chord. His book, “Simple Living,” captured the learning curve he needed to maneuver the differences between big-city and small-town life.

“I didn’t even know Harpersville existed. Years and years ago, there wasn’t much down 280,” Johnson recalled. “(The church members) called and wanted me to do some Bible studies for them, and then several months later, they wanted me to come as pastor. So, (my family and I) did!”

When Johnson took over church leadership at Lighthouse, the church membership was around 25 people, but membership began to grow steadily after he arrived, he said.

Before moving to Harpersville, Johnson, a 30-year veteran of Christian ministry, spent his career moving within the culture of megachurches. His transition from a student-pastor position with the First Baptist Church of Birmingham to small-town senior pastor of Lighthouse didn’t come without certain challenges.

“A lot of folks told me, ‘You’re moving backwards. You’re coming out of a large situation and moving to a small one,’” Johnson said. “I don’t look at the ministry as trying to move up a ladder. I’m 100 percent responsible where I am, whether it’s for 100 or 1000 people. For me, it wasn’t a move backward. It was a move inward.”

When Johnson picked up his family and moved them to Harpersville, he soon realized life in the country would be quite different than the family’s big-city norm.

“When I was brought to Harpersville, I lived right beside the church, and I felt like everybody knew everything I did. I wasn’t used to being under that kind of microscope,” he said.

Johnson's novel records small-town life with an application to biblical priciples. (Contributed)

Johnson never considered documenting his transition for public viewing.

“I use a lot of illustrations and humor (in my sermons), and someone said, ‘You need to write that down.’ I had never thought about writing,” Johnson said. “Finally, I went to a Christian writer’s conference in order to check out this whole writing thing. From that, I wrote the stories.”

In his book, the pastor recorded true stories and circumstances that fit his new life. He rounded out the stories by linking biblical anecdotes and teachings in order to bring depth and meaning to his tales, Johnson said.

“(Simple Living) was simply a responsive writing of stuff that has happened and just telling those stories. I linked it with a biblical story to draw a principle from to encourage us to live a simple life, to slow down some,” he said.

Johnson’s second book, currently titled, “Playing with God,” will bring more depth and insight to the pastor’s writings.

“(Both Christian believers and) our churches take the Bible and play with what God says instead of actually obeying and doing what God says. We play with it to feel good,” Johnson said. “If we actually took the word of God seriously and did it, we would change the world.”