COVID-19 does not appear to relent but we are hearing a vaccine is being developed. That will probably mark the end of the virus’ great effect on all of us, even though it is still a few months away. Our state and community is seeing an uptick of cases so we must still be wary. Our church is adjusting and we are worshiping together. I am very thankful for that. For the foreseeable future, I do not see the addition of any new activities.
I appreciate all of you attending worship, wearing masks, and maintaining proper social distances. Until we have a virus vaccine those simple precautions are necessary for everyone’s safety. I also understand entirely the individuals and families who are waiting to return to worship. It will be a great day when we can all come together again.
This month the local minister’s association is finalizing plans for a “virtual” Community Thanksgiving service which will probably be a service filmed and placed on our Facebook and YouTube channel for viewing. We will let you know these plans as soon as they are available.
We will observe an abbreviated “Trunk-r-Treat” from 3:00 PM-4:00 PM on Sunday, November 1. If you would like to provide a trunk for this event let Luke know. We will not have our usual inside activities. This event will be for children to safely round up some candy.
Our annual PMBA Toy Store will be Saturday, December 5. This year we will not allow the “shopping” for toys in our building but parents will request gifts their children want for Christmas and these will be gathered prior to December 5. December 5 will then be a distribution day. Donna Craig has requested some folks to shop and gather the gifts for parents approved to participate in the program. Let Donna know if you can help.
I appreciate everyone’s cooperation during this season of pandemic. Especially I appreciate church committees, chairpersons, and deacons for providing wisdom and discernment as we adjust to this situation. We are blessed to have good leaders in our church.
In closing I just ask that we keep in touch with each other. Give someone a call or send them a card.
May God bless you all.
I am pleased we have been able to safely return to worship since early July. Many of you are coming back and we are very thankful for that. Our goal is to hopefully see more and more of you return as you believe it is safe. Our task is to adequate clean the church facility and keep the conduct of worship services as safe as is possible. We further appreciate everyone’s cooperation in wearing masks and keeping a proper “social distance” during worship. I want to give you a further update from a recent deacon’s meeting when the status of church services in the pandemic were discussed.
-On Sunday morning October 4, we will resume SONQuest and Nursery services. These activities will meet on the first and third Sunday morning of each month. This will give parents, children and workers an opportunity to get back at it on a limited basis. Pastor Luke is asking all volunteers to wear masks as well any children age 5 and older. Obviously, children that show any signs of COVID or have been exposed to COVID are asked to not attend. Workers and children alike will have their temperatures checked and everyone will be asked to wash their hands as they arrive. For now, our 4th and 5th grade children are asked to attend worship in the sanctuary. Check-in for SONQuest will be in the breezeway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Pastor Luke published a detailed “SONQuest SARS2-COVID 19 Policy and Procedure Guide” for more information.
-We will continue our Sunday morning worship at 11:00 AM and the second service at 4:30 PM. If you are looking for a less populated service to attend, the afternoon service is a good option. As much as is possible this service is the same as in the morning. Of course, live streaming the Sunday morning worship service will continue, as will recording of this service to watch later. Don’t forget the Fellowship Hall is functional to watch and participate in morning worship. In addition, we will be serving coffee and doughnuts in the Fellowship Hall before and during worship starting October 4.
-For now, we will continue to conduct our Bible Study on Facebook and You Tube. Also, the Zoom Sunday School Class will continue Tuesday at 6:00 PM. Let us know if you need help connecting to these activities.
We have tried to be prudent and cautious during the season of the pandemic, while staying as close to public health guidance as possible. I know some of you are ready get back to a full slate of activities as soon as possible. Others are hesitant and tell us they are not ready to attend now. We are seeing on the average, thirty-five to forty percent of our church attend worship each week, and believe this number will tick upward as we return to having SONQuest and nursery. If we resume these events without problems our deacons will consider adding more events in the upcoming weeks.
I appreciate your continued patience, counsel, and prayer as we navigate this situation together. God bless you all.
As we begin a new month, I reflect on Pastor Rick Hughes who has meant much to this church and to me. Rick is retiring August 31 from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as a consultant for evangelism and discipleship after serving in various positions for over twenty years. He is a pastor’s pastor and has been a friend and mentor to me (and many other pastors and church leaders) throughout my ministry. I just participated in a “Zoom” retirement party (a sure sign of the times!) for Rick and heard person after person speak of his consistent generosity, leadership, love for Christ, and love for his family. We are blessed that Rick lives in Stokes County and I look forward to continued friendship with him. If you know Rick and have the opportunity, wish him a long and healthy retirement.
When you read this, we will have conducted our first live stream worship service on August 23. Along with the live stream of our 11:00 AM worship service, we are replacing the Friday afternoon service with a 4:30 PM service on Sunday. This will be the same as the 11:00 AM service and will allow folks who prefer less people than Sunday morning to attend “live” church. Our long-term goal for this afternoon service is help us reach those that work on Sunday mornings in our community. The fellowship hall will be open to participate in both Sunday worship services for further distancing if you desire. As we live stream on Sunday morning, we will also record that service for later watching.
The nursery now has an audio and video feed which will allow nursery workers to watch worship services live once we resume nursery services.
I am very thankful for the technology to allow such events. Our church is blessed with the resources and smart people who can make this happen. A special thanks to David Burroughs who has worked very hard to upgrade our system to allow these capabilities.
I am also thankful that many of you are returning to worship but fully understand those that are still waiting for substantial improvement in the virus containment. As you consider returning, know that our church is carefully cleaned between uses to make it as safe as possible for you. We continue to ask that you wear masks and maintain proper social distancing during worship attendance.
We are cautiously considering restarting nursery and/or SONquest in the next several weeks. To do this we would like to see no significant outbreak from school re-opening and the ability to consistently staff those vital ministries. If you are a SONquest or nursery volunteer and willing to help once we restart these ministries, let Luke know. Of course, we will communicate with you prior to any additions or changes to our current worship schedule.
In addition to the live streamed worship service, we will continue our recorded Bible study on Wednesday evening and our “Zoom” Sunday School class live on Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM. If you have a computer, iPad, or smart-phone, joining this class is easy. Just ask one of us pastors or David Burroughs and we will get you connected. Luke is doing lots of things with parents, children, and youth so see him if you need help connecting with him.
A.J. has been diligently working to refine our church member roster with the primary goal of allowing us better contact with you while reducing mailing costs. Many prefer automated newsletters but we also know that mailing the newsletter is still preferred for a significant number of members. Our goal is to only mail the necessary items. You can help us by letting A.J. know how you prefer to receive information and to keep your contact information current. If you know past members that want us to keep in touch with them, let us know that also.
I appreciate your patience, understanding, and support as we continue to work through this unusual time. Pray for our church, its ministries, and its outreach in the community. I specifically ask you pray for our church to effectively reach the lost within the reach of us all. God bless you as we labor together.
By my counting, we are 20 weeks into this pandemic and the subsequent alterations on everyone’s life. Nonetheless, it is without precedent that our church went 16 weeks without gathering and even now our gatherings are limited. Fortunately, we have been able to gather for the last four weeks and I think our gathering is working well. Worship together is wonderful! Some probably believe we should return to normal now, but we (our pastors and deacons) do not believe it is wise to ignore the guidelines published by public health professionals. While this is working well, I am concerned that for many the routine of attending church will be more difficult. It may be easier to “attend church” in our living rooms on TV than in person. Other events may take priority as things return to “normal” and no one knows when or what normal will look like in the future. A full return to church will require improvement in the pandemic control as well as an intentional effort by each of us to get things back to normal. Here are my thoughts as we look to return as a church:
-Return requires our church stay abreast of current pandemic guidance, that we adequately clean our facility, and that we are responsible in maintaining safety guidelines like masks and social distancing. Almost every medical professional recommends the use of face masks, especially in closed spaces. I think we will still ask that worship attendees wear them for the foreseeable future. You can expect and will find our church making sure it is carefully cleaned between uses and is ready for your return when you are ready.
-We will return to regular activities slowly and deliberately. This means we will not initially have large gatherings like homecoming, fellowship meals, or special worship services until it is safe to do so. We will wait as long as possible to make decisions on these scheduled events. For example, we can say now that we will NOT celebrate a homecoming meal in September, but have no decision on our annual Community Thanksgiving celebration in November. As the times draws closer we will make that decision. Of course, our job is to let you know these decisions as far in advance as possible.
-We will continue our on-line service for the foreseeable future. However, because of school and its effects on our worship staff (David Burroughs drives a school bus) we will need to move our Friday recording service to another day. Friday, August 14 will be last day of Friday worship services. We are attempting to “live stream” our first worship services on August 16. This means that the 11:00 AM service on August 16 will be broadcast live at 11:00 AM to our home audience. There are technical issues with this and we are working on those now. However, we still want to offer a limited attendance worship service for those wanting a “live” worship but not ready for the larger group. We are looking at Thursdays at 6:00 PM or Sundays at 6:00 PM. Early this month we will give you a survey so you can tell us if one of these options works for you. We will continue Zoom Sunday School and online Wednesday night Bible study for now.
-Church is about gathering together for worship, fellowship, and discipleship. It is also about going out to our community to spread the Gospel. Many have written that one of the “gifts” of the pandemic may be to force the church out of the building. I encourage you in this season to find ways to go out and share your faith within your family, circle of friends or neighbors. Part of this is build relationships with people who need to hear the Gospel. We are teaching for the next several weeks on Wednesday evening, ways to share your faith. I encourage you to watch these and let us know if we can help prepare you for getting the message of Jesus out to our community.
Some other information and events around our church:
Erin Wagoner, our secretary of four and one half years resigned to accept a full-time position. We appreciate Erin’s work in our church. The Personnel Committee is working on a way forward for this position. In the interim we are managing the office. Let us know if we can help you in any way.
On Sunday, August 30 we are having a one day food drive for our church for East Stokes Outreach Ministry. As you come to church that Sunday bring your canned food items, cereal, children’s snacks or cash donations for East Stokes. We will take the food to them on Monday.
God bless you as we labor together for the Kingdom. Please let us know if we can help you in any way. Pray for our church and the lost in our community as we go forward.
By my calculation it has been sixteen weeks since we gathered to worship as a church on Sunday morning. Though we have tried to maintain our worship, it is difficult to do so even with excellent technology. I am proud that you have adjusted so well to this necessary interruption in our routine. It is good we are coming back next week, July 5, to in-person worship. It will be different but at least we are coming back!
Our responsible return to worship requires we wear masks and practice social distancing to protect everyone from the COVID-19 virus. (We have a mask for you if you need one) Our deacons will serve as ushers to seat you as you arrive and to guide you on the way out. To make it easier for the ushers to seat you, please enter through the back sanctuary vestibule entrance. We ask that you limit your activity to the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and main level bathrooms. These areas are being cleaned before and after each service to make it safer for everyone. There will be plenty of hand-cleaning stations available.
We will not take an offering during the service but you can drop a contribution off as you enter, leave it in offering plates at the door, use our outside dropbox, mail it, or electronically donate.
We ask that folks not congregate after the service and maintain social distancing, along with no handshaking or hugs. Our worship service will be as normal as possible if you consider wearing masks and social distancing as normal.
The sanctuary platform is a little different as we make room for proper distancing to lead music and preach, as well as make cleaning easier and more efficient.
For now we will continue our online worship service, online Bible study, online daily devotions and Zoom Sunday School class. Though we are returning to worship we recognize that some are not yet ready and we fully understand that. For those that desire the Fellowship Hall will be available for use in the worship service with newly installed and upgraded audio and video capability. Our Zoom Sunday School will continue to meet on Sundays at 6:00 PM until further notice. Contact the church office if you would like to be added to the electronic invite.
For those of you who want to attend in-person worship but are not ready for the crowds, beginning Friday July 10 at 3:00 pm, we are inviting up to twenty persons to attend in the sanctuary for the recording of online service. Masks, social distancing, usher seating will still be used. The fellowship hall will not be used on Friday.
We will watch the status of this virus in our community as we assess the best time to resume other church activities. We are as eager to return as you but want to do it safely and responsibly.
As we return we will be preaching a series of messages on “When Jesus Sought Just One.” This is part of our July emphasis on personal engagement of the Gospel, one person at a time. It is perhaps more difficult this season to identify and contact “your one.” However, you still have personal, phone, or social media contact with someone with whom you can share your faith.
Pray about the “one” you can share your faith and look for opportunites to present the Gospel to this person. I encourage you to look to your family, close circle of friends, or co-workers, for the one person in your life that needs the Gospel. As always if you need help in any way please contact us.
I am sure you are concerned about the headlines of violence and unrest in our country. These events highlight the thorough brokenness of our world by sin and underscores our nation’s desperate need for the Gospel. I urge our church to pray how we can be “salt and light” in our community as we work to further the Gospel. Of all the needs in our nation, the Gospel is our greatest need. I further urge you to commit to showing the love of Christ to everyone you encounter, and look for opportunities to bring the light of Christ to a broken world.
As always, AJ, Luke and I remain available to assist you in any way possible. Please contact us at anytime as you need or have a question. God bless you as we labor together for the Kingdom.
We are now entering our third month of dealing with this pandemic. To say that life is not back to normal is an understatement. Nonetheless many good things are happening. Though some families are disconnected because of quarantine, others have had great times reconnecting with many of the normal distractions removed. Families who cannot attend church often gather in small groups and worship together in a way that was not possible before. In talking with our folks, I find that many of you are talking to, praying for, and engaging with each other to an extent you probably never did before the virus. Regarding technology, nearly all of us are a little smarter. Our church continues to provide online worship, preaching, and Bible study on YOUTUBE and Facebook. Though not optimal (over in-person worship) it has allowed us to reach folks at home, some of whom are not in our church. Some of these technological “lessons learned”, will be used long after the pandemic ends. We are blessed in many ways.
Everyone has heard of the recent court ruling that places a restraining order on the governor of North Carolina’s restrictions on churches from worship. In my mind, that does little to alter our current situation. We are not meeting because we do not have the constitutional right to meet—we certainly have that right. We are not meeting because in the view of public health experts it is not yet safe to gather in large numbers. Some churches have worshipped during this pandemic and have unwittingly become hotbeds for the virus to spread. An Arkansas church that met in early March (before the dangers of the virus were fully known) saw the pastor, his wife, and 38% of the congregation infected with the virus. Three of these persons subsequently died. Knowing what we know now about the virus, I believe this shows we must not be cavalier in rushing a quick return to worship. Our right to worship is tempered against what is the best action for our church members, the community, and the Kingdom of God. Please know it is not an easy decision.
We are fully engaged in the process to return to in-person worship. First let me say that returning to church in the COVID-19 world will not be a return to church as normal. There will be restrictions requiring social distancing, masks, and limited personal contact. There may even be restrictions on the number of people that gather. The decision to return will require each person and family to decide if the timing and conditions are right for them to return. Everyone will not all re-appear the first Sunday we return.
Your pastors and deacons, like many of you, are driven by a strong desire to return to worship as soon as it is safely possible. Churches around us are working through a similar process. While many are returning, others are also waiting. Each church has unique situations, capabilities and vulnerabilities; and their decisions to return will be different. I ask for your prayers and patience as we work through this process. We will keep you informed and you are welcomed to provide input to this process.
As we focus on the virus here, remember our missionaries and military as they continue their jobs in often dangerous and faraway places. Please pray continuously for our church, other churches, and those that serve in foreign fields. I look forward to seeing you soon.
I cannot believe we are still talking COVID 19 and its massive effects across our nation, state, community and church. But it is certainly a reality that will probably be with us in some form for the next several months. First, I ask your continued prayers for those dealing with the illness itself. It is certainly “not just the flu” and those affected, along with their families, need our consistent prayer and support. Next, I ask that you pray for the health care providers at every level as they deal on the front lines with the illness. We have at least six (8) health care providers in our church and as we have talked with them we know they are working in difficult circumstances. Pray for their health, perseverance, and for their families’ safety as they work through this crisis. Last, but certainly not least I ask that you remember the many who are affected financially by either losing their job or having their hours cut back significantly. This includes the many who run businesses and are facing very difficult times. As believers, I urge you to spend time in prayer for these and other concerns brought on by this crisis.
The virus has had significant impact on our church operation. I want to review with you what is going on in church (and what is not going on), so that if you have missed anything you can catch up here.
-As a reminder, the church is not holding any in-person services, classes or meetings until further notice.
-Our church office is open normal hours, 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, Monday-Thursday. You may call the office (336-591-7493) and leave a message after hours if needed.
-You may contact Pastors AJ, Luke or myself by phone at the church office or by my cell at 336-978-5285.
-Our Sunday Morning worship service, Wednesday evening Bible study, and a daily devotional posted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week is available on YouTube at FBC Walnut Cove. You may also access these services on Facebook and Twitter. If you are not connected to social media call the church office and we will get you CD or DVD copies of these services. Our goal is for everyone to have access to our on-going worship services and Bible studies.
-The Sunday worship service is made available for viewing by 10:00 AM each Sunday, the Wednesday Bible study is available by 7:00 PM on Wednesday, and the daily devotional is available by 6:00 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
-If you need to speak to one of the pastors, do not hesitate to contact us and schedule that.
-Our church has installed a lock box outside the church office door to provide a secure means of dropping off donations. We check this several times each day.
-At least one of our small groups is meeting by Zoom (a computer-based meeting program) and I am meeting with my Sunday School class on Zoom this Sunday morning. If you are a teacher and would like to get your class together with Zoom, contact one of us and we will get you started. It is easy enough for me to do it, so anyone with a computer and a desire to learn can do this.
-We are publishing a weekly supplement to the newsletter, “The Cove Light Weekly Beacon”, which is distributed by email on Friday at 9:00 AM. Make sure the church has your current email address so you can receive this update. Our monthly newsletter will be published on the last week of the month and will be sent by mail and email to our congregation.
-Along with your email address, please make sure we have current phone numbers, cell or home numbers, and addresses so you do not miss anything we publish.
-Pastor Luke has published a survey on Facebook to comment on the services we are providing. We love and welcome your input. If you cannot find that survey just call and let us know what you think.
Of course, we do not know the time-line for resuming normal church activities. The NC Governor’s stay at home order expires on May 8 and he said the state will define what can re-open by that date. We do not expect to resume any services before Sunday May 17 and will have to read the exact wording of the State’s guidance to know if we can even do it by then. I expect that when we return there will still be restrictions to keep social distancing and caps in the numbers of people assembled. We want to get back to services as soon as possible but not before public health authorities deem it safe. We will keep you informed but certainly let us know if you have questions.
I ask that you pray for the Wall and Ackley families as Mr. Gray Wall is in hospice care in Salisbury, NC. This health crisis makes a difficult time even more difficult for them. We have other families that need your prayer as well.
Again, please let us know if we can help you in any way during this time. I encourage you to use the time to gather your family for Bible study, daily praye, and some quiet time together. We look forward to seeing you soon. God bless you!
Debbie and I returned from a two-week break in Ocracoke, NC and found a different world from the one we left on March 14. Not that we could not see that the situation was worsening with the coronavirus, but could anyone imagine the events that have unfolded which include a national/international disruption of commerce, travel, school, healthcare and most aspects of daily living? Not to mention, we could never anticipate the illness, grief, stress and overload of our health care system caused by the virus itself. Our world is a different place in almost every way.
Things are much different at church also. Thanks to the expert leadership of Pastors AJ and Luke, Leigh Taylor, and David Burroughs, we transitioned quickly from weekly “in person” traditional worship to a well-produced digital-based worship on “YouTube.” Because of the situation with the coronavirus, I believe this will be our model for worship for the next several weeks.
In my notes this month, I want to make sure everyone understands how our church is functioning now and how you stay connected with us until we return to in-person worship and activities.
As you know, all activities that require us to assemble as a church, in groups of ten (10) people or more, are stopped until further notice. This complies with instructions from civil authorities and is done for the safety of our congregation and the entire community. I believe our church should be good citizens as Paul stated in Romans 13:1-3, and we will diligently comply with the established laws concerning this situation.
Here is how we will conduct church during Easter and going forward until we gather again in person.
-Sunday worship will continue each week on our “YouTube” channel which is “First Baptist Church of Walnut Cove.” The service will be uploaded at 11:00 AM each Sunday. You can also access this site by going to our web page, fbcwalnutcove.com and select the current service. You can watch the service anytime.
-Starting Wednesday April 1 at 7:00 PM, you can access a weekly Bible study. The Bible study will be about 30 minutes and you access it the same way as our worship services.
-On Thursday April 9, Maundy Thursday, we will have a “drive-by prayer service” at our church. We have never done one of these, and I imagine most of you have never attended one but here is what will happen. From 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM you may come to our side church parking area (where the office is located). Stay in your car, roll your window down, and keep proper social distancing (at least 6 feet from any person you are not living with). AJ, Luke and I will be there to give each car a short biblical word of encouragement and a prayer. It is important that you not get out of your car to mingle with others and to keep a safe distance. We do ask also that no one congregates inside the church during this time. Of course if you are running a fever, have a cough or other virus-like symptoms, we ask that you not attend. Do not worry about the time as we will meet each car as long as you are in line by 7:30. A sister church in our community checked with a senior governmental official in Stokes County, and if done this way, the service does not violate the community distancing restrictions.
-On Easter Sunday April 12, we will make available for access at 6:45 AM a sunrise service, conducted in our cemetery. You can get up and watch the pre-recorded service at the time of sunrise (about 6:45 on April 12) or watch it later at your convenience. The service will be recorded at another time so don’t come to the cemetery during that hour. You can access this service the same way you do our other worship services.
-Also on Easter Sunday, we will make the weekly worship available at 11:00 AM.
-Our church office remains open during its usual hours of 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, Monday through Thursday. Please remember social distancing (at least 6 feet from anyone) if you need to visit the office. Also, please do not come to the church if you are experiencing viral symptoms. Remember, our daycare is continuing to operate.
If you do not have internet access, make sure the church office is notified so that we can get you CD or DVD copies of our worship services. If you cannot connect to our services in some way, we will help you. Just let us know.
Also, be sure to let us know if you change your contact information. It is always important but very important now that we can connect with you.
-We will continue to communicate with you by phone tree, Facebook, Twitter, our church web page, and by our newsletter. We will try to keep you informed without overloading you with information. We will also communicate with you by phone, text, or email on a regular basis as much as is possible.
-Our deacons are meeting every two weeks to stay abreast of the situation as it develops. If you are a single adult, widow or widower above age 70 in our church, expect a call from one of our deacons as we have implemented a new ministry to this important group this month.
-Remember, you can access several months of sermons on our web page. Our church also has an account with Right Now Media which gives you free and unlimited access to hundreds of Bible studies done by some of the great preachers and Bible teachers of today. It has materials for adults, married couples, youth and children. Right Now Media is literally the “Netflix” for Bible studies. Contact the church office for Right Now Media access.
I encourage you to use this time to connect with your family with personal devotions, prayer and Bible study. Also make a special effort to connect with each other within the church.
If you need myself, AJ or Luke for ministry or to just to talk, feel free to contact us. Please keep us informed of illness, injury or other emergencies. We are limited in visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities, and Hospice but will do whatever we can to keep connected and minister to you. My cell number is 336-978-5285. Please call me if you need me. (I ask that you not provide this number to persons outside of the church). Remember, your church is still working and we are here to minister to you as is needed!
In all these changes, we are very blessed. We live in an era that technology is a friend of the church, and we have some very smart leaders who can help us leverage that technology for the Gospel. I am very grateful we have AJ and Luke who are gifted young men in many ways, and fully committed to our church. They performed superbly to keep our church moving as this crisis began. We are very blessed to have them. In addition, we have a great staff, wise, Godly deacons, along with many skilled leaders. Most importantly, God is on His throne. The coronavirus did not surprise Him. We are a part of His church, and He will see us through this.
We are also people of hope. Christ died for our sins, gave us access to the throne of God, planted the Spirit of God in our life, and gave us access to the immeasurable riches of Christ. So be hopeful and encouraging with those you encounter. Do not live in a spirit of fear but live grounded in the promises of God. Be safe, prudent, responsible but also be encouraged joyful and confident. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8: 15, For we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out ABBA Father! Because of Christ we have been adopted into God’s family and we have been given personal access to God our Father. Use that access well during this time of uncertainty and beyond!
This trial will pass and we will get back to our routine as soon as safely possible. Until then we will continue in the ways discussed above. I fully expect we will get better at this as we go forward, so we may refine things as we are able. Pray for God’s Kingdom to be advanced. Stay safe!
We love you in Christ.
Finally! Our church directories are in and we will be distributing them in your mailbox this week. For the members, unable to attend church we will mail the directory to you. If you do not get one come by the church office for a copy.
Though it is still winter it is time to start thinking about the summer. Last summer during July we took a pause in our regular activities to focus on getting to know our neighbors, especially those that are not in church. FBC in July focused our week around Sunday morning worship. We started worship with an hour of fellowship in the fellowship hall and then went to worship. Worship itself had some variations in our normal music which included introducing Andrew Liggett and his wife to lead worship with their guitar. We focused on preaching simple Gospel messages.
This July, we plan a similar course of events. Sunday school classes, choir, committee meetings, Wednesday night Bible study; basically, everything but worship, Sunday fellowship, Hope Kitchen and Heritage Outreach is suspended. This allows us to spend time meeting and reaching our neighbors. Our theme this summer is “Everyone can do something.” We ask that everyone pray about one person who does not know Christ and pray for them. After that everyone can do at least one item on this list of outreach activities that includes; meeting your neighbors, inviting them to church, having a Gospel conversation, sharing your faith with them, or beginning a short Bible study with your neighbor. To prepare for “FBC in July” we will have some special training during Wednesday evening. More will be said about this but I ask everyone pray about this important outreach event for our church.
Several of us had the privilege to attend the annual Pastor’s Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend. The Pastor’s Conference is four worship and preaching-filled days. Debbie and I have been so encouraged by it over the past eight years. FBC Jacksonville is one of the largest of our Southern Baptist Churches with a membership in the 1990s that exceeded 20,000 members. The church built an impressive 11-square-block campus in downtown Jacksonville with a worship center (sanctuary) that seats nearly 10,000 people. With these resources, they have a unique ability to minister to pastors and their families and have held this conference for nearly forty years. However, its membership has gradually declined to the point that this year we were told the church is in the process of scaling down its huge campus to meet its current budget restrictions. They will not hold the conference next year as the church transitions to meet these adjustments, and are in the process of reducing their staff. I tell you this to remind you that no church, not even one as large as FBC Jacksonville, is immune to the effects of an increasingly secular culture. There are a couple of important lessons to glean from this example. First, a church must maintain the buildings it occupies. Buildings and grounds cost money. In the case of FBC Jacksonville, it is several million dollars per year. In our case, it is several thousand dollars per year, about 16% of our total budget. I believe our church has done that wisely with good stewardship of the resources God has given us. I think we have been cautious in not expanding our buildings without a definite leading from God. That is a credit to the many fine leaders and members in our church who have faithfully served over the years. Second, all churches should be focused on Gospel proclamation. The new and young pastor at FBC Jacksonville made a plea to his congregation like our emphasis of every person finding one person to share the Gospel. Even in a mega church, the Kingdom grows one person at a time. Of all our tasks, it is most important that we engage lost people with the life-saving Gospel of Christ. We remain relevant as a church when we do the work God calls us to accomplish. I pray as we go forward that we will place our committed personal efforts, every man, woman, student and child, to meet lost people and build relationships to share the Gospel. I ask that you pray for the lost to find Christ through the work of this church. God bless you in this effort.