Trusting Jesus Together
Thank you so much for your kind words and support over the last couple of weeks. I’m so grateful to be a part of First Baptist, and our staff and families have felt your prayers. We’re having a great summer of ministry and mission. Your attendance has been outstanding in worship and Bible study. Our music has been inspiring and engaging. Thank you for being the church in these days.
Like you over the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time praying, reflecting, and addressing the issues we face in our world. We’ve had conversations about security in the church, marriage in the nation, flags in South Carolina, and burned churches in the South. At the same time, I’ve talked with people discerning calls to ministry, celebrated the birth of a new baby, and rejoiced in the marriage of a man and woman who’ve worked very hard to prepare for this new chapter in life. We have nine more couples expecting babies right now and others thinking about adoption and foster care. Needless to say, there’s a lot of excitement among several families. The Builders for Christ leave early Friday morning, and we have one more mission trip to go before our focus turns to the mission on school campuses. Now more than ever, it’s time for the church to be the church that Jesus has called us to be.
I remain hopeful about the mission of First Baptist in these next few years together. As we have been saying for the past couple of years together, and as our church has said for over 165 years, it is possible for us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s possible to live the way Jesus lived in our day, “full of grace and truth.” We are obedient when we follow Paul’s instructions in Romans 12, to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” as well as “to let our love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good… outdo one another in showing honor…contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers… bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” I think these texts are central to our understanding of ministry every time we go through cultural upheaval and uncertainty. We focus on what churches do best; we let God be the judge of people’s hearts, motives, and attitudes, and we respond to his call to share the gospel.
Trust Jesus to protect his church. If we are faithful to who we are as Baptists, if we follow Jesus Christ, we have nothing to be afraid of. God willing, First Baptist will be here for a long time. We already follow scripture; we have a very clear confession of faith. Our focus as a church body needs to remain reaching people for Christ. How can we best do that in these days? Let me suggest five ways we can stand for Jesus together and in turn reach others for Him.
- Wisdom – Every person I know is facing decisions in their households, friendships, and offices about how best to express their faith, shine the light, and spread salt. Pray for God to give you wisdom. Each person will need to discuss his beliefs, compare them with scripture, and respect the views of others. By asking for wisdom, we will know how to behave and how to live. Most families are having conversations with children and grandchildren about topics they never thought they would have to address. From Charleston to Washington, we’re facing many things together. Pray for the right words, the right response, and obedient lives.
- Hospitality – One of the best things we can offer each other is conversation, friendship, and dialogue. We need to learn to listen to other people’s points of view. Most of these conversations need to happen over coffee and a casserole, not out in public within earshot of others. “Agreeing to disagree” is neither a Christian point of view or a particularly helpful point of view in a community. Instead, as Christians dialogue with others, spending time in Christian fellowship actually opens eyes to see and ears to hear so the gospel can be shared. I’ve already had some wonderful, hopeful conversations with nonChristians about Baptist views of society.
- Calling – God is always calling during times of social change. Whether they be disaster relief, political tension, or societal unrest, people are open to listening to God. Just check with Samuel, Isaiah, Peter, Huldah, Rahab, Esther, you name it. I had two conversations this week with people who are contemplating calls to ministry. God could be calling you to share his Name in creative, wonderful ways. Be ready, and be open.
- Basics – Get back to the basics in the Christian life. This fall we’ll be studying “Think. Act. Be.”- a Jesus revolution in your life. How would Jesus live your life right now? We will study our core beliefs, discover areas to grow in our obedience, and nurture the fruit of the Spirit.
- Vision – Our Strategic Planning Committee is working diligently to complete their work by September. This 5-goal plan we will present will be our approach to equipping our church and reaching our world. Just as Paul, Priscilla, Aquila, Timothy, and Silas had a hopeful vision for Corinth, I believe God has a vision for Tallahassee. So let’s do as Paul realized in Acts 18, “Don’t be afraid, keep talking; I have many people in that city.”