First Focus


Proverbs 31:8 states, “Speak up for those who have no voice; seek justice for those on the verge of destruction.” The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has developed the Caring Well Challenge to help churches understand how to minister to those who have been abused. There is a significant need for this within the church today. You turn on the news or read different articles and you see abuse stories all over the place. Unfortunately, the church is not exempt from this.

I know of many churches where staff members have fallen to temptation and committed sexual and verbal abuse to church members and other staff members. At First Baptist Church, we have worked to be proactive, not reactive. We want to be a safe place for all people to come and worship. Those who have been abused can find comfort and healing within our church.

Why do we want to do this? Simply put, it is biblical. If you take a look at the words of Jesus, he made it very clear that he deeply cared for the vulnerable and the oppressed. Abuse is a gospel issue. If we truly believe in the gospel then we will take a stand against all forms of abuse.

How do we do this? It is learning how to find a balance between sin and suffering. We are all sinners and sufferers. In order to help those who have been abused, we must help them in their sin (salvation) and their suffering (edification). As a minister, it is so easy to tell someone about their sin without really helping them through their suffering. The gospel demands that we do both. Those who have been abused need the church to walk beside them through everything that comes from the ramifications of being abused. We must apply the Gospel to both the sin and the suffering.

To help First Baptist excel as this type of church, we have formed a Caring Well Committee. This committee is made up of Cindy Fernald, Paul Lambert, Mark Byler, Jeffrey Crane, Lisa Eikeland, Shannon Hartsfield, Pat Chorey, and myself. We will meet over the next several months to be trained in ways to be an effective church that cares well for the abused. We will then take our training and discussions and begin to look at what our church is currently doing to prevent abuse and also identify ways to help those who have been abused.

We will pay special attention to our policies and procedures for working with minors. Once we have a proposed plan in place, we will present it to the church. We desire First Baptist Church to be a place that does not tolerate any type of abuse on our campus while being a church that deeply cares for those who have been abused. This is not an easy topic to navigate. Please be in prayer for this committee. We deeply desire our church to be above reproach and gospel-centered in all things.

— Jacob Chilton, Associate Pastor of Children and Family Ministries