Church News


Hello, Church Family,
Those who were able to attend the Special Called Business Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, learned firsthand of Dr. Gary Shultz’s decision to accept a full-time position as Professor of Theology at the Baptist University of Florida, located in Graceville, Florida. Gary is able to continue as our Senior Pastor until August 15, 2024. This transition period gives us, the congregation, ample time to consider important next steps.

I learned of Gary’s decision several weeks ago. As you could expect, my emotions were conflicted. Gary has served us very, very well, and I will miss his leadership. On the other hand, Gary is firmly convicted of God’s call on his and his family’s life in this decision. So, while I am sad to lose Gary, I am thrilled to see how this new chapter of his life will further the Kingdom of God in ways far beyond our church. God bless Gary, Kristin, Hayden, Violet, and Avonlea!

During our May 15th meeting, I was able to share where we are in this time of transition. Here is a summary:

1. Where Have We Been so Far?
A series of important meetings were held after Gary first shared his decision. Meetings with Steve Sparkman, Deacon Chair-Elect, and Lisa Eikeland, Chair of the Personnel Committee, were held. Please be in special prayer for these two, they have much work to do in the future.
The next step taken was to meet with the Personnel Committee. The outstanding women and men of this committee received the news with a spirit of gracious kindness. The news of Gary’s leaving was then presented to the Voting and Non-Voting Deacons who were able to attend a special called meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. These servants of the church received the information in the same spirit as I did. The following day, May 15th, we held our Special Called Business Meeting to inform the church body.

2. What are our Next Steps?
Over the next few weeks two important things will be brought to the Church for consideration as we enter an interim period. The first is a staffing plan for the interim and the second is proposed members of a Search Committee. Deacon leadership, in conjunction with our Pastoral Staff, will be bringing these to the Church for consideration.

3. What Can We Do in the Meantime?
Pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more! A suggested prayer format would include the following:
• Pray for the protection and well-being of the Shultz Family. Pray for Gary’s great success in his new role as professor. Pray for Kristin and the girls as they navigate the changes ahead.
• Pray for our Pastoral Staff – Greg, Jacob, Jenny, Josh, and Terry. Pray that they move through the interim with peace, protection, and satisfaction in their ministries. Please include Grant Stucky, our Minister of Recreation and Fine Arts, in these prayers as well.
• Pray for all of our professional staff, both in administration and in the Weekday Program. These folks are dedicated to serving Christ in their chosen professions. Pray that they remain encouraged during this time of transition. Also, remember Lisa Beasley, our Business Administrator, as she continues to provide leadership in these areas.
• Pray for our volunteer leaders – deacons, committee members, SMBS teachers, and all other folks who are hard at work for Christ.
• Pray for each other. One way to do that is to open your 2023 Church Directory and pray for 10 families/individuals every day. You may not know all that is going on in their lives, but God does! Ask that He strongly meets their needs during this time.
• Pray for the man that God is preparing to lead us in the future.

4. How Should We be Thinking in These Days?
At the beginning of this year, I challenged the deacons to fashion their service after verses 1 through 3 from the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Little did I know how important these verses would serve to guide all of this at this time. Note that the words translated “implore” and “being diligent” are used emphatically by Paul. We should take them as such.

5. What Thought will Lead Us through this Transition?
We have a wonderful church mission statement. There is, however, an overarching theme to which this statement, and in fact, all of our lives are subjected. We do all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let every thought considered, every opinion voiced, every decision made be judged by that which maximizes the display of God’s glory at First Baptist Church. I am confident that if we keep this in focus we will together walk into God’s good future.

In Christ,

John Corven
Moderator and Deacon Chair