FBC Blog

“Catch Up Sunday” by Doug Reedy

When disaster strikes, our lives and our priorities immediately shift into emergency mode. Though the damage from the recent flood varied widely by neighborhood and individual household, it affected everyone in some way. Your personal storm damage and helping others with storm damage become top priorities.

As a church, and as the people who form this church, our first response was rightly to see how we could help. The ways we have helped have varied from Matthew to Florence, but we have been busy. If you are like me, some things have been moved to the back burner. Household chores, tag renewals, yard maintenance, etc. fall behind as do work projects. Weeks later, schools have reopened and many of us are still trying to catch up to our normal routine.

Sometimes when we are buried in the mundane details of day to day life, we can neglect what is most important. Now is the time to catch up. Let’s take the time to catch up first on prayer, as our personal relationship with God is paramount.

Between now and what we are calling “Catch Up Sunday” (November 18) let’s catch up on our relationship with our church as well. Let’s renew our commitment to attend worship, meet with our Sunday School classes, and give to the budget. It is challenging to give of our time and money sacrificially, but that is our calling.

We have been able to be a refuge to other churches and a command center for mission groups helping our
community post-storm. We have offered healing to all age groups and hospitality to the community. We do wonderful things as a church for so many people, but we can only continue to answer our call as resources allow. We can do what’s needed. As the scripture commands and promises: seek ye first the kingdom of God…and all these things shall be added unto you.


Kingdom Now: Youth Serving Post-Florence

For the 2018-2019 school year, First Baptist is adopting a church-wide emphasis: Kingdom Now. As we as a church and as individuals reflect on how God has called us to seek the Kingdom around us, we will be celebrating stories of ways that members of our FBC Family of Faith are doing Kingdom work right here in Lumberton and Robeson County.

Written by: Doug Reedy

Our community is reeling after a second devastating hurricane and flood in less than two years.  To those of you who have lost your homes and/or businesses for a second time, there are no words.  We cannot imagine how you feel, but we do wish there was some way to fix it.

One of the most difficult issues we all face before, during, and after these events is the feeling of helplessness.  We prepared a little better for Florence than Matthew, but no one was fully prepared.  We were helpless to speed the storm up as it crawled excruciatingly slowly through our area.  We as individuals, as churches, and as a community can’t easily fix the pain of the aftermath.

The only anecdote for hopelessness is of course hope.  Our hope is of course in Jesus Christ, but we are the hands and feet of Christ on earth.  We are to feed the hungry and heal the brokenhearted.

There are many heroes in the community, but forgive me for taking a moment to brag on our youth, the teenagers of First Baptist Church of Lumberton.  They spent all of last week and the previous Saturday moving water logged furniture, appliances, rugs, and baseboards.  They have removed limbs, carried logs, and raked yards.  They have cleaned and prepared an unused church hallway, complete with welcome signs and decorations, for another local Baptist church’s youth group to have a home.  Several of them are the same youth who two years ago unloaded and distributed supplies for two straight weeks after Hurricane Matthew.

In short, they have provided hope.  They could have spent the week watching Netflix, obsessing over their social media accounts, partying, playing video games, or doing whatever our generations accuse them of spending their time on.  Instead, they spent it helping others to the tune of over 400 hours combined.

For their efforts, they received multiple mosquito and fire ant bites, ruined shoes, blisters, sore arms and legs, and that undeniable smell of floodwaters etched into their memories.  They put up with a cranky old youth leader telling them to hurry up and work harder.  They arrived prepared to do one job, and then were thrown into another.  Although they did receive some thank yous and lunches, they did this primarily because it was simply the right thing to do.

There is one more thing they received, and perhaps it’s most important.  Working hard for others, especially in times of crisis, often results in something often undervalued.  A good night’s sleep!

Their parents are and should be proud of the young men and women they are raising.  Forgive me in advance, but I may not react graciously to anyone downing them or their generation in any way any time soon.  I’m proud of these youth and believe they compare to any others quite favorably.  I thank God every day I’m blessed to work with them as they build God’s Kingdom here and now.


Kingdom Now: Hurricane Florence response

For the 2018-2019 school year, First Baptist is adopting a church-wide emphasis: Kingdom Now. As we as a church and as individuals reflect on how God has called us to seek the Kingdom around us, we will be celebrating stories of ways that members of our FBC Family of Faith are doing Kingdom work right here in Lumberton and Robeson County.

When we dreamed up the Kingdom Now emphasis for this school year, we had no idea what Mother Nature had in store for us. Less than a week after introducing the theme and posting our first Kingdom Now story (which we will re-share at a later date!), Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on our community, a mere 23 months after Hurricane Matthew did the same in 2016.

Kingdom work takes on a whole new meaning in the wake of a hurricane. Striving to meet basic needs, caring for our community, and helping others rebuild are all acts that reflect the love and justice of God and therefore are Kingdom acts. We hope to have more specific stories to share in the weeks to come, but here is a brief overview of the ways members of our family of faith have been seeking the Kingdom of God in Robeson County…

  • Some spent days on end at the Emergency Operations Center, helping coordinate critical information to keep our city and county residents safe in the constantly changing storm conditions.
  • Some were part of a team of civilians, city employees, and National Guard members that filled sandbags to help fill a gap in the levee in West Lumberton, seeking to help our neighbors on that side of town.
  • Some have shared their sump pumps, tools, hot water, food, and more with their neighbors to help clean up and provide some comfort in the days that followed the storm.
  • Some have worked to transport supplies all over the county to distribute to those in shelters and others in need.
  • Some have spent time in the shelters, offering encouragement and kindness to neighbors who have been displaced.
  • Some have been working to ensure that their employees are safe and have what they need.
  • Some spent the entire storm at the hospital, on call and ready to serve.
  • Some have ministered within their own flooded neighborhoods, offering resources and encouragement to their neighbors.
  • Some gathered for our Inasmuch Day, which transitioned into a clean up day. These volunteers raked yards, cut up trees, and even cleared our playground so it could be used by our daycare children.
  • Some have offered a smile and a kind word to our neighbors coming to our activity building to seek replacement food stamps.

We give thanks for the many ways our family of faith has been doing the work of the Kingdom in this difficult time. In addition to the ways people have been serving individually, we as a congregation are doing Kingdom work as well…

  • We are collecting money to be used by helping agencies in our community.
  • We are hosting a team in our church building from Christian Aid Ministries, who have come to prepare and serve meals in the community.
  • This week, we are serving as a DSS location for those seeking replacement food stamps.
  • Starting on Wednesday and for the foreseeable future, we will be sharing space with our brothers and sisters from West Lumberton Baptist Church, who were again flooded out.

Seeking the Kingdom isn’t always easy. It’s hard work that requires some flexibility and a lot of grace, especially when it involves stepping outside of our comfort zones and adding to our normal list of responsibilities. But, it’s good work, and it’s important work that we are called to…especially now.


Kingdom Now: Classroom Prayer Partners

For the 2018-2019 school year, First Baptist is adopting a church-wide emphasis: Kingdom Now. As we as a church and as individuals reflect on how God has called us to seek the Kingdom around us, we will be celebrating stories of ways that members of our FBC Family of Faith are doing Kingdom work right here in Lumberton and Robeson County.

It started with a Facebook post: “Want to sponsor a student?” Kim Gore, Summer Pittman, Sharon Prevatte, and many other Robeson County teachers put a simple request on Facebook, asking for prayer partners to pray for one of their students and provide a book and encouraging note to give them on the first day of school.

The response was almost immediate. People commented, requesting a number (to maintain privacy, children’s names are not shared) and committing to pray for that student for the year. Summer had enough commitments for her kindergarten class at Tanglewood Elementary within an hour of her post. “It was so good to see our community come together to support our students,” she shared, “not only in my class, but in classes across the country. I loved seeing the posts fill up my newsfeed.”

For Sharon, a second grade teacher at Rowland-Norment Elementary, an added joy was the variety of friends that committed to pray for her students. She said that one friend “who used to always help in schools but cannot help any longer due to health issues stated that this was a way in which she could definitely help.  She not only gave me her favorite book for a student, but loaded me up with school supplies (which I didn’t expect) to give to students at the beginning of the year and throughout the year as needed.”

On the first day of school, the children received their books and notes, and the happiness they felt was immediate. All of the children were excited about their gifts. “I wish you could have seen their eyes,” Sharon said.

The impact has lasted beyond the first day, though. Many of the children still treasure their gifts they received. “One girl keeps her note with her all the time in the little envelope,” shared Kim, a second grade teacher at Tanglewood Elementary. “She is very protective of it. Another child will not take their book home. They want it to always be in their cubby at school.”

As the year goes on, all prayer partners have committed to pray for the entire year for their student. Sharon plans “to let all of [her] friends know the gender of their student and a prayer request for that student.” While she can’t share many specifics, letting prayer partners know to pray about a child’s family member, home life, or emotional/behavioral needs will help them continue to feel connected to their assigned student.

All three are hopeful for how this program will continue to encourage their students. Summer thinks that, “this year will be different than others because so many kids will be lifted up in prayer, some that, sadly, may have never been prayed for before this.”

For Kim, she has two hopes for the lasting impact of this program: “First of all, that my students will feel the joy that reading books can bring and secondly, that they will have a sense of peace knowing someone, other than me, is thinking about them throughout the year.”

Encouraging literacy, praying for students, and supporting our teachers: three simple ways to help make God’s Kingdom shine a little brighter in Robeson County.


Kingdom Now: An Introduction

In the four Gospels, Jesus talked about the “Kingdom of God” (known as the “Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew) at least 100 times. And his teachings about it were not about some future reality after we die, but about his mission to make the Kingdom of God a reality here on earth…

“The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15)

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

“The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21)

When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, he was proclaiming a reality where people live under the governance of God. When God’s love is proclaimed, when God’s grace is shared, when God’s justice is sought, the kingdom of God is at hand. And if the Kingdom of God was important enough for Jesus to talk about it at least 100 times, perhaps it should be important to us, too.

The past four weeks in worship, we’ve been focusing on the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13 to help us think about the Kingdom of God. Now, we’re issuing a challenge. What does it look like for each of us to seek the Kingdom in our lives, in our homes, and in our community? How can each of us live our lives in such a way that we help make the Kingdom of God a reality right here in Robeson County?

We’re calling this emphasis “Kingdom Now,” and we’ll be officially kicking it off this Sunday in worship. Throughout this emphasis (which will last through the school year), we will be gathering and sharing and celebrating stories of ways members of our family of faith are seeking the Kingdom in Robeson County. It might be through helping with a one-time event, serving in an ongoing ministry, or doing something new to help share the love, grace, and justice of God in our community. Some of these stories might be through mission opportunities at church, and others might happen outside the church walls.

Our goal is for every person in our congregation to find some way they can help make God’s Kingdom a little more real in our corner of the world. Regardless of age or ability, we have all been called and empowered to seek God’s Kingdom here on earth. And, as you are seeking the Kingdom, please share your stories with us so we can celebrate!

Join us as we work together to seek God’s Kingdom…now.


“Observing Lent” by David Elks

Lent begins next week and I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we will dedicate ourselves to reflection and prayer.  I am hopeful we will listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to us and I am hopeful that we will respond to the Spirit.  I am hopeful that we will confront the fears, resentments and prejudices that cripple faith.  Most importantly, I am hopeful that we will encounter the grace of God.  Grace is much more than forgiveness and the promise of salvation.  All that we receive from God is grace, including the strength to become more devoted and courageous followers of Christ.

Lent is a forty-day season of reflection preceding Easter.   As Christians, we pray every day, but our prayers have a more introspective nuance during Lent.  We invite the Holy Spirit to reveal our sins to us and we seek to receive and share God’s mercy.

Prayer is the principle discipline of Lent, but many people incorporate fasting into their experience.  Fasting is a challenging and rewarding discipline, but we must remember that fasting is used to identify and break the grip of a habit or attitude on our lives.  We do not fast to strengthen our self-will or to lose weight.  We fast to lessen our love for a food or hobby, etc. and to strengthen our love for Christ.  In my fasting I give the energy I usually give to eating desserts or watching a specific television program to prayer, service or some other pursuit that strengthens my relationship with God.

The irony of the dates of Lent this year is that Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season, is on Valentine’s Day.  We typically mark Valentines by sharing cards and candies with hearts, but we will gather next Wednesday to receive the symbol of ultimate love, the cross.  A second irony is that Easter will be on April 1.  A sermon about an empty tomb on April Fool’s Day just about writes itself, doesn’t it?  I hope you will join us for these services, but also remember that we will have worship services with the other churches in the downtown area each Wednesday during Lent.  The thirty-minute services begin at noon and are followed by a lunch.  We will host this service on March 7.

Lastly, I want to make an offer.  Perhaps you would like to have a conversation during this Lenten season about your spiritual life.  Perhaps you have questions about prayer or a specific bible passage or maybe you are wrestling with an important decision.  If you’d like to talk, I’d love to listen.  Call me and we will schedule a conversation.

-David


“Priorities” by Doug Reedy

By accident, our ski trip was less regimented time-wise this year, and that proved to be a wonderful blessing. Our youth spent time together playing cards, ice skating, tubing, and watching football, as well as skiing. Many serious, reflective life discussions were shared, often about pressures they face. Time away allows young people to open up. It has great value.

So many of our youth have absolutely crushing demands on their time it makes me reluctant to add on to their burden by pushing for more church participation. Still, it doesn’t stop me. I worry about the priorities we place on our teenagers.

I love sports. I love competition. I try to get to games (the biggest barrier I face is Wednesday night being the most popular time to schedule high school soccer). I see the value in team sports. It teaches young people how to win or lose with dignity and how to use their unique abilities to contribute to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts, which is a valuable tool (especially for church).

Everyone enjoys entertainment. We have been blessed with young men and women with lovely voices over the years. I have seen many youth get involved in local theater, and it has given some of them more confidence.

Academic work is extremely important to advancement in life. So important, in fact, that I choose to give it a pass in this discussion. The one exception is to say that, if nearly every high school student sees their mountain of homework (often redundant busy work) as something they must share with each other, rather than complete on their own due to time constraints, something is wrong.

For most, almost all, of us, sports and drama are simply character building hobbies at best. A quick Google search reveals that roughly 2% of female high school soccer players (1% for males) end up playing division one college soccer and that even at the highest level of college soccer, the scholarships cover roughly 1/3 of their school expenses. Roughly 1 in 1250 ever plays professionally.

Also with a quick search I was able to learn there are roughly 70,000 full time actors in the United States (out of a population of 300+ million). This is already a tiny percentage, but of the 70,000 very few are actually making “real money” at it. Hoping to make a living on stage or screen is very similar to hoping to win the lottery.

It is a commandment to have no other gods before God. Someone might mention that church isn’t God either, and I agree. However, for sheer return on investment over the long haul of your teenager’s life, I would say an argument can be made that spiritual development, being part of a youth group, experiencing travel, and most of all belonging to a family of faith should be high priority. Of course, as a youth minister I may be biased.


“Introducing…Our New Church Logo!” by Erin Collier

With the new year comes the opportunities for new beginnings…so what better time than now to unveil our new church logo! Our previous logo (the church building and people) has served us well for 11 years, but it is time for a newer, cleaner look to serve as our identifier in the community. The goal was to have a design that both acknowledges our rich history while communicating that we still have much to offer in today’s world and culture. While the resulting logo is simple in style, there are multiple meanings hidden in this new design:

1.) Our commitment to Christ: The cross and what it stands for (God’s love for and sacrifice for us) is central to who we are and what we believe. We strive to take Jesus and his message seriously in everything that we do.

2.) Our liturgical connection: The colors used in the logo are connected to the liturgical tradition that we draw from for our rhythm of worship throughout the year. Different colors are associated with different liturgical seasons – purple is used for Lent and Advent, white/gold/yellow is used for Christmas and Easter, red is used for Pentecost, and green is used for ordinary time. And the blue? Blue is becoming more and more common to use for Advent – while we don’t use it yet, we hope to at some point in the future!

3.) Our downtown location: If you look closely at the cross, it’s not just a cross; it’s also an intersection. We are a historic downtown church, known for our location at the intersection of 7th & Walnut.

4.) Our mission to go and serve: We come together at this physical location to worship and learn and fellowship, but the light of Christ also sends us out beyond this place to love and to serve. The yellow lines in the center of the cross/intersection and extending beyond it represent the light of Christ that brings us together and sends us out.

5.) Our identity as a family of faith: While the image of the logo has changed, we still claim the metaphor of a family of faith. We are connected to each other through the love of Christ, and while challenges and disagreements inevitably arise, it is our commitment to Christ and to each other that keeps us together as we practice grace and forgiveness.

We’re rolling out the logo now via our online presence, and it will make its way onto our printed documents. Soon, we’ll change it on our signage on site and around town. Who knows – there might even be t-shirts or sweatshirts in our future, if there’s enough interest!

-Erin

 

 

 


“Empathizing with Young People” by Doug Reedy

em·pa·thy
noun: empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

During the early stages of the Growing Young process, the most surprising disconnect from the early feedback we have received has been on the subject of empathy. From the results of a quick Wednesday night survey by David of mostly senior adults, an equally informal and unscientific survey by me of our high school juniors and seniors, and our official small team feedback from the folks who attended in the seminar, empathy results have varied the most.

The empathy our church feels for young people was rated fairly high by one group, but dead last (of the six characteristics of a healthy, attractional church) by the other two. This was absolutely fascinating to me. Sure, our perceptions of empathy vary naturally with age. We joke about overly dramatic teenagers lamenting that “no one understands me!” as they slam their bedroom door, or grandparents who complain that kids today don’t know what it was like to walk seven miles to school and back (uphill both ways) every day, usually in the snow. While there is some truth to these stereotypes, the differences between now and then are almost always exaggerated.

I have heard some ludicrous statements over the years. Some highlights include “young people in this town didn’t drink alcohol before so-and-so came along” (a parent complaining about a former youth leader), “there simply weren’t drugs around when we were teenagers” (a parent who was a teen in the 1980s), and “we didn’t have the temptation of sex that these kids have to face” (from an era of more free time and less supervision). Really?! Either time clouds our memories or we prefer nostalgia over reality.

Yes, social media is a big deal. Yes, they have more homework and less free time now. Yes, technology has made growing up easier in some ways, more complicated in others. Let’s not blow these differences out of proportion to the point of pretending it is impossible to empathize.

What matters to young people? Relationships. Complicated relationships with family members. Changing landscapes and allegiances with their friends. Complex relationships with God. Falling in love. Being accepted and rejected. Trying to fit in and avoiding loneliness. Trying to be good for all the right or wrong reasons. Anger, jealously, and pride leading to setbacks. Achieving goals through hard work. In other words, what matters to them are the exact same things that matter to you!

On Sunday nights, in order to illustrate certain universal truths and to spark discussion of realistic teenage situations, we are using a television show produced in the 90s set in 1980. Why does that work? It works because the show focuses on relationships. It focuses on boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and friendship. It does so in a realistic way that makes us laugh at ourselves. Time is just a setting. The things that mattered when you were a teenager matter just as much today. Empathizing with young (or old) people is easy. They want love, acceptance, and a sense of purpose. Just like you.


“Mission Opportunities at Christmas” by David Elks

For the past several years, the preparing of gift packages for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) has been a significant part of our giving at First Baptist Church. Most recently, we have included a large scale packing day and have been able to prepare in excess of 300 packages each year. We can be pleased with this effort, and I know many of you are interested in contributing again this year. We have not been able to schedule a packing date this year for a couple of reasons, the most important of which is a problem with the vendor that we use to purchase many of the items included in the boxes. A technical glitch in the vendor’s software has made it impossible for us to secure the items in time. We’ve considered trying another vendor, but we would possibly exceed our budget for the project, and it is not likely that we could schedule a packing day and ship the boxes to the OCC distribution center in time.

I apologize for this problem. In lieu of the packing day I want to suggest a couple of options. First, we have empty boxes prepared and ready to be used. These are available in the church office, and you are more than welcome to pick up as many as you would like and do some personal shopping to fill the box. When my daughters were young, Sandra and I allowed them to decide who (gender and age) they wanted to give a box to, and then we took them shopping to purchase the items. This gave them a sense of ownership and personal investment. I would also recommend that if you were to do this, that you devote some time to praying for the recipient of the box. The children who receive these boxes live in desperate situations and need your prayers for good health, peace and a stable home. If you choose to prepare a box and would like for the church to ship it to OCC, please return to the church by November 12th.

A second option to consider is to make a donation to the ministries that our church conducts each December. Our Children’s Christmas Party is a long-standing tradition at FBCL. By your donations, our youth spend the day with a child from the Lumberton community. The youth take the children shopping and help them purchase a toy or two, clothing, and a gift they can give their family. We also provide each family with a food box for the holidays, and this year, we will be including a New Testament. Another option is a gift to the Friends of Jesus Christmas Party. The leaders of this class shop throughout the year to purchase clothes and gifts at reduced prices for the Friends of Jesus. They do an excellent job, and I assure you that your contributions to this ministry will be used wisely and bring tremendous joy to the people who are the heartbeat of happiness in our church.

I have been informed that we have received a few monetary donations for OCC this year. If you have done so, please contact our Financial Administrator, Nancy Bass, to specify how you want your gift directed. If none of the options I have suggested are acceptable, we will write a one-time check from the church to Samaritan’s Purse, OCC’s parent organization. Once again, I apologize for the problem with our OCC packing day, but as you see there is no shortage of opportunities for us to make the coming Christmas season brighter for people in need.

Peace, David