FBC Blog

“Reflections after the Growing Young Conference” by Doug Reedy

Before we departed for the Growing Young conference last week, I shared my guarded optimism.  Will we, as a whole congregation, rise to the occasion?  Will we do what it will take to make positive changes in our church culture?  Will we build on our many positives while working hard on our negatives?

The short answer is I really do believe we will.  There is a positive energy around us.  Giving is up.  Small changes are already in place.  We are beginning to involve more people in leadership.  We will still need more people to step up, but it is quite clear that more people are truly “in” than there have been in quite some time.

If we wish to attract young adults, and therefore attract more people in general, please understand there is no magic bullet.  There is nothing that will get us to where we wish to be overnight.  No flashy one day event we choose to have will result in any lasting impact.

Becoming a warmer environment for both visitors and regular attendees, involving more young people in leadership, being empathetic, prioritizing young adults, continuing to be missional, and putting Jesus’ message front and center will.  This isn’t just common sense anymore.  Research backs it up.

In business, church life, or college football, gimmicks do not bring long term success.  Hard work and patience pay off.  This church has risen to the occasion many times before.  If we pray, volunteer, listen, and give as we are capable of, we will again!

Doug


“Reflections before the Growing Young Conference” by Doug Reedy

On the eve of embarking on the Growing Young conference, I must admit being torn between optimism and skepticism.  In times like these my tendency is toward optimism as long as it is backed by prayer.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share my hopes and concerns with you.

I am optimistic that we will continue to have a vibrant, active youth group just as we have always had.  I worry about our ability to consistently appeal to young adults in their 20s.  That is of course why we are attending the Growing Young seminar.  The pool of educated young professionals in Lumberton is quite shallow to begin with.  Unless the economy improves, many former FBC youth will continue to find jobs elsewhere in the country, but some do return out of a love for their hometown.

Our current youth group shows more interest in our worship services (at least the early service), but it is hard to grow past a certain point with young people when they are asked to give up the one day they would have to take a sabbath.  Still, they are more willing to pray and read scripture in services than they ever have been, and we are more likely to call upon them now than in the past.  Our current college students seem open to participating when home, but only with your encouragement.

At this seminar, I am sure we will learn some practical steps toward becoming a church that is attractive to young adults.  My worry is in the execution.  We already have difficulty finding prayer partners for our college students for example, and this is a drop in the bucket of what we will need to do as a congregation to be successful.  We also need young people in serious leadership roles, and they need older mentors beyond paid staff and youth volunteers.  That takes willingness and effort from all.

As I shared with many of you in my last sermon, I am encouraged by the overwhelming positive impression our youth and former youth have of FBC.  Although there were complaints about the amount of bickering or lack of warmth, all of our youth and former youth spoke glowingly when asked about the opportunities we have provided them to serve others.  Serving others is what we are known for, and that is not only a great building block, it is a wonderful reason for optimism about our future!

Doug


“Processing the Events in Las Vegas” by David Elks

I won’t say “I can’t believe it has happened again,” because after the shootings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Charleston and Orlando I think most of us believe it is only a matter of time before another deranged individual takes up a firearm and destroys innocent lives.  Our hearts are saddened almost to the point of being numb at the sight the carnage in Las Vegas on Monday.  We have nearly grown accustomed to these events but we still wonder what would possess an individual to do such a thing and we’d like to know the whereabouts of God in all of this.  The medical and psychiatric community can help us with the first question and there are countless opinions as to the second. The truth is we will never understand why horrific tragedies happen.  One thing I am sure of in regard to God’s presence is that God was in the courage of those who risked their lives to rescue others and in the healing touch of the men and women who have provided aid.

If we are to trust Romans 8:28 we must believe that something good can come from tragedies such as what happened in Las Vegas.  I believe that God works in all things, but I also believe that you and I must join God in working for good.  We don’t sit back and passively wait for some redeeming good to appear that will help us make sense of the tragedy.  We pray for the victims and open our lives to a fresh work of the Spirit that will enable us to deepen our lives in Christ and, hopefully, prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

The first place I want us to look for good is in one another.  I watched an interview with the Las Vegas assailant’s brother.  He was stunned, bewildered and I felt for him.  As I watched the interview I could not help but remember that I have a brother.  He lives a few hundred miles from me and while we talk occasionally we do not know the details of one another’s lives. I love my brother and say he is “the good son” in our family.  He would be among the folks providing aid and doing anything he could to help.  I think he would say the same of me, but the fact remains, we don’t know each other’s joys and pains in depth.  We need to know each other better and I am not speaking of familial ties.  We like to think of our church as A Family of Faith and I hope, as a faithful response to the Las Vegas shooting, we will be more attentive to one another.  We will never be able to protect our society from tragedy, but if we invest ourselves into one another good will come.

Finally, know this… God loves you.  No matter what you are going through, you are not alone and help is available.  Also, remember that I love you and if you ever need a listening ear, I am here.

Peace, David


Deacon Election Results

The following were elected to serve as deacons on October 1, 2017:

Jim Driscoll
James Gore
Bruce Huggins
Lisa Rust
Tony Thompson
Chris Walters


“Helping our Neighbors in Need” by David Elks

September is usually one of my favorite months of the year but in all honesty, I am relieved to be turning the calendar.  I have come to equate September with the start of hurricane season and except for a few meteorological enthusiasts, I don’t know of anyone who enjoys seeing the storms.  We have a couple of months to go in the season, but 2017 has already seen more than enough damaging hurricanes.  Our neighbors in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and especially Puerto Rico have lost so much, and we must continue to give our spiritual and financial support.  I want to thank you for the contributions of food, supplies and money you have made over the past few weeks to help hurricane victims.  As survivors of Hurricane Matthew, we know what they are going through, and we know that every prayer and gesture of kindness helps.

I encourage you to help hurricane victims as you are able, but I also want to call your attention to the needs of our local neighbors.  There is never a week that we do not have several people come by the church asking for assistance.  Some need help with housing, others need a place to stay and others need a few dollars to purchase a bus ticket to make their way home or to a job. The ministerial staff and I try to help as many people as we can.  We have guidelines in place that insure a prudent use of our available funds and we know how to say “no” when we do not trust the intent of the request.  Still, the need is great and the funds we have for community assistance are diminishing.  Our Community Assistance Fund is totally reliant on your gifts. We try to do as much good with this money as possible to meet the needs of people who ask for help.

It’s been said by many that “missions begins at home.”  I have not been a great fan of that statement over the years, but when you live in Robeson County, North Carolina it is true.  By many standards, ours is one of the poorest counties in the state and none of us have to travel far to find someone in need.  On most days, our church’s ministers only have to go to the 6th street door to meet a person in a desperate situation.  We will continue to go to the door and do what we can, but I ask that you give to our Community Assistance Fund so we will be able to help our neighbors.


“Helping our neighbors in Texas” by David Elks

I view stories of natural disasters differently now than I did a year ago. Once you have been through an experience you have a deeper understanding and greater compassion for those who are going through it now. Our community is by no means recovered from Hurricane Matthew, but the pictures and stories coming from southeast Texas this week have stirred us all. The flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey has exceeded what we experienced with Matthew, but we know something of what the folks in Houston and the surrounding area are going through. We also know some about what lies ahead. Shared experience grows deeper compassion, but what does deeper compassion do?

There is no question that we need to do something to help Texas. Once again, I realize that many of our Lumberton neighbors need help. I assure you that we continue to offer assistance as we are able. Still, we need to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. One of you (a FBCL church member) called me early this week and mentioned that Lumberton, Texas is a few miles east of Houston. He asked if we could connect with them somehow. I think this is a fabulous idea and I have made an initial attempt to contact First Baptist Church of Lumberton, Texas. At the time of this writing, I have not received a response, but I will continue to reach out to the church and inquire of their condition and how we might be able to help.

I believe that we have two valuable resources to offer those affected by the storm at this time. First, we must pray. We must pray for their safety and a hasty resolution to the flooding. We will pray for the leadership and recovery workers as they work tirelessly to restore order. We must also pray for the residents of the affected communities. You remember how “anxious” we all were last year in the days following the flood. Let’s pray for peaceful minds and patient hearts as folks live into a “new normal.”

Our second resource is our financial gifts. In my experience from last year, money was the best means in which we were helped and able to help. The loads of diapers, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, etc. were useful, but the money we received was the most valuable resource. The folks in Texas will know what they need better than we, so a monetary gift is the best way for us to help.

I will let you know once I make contact with FBCL, Texas or another church or agency through whom we can send our donations. Until then, pray for our friends in Texas. We know what they are going through right now and we know that need our prayers.

Peace, David


“Teaching Our Children” by David Elks

A few of our children have started the new school year and the rest will return in the next few days. At the church, we are preparing for a new and exciting year in our Early Childhood Ministry. With the beginning of a new school year, a good scripture passage to keep in mind is Proverbs 22:6 which reads Train children in the right way and when old, they will not stray (NRSV). I have traditionally interpreted this text to mean that we need to teach our children the truths of scripture. We must teach them to obey the Ten Commandments, to aspire to live by the Beatitudes and to follow the way of Jesus Christ.

I believe this is a fitting interpretation of the text, but this past week has opened my eyes to the reality that we need to go deeper in our teaching our children the “right way.” The hateful speech from white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend and the ensuing violence is a call to all of us that we must teach our children that every person on the face of the earth bears the image of God. We need to impress upon our children the absolute truthfulness that “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world; red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” We must teach our children that they should love themselves for who God made them to be, but loving ourselves does not mean that God loves our neighbors who have a different color skin or who live differently from us any less or more.

Furthermore, we must teach our children whom to trust for moral authority. We are fortunate to have many virtuous men and women in positions of authority. We pray for their wisdom and courage, but we must also look beyond the halls of power in Raleigh and Washington D.C. for clarity between right and wrong. Be assured, I am a proud American. I love our country and I am grateful beyond words for the men and women who sacrificed for my freedom. Nevertheless, I join Paul in saying our citizenship is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). I will participate in our democracy and I will give due respect to the government, but I am counting on and answering to a higher authority than our elected officials. So must we
train our children.

Lastly, training our children the right way is to teach them to pray. These are uncertain days in the life of our nation and followers of Jesus are duty bound now more than ever to plead with God on the behalf of our President, Congress and Judiciary. Please pray for our nation. Pray for wisdom. Pray for a commitment to do justice and the courage to do what is best for every person and the earth on which we all depend. Above all, pray for peace… peace with one another, peace with our fellow nations and most importantly, peace with God.

Peace, David


“Introducing the SAFE Seminar” by Erin Collier

Children ask lots of questions. It’s part of how they learn and grow – as they observe new things, their brains are trying to make sense of what they see, and they reach out to others to help them figure it out. Some of those questions are simple, some are complicated…and some are just plain awkward. While I don’t speak from personal experience, I’m fairly confident that it’s the awkward questions (about body development, puberty, etc.) that cause some of the greatest anxiety for parents. As terrifying as it might be, the reality is that parents are the number one source of information for their children about sex, body development, safety, consent, and boundaries.

We want to help equip parents for these conversations – to help them be able to have accurate and honest yet age-appropriate discussions with their children about some sensitive subjects. This fall, we will be hosting a SAFE Seminar led by LeAnn Gardner, an ordained minister and social worker. This seminar was developed out of LeAnn’s years of experience as a social worker and her desire to help parents be prepared to be the primary educator for their children about these topics. I’ve had several conversations with LeAnn and am impressed by her approach to this subject matter and am excited to have her here. Thanks to the endowment, we will be offering this event at a low cost to participants and will open it up to families in our community.

The SAFE seminar is October 28-29 (12:00-4:30 pm each day). The cost is $15 for an individual or $25 for a couple – which includes the seminar and materials provided, lunch on both days, and childcare. Pre-registration will be required and will open on August 14. If you are a parent of a child (birth-6th grade), I hope you will come! If you are a regular caretaker of children (either related or not), I hope you will come as well. If you know of someone who fits into either of those categories, please invite them!

And, if you want to support this event but don’t feel like you fit into the target audience, we will need help! Running registration tables, helping set out/clean up food, providing childcare – there are many ways you can help make this event a success.

I’m looking forward to the weekend of October 28-29, and I hope you are, too! Please join me in praying toward this event: for LeAnn as she prepares to lead, for the individuals that will participate, and for the positive impact we hope it will have on the parents and families in our community.

Erin


“I’m In Update” by David Elks

There is no doubt that when you say I’m In!, you’re in! Two months ago I asked you to consider your commitment to the ministries of First Baptist Church and you responded with enthusiasm and commitment. We received over one hundred commitments with 95 expressing a willingness to pray more, 61 pledging to increase their service and 105 committing to giving more financially. These were encouraging numbers and it is thrilling to see you keeping your word!

This has been a busy summer at (and from) First Baptist. Our children have enjoyed four terrific “camps” at the Church. They engaged the scripture at Vacation Bible School, Lego Camp, Art Camp and Music Day Camp. They took their learning and growing on the road to PassportKids in Spartanburg, SC.

Our young adults and youth were also on the go this summer. They have been to the beach, the mountains and Charleston, SC. Our beloved Friends of Jesus have also enjoyed Vacation Bible School and a terrific time at Happiness Retreat.

I am thankful for Erin and Doug’s commitment and leadership, but there is no way these programs would happen if it were not for your prayers and you giving your time, energy and money. Thank you!

I believe there are numerous ways to measure the vitality of a church’s ministry. I don’t like to dwell on the financial, but it is important that you know what has happened over the past couple of months. In May of this year, our receipts were $47,488.62. This is an average monthly amount. In June, as we started the I’m In! emphasis, our receipts were $55,320.56. In July our receipts rose again, climbing to $75,498.92! I have not studied our giving trends in depth, but it is highly unusual to see giving increase in the summer months. As I said, when you say I’m In!, you’re in! and I am grateful for your generosity.

We’ve had a good summer, but fall is coming and with it, a new Sunday School year, Family Night activities, Community Cafés, Operation Inasmuch (September 16), and the SAFE Seminar (October 28-29). You gave a resounding response to I’m In! and I pray that you will “stay in” with your prayers, service and giving as we follow Christ together.

Peace, David


“Asking the Right Questions” by David Elks

I have read, taught and preached John 21:15-19 several times over the course of my ministry. It is the story of Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?” three times in the wake of Peter’s three denials. As I said, I know the story fairly well, but I had an interesting weekend with this story while I was at the Shalem Residency in June.

The night before I left for the residency I could not help but think that we have been asking the wrong questions lately. We have been asking questions like “How can we get more people in church?” and “How can we get these people to give?” These are important questions, but they are not the right questions for us to be asking at this time.

I went to the residency and enjoyed a week of classes and group interactions in spiritual direction. As the weekend approached I thought I would pray, read and listen for the Spirit’s guidance as to the questions we should be asking.

In the last class before our “Silent Sabbath” we were told a story about a woman who experienced a terrible tragedy. In the wake of the experience she felt the Lord saying “I want you to love me more than anything else.” The story did not set well with me, but I did not dwell on it. I set it aside and got ready for the weekend.

As I woke on Saturday morning the story came to mind along with the interaction between Jesus and Peter in John 21. I read the passage as my morning devotion and started the day.

As I went through the day the Spirit kept bringing up Jesus’ question… do you love me more than these? By the afternoon I realized that this is the question we need to consider. “Do we, as individuals and as a church, love Jesus more than these?” The answer may seem obvious, but it isn’t, especially when “these” are packed pews and full offering plates. “These” can be good things, but “these” become idols when they are our highest priority. Every good question prompts a few more and the questions behind “Do you love me more than these?” include “What are my ‘these?’” and “Why do I love ‘these?’” These are the questions we need to be asking right now and I will be writing more in the weeks ahead to help us pray and respond.

Peace, David