Temporary Changes To Our Worship Experience

I would like to update you on the situation facing us regarding the heating of our facility. In April, the Trustees will bring to you a plan for our new system. If approved, we will be starting the long, arduous process of replacing our 54 year old system. We are going from a Steam Boiler to a Hot Water Boiler requiring new Air Handling Units throughout the facility. The reduction in size and the increase in efficiency are phenomenal and necessary for the next 50 years of service. There will be demolition; installation; movement of Sunday School classes; movement of Worship Services; inconveniences in getting to certain parts of the buildings; obstacles; places too hot; places too cold, etc. It will be challenging over the next several  months. BUT, in the end, we will have a brand new heat and air conditioning system that will improve our Sunday School and Worship experience. Our new system will also have a positive impact on our budget by lowering utility costs through its increased efficiency.

I have noticed a couple of things during this storm. You are a resilient group of people. I certainly appreciate your patience and your fortitude. You have weathered this storm with resilience, humor and strength and have been faithful, longsuffering and gracious. I feel honored to be in a congregation where Bible Study and Worship are our most important priority.

Whitney

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Youth Ministry Updates

Hello all,

I wanted to write an article this month to give you some information on the First Baptist Church Youth Ministry. First let me say it is a great time in the life of the church to invest yourself in the lives of the youth. They are the future of this church, but also “the” church in the coming years. If you are truly interested in the lives of the youth, I would encourage you to invest your time in them. The weekly opportunities for you to come and join the youth and share of yourself consist of: Sunday School (regular Sunday hour), Youth Choir and Discipleship (5-7:30 on Sundays), and Refuge (6:15-7:15 on Wednesdays).

And now that the “plug” is over, the rest of the story…The Youth Committee and I sit down and plan out each semester’s events that strive to further the mission statement of our youth: “to be a Christ-like core where we become the hands and feet of Christ by reaching out to those in need, and growing in our love and knowledge of God.” We plan events that focus on Spiritual Development (DNOW Weekend), Fellowship (Camping Trips/Excursions), Community Outreach (Christian Concerts/Lock-ins/outs), and Mission Trips (New York/Asheville/Garden City Beach/St. Louis/and Cincinnati to name a few).

You may not be aware that the youth ministry receives a personal financial gift every year for upcoming youth events. Stan, myself, and the chair of the Youth Committee sit down with this donator and present the calendar of proposed events. This member is financially invested in these young lives, both youth members and youth in our community, and wants to help in their religious development. This wonderful gift allows extraordinary events to take place. These would not be events we would normally host, for financial reasons. A majority of the events listed above are due to this financial gift.

Recently we were able to go on a Ski-trip and it was WONDERFUL. I forgot, however, that I’ve aged since last time I snowboarded. Even though I have one bruised tailbone a few sore muscles and was quite literally YANKED off of a ski lift, I’d still want to do it all over again. Ron and Dee Dee Swanner were two of the four chaperones that went with us on the trip. Dee Dee said, “This was our first opportunity to chaperone a youth trip. Even though we were excited about the weekend, we had no idea that we would enjoy being with the youth so much. We made many great memories and loved every minute of the weekend. We can truly say that our family was blessed by this experience and we can’t wait to go again.”

The next upcoming events that the youth would really love for you to spend time with them are the hiking trip and Gatlinburg (March 8th), Golf Tournament (April 12th), and another Community Lock-Out (May 2nd). Please prayerfully consider investing your time in these young lives by helping with these events.

Prayerfully yours,
Ryan

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Look At What God Is Doing Here!

2014 will bring new things!  For one, we are beginning the process of listening for new staff members.  The search committees, along with the aid of the Personnel Committee, will formulate job descriptions and expectations that we will have of these individuals. You will get a chance to vote on those job descriptions.

Now let me ask you to consider the other side of church/staff relationships.  What does a new staff member need from us?  Having made four moves as a member of a church staff, let me share with you some of the struggles and hopes that a potential staff member might have.

First, remember that although this is your home and you have found your niche here, this will potentially be a brand new place for a staff member.  So we wonder, will the people there accept me, gifts and warts, and will they welcome me into their homes and community?  This may sound crazy, but if you are not from here, beginning a new life here in Clinton can be scary.  Our new staff members will need open arms from us and welcoming spirits.  It is more than just shaking their hand on a Sunday. In some cases, these individuals and families may have moved a significant distance and have left behind “family.”  They will need for us to receive them here as family.

Second, they will need the freedom to be who they are, and to learn who you are, and in the process, build relationships.  A significant fear that new staff members have is, “Will I be allowed to use the gifts and experiences God has given me, or will I have to fit into the mold of past ministers?”  Those of us here must be aware of our unconscious communication to new staff members related to past staff.  If we believe and vote to call an individual to work with us, then we vote to allow God to teach us some new things and ideas and ways of doing ministry through this individual.

Third, these new staff members need to see us with our sleeves rolled up, and asking the question, what can we do to make this ministry successful?  As I read the Bible, God has designed that the church works best when ALL of the parts of the body are working together.  When a church waits for the new guy or gal to get things going, or if they hold back until they see how this new staff member is “going to work out,” it makes for tough going.  Make a commitment now to do all you can to make these new staff members and ministries successful.

Our actions and responses do have a lot to do with whether a new staff member is able to help us grow and move forward, or not. Thank you in advance for being the kind of congregation that is aware of these issues and works to make new staff not only feel welcomed but successful!  I am praying not only for these new individuals, but for you as well, that 2014 will indeed be a year in which we proclaim loudly, “look at what God is doing here!”

Keep Walking!

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Church Staff Struggles and Hopes

On Journey….

2014 will bring new things! For one, we are beginning the process of listening for new staff members. The search committees, along with the aid of the Personnel Committee, will formulate job descriptions and expectations that we will have of these individuals. These will be statements and guides as to what we will expect from these individuals. You will get a chance to vote on those job descriptions.

Now let me ask you to consider the other side of church/staff relationships. What does a new staff member need from us? Having made four moves as a member of a church staff, let me share with you some of the struggles and hopes that a potential staff member might have.

First, remember that although this is your home and you have found your niche here, this will potentially be a brand new place for a staff member. So we wonder, will the people there accept me, gifts and warts, and will they welcome me into their homes and community? This may sound crazy, but if you are not from here, beginning a new life here in Clinton can be scary. Our new staff members will need open arms from us and welcoming spirits. It is more than just shaking their hand on a Sunday. In some cases, these individuals and families may have moved a significant distance and have left behind “family.” They will need for us to receive them here as family.

Second, they will need the freedom to be who they are, and to learn who you are, and in the process, build relationships. A significant fear that new staff members have is, “Will I be allowed to use the gifts and experiences God has given me, or will I have to fit into the mold of past ministers?” Those of us here must be aware of our unconscious communication to new staff members related to past staff. If we believe and vote to call an individual to work with us, then we vote to allow God to teach us some new things and ideas and ways of doing ministry through this individual.

Third, these new staff members need to see us with our sleeves rolled up, and asking the question, what can we do to make this ministry successful? As I read the Bible, God has designed that the church works best when ALL of the parts of the body are working together. When a church waits for the new guy or gal to get things going, or if they hold back until they see how this new staff member is “going to work out,” it makes for tough going. Make a commitment now to do all you can to make these new staff members and ministries successful.

Our actions and responses do have a lot to do with whether a new staff member is able to help us grow and move forward, or not. Thank you in advance for being the kind of congregation that is aware of these issues and works to make new staff not only feel welcomed but successful! I am praying not only for these new individuals, but for you as well, that 2014 will indeed be a year in which we proclaim loudly, “look at what God is doing here!”

Keep Walking!

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Keep Pondering!

On Journey…

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19.
In our current society, taking time to ponder is not highly encouraged. We are instructed to gather correct information, do our homework, so to speak, but all with the goal of making a decision quick. Because as we all know, time is money. So we are trained to “cut to the chase, get to the point, not to dilly dally!”

Pondering, on the other hand, calls us to do just the opposite. Pondering invites us to look at something for a while, so as to discover a truth not given to quick observation. Pondering encourages us to take in a situation and think on it for a while, not necessarily coming to any conclusion, but none the less learning very much. A wonderful mentor of mine would say, “Let’s put that in the pot on the back burner and let it simmer a while!”
This year’s Advent book is a tool to help us ponder. Within the book are written prayers of our people that allow us to share the ponderings of our hearts. I have always found that reading the prayers of others causes me to pause and listen more carefully to the Spirit life.
I pray that the Spirit of God may give to each of you the gift of wisdom, and opportunity to pay attention to life around you this season in a new and different way. Not so much to gain any new, great knowledge, but just to have the opportunity to ponder.

Keep Pondering!

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Anderson County RAM 2013 Weekend

This past weekend at RAM, we welcomed over 1000 people to our facilities. We greeted them warmly, served them great food, gave words of encouragement, and provided wonderful medical care. Thank you. Being a welcoming church is a good thing. Maybe, though, there is something better.

Instead of a welcoming church, what if we become more of an inviting church? A welcoming church does just that, welcomes those who come with smiles and words and services. Being a welcoming church revolves around what happens here. Becoming an inviting church focuses on what happens in your neighborhood, your place of work, your school. Inviting happens out there.

Inviting means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there. The theological word for this is incarnation. The Word tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus left his home to come to ours.

This is not just another gimmick to get people into the church. The foundation of this isn’t an attempt to bolster declining membership rolls. No, it goes much deeper than that. It starts with who God has called us to be as church. It involves discovering our gifts and purpose. And it mandates joining God at work in the world. This isn’t about getting the world into God’s church; it’s about getting the church into God’s world.

Each congregation has a purpose within God’s mission. Each congregation has particular gifts. Each congregation reveals the life-giving reign of God in unique ways. No congregation is everything to everyone. But every congregation is something to someone. Who can know God through your worship style? Who can experience forgiveness and grace through your congregational community? Who needs the gifts you have to offer? Who can offer gifts you need?

Welcoming involves hoping whoever happens to find you will join. Inviting involves sharing God’s specific gifts, made real in our congregation, in the world.

We want to continue to get better at welcoming those who come, but we also need to move towards inviting those people God places in our lives in our daily living to have a relationship with God and with God’s people who gather here at First Baptist Church.

Keep Walking!

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What is God saying to us through this miracle?

The gift given to us by Martha and Edward McComb has indeed been experienced as a miracle! Thanks be to God! It is for me and many others a “parting of the Red Sea” experience. With God’s gift to us, we have paid off the Family Life Center debt. With the funds remaining, we will discuss together how to share them with this community in God’s work. Those discussions are coming. With all this excitement, I have (and hope you have) paused to consider something else: What is God saying to us through this miracle?

For one thing, God has reminded us of this great truth: God works outside of what we know and expect. We have come to call these kinds of events miracles. By definition a miracle is “an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature.” This event is unexplainable in many ways. What is God saying to us? “Do not be so concerned with what you believe are limits; trust me!” So many times churches and individuals limit themselves because they forget that God can and does work outside the boundaries we see. With God, there are always possibilities.

I believe a second thing God is saying to us is to avoid living with a scarcity complex. “Look, see what I did here? There is more!” It seems to me that sometimes we plan and predict what we can do based solely on the resources in our hands. God has reminded us that His resources are unlimited. This word is not a call to wasteful or foolish planning but a call to faithful and hopeful planning.

And a third thing I believe God is saying to us through this miracle-“Do not be afraid of tomorrow.” The world we live in can produce much fear. God has reminded us that our future is in His hands, if we will turn loose of our need to be in control. Isn’t that the only way to live in real peace? When we give our lives obediently into the hands of God, He provides.

We have some exciting, scary, significant decisions to make as a congregation. Really our task is to listen and trust God for those plans. Let these words from God direct and comfort us as we move forward as His people in this place doing His work!

Keep Walking!

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We Will Miss You Terry Baker

Depending on what information you read, the average stay of a Baptist minister is somewhere between 2 years and 7.3 years, which makes Terry Bakers’ 28 year tenure extraordinary! His length of stay is certainly remarkable, but it is not the length of time he has served here that makes Terry special; it is his heart and commitment to being the presence of God among you and to serving you with compassion and creativity that sets him apart.

It has been my joy to serve with Terry for 7 and ½ years and I have experienced his love of God and of you in many ways. I will miss our brainstorming, (or is some cases brain-breezing,) sessions in which we shared ideas and created events. I will miss our discussions about Baptist life and his wonderful insights into us as a people. I will miss serving with him in difficult pastoral situations because of his caring heart. I will miss his quick wit as he engaged others in dialogue. I will miss his courage in standing with me in challenging situations. I will miss his wisdom in complicated circumstances.

I guess what I am saying is, I will miss Terry Baker. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve God’s people in this place with him. I pray God’s presence, peace, and guidance for Terry and Janet as they journey to the next place in life God has for them.
Thank you Terry. Keep walking!

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Sit Down For a Rest!

On Journey…

Looking out the window of my office and listening to children make one thing very clear…summer break is here!  I am grateful for a God who designs rhythm into life, who gave us change of pace. There are many good things about a change of pace. Let me speak to a few of these.

A change of pace gives us permission to take a pause, and pauses are very rare these days.  Cultural scientists are having a heyday trying to keep up with studies about how the pace of our lives is affecting us and how this frenetic pace will affect us.  As much as we might wish we could go back to a “simpler time,” that will not happen.  But we can, by attending to these pauses, help deal with the speed of change and culture we live in.

The first comes from God’s own experience.  Genesis 2: 1-2 tells us-“the seventh day God completed his work and he rested.”  Much has been and will be written and said about Sabbath, but this much I believe is unquestionably true–we need consistent, regular pauses from our schedules.   So much of our technology today is geared to CONSTANTLY keep us connected and producing.  We were not created for this.  I will pray that you might utilize this break time to reestablish a consistent time of pause in your schedule and in your life.

And if you can begin to do this, let me suggest that this pause be accompanied by a focus on God and God’s Word.  All humans need a pause.  Those who call themselves God followers need a pause to focus mostly on God and God’s Word to us.

Our culture bombards us constantly with messages about how to live our lives to be successful in this world.  Jesus reminds us over and over that success in this world is not our goal…faithfulness to God is.  Certainly we will do our best in our work and responsibilities but in the end, we live our lives by a different word, God’s Word.

When we choose to first pause, then pause to focus on God’s Word, it brings health and wholeness to our lives.  I pray that pause will become more evident in your life and I pray that you will make a choice in those pauses to intentionally engage the Word of God in worship and in Spirit.

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Opportunities for God to Speak to You

On Journey…

Several years ago I attended a preaching and worship conference at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond.  One of the facilitators, Milburn Price, shared with us that he sees worship as a dialogue between God and the congregation, the congregation and God, and the congregation to the congregation.  What does this look like in our worship?

How does conversation occur from God to the congregation?  In our worship, we strive to provide several opportunities for God to speak to you. Each week, we include two different scripture readings, one Old Testament and one New Testament.  Typically these scriptures are related to a similar topic.  It is important, we believe as staff, that Scripture be heard every week.  The hymns we sing many times are songs based on scripture or scripture truths that communicate to us God’s “thoughts.” During the prelude and offertory, we attempt to provide opportunity for reflection and meditation in which God’s spirit may speak to you.  Hopefully, a sermon well thought out and bathed in prayer and preparation is a word from God to all of us.  Many times the musical specials are words to us from God.  Occasionally we add drama or pictures as a means of hearing a word from God.  We have some physical features that help us hear a word from God. We light candles to remind us that the Light of the World is here to worship with us.  Each week a child or two will open the sanctuary Bible to the scripture for the day as a symbol of God inviting us to “hear” his word.

There are many ways that dialogue from God to the congregation can occur in a worship service.  Yet, the most important element is the personal preparation that the individual brings to the experience.  We all know that any person can “tune out” the voice of another, even God’s voice.  Critical to worship is the attitude which the participant comes with.  Are you expecting God to speak?  Do you listen carefully for God’s word about living and serving? Are you attentive to the many ways God might choose to speak to you and to us?

May the voice of God speaking become clearer as we work to hear His word to us each week.

Keep Walking!

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