Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thursday, December 7- Home for Advent

It’s hard to paint a picture of a vibrant 21st century Center-City Church. We can use all sorts of techniques, talk about ministries, and find a few ideas from other congregations. I can tell some stories, and I usually catch a glimpse of it each day I’m in the office. Rarely can a person see it framed at one time. This weekend, we saw it at First Baptist Knoxville; and it looked a lot like a spiritual home.

In a span of 24 hours, we fed over 800 people in our building with over 245 volunteers and donations of clothes, sleeping bags, food, and more. The second annual Christmas brunch brought the working poor, Latinos, South Knoxville families, homeless, and the spiritually needy into our church for an experience like none other. As one person said, “You are one of the bright lights in the city.” Your light shined Saturday, but you did it 1B’s way. You served across generations and languages. College students, median adults, youth, senior adults, young adults, and kids all had a part; and we truly could not have done it without each one. We modeled a missions lifestyle to one another by watching choirs and missions offer a gift to those who do not normally have this kind of quality programming; and we demonstrated these values to our own children by treating others better than ourselves. Missions is much easier caught than taught. You showed that Saturday.

If Saturday weren’t enough for a great weekend of ministry, we studied the Bible and worshiped together Sunday to open the Advent Season. On Sunday night, Kely Hatley, Sydnor Money, Karen Smith, and Kelly Shiell brought together another classic example of our church. We worshiped together across generations, led by an incredible Chapel Choir, Golden Notes, Praise band, and instrumentalists. We decorated our sanctuary together, and the youngest to the oldest played key roles. These people offered their best offerings to God, whether through decoration or music, in a quality way that showed their lives are being transformed by Christ.

We learned several things from the weekend. It’s not only fun to serve, but it sure is fun to serve together. There is something about picking up plates of scrambled eggs when you know that 200 others are helping. Hanging garland is much easier with 200 of your closest faith family. Another thing we learned is that people want to be involved, and typically become more involved, when they can be a part of something first. Many of our volunteers are not church members…yet. Two of them actually joined Saturday. Some, however, are getting involved because you invited them to a music group or asked them to serve on a Brunch team. These are easy ways not only to introduce them to what makes us First Baptist but to introduce people to each other. A third thing we learned is that people like to be treated like people. When someone speaks to you in the pew—whether guest, member, poor, or rich—we just feel welcome. I watched you greet people with a loving touch.

I have seen these kinds of things throughout my tenure here at 1B. I’ve watched you do this in Croatia, through Operation Inasmuch, at South Knoxville Elementary, in Helena, Arkansas. All these have been vital to the ongoing ministries of our church, and they have benefited other people and organizations beyond our walls in ways too numerous to explain. But this weekend, everything came home. We could see how these walls have become a missions, ministry, and worship center. First Baptist is a warm, hospitable, safe platform to live out the gospel; and we have brought our experiences outside the walls to benefit the center city of our hometown.

That’s just the beginning of the season, but this weekend is all about seeing the picture come together and living it out in 2007. Thanks for what you are doing and being together, and welcome home.

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