Weekly Letter from the Pastor — April 24, 2017

April 24, 2017

Dear FBCD Family:

One of the innovations of my interim pastorate that has made a good case to stick around long term has been the First Baptist University (FBU) program on Wednesday nights. As we conclude our second FBU term, it seems a good time to look back and look ahead.

The core idea behind the FBU program has been threefold: to enhance the educational and support program of our church, make use of the wide range of gifted people in and near our church family, and better serve the local Decatur community.

In two "semesters" of FBU so far, I believe we have seen considerable success. Instead of one Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study, we have offered multiple interesting options in two main areas: Christian content (theology, Bible, history, ethics), and support/life skills.

Christian content courses have included:
CS Lewis' Mere Christianity (Bob Williamson), Epistle of James (Keith Pierce), History of the Bible and Development of the English Bible (Bill Fulkerson), and Restorative Justice—mass incarceration and death penalty (Linsey Addington).

Support/Life skills classes have included:
Basic Computer Skills (Randall Hampton, Katie Base Roberts, Aaron McGinnis), Voice (Kathryn Hartgrove), Financial Peace (Matt Visser), Caregiver Support (Ann Murphy), Grief Support (Larry Connelly, Tommye Morris), Marriage Enrichment (Monique Wischusen), LGBTQ Support (Amelia Markham, Theron Clark-Stuart),  Loving Someone Addicted (Rob Stanback, Larry Connelly, Debra Dantzler), Total Body Conditioning (Kristian Smith).

I also note that both youth and children's ministries have ramped up their programs for FBU. Dale Doud has offered a children's program on Wednesday nights—FBU Kids, with special music and drama offerings provided by guest leaders.

In terms of numbers, my best estimate is that we averaged around 125 in the first FBU Winter Term, and about 100 in this Spring Term, which concludes this coming Wednesday night.

Please find a chance to thank the FBU teachers who have worked so hard to make these classes a success!

And remember that for May, which has 5 Wednesdays, we will narrow our focus to two adult options: a course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which I will lead along with Matt Snyder, and the Total Body Conditioning class. Our Bonhoeffer class will meet in Carreker Hall. The textbook will be Christiane Tietz, Theologian of Resistance. Come on out!

Have a wonderful week — serve Christ, live in the power of God's Spirit!
Pastor David

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — April 18, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

What a glorious Easter Sunday morning. This was my first opportunity to preach on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, and seeing what must have been 500 of you gathered together for worship in the two services certainly warmed my heart. Christ is Risen! And, as I tried to say, the evidence that he is risen is found not "just" in the Bible or in tradition but in glimpses of resurrection in our own lives, in the world, and in our community of faith. I hope you catch such glimpses this week.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — February 27, 2017

Dear FBCD Family:

As I enter my sixth month as your Interim Pastor, I am grateful to God for you, dear church family. As more and more visitors come our way on both Sundays and Wednesdays, guests are impressed by the warmth, friendliness, and Christian devotion of our congregation. We are starting to see folks join our congregation – we had two young ladies join us in the last two weeks in Fresh Start. More are considering joining. Family, keep doing what you are doing – keep being who you are!

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — February 20, 2017

Dear FBCD Family:

Two things are coming to an end along with February. I want to say a word about both.

We launched First Baptist University on January 11 with the hope and prayer that church members and visitors would respond to an entirely new approach to Wednesday nights. We had been averaging maybe 35 folks for supper, prayer, and Bible study. I thought that we had the resources in our church to offer a university-type program with multiple exciting and meaningful options in areas of Christian thought, pastoral care, and wellness.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — February 12, 2017

Dear FBCD Family:

On Sunday we explored how both Jesus and Paul prayed. As your pastor, I was brought up short by the challenge that Matthew 6:7-13 and Philippians 1:9-11 carried for me. That is one of the most amazing things about being a pastor — first you are challenged by God's Word and Spirit, and then out of that place of challenge you attempt to offer what you have been shown to the people you serve.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — February 7, 2017

Dear FBCD Family:

It was very special to have so many families and boys associated with Boy Scouts join us for worship on Sunday morning. FBCD has sponsored a Boy Scout troop since 1927! I am not aware of anything we are doing (besides worship and studying the Bible!) that we have done for that long. It is quite a heritage. I was glad to meet members of the Greenway family, who have played such a large role in sponsoring and supporting our FBCD Boy Scouts over many years. Thank you!

Weekly Letter from the Pastor —January 30, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

 

This week finds me jetting off to Penn State University for an all-day speaking appearance there on Wednesday, so I guess you all will have to do FBU without me this one time. After that visit I will go to northern Virginia to see my 87-year-old father, as well as my sister and brother-in-law.

But I will be back for Sunday to speak on the theme of “Keeping Our Covenants,” the 4th message in my series called “Things Christians Do.”

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — January 23, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

It is hard to describe how much FUN church seems to be these days at FBCD. I think the last time church was this fun for me was in high school.

Take Sunday morning, for example. When in my sermon in Fresh Start I said that "Psalm 7 + Matthew 5 = Romans 12," all the scientists and mathematicians in the room just fell out laughing. And then in Sanctuary, when I read Psalm 7:6, which says "Rise up, O Lord," and then someone started snickering thinking of the relevance to the big Falcons playoff game, we all laughed. (Congratulations to our Falcons!) Maybe what we are finding is joy—joy in our shared experiences, joy in our restored sense of unity, and joy in putting our shoulders to the plow and serving Christ together. In any case, Sundays are happy again, and I am grateful to God.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — January 17, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

 

I can tell you that I have had few experiences in ministry to rival the meaningfulness of baptizing Jackson Anand on Sunday as the FBCD church family gathered around to support him. It is truly a holy thing to be a pastor, and to be a participant in moments in which God's grace is so clearly felt. Let us all continue to pray for Jackson as his young faith develops. And let us all be reminded of the meaning of our baptism, in which we affirmed our belief in Jesus, our gratitude for his salvation, and our promise to follow him as Lord.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — January 9, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

 

I begin by thanking Shelley Woodruff for preaching on Sunday while I was in New Orleans at the Society of Christian Ethics. I understand that The Great Storm of January 2017 was tolerable and that most were able to make it to church. I am indeed impressed by the strong sense of duty so many of our church members feel to be in church if at all possible -- churches are built and sustained by people with that kind of commitment. So thank you.

Weekly Letter From the Pastor — January 3, 2017

Dear FBCD Family,

Yesterday we began the new year at FBCD with pretty strong attendance (all things considered!) and a message on "Starting Over," based on Psalm 51 and Romans 12:1-2. Our new preaching series for January and February is called "Things Christians Do," focusing on basic practices of Christian discipleship. One of these basic practices is "continuous repentance," which I described as a posture of identifying and grieving over sin in our lives, taking responsibility without evasion, confessing our sin to God and probably to those we have hurt, seeking forgiveness, and committing to life change in the area where we have gone wrong. If you were unable to be present Sunday, the sermon audio and text are available, as usual, on our website here.

Weekly Letter from the Pastor — December 27, 2016

Dear FBCD Family,
The Advent season seemed especially profound this year, at least from my vantage point. There is something about being a pastor, and being responsible for leading a faith community through one of the two holiest seasons of the year, that just does something to you. I cannot personally recall a more meaningful Advent season in my adult life. And it ended so powerfully — with a very large crowd for our Christmas Eve service, and a surprisingly large and joyful gathering on Christmas morning.