Get Ready for Ministry Madness!

Beginning February 1, we will launch 10 consecutive weeks of Ministry Madness, a Sunday afternoon/evening series offering a variety of opportunities for fellowship, equipping, and service.

The first Ministry Madness event is the Super Bowl Fellowship this Sunday evening in the ROC. Whether you are a football fan or fellowship fan, this Sunday evening is a great opportunity to introduce a friend to our First Baptist family, and for you to get better acquainted with the members of our church.

During these ten weeks of Ministry Madness all of the on-campus events will begin at 5:00 o’clock.  On the third Sunday of each month, events will be off campus as we join with other churches in the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association to participate in “Meet the Church,” where we will have an opportunity to serve the least of these in our community in a hands-on mission project on Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday morning as we continue our Celebrating the Spiritual Disciplines series we will focus on the discipline of study.  Our text is Romans 12:1-2 and our topic is “Becoming a Lifetime Student.”  Additionally, during each of our worship services this Sunday morning we will celebrate moments of Parent-Child Dedication.

As we grow stronger in our effectiveness as a family of faith, we are asking every church member to take a Spiritual Gift Analysis and to connect with a ministry team.  At First Baptist we are discovering that we are at our best when we work together in teams.  Be encouraged to connect with at least one ministry team that reflects your spiritual gifts and your personal passion.  If you are not yet a part of a ministry team, Comer Knight and Ross Lankford are ready to help you get connected.

As we continue to grow in faith and friendship, I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study.

2009: A Great Year for Mission and Ministry

2009 promises to be a great year of mission and ministry in the life of First Baptist Church.  Already we’ve gotten off to a great start by welcoming ten new church members, beginning our “Celebrating the Disciplines” series and experiencing a terrific Disciple Now Weekend.

Coming up in the first half of 2009, we are looking forward to the annual Super Bowl Fellowship, the Children’s Winter Retreat, Scouting Sunday, the Pensacola Easter Pageant, the Worship Team Spring Concert at the Beach, Founder’s Day, Senior Recognition Sunday, the Chapel Choir Mystery Tour, and Vacation Bible School.  Also during 2009 we will have mission volunteers working on projects in Liberia, Haiti, North Africa, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, the Sudan, and Russia.

Also regarding 2009, earlier this week we witnessed the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.  No matter who we voted for in the recent election, let us covenant to pray for our President and his administration to lead with moral courage and extraordinary wisdom during these challenging times.

By the way, did you know that feeding the wrong appetites can undermine your spiritual growth? This Sunday morning we are zeroing in on the discipline of fasting, one of the most challenging of the spiritual disciplines, as we think about Becoming Hungry for the Right Stuff.  On Sunday evening during our Winter Bible Study we will be talking about Navigating Change when we meet in Pleitz Chapel at five o’clock.

This week I am participating in the annual Minister’s Metro Conference where I will join with several other pastors who serve similar churches to FBCP that will gather to pray for each other, to share ideas, and encourage each other as we strive to provide proactive and healthy leadership to our congregations.  Thank you for providing opportunities for each of our ministers to participate in events that sharpen our ability to serve.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study

Grieving for Those Who Are Alive

by Barry Howard

As a minister, I most frequently deal with grief among parishioners as a process that follows the death of a friend or loved one. When a friend or loved one dies, a bereavement process begins, a journey that allows the grieving one to proceed through a variety of stages of grief.

Many years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross gave us the five stages of grief:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  When I took a course in Death and Dying at the university I was taught that different individuals pass through the stages at different speeds and perhaps even in different orders.

But I was also taught that grief is not limited to the experience of loss through death. Grief could occur over the loss of a limb, the loss of a job, the loss of income, or the loss of one’s freedom.

Since my first visit to the funeral home at the age of six I have been aware of the kind of grief that accompanies death. Only in recent years have I come to understand the grief one can experience for those who are still alive.  Three family sagas have given me a new appreciation for how we grieve for the living.

First, in 2004, my father was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.  Although he responded to early treatment, a heart condition caused the suspension of therapy, and during the ensuing months I grieved for his loss of weight, his loss of independence, his loss of mobility, his loss of modesty, and ultimately his loss of breath.  By the time he died, barely recognizable to his friends, I seemed to have made multiple stops at every one of the five stages. In actuality, I grieved more during his deterioration from cancer than I did after his death.

The second saga began almost one year after my father’s funeral when my wife’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  For my wife and me, the same grief cycle began all over again.  Although there were many good days and fun visits with my mother-in-law who demonstrated extraordinary hope and perseverance, we grieved over her loss of hair, her loss of dexterity and balance due to neuropathy, her loss of ability to hold her grandchildren, her loss of appetite, her loss of youthfulness, her loss of vitality, and her loss of ability to serve in her many volunteer positions. When she died this past November, three years after her diagnosis, we believe death came as a blessing, an act of deliverance from the terrorism this disease can inflict upon a body.

Finally, just over a year ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  And our family began to experience grief over a different kind of loss.  This severe form of dementia expresses itself in a variety of ways.  Although many of the symptoms seem to come and go, and some days are better than others, during the past year we have grieved over her loss of memory, the loss of her familiar personality, the loss of her awareness of her surroundings, the loss of her freedom, the loss of her driving, the loss of her home, and because she has been relocated to a care facility, the loss of her church, the loss of her community, and the loss of her network of friends.

I am still thinking about how grieving for the living differs from grieving for the deceased.  As a pastor I am more aware of how many in my congregation grieve over loss related to those who are alive…the grandmother who is grieving over the grandson who is in prison, the father-in-law who is grieving over the loss of his daughter-in-law because of the divorce, the former manager who is grieving over the loss of his colleagues after his job was terminated, and the school teacher who is grieving over the loss of contact with students following her retirement.

In reflecting on my own experience, I would contend that grieving for the living can be more complex, more long-term, and more exhausting in many circumstances than the grief associated with a death. 

When grieving for those who are still alive, here are a few suggestions that friends and counselors offered to me:

  • Try to practice good self-care.
  • Remain connected with your faith community.
  • Strive to maintain a good regimen of exercise, nutritious diet, and rest.
  • Maximize your time with your loved one.
  • Maintain at least one hobby, project, or activity that is replenishing for you.
  • Allow and encourage friends and family members to grieve at their own pace in their own space.
  • Ask God to renew your strength.

Grief lasts for a season.  But remember, each season is unique in scope and duration.

(Dr. Barry Howard serves as the senior minister of the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.)

Where Dr. King Stood

by Barry Howard

On Monday January 19, our nation will observe a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Even though I grew up in Alabama in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s name meant little more to me than a name in a textbook. That is, until 1982. 

In 1982 during my senior year at Jacksonville State University, I participated in a field trip to Atlanta with the Sociology Club.  We visited several sites of social and cultural significance including the Atlanta Federal Corrections Facility, the Grady Hospital, the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center.

While touring the sanctuary of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, another student and I ventured into the pulpit and stood briefly where Dr. King had stood to preach.  The hostess immediately reprimanded us, informing us that in their church tradition, only ministers of the gospel were allowed to “stand behind the sacred desk.”

I relieved her sense of alarm by informing her that I was a “licensed” Baptist minister and that my friend was preparing to be an Episcopal priest, a claim which our faculty sponsor confirmed for the hostess.

Upon learning of our ministerial affiliation, the hostess asked the two of us a few specific questions about our knowledge of Dr. King and then invited us to follow her to the King Center adjacent to the historic church.  She led us through the Archives Area, and then through a door that was labeled “Authorized Personnel Only.”

Once inside, we discovered we were in an expansive storage facility with row after row of shelves containing hundreds of boxes.  She took a couple of boxes from the shelves, opened them, and allowed us to view at the contents.  We quickly realized that the hostess was giving us the privilege of examining some of Dr. King’s personal sermon notes, speeches, and correspondence.  This information was being stored in the warehouse prior to being processed for the archives.

We observed notes that were mostly handwritten on hotel stationary, restaurant napkins, used mailing envelopes, and on the backside of “incoming” personal letters.  While many respected orators labor intensively over manuscripts, revising multiple drafts in order to arrive at just the right script, it was obvious that Dr. King had a rhetorical gift for rendering a speech extemporaneously from a few scribbled thoughts.

After a half an hour or so, our time was up and we rejoined the others in our group.  Only years later have I come to realize the distinct privilege given to me that day in Atlanta.  Since that time, I have read most of Dr. King’s published writings as well as many commentaries and editorials about Dr. King’s life.

Dr. King should be remembered as a passionate Baptist minister.  Following seminary, he served as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  Later, he succeeded his father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Dr. King should be remembered as an accomplished scholar.  After graduating from Morehouse College in 1948, he went on to study theology at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.  He completed a doctorate in systematic theology at Boston University in 1955.

Dr. King should be remembered as a courageous civil rights advocate.  His dream was equality for all people and he employed and encouraged non-violent protests to dramatically make his point. 

In March of 1964, Dr. King was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year.”  In December of 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On January 20, our nation will inaugurate a new President, one whose voice was heard, and whose election made possible, in part, due to the work of Dr. King.  The voice and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped shape a movement that is still transforming our nation.

(Dr. Barry Howard serves as senior minister of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida.)

“You Need the Prayer…I Need the Practice”

When I was in college and frequently hanging around the Baptist Campus Ministry, when someone would remark, “I’m praying for you.”  Occasionally there was a wisecracker in the group who would say, “Good. I need the prayer and you need the practice.” 

If you are like me, I am strengthened by the prayers of my friends and fellow believers.  And when it comes to prayer, I really do need the practice…the regular practice of praying that stretches and enriches my walk with the Lord.

This Sunday as we continue Celebrating the Spiritual Disciplines, we are focused on the discipline of prayer.  During worship, our featured text is Luke 11:1-4 and I will be describing prayer as “Talking Honest to God.”

Since many are in need of our prayers (and most of us really do need to practice), as we prepare to focus on prayer, I am asking you to join me in praying about the following concerns and opportunities that affect our church and our nation:

  • Pray for Disciple Now Weekend where over 100 of our students will be challenged to radically follow Jesus.
  • Pray for our Combined Worship Gathering this Sunday that momentum and inspiration of being together with our students might propel all ages into dynamic weeks of outreach and discipleship.
  • Pray for the upcoming inauguration, our incoming President, his administration, and our Congress, that they will lead with wisdom, discernment, and integrity.
  • Pray for the families and businesses who are adversely affected by the current recession.
  • Pray for the many members of our congregation who are discovering and reaffirming their spiritual gifts and connecting with ministry teams.
  • Pray for those in our 32501 Target Zone who need to be connected to God and church.
  • Pray for me and our ministers as we equip and lead and challenge our diverse congregation to embrace our diverse gifts and seize our unique opportunities.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study.

Celebrating the Disciplines

During this first quarter of 2009, we focus on Celebrating the Spiritual Disciplines in our Bible study groups and our worship gatherings.  Last Sunday we kicked off the series by defining spiritual disciplines as those practices that help us stay in tune with God and God’s purposes for your life. 

As we grow in our faith, we are encouraged to live in a way that honors God every day in every way.  Colossians 3:17 (NIV) challenges us to translate our faith into action so that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”                   

Next Sunday we will zero in on the spiritual discipline of meditation.  Here is a list of the spiritual disciplines we will consider during the series:

Meditation                  Simplicity                   Confession

Prayer                         Stewardship              Worship

Fasting                       Submission                Guidance

Study                          Service                       Celebration

 

No matter whether you are a veteran Christian or a new believer, you can grow deeper in your faith and stronger in your capacity to serve by learning and practicing the spiritual disciplines.

In 2009, we are calling on each other to discover our spiritual gifts and to get involved with at least one ministry team.  We are learning that the spiritual disciplines help us to sharpen our spiritual gifts so that we can serve more effectively.

Here are some ways you may discover your spiritual gifts:

  • Take one of the spiritual gift inventories (available online or on hard copy).
  • Enlist a small group of trusted friends or an accountability partner to affirm or identify the gifts they see in you.
  • Evaluate your spiritual passion.  (What area of service brings you joy?  Or for what area are you specifically burdened?)

Then connect with one or more ministry teams that correlate to your spiritual gift and passion.  Our church has several congregational ministry teams and deacon-led ministry teams that provide specific opportunities for you to serve.

On Sunday evenings in January during our Winter Bible Study, we are considering lifestyle disciplines, other practices that help us to honor God in the 21st century.  We meet at five o’clock in Pleitz Chapel.  Bring a Bible, a notebook, and arrive early to get a seat.

During our Midweek Worship Gatherings on Wednesdays in January, I am covering the lifestyle disciplines from Richard Foster’s book, Money, Sex, and Power.  It’s a great opportunity to bring a friend and introduce them to our First Baptist family and our relevant life application conversations.

I look forward to seeing you this week in worship and Bible study.