A version of this article from our Pastor originally appeared on January 15, 2020 in The Beacon, our weekly newsletter. If you would like to see what is going on around the church this week, you can view the latest copy of The Beacon here. Or, if you would like to receive The Beacon in your email inbox each week, you can contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My last year of trying to play Texas football, I was an undersized middle schooler. Unsurprisingly, tackling drills usually ended up with me planted firmly on the ground. As I lay there dazed, my coach would yell some variation of "Try harder!". I remember thinking I was trying really hard but that extra 8 inches of height and 50 pounds was a lot to overcome.
This week on Sunday we are looking at the Beatitudes to start a series on The Sermon on the Mount. This teaching of Jesus found in Matthew is revolutionary and beautiful.
It is also very challenging.
The Sermon on the Mount sets a high bar, and if you are like me, reading it might bring up that voice in your head that shouts, "TRY HARDER!" We can feel like we just don't measure up.
But I see this passage more as an invitation. Of course we should be challenged by the text, but we are not alone in following it. Jesus paints a picture of a way of living that comes through his help with the Holy Spirit. We do not just need to try harder, but instead with prayer ask for help.
Following this text is something that is learned over a lifetime, and we have God's help to do it. So, I hope you join me in learning from Jesus as we read the Sermon on the Mount in the coming weeks.
One of the functions of Sunday morning worship is to remind ourselves who we belong to and who we serve. We are followers of Christ and his is not always an easy road to travel. We can leave church on Sunday to be more faithful, to be more loving and then watch that resolve be challenged as we enter back into the tug of war of life. That’s why it can be so helpful to gather again on Wednesday, to once again fill up our tanks by engaging with fellow travelers in Bible study. Yes, it’s something on the church calendar, but it’s there for a purpose. Not just because that’s what Baptists do.
At Broadus, we call it Wednesday Evening Fellowship, and it has multiple components. We kick it off with dinner at 5:30 PM. For a number of years, this was a catered meal, but then a dedicated group, the “kitchen crew”, decided to take the responsibility for meal preparation on themselves. Each week through the school year, they prepare a delicious meal to nourish us and allow us to gather around tables in our worship space to enjoy a meal together. This gives us a time to catch up on the week with members of our church family, to get to know them in ways that takes more than sitting together in worship. The Kingdom Kids and middle school group also join in the meal giving everyone a chance to engage with each other, regardless of age.
Around 6:15 PM, dinner concludes and “the kitchen crew” goes into clean-up mode. The Kingdom Kids and middle-schoolers go off to their separate groups, and for the adults, there is a time of prayer and Bible study together. Prayer concerns are shared and updates are given on those for whom we have been praying. This time is followed by adult Bible study, which is not simply another sermon delivered by the pastor mid-week. It’s guided study of a particular book of the Bible or topic that makes space for questions and exchange of thoughts and dialogue. The goal is to dig deep and be able to affirm not only what we believe, but why we believe. Right now, the study is centered on the book of James.
In Acts 2 we read about the early Christ followers, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The church grew because people observed that these Christians genuinely cared about each other and that their “religion” was more than rituals; it was a way of life. Wednesday Evening Fellowship is a mid-week opportunity to ground ourselves in our faith. It’s not a club, open to a select few or even just open to church members. All are welcome!
When I first began working with senior adults 20+ years ago, I did a lot of reading because thus far most my work in churches had been with children and youth. Somewhere I read or heard a description of the senior adult population as being composed of “go-gos,” “slow-gos,” and “no-gos.” That description caught my attention because it made sense.
Over the years, I’ve known 95 year old “go-gos” and 75 year old “slow gos.” Participation in senior adult programs is generally a factor of health rather than age. It was easy to plan trips for the “go-gos” that would accommodate the “slow-gos” and to visit the “no-gos,” but it was also important to me to create space where everyone could be together. That’s where the senior adult lunch has its origins.
For many years, it was a monthly program.Then for a few years the number of attendees had dwindled so we took a hiatus. Now new life has been breathed into the lunch, and we’re gathering multiple times a year. The purpose now is the same that it has always been: getting to know each other better and becoming a group that can provide support and encouragement to each other as we all move through the aging process.
Because you can only eat so long, lunch is followed by a program. Sometimes it’s informative, like our August program on grief provided by Hospice of the Piedmont, and sometimes we play games designed to challenge and entertain. We finish up within 1 ½ hours so that our Senior Singers can go to rehearsal at 1:30 PM.
Our next Senior Adult Lunch, which is always open to anyone who can attend, not just senior adults, will be Tuesday, November 19. Liz Andrasi Deere will be sharing with us about her participation in a pilgrimage along an ancient pilgrim route, the Via Francigena, this past summer.
Join us in the sanctuary at 12:00 PM. The cost for lunch is $3.00. You can sign up in the narthex or call the church office to let us know you’re coming, but don’t let not having made a reservation keep you from coming. We always plan on food for extras!
According to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact gathering organization, in 2017 27% of Americans described themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” That was up from 19% when they asked that same question in 2012. Their research showed that this increase was true in every age category and every level of education and was evenly split between men and women. Churches across the country are grappling with what that means for them and their future.
At Broadus it’s been no different. We look at decreased attendance and giving and wonder about where we’re going. Members voice, sometimes in Church Council or deacon’s meetings, but more often in whispered conversations, “where will Broadus be in 10 years?” Given what we see going on around us, that’s a legitimate question. And for those of us who love this particular faith community, it’s a scary question.
We decided that it was important as a congregation to try to understand what it means when individuals defines themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” What are they saying about themselves, but more importantly what are they saying about the church as a whole? What do we need to hear and how do we as Broadus need to respond? Where is God’s voice in this conversation and what do we hear Him saying? To help guide our conversations, we suggested that our three adult classes study Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass. Books were purchased for anyone who wanted to read along, and each week discussion guides were prepared to help readers process and apply what Bass wrote. Group discussions followed each of the three sections allowing participants to hear what individuals in the other classes were saying. We had a plan that we believed to be Spirit directed, but we knew that there was no way to determine the outcome.
On August 25th we finished up our study with a group discussion. For some participants, it was frustrating that Bass did not provide more concrete answers about how to address the place of the church and Christianity in 2019 America. But that was never her purpose. Her purpose was to get us to ask questions of ourselves as she described trends that she observed and set them in the context of church history.
Our last group discussion centered on what we should focus on next. To try to answer the question, “What were the topics discussed, or questions raised, that you would like to further explore?” There were plenty of answers that we’ll have to sort through in the coming weeks. There is an interest in learning more about spiritual practices, things like fixed hour prayer, hospitality, meditation, community…practices that have long been associated with spirituality. There is an interest in considering how Broadus currently defines church membership and exploring changes to that as we seek to live out the truth of the gospel: ”For God so loved the world…” There is an interest in gaining a greater understanding of other world religions and our relationship to them.
Clearly Bass accomplished her purpose. We read, discussed, agreed, disagreed, and allowed the process to help us focus on Broadus and ask God “what’s next?” It will take time, but we will get to each of these topics because God’s Spirit is so clearly moving in our midst. The challenge, as it always is, will be to listen and discern and follow. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Broadus faith community!
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to email@example.com or call (434) 977-7381.
Please visit our new YouTube channel to find all of the latest videos of sermons, Bible studies, and ways to stay connected while we are not gathering in-person.