Following the Good Shepherd
Last summer, the Lord spoke emphatically that unity was to be the central theme of all that we do as a church. When we began our “20/20 Vision” sermon series, I preached a sermon on March 4, 2018, entitled “A Vision for Unity.” In that message, I likened vision to a road map and said that a clear vision has a twofold purpose. First, it explains to us the destination where we are going. Secondly, it shows us how we are going to get there.
On March 4, I read several Scripture passages in the sermon. One of those was 1 Peter 5:1-4. In these verses, Peter exhorts the elders of the local church to shepherd the flock of God. This Greek word translated elders in the New Testament can mean older men, Jewish rulers, or specifically here, those who preside over a local church congregation. In these verses Peter, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is giving instruction directly to me as your pastor. His exhortation to me is this: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3, ESV).
The Bible commands me to shepherd you, to exercise oversight, as a shepherd does for his flock of sheep. I am not unaccountable, though, because 1 Peter 5:4 speaks of the Chief Shepherd. This is Jesus, and I must follow Him as the ultimate head of the church. In order for me to lead you, I have to know you. Jesus as the Good Shepherd knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him (John 10:14). In these almost three years, I have come to know your heart and mind as a church, and you have come to know my heart and mind. I love you, dear flock of First Baptist Church, and you have consistently expressed your love and support of me.
The purpose of this article is to give you some clear direction on where we are going with our worship schedule. May 20 is the Sunday that we are combining our worship services from three down to two. In previous communications, we have talked about needing to get our sound system renovated in the sanctuary before making this move, but through conversations with multiple sound companies, we have found temporary solutions that will allow us to make the schedule transition on May 20.
The timing of this is ideal because May 20 is graduate recognition, May 27 is a holiday weekend Sunday (when we typically have combined services), and on June 3 we will have a special guest in our worship services. Rajeev Mahan, an indigenous Indian missionary that we support financially, will be in both services to speak to us. Having two worship services, especially on May 20 and June 3, allows our entire congregation to be able to celebrate our graduates and hear from Rajeev.
The timing is also ideal because for most churches, the summer is vacation season with attendance being slightly lower than the months that school is in session. The plan for both of our services starting on May 20 is to encourage everyone to sit on the main level of the sanctuary. We will have an overflow seating area in the center balcony, but there will be no sound coverage for the side balconies temporarily. The absolute best worship experience will be on the main floor, as the different professional audio companies are going to let us demo the speakers that they are proposing in their audio quotes for the full sanctuary renovation. It is very rare for sound companies to allow a prospective buyer the opportunity to test drive audio speakers in a real-life environment. Doing this will help us make the best decision about the sound renovation proposals. Of course, any proposal contract must be approved by the deacons and voted on by the congregation.
Click here to find a helpful document that was shared as a bulletin insert in March to help answer your questions about the worship services in the new schedule. The document has been revised, so please read through it carefully. We want to make everything as clear as possible to help you know and understand the path forward for congregational worship at First Baptist Church.
Also, here is a document I have composed about unity in general as a church, and unity in our worship services. Where the one revised document will help answer frequently asked questions about the worship schedule change, the other document will reemphasize what I preached on March 4. My prayer and hope are that both documents will be beneficial resources for you as we move forward together in this worship schedule change.
Thank you for your incredible patience and mercy toward all of your leaders as we have labored over this entire worship service schedule change for many months. All of us as a church family have grown together in unity as we have been bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). My prayer for us in this transition is Colossians 3:15 which says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (ESV)