24 Oct

A Prayer for the Body of Christ

A Prayer for the Body of Christ

Jesus, as we see your broken body, we are moved by the sacrifice you have made, to bring reconciliation into our world, through your forgiving love and resurrection power. We praise and thank you for calling us into your Kingdom, and opening the way for us to live this calling in community.

As you touch us in our pain, we are enabled to be open to each other and to find healing, so that, wounded as we are, your mercy may flow through us to the oppressed and broken of this world. You have called us to follow and be your disciples. Convert us from self-centeredness to a life centered in you; From individualism to be yoked in covenant with fellow believers; From suspicion and strife to welcome the stranger as neighbor and to love enemies as sisters and brothers; From claiming ownership and grasping for more, release us so we might live simply and share freely to meet others’ needs; From pursuing worldly power and success, turn us to seek community with the weak and marginalized. For you have “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom.”

To help us follow in your way of love and to bear one another’s burdens, we embrace life in Christian community as God’s calling for us; we commit ourselves to the members and children of First Baptist Church, to live out this calling together unless God would call us elsewhere; we accept the disciplines of daily worship, shared finances, common decision-making, and mutual accountability; according to the grace God gives us under the leading of the Holy Spirit. May this love and witness call others to your Kingdom, Jesus, for you have said, “By this all shall know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” To you, Jesus, and in your power, we offer these commitments. Amen.

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

25 Sep

Wednesdays at FBC

The fall schedule is underway for FBC Wednesday nights! While the overall schedule for our midweek activities remains the same as the previous year, we have tweaked the programming based on your feedback and hope to see some new faces in the coming weeks.

Perhaps the best part of our Wednesday evenings begins at 5:30 – the Family Night Supper. Our faithful kitchen crew is back and ready to serve you a delicious meal as you fellowship with other FBC members and guests. Let me be clear – this meal is not simply for kids and parents. This meal is open and available to anyone seeking a meal and good fellowship. Even if you cannot stay for the 6:00 program, come and eat!

At 6:00, the kids head upstairs to “Music, Missions and More.” Each Wednesday evening will bring a different activity and focus. Between Bible study, crafts, music and missions, the kids will always be in store for a great evening!

Also at 6:00, I will lead a casual, interactive adult Bible study in the sanctuary. I will commit to making these studies limited (i.e. 4-6 weeks) & intriguing. This should give you the opportunity to invite friends and family to an accessible church activity. We’ll begin on September 20 with “Forgotten Books of the Bible” – a study that will take us into the least-read books of our canon of scripture.

Let me end my thanking our Wednesday night volunteers who prepare/serve meals and help with our children’s activities. We are blessed by your selfless commitment to this church, and we’ll do our best to support your efforts as you seek to minister to this church family and to our neighbors in Black Mountain!

14 Sep

Addendum to the State of the Church

I enjoyed presenting “The State of the Church” this past Sunday. In a nutshell, I challenged FBC to accept and pursue membership expectations regarding regular worship participation, connecting through small groups, directly serving through missional initiatives and giving of our time, finances, skills and other resources for the work of the church. To listen to the entire address, please visit: fbcblackmountain.org/sermons.

I hope you understand that much of my address centered on the “functional” ways we should participate at FBC. That being said, there are three underlying principles I hope you’ll be attentive to as we journey together:

  • Discipleship – Becoming more like Jesus is central to our worshipping, communal and missional efforts. Discipleship is not a program; it is a continual process of growth for us as individuals and as the Body of Christ.
  • Evangelism – You may have been disappointed or confused not to hear “evangelism” as a functional expectation of the church. Truthfully, evangelism pervades all that we do. When we worship – we proclaim the Gospel. When we connect with each other and with our community – we talk about Jesus. When we serve the least of these among us, we share the Good News through word and deed. Evangelism never ceases in the life of a healthy, Christ-centered church.
  • Unity – Not to be confused with uniformity (sameness), unity is the desire to find common ground and shared vision despite our unique personalities. We give explicit testimony to this each time we gather at the Table; we must also live it out in our worship gatherings, leadership meetings, theological discussions and any other point where differences can arise.

Are you prepared to raise the bar as we look towards our future together?

31 Aug

The Parable of the Talents – A Different Angle

I love the Parables of Jesus. Each time I preach or teach these unique stories, I learn something new, and in some cases, a different interpretation altogether. The Parable of the Talents, which I preached this past Sunday, is an example of the latter.

A quick recap: the Parable of the Talents is about a master who left his servants in charge of his wealth. 2 servants invested this wealth and in turn accumulated additional wealth by the time the master returns. One servant, however, simply buried the wealth entrusted to him, which angered the master. This servant was cast out into the streets.

The most popular interpretation of this Parable is this: God bestows upon us blessings (i.e. finances, talents, skills, resources) to be invested in the growth of his kingdom – and it pleases God to invest these talents in Kingdom growth rather than burying them away.

At the same time, a different interpretation has withstood the test of time and treats the Parable as a subversive warning against individual and corporate/societal greed. In this alternate interpretation, the Master plays the “antagonist” – he is largely absent from the day-to-day struggles of the world and simply wishes to accumulate wealth for himself at whatever cost. He is also called “harsh” or “ruthless.” He praises the servants who invested his money in the oppressive, cutthroat economy of the Roman Empire and casts out the servant who refused to take part. Additionally, the servant now finds himself on the outskirts of society, where Jesus often finds himself caring for the least of these among us. Some might argue that Jesus is warning us not to take part in the money-grabbing schemes of the world.

I think both interpretations are worthwhile to consider – that is what makes the Parables so fascinating. At the end of the day, never assume that the Spirit is finished teaching us the truths found in the Parables and in the entirety of the Gospel!

14 Aug

On Charlottesville, Banquets and Baptisms

The following is an excerpt from Rev. Jeremy Shoulta’s  August 13th sermon entitled, “Parable of the Wedding Banquet,” based on Luke 14:7-14.

It’s difficult on this Sunday to speak in generalities (which, for better or for worse, I often do from this pulpit) in light of the horrific events our country has witnessed this weekend.

If you are still unaware of these events, let me take a moment to fill you in on the details. Beginning Friday evening, a weekend rally called “Unite the Right” was convened in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was a gathering of Alt-right, Neo Nazi, Far Right, White Nationalist groups protesting the removal of confederate monuments and memorials.

The protestors were not in robes and hoods. Quite frankly, the protesters looked like me.

The protesters carried torches and marched through the town chanting, “You will not replace us,” “White lives matter,” “Jews will not replace us” and “the Jewish Media is going down.” Far more offensive things were said, which I will not repeat here.

On Saturday morning, protesters and counterprotesters faced off, kicking, punching, hurling water bottles at and deploying chemical sprays against one another. An estimated 500 protesters were on-site, with more than double the amount of counterprotesters. On Saturday afternoon, a rally participant drove a car into group of counter protestors, killing 1 and leaving 19 others injured. Additionally, at this time, a helicopter crash leaving 2 police officers dead is being investigated; this tragedy is believed to have been connected to the protest.

Let me be clear: there are no other sides to what I just described. This is not news with a bias. This is not fake news. These are the facts.

On this tragic weekend racists held a demonstration to support the notion that a certain “pecking order” is real; that people of a certain skin color are inherently more valuable than others.

They clearly did not read or understand this parable of the wedding banquet. They clearly do not understand the Gospel of Jesus. They do not serve the Christ that we worship and proclaim in this place.

And how could they? This worldview is simply incompatible with the essence of a loving God made known, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Because in the kingdom of God, we do not position ourselves above others physically, ethnically, racially, philosophically, metaphorically or theologically. We are all seated, as equals, around the great banquet table that honors the King of kings – and not the principalities and powers of this world.

At the great banquet that is the Kingdom of God, we are welcome to celebrate our diversity and sit beside others who are different from us – some who might look different from us, some who might talk different from us, some whose health is different from us and some whose wealth is different from us.

At this great banquet, every tribe, tongue and nation is represented, without hierarchy, in the presence of God.

In summary – the white supremacist rally, and the issues surrounding it, are serious – and the Church must, without hesitation, condemn this racism that in no way resembles or draws from the Christian faith.

 

Next week, we will celebrate two baptisms at First Baptist Church – the baptism of Alanna Watkins & Jammie Watkins. In that act of Baptism, Alanna & Jammie will publicly profess their faith in Christ. They will profess they have died to their self and have been raised to new life with Christ.

At the same time, First Baptist Church will covenant to walk alongside them as fellow disciples. In doing so, we will affirm our common purpose and identity at this banquet we call church – and in a greater sense, the Christian life.

This Baptism has taken on a new meaning for me and this church. We just witnessed a large group of individuals, perhaps only a sliver of a pervasive sickness across our nation, who would say that Jamie, Allana and others are not welcome at their table. They believe there is a certain pecking order in this world, proclaiming that unless you are a certain color, you are “less than,” and “you don’t deserve to be here.”

Jamie, Alanna, and anyone else in this place who has been at the receiving end of this disgusting message or had to relive the pain of this message by seeing clips of these rallies and the violence that ensued, let me offer these words directly to you:

I can’t imagine how you are feeling or what is going through your heart when you witness this. I can’t imagine the pain, the heartache, and the fear you sense. And so today, as your pastor and on behalf of this congregation, all I can offer is this assurance: you are loved and valued in this congregation – and as we prepare for this special day of Baptism next Sunday, I pray that you feel completely welcome at this banquet that we call the Body of Christ at First Baptist Church.

It is my prayer that you have, and would only continue to feel the loving presence of the Spirit of God as we continue to dine together – often figuratively, but sometimes literally – at this banquet that Jesus Christ welcomes all of us to. That includes the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. The invitation also includes people of every race, tribe and tongue – such as we see in this room today. Thanks be to God for the grace and the opportunity to continue worshipping together, eating together, praying together and serving together.

17 Jul

Welcome to the blog!

Thanks for your patience as we continue to update our site. As we move toward completion, we look forward to sharing stories from our faith community as well as event details and need-to-know information. In the meantime, we hope you will join us at FBC Black Mountain! Click here for visitor info.