“When the Lord Speaks” by Coletta A. Crews

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10).

I wish it was always that clear. Even the prophet Elijah had trouble hearing: “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind [tore] the mountains and [brake] in pieces the rocks . . . but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still small voice.” And Elijah heard the Lord’s whisper.

Previously, I hinted at a time that I nearly failed the Lord. Today, I want to share that experience, in the hope that it may help you on your walk.

Setting: I was still a young Christian. I had brought a friend from college home with me to visit. She was not normally a churchgoer, but on that morning, she elected to come to my church with me and my mother. It was a little country church, but it could have been anywhere.

As sometimes happens, the church’s congregation was beset with trouble: illnesses, financial crises, trouble within families, and so on. Our pastor invited us to stay after the service concluded, to gather at the altar rail, and to pray. My mother and I nodded to each other, indicating that we would stay. I let my guest know.

After the benediction, we went forward. I knelt at the altar rail, folded my hands, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and settled in to pray. It was not the first time that I had answered an altar call. But this time was different.

Almost immediately, words filled my consciousness. Even as I heard others pray audibly, I returned the words I had received as a prayer to the Lord.

Then, it came to me that He wanted me to pray the words aloud. I remembered a time, long past, at the tiny church of my childhood, when my mother was asked by that pastor to close the service in prayer. The unexpected request caused her to briefly pray that the cracks in the plank floor would open and swallow her. I had much the same reaction.

I argued with God. Oh, unbelievers, or others who have not experienced arguing with God, will say that I was debating within myself. Not so! I argued with God! It went like this: “But, I have already prayed those words. You heard them. You know me; I don’t pray aloud.” And other words I have since forgotten.

Eventually, however, when others were silent, I surrendered, and prayed the words aloud. Immediately, my mind was at peace. I have not argued with Him since, at least not for so long. It is better to simply do as He asks.

I later received greater encouragement. On our five-hour drive back to school, the conversation eventually turned to our church service. And my friend shared, “When you prayed, that was the most moving thing I have ever heard in a church.”

Not my words — His. Not my will — His. A rare opportunity — and I almost missed it.

Not my words — His. Not my will — His. A rare opportunity — and I almost missed it.



This article appears in the June – July 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“Worshipping from Home” by Dawn White

My name is Dawn White. I grew up at First Baptist Church and have so many fond memories of the church. My father, John Resor, was a fifty plus year member of the church. In fact the last time I was at the church was for his memorial service in 2006.

My father and mother, Annette, ran The Back Door when I was a teenager. The Back Door was a social space created for teenagers to gather in the basement of First Baptist in the early 1960s with live music and concessions. I worked at the concession stand on those nights. My father auditioned the bands and set their schedules to play and my mother greeted each teen at the back door of the church when they entered the building.


I was baptized in the church, married in the church, and our daughter was dedicated in the church. I taught a young girls Sunday School class for a couple of years, served as a Deaconess and after I married Dennis I taught a young adult Sunday School class that was called The Be Seeing You Class. I also taught Vacation Bible School for a few years. We had so many friends in the church and admired our Pastors who became a huge part of our lives. All those memories are so very precious to me.

My husband, Dennis, and I were members there until we moved to Battle Creek in 1979 due to a job change for Dennis. Our daughter Darycka was 1 year old at that time.
God has had us on a journey both spiritually and actually moving us around the Midwest since we left Jackson. Dennis was called to go to seminary, which he did. We moved to Dubuque, Iowa where he attended the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and received his Masters of Divinity in 1990.

Since that time we always did joint ministry together. We served as Youth Pastors for 5 years in Port Huron, Michigan, and after a year of time to reflect and pray we started a non-denominational church called Our Father’s House in Marysville, MI, which we served for 23 years.

God blessed us with so many other ways to do ministry also. We did marriage workshops in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada. Dennis had a lovely gift for music and played the piano and the keyboard. Dennis played and we sang together. We were chaplains for the Billy Graham Ministries and was sent to New Orleans to work for a period of time following Hurricane Katrina.

In 2014, I started noticing that Dennis was having some memory issues. After testing, he was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. That caused us to close our business and move two years later to Holly to be closer to our daughter and her family. Dennis’ health has continued to deteriorate. He is still at home where I take care of him and he has a caregiver three times a week.

About three years ago I was struggling very hard with the feeling like I was not doing any ministry work and crying out to God about why and what he wanted me to do. One day as I cried out I heard God whisper to me, “You are doing my work taking care of my man Dennis and people are watching you.” I am doing my best to care for Dennis since then with a renewed love for the special man he is. May 17 was our 47th wedding anniversary. He still knows me and tells me daily that he loves me, which blesses my heart.

A few months ago I discovered that you have your worship services live on YouTube. I have so enjoyed watching, listening, and singing with you all. My heart just rejoices to be able to worship from home and I feel at home with you all while I do that. God just blesses my heart each Sunday morning at 10:00am. Thank you so much. I was looking for something, and it filled that connection. What a blessing!

“A few months ago I discovered that you have your worship services live on YouTube. I have so enjoyed watching, listening, and singing with you all. My heart just rejoices to be able to worship from home and I feel at home with you all while I do that. God just blesses my heart each Sunday morning at 10:00am.”

I have had a longing for over a month now to come back to visit First Baptist and go to the room where I gave my life to Christ as my Savior so many years ago. It is in the old part of the church upstairs. I was about 11 years old. It was about 1961, while the church was raising money to build the education building addition to the church. This longing to return to the church and that room has become so strong. I find myself weeping when I think about it and as I type now I can hardly see what I am saying as my eyes have filled with tears. I look forward to visiting Jackson and coming to church in person for a Sunday in July, to worship with you personally and to sit in the room where I gave my life to Christ.

May God’s blessings be on this church and its ministries.




This article appears in the June-July 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

It All Pays Off in the End: An Interview with Mike Hughey

Mike Hughey sat down with Pastor Dallas to share about his experience of going back to school and what he’s learned from the experience. Pastor Dallas’ questions appear in bold.


You recently graduated from Siena Heights University. What was your degree in?
I got a bachelor’s in business administration, which is not directed at marketing or directed at strategic planning or something like that. Business administration just has everything in it. And it’s basically what I do every day.

My goal is to get up one more step, at least off the floor. A little higher view of what’s going on. And that’s what I’m comfortable with. So that’s my goal here.


When did you start considering going back to school?
Nolan, my oldest son, was in junior high or maybe a freshman in high school. I always wanted to get my degree. I’d been thinking about going back for a long time. It’s one of those things in the back of your mind. You just kind of say, “Yeah, maybe someday.”

I always tell my kids they have to get a degree. I felt like me saying that and doing it is two different things. I felt it was important that I got one before they did. I told my wife about and she’s like, yea let’s do it.


Was there a book that you were assigned for a class that was memorable?
I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird and I had to read it for class and watch the movie. I liked it. That was nice.

To Kill a Mockingbird was based in 1931, but I think it came out in 1960 and the movie came out a couple years later. There was a lot going on in the country in the 1960s. I did the research. There were like 108 riots during that one period in 1968 across all these different cities.

And it’s just that whole period starts with that kind of stuff and people probably wouldn’t have recognized it as well without that kind of movie. Even to this day, I mean that book is from 1960 and it still gets you thinking about how things have changed. And how they’re still kind of the same.


Who are some of the people that were supportive that helped make that journey possible?
My wife was number one. She took on a lot of extra responsibilities as far as making sure the kids got everything. I mean, I still did a lot too, but she, when I said I had homework to do, it didn’t matter. She did whatever it took. So without her it wouldn’t have taken place.

All my in-laws, the family, my sister were all supportive, as far as just kind words and that sort of thing. Even my kids helped me out.

My sons were helping me with papers sometimes. Nolan knows math like a mad man. He helped me with papers. That kind of thing is fun to do. You never get that time back. You know, doing that kind of thing with him.

But the number one person was my wife, it boils down to that. She just, I don’t know how she does it all.


You’ve had a lot of goals lately with school, with helping at the Café, running cameras for worship, coaching sports, and starting running. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself or your faith in this time?
If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally. I mean, telling yourself no, no, no, all the time – that just doesn’t work. You just get tired of can you do it or not. Just go do it.

“If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally.”

My last paper was about how do you find the good in your life. How do you find the fulfilling life? And that’s helping people. If everybody just took time out of their day just to make somebody else’s day better, we’d have a lot less problems. It’s that simple to me.

And I learned that a lot from my wife but if you can just help people by serving them once a week. That’s simple. At work, making sure somebody’s got what they need. Helping kids through coaching or helping their folks with something. You just take the time, not to get something out of it other than just joy. And that’s the biggest thing. If you can do that once or twice a day, then everything else will fall into place.

It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned a lot through the pandemic and through this process and coaching and serving here. You help one guy out and he may remember that for the rest of his life. He might help the next person out, the next person out, the next person out, it can’t stop.

“It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned”


On a day where you wake up and you didn’t feel like writing that paper, or didn’t feel like going out on a run or getting up to come help or something, what helps you to just keep moving?
This sounds kind of selfish, but I just think to myself, who else is going to come help if I don’t go? I mean, there’s a lot of other people out there helping, but I ask myself if I don’t go do this, who’s going to? And I know other people will. That’s just that’s how my mind works.

With the service, sometimes I might kick and scream, and my wife will say we’re going to do this. But I know when I get there, I’m going to enjoy myself. I know I’m going to feel so much better because the feeling that it gives me. I don’t know if that’s faith or spirit.

I don’t know what that is. I just know that I like it and I don’t like I don’t like putting a label on things necessarily because once I start doing that, people have their own opinions about it. I just know how it makes me feel. I know how coming to church makes me feel, and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t keep going back. Whatever you call that in your own beliefs go ahead and call it that. But that’s how I feel. I really feel strongly about it.

You got to have something. I guess faith is what it is. You got to have faith in something.

When you say you’re religious to people, the first thing that clicks in their mind is some TV evangelist. I want people just to know that I come to church because the feeling that it gives me and the avenues that it gives me to help different people. If I didn’t come here I couldn’t even attempt to help half the people that I think I do.

I think people hear that I’m going to church and they get nervous, they shut down. It’s fine, but I think that feeling that gives me, I can’t explain it. It just makes me happy. I don’t know why it just does. I’m glad it does. It’s not a bad thing.

I think making people happy, if we all could just focus more on that, the world would be a much better place.


It seemed like two things were really important towards getting your degree, you had a goal and you had an urgency to do it. You wanted to finish it before your kids. It sounded like it was important to not just tell your kids this matters, but to show them that too. Have they said anything to you about this process?
Definitely. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s one of the other things. That’s why I had my laptop out nonstop for two years on my lap in the house or on vacation, always doing homework. Yeah. If I’m telling them it’s hard work, but it’s important. It’s kind of put up or shut up. It’s time for me to do it. I got to do it.

My middle son has said quite a bit. He was picking on me via text. He wanted to know why I didn’t get cum laude. And I missed it by that one last class. I said, “Well, I struggled with that last class. I just, I just didn’t get it.”

I probably could have gotten it, but I just didn’t get that last class. So let that be a lesson to you. Even though you think you got something it could be taken away right at the very end. So it wasn’t my goal to get that, I never even thought I’d ever even be eligible for it, but I blew it there with that last class.

My oldest son gave me a little speech the day I graduated about school and how he never thought he’d have to compete with me at grades. Because I was like a C student in high school. I never gave effort. And I’ve been pretty vocal about that to my boys, so I really push them. So it was funny to hear him say that. He said he’d never seen a person write a term paper so fast either. I wrote like a nine page term paper on To Kill a Mockingbird on a Saturday afternoon. I had to get it done. So he said it was fast. I had him proofread it and I got a pretty good grade on that. That was fun.


After celebrating graduation, do you have any upcoming goals or thought about what’s next?
I was thinking about a master’s degree, but I’m not 100% sure yet. I wouldn’t start that until next January anyways because I want to get basketball done. This is my last year coaching; my son’s in eighth grade so that’s it.

Sam and I are training for a 50 mile run in October. So I can focus on running again more than I had been that last semester. I kind of went around six miles, five nights a week, so I wasn’t so focused on running.


There’s a lot of people who have a lot of dreams and hopes and they think, “Oh, I wish I would be able to do this or that.” And then it just doesn’t happen. Do you have any words for the dreamers out there about what they can do?
It’s worth it. I mean, it’s worth getting it done. I put off school for a long time, since 1997. Something I always wanted to do again. I always told my mom I would do it.

It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.

“It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.”

Just go and do it. Even if you struggle. Just don’t stop. Stopping is the killer, obviously.

Even running. Even if you don’t feel like it. It’s raining. You don’t feel very fast. Just go for a run.

It’s the same way with school. I don’t feel like writing that paper or doing that homework or having that online discussion for the hundredth time.

Get down there and just start. Some of my best days writing papers and typing were the ones that I just really didn’t have it in me. But it was just somebody said something that sparked me to think of something in a new way that really helped me out. I know it sounds corny, but just go do it. It really it really is just that easy. You got to go do it.

For me, you’ve got to stop making excuses. Just do it.

It helps to have positive people in your life. If people around you are telling you, “no, no, no, you probably shouldn’t do it.” Maybe you should look for more positive in your life, because you can do it.

Positivity is the key. My wife encouraged me the whole time. And she didn’t wear kid gloves all the time. When I was like “oh this stinks.” She’s like, “get back in there and do it.” Without positive people in my life it would have been a lot tougher.

If my wife had questioned my desire to go back to school at all, I probably would’ve said no to it.

And not because she wouldn’t think I could do it but I just I knew without her support I couldn’t get it done. Her being that supportive; it made it so much easier.

And now I’ve got a bachelor’s degree.


This article appears in the June – July 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“I Am Peter” by Coletta A. Crews

I was born to a believer. I believe that she introduced me to her Savior on the day I was born. She later testified that at age 4, I knelt at her knee and asked Jesus to be my Savior, too. I have followed Jesus all the days of my life, sometimes close, sometimes not so close. In many ways, my life has followed the path of Peter.

Peter was a fisherman, whose brother, Andrew, met Jesus while walking with John the Baptist. The Bible records that the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon (Peter) and tell him: “We have found the Messiah.” [John 1:41-42] Andrew brought Peter to Jesus and Peter soon left everything to follow the Lord. [Luke 5:11] But Peter’s path of faith was not smooth.

One night, the disciples saw Jesus walking toward their boat on the surface of the water and he called to Peter, “Come.” Peter stepped out of the boat and took a few steps, his eyes fixed on the Lord. But then the wind came up, and Peter was afraid, and he began to sink. Jesus caught Peter, asking, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:28-31]

The time came when Jesus asked “Who do you say I am?” and Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon.” [Matthew 16:13-19]

Jesus soon began to explain that he would die at Jerusalem, but Peter rebuked him. “Never…this shall never happen to you.” Jesus turned to Peter, and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” [Matthew 16:21-23]

Six days later, Jesus took Peter and two others with him to a high mountain, where Peter witnessed Jesus transfigured, his face shining like the sun and his clothing as white as the light. He appeared with Moses and Elijah, talking amongst themselves. Peter immediately began planning to build a shelter for each, but then a voice spoke from a cloud, “This is my Son…” Peter fell facedown, terrified. [Matthew 17:1-6]

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that they would all fall away. Peter argued. Jesus then told him that “this night, before the rooster crows, you will [deny] me three times.” [Matthew 26:31-35] Peter continued to argue his loyalty, but three times—the last just before the rooster crowed—he denied knowing his Lord.

How many times have I taken my eyes off Jesus and his plan for me? I know he is the Son of God, but I argue with him when he requests things of me. One time, I argued about praying aloud and almost missed a great opportunity. Another time, identified as “too good for the rest of us,” I denied the depth of his influence on my life.

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples. Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Three times, Peter declared, “you know that I love you.” And three times, Jesus called him to “Feed my sheep” and again called him to “Follow me.” Peter was restored. [John 21:15-19] When I have failed him, he has restored me.

Where are you on Peter’s walk? Are you still looking for the Christ? Are you a new Christian? Are you learning to trust God? Have you failed the Lord? Do you know you are in God’s will? I am Peter. Along the way, at any step, you are Peter, too.

This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“5 Months and Counting at Café Connection” by Logan Dodge

Café Connection has now been in operation for over 5 months! It has been a wild and exciting ride and we are excited to see where the spring and summer months take us. Over the winter we maintained our service to many people and now that the weather is turning warmer, we anticipate that we could see even more guests join us. Often, we get so caught up in the numbers and the statistics of how many meals we served and how many guests come on a specific night, but we also need to look beyond those metrics and look at all the individual lives that the Café has had an impact on.

At this point in our operation, we see a lot of the same families and individuals come on a weekly basis. To me this shows more of the Café’s success then any metric ever could, the fact that we have become a destination in our guests’ week. When guests walk in the door, they are usually greeted using their first name because we have gotten to know them so well. We have many stories of our guests requesting to have a specific server because they have enjoyed them so much in the past. We also have related stories of people asking where certain volunteers are if they are not working that week. We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple “hello and goodbye,” which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.

“We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple ‘hello and goodbye,’ which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.”

The guests are not the only people that this mission is for, the Café is having a major impact on our volunteers as well. It has been so amazing to watch who has come out to volunteer with us, we have a solid group of volunteers that are with us almost every week. They are the ones that got in on the ground floor of Café Connection and have made it run so smoothly. It has been a joy to see those folks continue to be excited about this mission and continue to improve the areas that they volunteer in.

We have also been able to meet and interact with volunteers that were not part of the church prior to the Café opening. New volunteers have brought friends and family with them to volunteer. Now, we are seeing an even bigger step, the friends and family of new volunteers have brought their own friends and family to serve with us. The Café has brought so many amazing people through our doors and into our lives. I personally have enjoyed meeting new volunteers and getting to know them on a personal level.

Something that many people would not know if they have never been to the Café is that this is a place were both guests and volunteers want to come back each week. This is not your average “church meal,” in fact most nights you may not even feel like you are at a church. We have found that because the Café operates like a restaurant and people are treated like they would be if they went to any restaurant, it makes everyone more comfortable. Our goal is not to force the church on our guests; we are here as a steppingstone for people to see what our church community is about. If at some point a guest or new volunteer feels ready to join us for service on Sunday, they will not walk in as strangers but as guests familiar with our church family.

As a church we can sometimes forget how intimidating it is for some to walk into a church like ours. Most of us have been going to this church our entire lives so we do not give it a second thought. For some people, especially those who might have had some bad church experiences in the past, just walking in the door of a church is a challenging thing to do. The Café was built to bridge that gap by bringing guests in with the simple offer of food and community. We want to show our guests that we serve everyone with dignity no matter who they are or what they look like.

If you have not been to Café Connection before or if you have not been in a while, I would strongly encourage you to come any Wednesday and see how we are serving our community. Or if you want to be part of the serving, contact myself or the church office and find out how you can be put on the volunteer schedule. This Café has become such a special place, not only for our guests but for our church family and friends as well. We could not be more proud of the relationships we have created, and we intend to continue that mission.



This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“Stop Waffling” by Dallas Flippin

On the plate in front of me was a generous helping of chicken and waffles. The sweet aroma of syrup and fried chicken filled the space. It was the kind of meal that you notice no one was talking for several minutes because everyone was devouring their food.

Sitting around me was a group of pastors and ministry creatives from Jackson and from across the country. We had gathered at the Fossores Chapter House, a creative ministry incubator, to dream and imagine how God might shape our ministries. But for a moment each of us was just thankful for the chicken and waffles. They were amazing. But they weren’t a random meal choice, it was intentional.

That day, March 25, is a special day to many Christians who celebrate it as anniversary of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary the conception of the Lord – she would bear a child that would change the world, and her world. It’s a day to reflect and celebrate the faithfulness of God through the incarnation, and the faithfulness of God’s servant to receive and accept this blessing and burden.

Christians call this day by different names, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Feast of the Incarnation, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Christ’s Conception, and more. But the name for the holiday that I’m most thankful for is thanks to a Swedish pun. The Swedes began celebrating Vårfrudagen (“Our Lady’s Day”) with waffles calling it Våffeldagen (Waffle Day). Our table enjoyed the sweet waffles and reflected on the annunciation.

It’s a lot of responsibility to raise any child. Add to that the responsibility to raise Jesus – no pressure! When Gabriel appeared to Mary and called her blessed, was blessed how she felt? Luke tells us Mary was confused by it all.

When the angel explained that she will be pregnant, Mary asks a very practical question: “umm, how? I’m a virgin.” Gabriel responds by describing the power of God and the Holy Spirit, saying “for nothing will be impossible with God.”
Mary had plenty of questions. She probably could barely only begin to imagine the judgments her friends and family might make about her. What would her reputation be? What opportunities would be forever shifted for her? How would her body be forever reshaped?

Despite all those concerns, Mary answers Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Even though March 25 might not have been an important day in our church upbringing, it’s a beautiful day to consider whether we could spiritually have the commitment that Mary portrayed that day.

Regardless of your gender, we’re all invited to birth Christ inside of us, to accept Christ’s transformative life and power to take root in us and reshape our body, our mind, and our spirit. Maybe there’s been a time in your life you’ve said yes to that process, but how many days do you return to God and reclaim that yes.

“Regardless of your gender, we’re all invited to birth Christ inside of us, to accept Christ’s transformative life and power to take root in us and reshape our body, our mind, and our spirit.”

Would you allow Christ to grow in you – no matter the cost to your reputation? Would you allow others to look down on you, to think less of you, to question you? Are the labor pains of Christ’s transformation worth enduring for the beauty of the life that will follow?

At the dinner table, filled with chicken and waffles, we were invited to write out one question to God. If you were like Mary, and an angel visited you and described God’s invitation to your life, what question would you ask? God, will it be worth it? Father, can I do this? Lord, am I able?

We flipped the card over and wrote one sentence of affirmation to God. How might you say yes to God today? Lord, I will follow you even if I lose a friendship. God, I will do your work despite the struggle.

This Easter, while we celebrate the faithfulness of Christ and the life that he offers, perhaps you can ask yourself whether you’re willing to bear the Christ inside you, transforming you from the inside out. What’s your response to God’s invitation for abundant life?

Maybe you’ve found yourself waffling between faithfulness and wandering from God. Today, God comes calling again. May we be like Mary – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”



This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“Unexpected Communion” by Brently Groshong

I grew up in a faith-based home. My father was a pastor, and the church was the center of our weekly lives. Our family never missed a church gathering, big or small. And like most churches, we took communion once. I never understood why we would celebrate the Eucharist only communion once a month when the Bible stated that we were to eat and drink whenever we gathered together. I also never thought to ask why.

When I was 17, I was part of the church worship band. I was the bass player, and I was the youngest on the team.

That year, Steve Archer—the pioneer of the genre of Jesus music, later to become known as contemporary Christian music—was coming to our small town to perform a concert in the high school gym. The concert’s producer asked if our worship band could open for Steve Archer. It didn’t take us long to say yes. It was our chance to play on the big stage next to rock stars. It also didn’t take long for our worship band to become a “real” band and start holding practices in my dad’s garage.

When the day of the concert finally arrived, there was electricity in the air. We arrived early to meet Steve Archer and his band. He wanted us to understand that we were putting on a show, but he also said we were about to engage in something heavenly, something holy. Then he said something quite unexpected.

“We should take communion. Someone go grab some elements.”

A few minutes later, one of Steve’s crew showed up with soda pop and pizza. And, all eyes were on Steve.

All that kept running through my mind was, “Can we use pizza and coke in place of bread and wine?”

Can we use pizza and coke in place of bread and wine?

Without hesitation, Steve offered these seemingly unholy elements in prayer, and then we drank and ate together.

Through that act of communion, we committed to God the Father, and we committed to each, vowing to bear each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It unified us in mission, and I felt just as much a part of the night as the hired professionals. And Steve was right, we did engage in something holy, and it is a night I will never forget.

This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“Learning to Feed” by Dallas Flippin

Every 10 years, you eat over 7,000 meals. Now I feel full. 7,000 meals is actually a conservative estimate assuming you eat about two meals a day. We eat so many meals that it’s natural you sometimes autopilot through a mealtime. Sometimes we autopilot through a fast-food meal or through a morning cereal. It just sort of happens. I’m fascinated by the times we pause for a meal. There are moments that stand out, like the first dinner cooked at home by newlyweds. Or the restaurant you ate at before a terrible bout with a stomach bug. Some meals are just memorable, especially the meals at the edges of our life.

Everyone consumes a final meal in their life, but not everyone knows which meal will be your last meal. There’s something ominous just about the phrase, your last meal. What would you choose for your last meal? It must be hard to decide.

If you were to visit the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill New York, you would encounter a strange art exhibit entitled Last Meal. Photographer Jackie Black’s exhibit is a series of photographs recreating the last meal requests of 23 individuals on death row in Texas between 1984 and 2001. Clydell Coleman asked for sausage, eggs, biscuits, and french fries. Jeffrey Allen Barney asked for a bowl of Frosted Flakes. Gerald Lee Mitchell asked for a bag of Jolly Ranchers. The exhibit includes a recreated photo of the last meal with accompanying information of the executed individual’s name, date of death, years of education, occupation, and last statement. Black believed that perhaps looking at a plate of food, someone’s last meal, might be a bridge to empathize with the experience.

Most of us won’t encounter that sort of last meal. Instead, those of us blessed with long life might instead encounter the last meal preparations of hospice, where we receive care and comfort as we complete our time on this earth. People say it’s a weird experience after a lifetime of doctors telling you to avoid sugars or reduce your salt intake to have medical professionals transition to encourage you to eat whatever brings you joy and comfort in those last moments.

Last meals are comfort food. They are a comfort in the face of pain and trials. Some of us really like our comfort food, even though we know it’s not our last meal. Every January a bunch of us make new resolutions that we’ll take our food more seriously again after a few too many holiday treats.

While last meals are about comfort, what are first meals about? If we move to the other edge of life, to its beginning, we encounter a very different experience with food. When we move from hospice to labor and delivery, we encounter mothers learning to feed babies for the first time. Learning to feed is work for both mother and child. Babies fall asleep; they don’t eat enough; they learn to bite; they decide they want to eat when you just want to sleep. Sometimes you have to find alternative methods to feed. It’s a lot. Feeding is not just about comfort, it’s about the possibility for new life to grow.

Many of us prefer living in a last meal paradigm. We want to be served comfort food. We want to pick the menu out and we don’t want to live with the consequences.

As nice as it is to get our favorite food and to be served, we are called to feed new life. Jesus’s resurrection is not meant as a comfort food just to make you feel good. Jesus’s resurrection leads to a great commission. We are called to go and make disciples. We are called to teach others and bring them to the table of God, to grow into who God has made them to be.

Too often we crave one more bite of comfort food instead of finding ways to feed others. Too often churches become primarily hospice homes instead of labor and delivery rooms.

I encourage you to find ways to feed others. Literally, helping someone have a meal is a great place to start. We’ve done that for a while as a community with our Blessing Box and with supporting the Immanuel Lutheran Food pantry. I’m so excited to see that opportunity blossom with the Café Connection. Beyond just the literal meals, we also have the opportunity to not make everything about ourselves, but to make everything about God, and what God can do for our neighbors. We have an opportunity to invite friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to become new disciples.

One of the last meal photographs from Jackie Black that stood out to me was from Robert Anthony Madden. For Madden’s last meal, he asked that his last meal be donated to a homeless person. What a powerful image to take your last opportunity of special treatment and comfort and offer it to someone else in need. Could you make that sacrifice? Sadly, Madden’s generous request was denied. Some people and organizations are only in the business of comfort foods, not new life. May the Church always keep its eyes on the possibility for new life with our living God and may we always have the heart to share it.


This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“A Dream in the Making” by Logan Dodge

About five years ago I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a video about a church in California that opened their doors to serve the homeless population in their community for Thanksgiving. Now initially that story doesn’t really stick out from the crowd, at first glance it was another good story about a church helping those in need, a tale as old as time. As I continued to watch the news story it got into why this church was different.

Normally at a soup kitchen or community food service facility it is set up either in a cafeteria style service or some other way that has the guests move through a line and collect the prepared food from volunteers. This is not in any way a bad process and is very efficient to serve as many people as possible. This California church in the video took a different approach to their serving style and took the food to the guests rather then have the guests come to them. They had many tables set up in a large common area in the church with white tablecloths and center pieces. It had the look and feel of a restaurant and what really set it over the top was they had servers for the tables to take orders for the Thanksgiving Dinner. The servers were dressed like ones in a high-end eatery: white dress shirts, black pants, and black aprons. Dinners were served on elegant dishware and everyone was welcomed to eat in this dignified establishment. It was this video that put the idea in my head that one day First Baptist could serve our community in this type of restaurant style experience.
Now a task like this does not just happen, it takes time, commitment, people, equipment, and support on many facets. For this reason, among many others, it has taken over five years to get the momentum for this endeavor.

To prepare for the first board meeting of 2021, we were asked to come up with some ideas on what mission the church could take on. We were told to think as wild and crazy as we could; there were no limits. The goal was to come up with ideas, not a fully operational plan; all we wanted were some big thoughts that might be out of the box to encourage our church to find their signature mission.

With that direction, I decided that it was time I let someone else know of the dream I had of starting a restaurant in our church to serve our community. Since I had been thinking about this mission for over five years, I had some big ideas about what I wanted it to look like. I kept to the directions given and didn’t give much thought about how we were going to make it all happen. I presented my vision to the other board members to see what they had to say. Once I got done going on and on about what a great idea I thought I had, I waited anxiously for comments. To my great surprise many liked the idea and even started coming up with other opportunities that this mission could eventually lead to in the future. There were some questions about how we go about getting something like this started but I told them that I didn’t have any answers at that time! By the end of this meeting we collectively decided as a board that this was a mission we wanted to pursue. There were many unanswered questions, a ton of unknowns, and for me personally, I didn’t even know where to start.

Fast forward to September and we have almost completed our kitchen updates and are almost ready to open the doors to Café Connection. We have figured out many of the unanswered questions that we had in the beginning. With that lengthy intro, let’s get to what Café Connection is all about!

What is Café Connection?

Jesus said when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and welcome in the stranger, it’s as if we’re serving Jesus. We find blessing in blessing others. Located in the heart of downtown Jackson we have many opportunities to bless our neighbors with food and dignified hospitality.

Café Connection is a place to serve a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. We hope to cultivate people who share meals as a way of nutritional, social, and spiritual growth. Through the simple act of food service, we are looking to provide connection. Connecting our church to our community, connecting our community to each other, and bringing God closer to our neighbors. Our guests are hungry for great food, first class service without a first-class price tag, and a safe, welcoming environment to heal divides with meaningful conversation.

In today’s fast pace world, with so many distractions and things competing for our attention, eating a meal around a table is something that is not common. We want to provide an opportunity for our community to disconnect from worldly distractions and re-connect with other people and God around a dinner table. Unlike other food ministries like soup kitchens, our focus is on the dinner table experience. Instead of having guests file in a line, we want to serve our guests like they were in a restaurant because they deserve dignified, quality meals. Being seated by a host, ordering at the table from a menu, and receiving unwavering service from a waiter allows guests more opportunity to connect with others at their table throughout the night.

“We want to provide an opportunity for our community to disconnect from worldly distractions and re-connect with other people and God around a dinner table.”

Using social media and physical material we will reach out to our target groups to gain interest and attendance. We will also partner with local organizations such as the Interfaith Shelter to help locate those who may benefit from this service. In our first year we have a goal to have the Café open one day a week for dinner. During these dinners we want to provide a meal that is served restaurant style, have opportunities to connect with our guests, and introduce our community to First Baptist Church.

This mission will not only have a positive impact on our community but will also have a positive impact on our church. This mission opens our front door wider to our friends and neighbors. The mission not only becomes a place to invite others to enjoy a meal, but also to join us in service. Sometimes it is hard to ask someone to attend church with you, but to ask someone to help serve others is a much more comfortable interaction. Café Connection is an opportunity to show others what it means to be a part of First Baptist Church.

I am so excited for Café Connection to finally open and allow First Baptist Church to show our community that we are here to serve them and welcome them into our home.

To learn more about Café Connection, visit

This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“No Fear” by Brently Groshong

People don’t like change. At least that’s what they say. Yet change is constant. From the moment we are born there is change, every day, every moment. We don’t fear it. We embrace it. As babies, we are reliant on others for everything. We are at their mercy. We follow their plans. We know nothing of control. I believe this is why Jesus Christ often refers to children in His stories.


And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt.18:3 (NIV)


As we grow and get a little older, a little steadier on our feet, we learn to forsake our dependence on others, and that we, and we alone, control our destinies. Yes, it is true we need to make our own decisions and make wise decisions. But there’s a little more to it. God says: 


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)


When I accepted Jesus’ never-ending gift of salvation, I gave up my right to make all my decisions, all by myself. I became an ambassador for His Kingdom. I became an extension of Jesus. I am His, and He is mine. 


Perhaps you did, too, made the same choice to follow Jesus, that is, and to let Him have complete control. More or less.


Me, too. 


We think when we relinquish total control of our lives to Jesus that he is going to change things, and we don’t like change. So we hold back a little bit.


I was thinking about this, what holds us back? Fear. More specifically, fear of change. 


When we are kids, we expect someone to tell us what to do. We expect constant change because that is what we know. As we get older and we are expected to make our own decisions, we seek equilibrium to maintain a constant, comfortable state, to live the life we were not able to do when we were kids. We make the decisions. We have control. We don’t have to change. But then we invite Jesus in, say the words about living for Him and letting him take the wheel, but we don’t really let Him take the wheel. Fear.


Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it…Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.

― Veronica Roth, Divergent


We love movies, all sorts, especially when they come in series, like the Divergent series. If you haven’t watched them, the action-adventure trilogy is set in a post-apocalyptic world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless. These virtues are all desirable, especially as a Christ-follower. I want to be selfless, kind, honest, wise, and brave. But I found the Dauntless’ dedication to courage and fearlessness to be profound. The Dauntless was taught to control and overcome their fears—those things that would normally shut them down. Have you ever had to jump off a moving train onto a building to get home? Or jump into a dark, seemingly endless cavern?


Fear is a natural and human emotion. It is a biochemical response that alerts us to the presence of danger or the threat of harm, whether that danger is real or imagined. The function of fear is to help us avoid harm.


This begs the question: do we trust God or do we fear him? According to that verse from the Book of Jeremiah, God has no plans to harm us. God tells us to “fear not.” It is the most repeated command in the Bible, written some 365 times. God’s plan is not for us to live in fear, especially when it comes to following Jesus. There is no real or imagined danger. We can hand those fears over to God, our good and benevolent parent, and trust Him no matter the change. Fearless by default.


Let’s live fearless for Jackson.