Posts

Silent Night

The light of Christmas is not meant to be hidden inside church buildings. Enjoy our video of Silent Night, celebrating the light emerging in our city, Jackson. The video first appeared as the finale of our 2020 Christmas Eve service.

“Unexpected Worship” by Brently Groshong

It all comes back to the same question what is worship? We explored this very question in the first part of this series in the FBC JXN Magazine, October/November 2020 and came to an interesting conclusion. The questions should not be so much “What is worship?” for we all place our devotion and allegiance someplace. The questions should rather be, “What or Who are we worshipping?”

We discovered that the more we surrender more and more of ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we begin to change. We shift our focus of worship. We fall more in love with the Creator, the one that created us to be in harmony with Him. And we discovered that worship is not merely contained to a time and place, such as Sunday morning at a church building. It is having the heart to worship everywhere, all the time.

Even when it is inconvenient. Even when it doesn’t fall on Sunday or at a midweek prayer meeting or during our morning devotion time.

Jesus told a story about worship, and it can be hard to read.

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34-40).

As Christians we like to plan our outreaches and our missions, come prepared with what we would like to offer the least of these. And these ministries are important and vital to our society. They offer goods and services to people who really need them: who really need them and know where to look for them.

But worship to the least of these—worship beyond our walls—doesn’t always come neatly packaged at the time and place we scheduled.

Acts of worship to the least of these can be unexpected and inconvenient, like when that stranger on the street corner asks for money or when your co-worker’s car breaks down or when your neighbor needs someone to drive them to the hospital.

I recently experienced this in a very real and practical way. Last summer during the lockdown when Pastor Dallas Flippin and I were still pre-recording our services for streaming on Sunday mornings, I found myself still quite in the habit of getting up and wanting to be out of the house at 7 a.m. on Sundays. After a few moments of pacing the floor, I decided I needed to just get out of the house. So I grabbed a face mask and went for a coffee at the Speedway on the corner of Ganson and Wisner.

Once I purchased my coffee and a couple of donuts for the kids, I went back to my car satisfied with my coffee and outing. I closed the door and was getting ready to go home, but then out the corner of my eye, I saw a disheveled lady walking toward me.

“Excuse me, sir.”

She was broke and needed a ride. It turns out she was also homeless, carrying all her belongings in a bag she carried. She wanted to go someplace that offered hot showers and laundry facilities free of charge.

It don’t normally give rides to strangers—although I have picked up a hitchhiker or two. But that’s an entirely different story.

For this woman, I felt like I needed to give her a ride.

In the car ride, she told me her story. Life had not treated her well. Her family had abandoned her, and her health was poor. I listened to her story and knew that right there in the car I had an opportunity to worship. I didn’t have much money in my pocket, but I what I did have, I gave to her, just like Peter.

But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk” (Acts 3:6).

God’s presence filled the car as I spoke of His goodness and how much He loved and cared about her. Her countenance lifted as we prayed together regarding her situation, and all of life’s hurdles and challenges.

It was inconvenient to meet the needs of this woman. It was not part of my plan. But I opened my car door to a person in need and was able to worship the Father as I met one simple need. I remember thinking to myself in the moment, “This is what I was made to do. This is my purpose.” Then I shared with this beloved woman where I work and told her to stop by the church someday. And then it was all over. She exited the car at her destination.

A couple of weeks later, I saw her again, just outside of our church. She wanted to let me know how things are going for her. There were positive changes, and she began to watch our Sunday morning church services at a friend’s house.

I continue to pray for her wholeness believing that God has a plan for this dear woman. And me, I continue to look for those unexpected and inconvenient opportunities to feed the hungry, provide drink to those that thirst, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. Even in this pandemic, there are plenty of opportunities. We can see needs around us and be the hands and feet of Jesus. The world is watching for those who choose to worship God in spirit and truth, anytime, anyplace.

John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”

“The Heart of Worship” – by Brently Groshong

Our hearts desire, so we worship. We save, we collect, we conserve, we sacrifice just so that we can obtain what the heart desires. That’s worship.

But, wait. Most of us would say that we do okay at worshipping God, but is that what worship really is— sacrificing so that we can obtain what the heart desires? The dictionary defines worship a little differently.

Worship
Noun – Reverent, honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
Verb (used with object) – to render religious reverence and homage to (any person or thing).
verb (used without object) – to attend services of divine worship. to feel an adoring reverence or regard.

We like to think that we only worship God, but the truth is we can worship anything, cars, trucks, homes, clothes, jewels, power, control, status, and even people, just to name a few. We have heard the stories of people so captivated by something that they forsake all else just to gain that one thing.

The late Rev. Billy Graham once said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” It is equally true when it comes to our time and talent. At its root, we need to ask, what do we worship.

As humans, it would appear that we have done well at worshiping. Even Jesus spoke to the heart of this when he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).

Sure, that’s a parable with a much deeper meaning, but we also know Jesus used common language and common stories when He spoke to the people of his time. But He didn’t just to speak to them, He was speaking to all humans because He knew our hearts could be distracted by pearls and other things. We clearly know how to worship. Worship, in fact, maybe one of those innate abilities. God gave us that ability because we were born with the ability to recognize God. Paul wrote about that in Romans 1:19 and 20.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

The question is, “What are we worshiping?” What I would like to suggest is that worship is a heart issue—and that a heart transplant or changing of the heart may be in order. Start with Psalm 51. This psalm centers around a recognition of the heart issue—misplaced worship or sin—solely before God and a humble request of pardon. The psalmist states that he was born sinful and that God required faithfulness, or rightly placed worship, from him even when he was in the womb. In verses 10-12, the psalmist continues, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.”

You see, sin entered into the equation early. From that point, we were no longer born with a heart for the Creator of the Universe; we were born into the sin of want and desire of things of the flesh. It’s all we’ve ever known, that is, until Jesus came along, redeemed us, promised us an eternal home in heaven, and gave us the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts.

As we surrender more and more of ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we begin to change. We shift our focus of worship. We fall more in love with the Creator, the one that created us to be in harmony with Him.

As we surrender more and more of ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we begin to change. We shift our focus of worship. We fall more in love with the Creator, the one that created us to be in harmony with Him.

Worshiping God inside of a building is just the beginning because worship is not just a verb to be contained within the walls of a building, it is also a noun. It’s reverence and honor, everywhere, all the time. It’s having the heart to worship beyond the walls.

Take just a moment to meditate on the lyrics to the “Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman.

When the music fades,
All is stripped away and I simply come
Longing just to bring, Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus

May it be so.

“Go (Online) and Make Disciples” – by Pastor Dallas

Jesus calls Christians to reach out to people of all nations, but we avoid going out in faith because of the walls of our comfort zones, our tribes, or our church buildings. When we faithfully go, we both fulfill God’s mission and experience God’s presence. Jesus, at the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, said, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations… And remember, I am with you always.” When we spread Christ’s love to those who’ve never experienced it, we find community with God and the faithful. In a difficult year, God has forced us beyond our walls to do the very things that God has always called us to do. And God has been with us, even while we’ve been physically apart from each other.

“God has forced us beyond our walls to do the very things that God has always called us to do. And God has been with us, even while we’ve been physically apart from each other.”

A February snowstorm was the catalyst that pushed our church’s ministry into the digital frontier for an online Ash Wednesday service. Many churches have been in the digital mission field for years, but this was a learning step for us. That night, we began a new sermon series titled, There’s Another Way. We didn’t know yet how much that phrase would become essential in 2020. While we missed the warmth of each other’s presence, we worshiped from our homes and beyond, and did so with others who we might not even know by face.

Three weeks later, COVID-19 led to the shutdown of on-site gatherings. I had to learn a lot about trust in that season. I had to trust that the message God was moving in my heart would reach beyond a camera lens. The camera lens didn’t respond to my tone or my questions; I had to trust that the God who moved me to speak would move someone to listen on the other end of a screen. Real ministry was happening beyond our walls.

The curiosity about church was really high in those early weeks. Suddenly, we had out-of-state friends and family worshiping with us. There was a lot of work behind the scenes to extend our worship to the world beyond. Typically, Brently and I would gather on Fridays to pre-record the service, which now included activities like changing camera settings and checking audio levels for each other. After recording the service, it took another 10-12 hours of video editing on Friday nights and Saturdays to trim the videos, adjust the audio, add lyrics to the video, and export the videos for different platforms. The work was worth it because it helped spread good news in a time where painful news seemed to reign.

That workflow wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, as we would start to offer in person worship and other events, the amount of time needed to pre-record worship would be difficult to maintain weekly. We needed a sustainable way of expanding our worship and our ministry impact to those beyond our walls, so we began transitioning to live streaming to broadcast services in real time without the extra hours of edits and publishing. Transitioning would require a lot of work. We needed new equipment, more volunteers, and more training.

We needed at least four volunteers every week. In addition to needing someone to run the soundboard, which we had done in the past, we also needed someone to run the live stream computer and its presentation software, someone to operate the cameras, and someone to host our social media feeds during the live stream to welcome, pray for, and moderate our online platform. With new challenges and opportunities ahead, we were blessed to have 10 people step up to learn and serve.

Why did volunteers commit to helping move the church beyond our walls? They sought to benefit those beyond the walls, including church members who couldn’t physically be present. One volunteer, Mike, explained, “I wanted to help the church during a time when others couldn’t. Many people from the church have helped me in the past so I felt it was my turn to try and help others.” God binds the people of the church together. God’s loving bond extends beyond our building.

“I WANTED TO HELP THE CHURCH DURING A TIME WHEN OTHERS COULDN’T. MANY PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH HAVE HELPED ME IN THE PAST SO I FELT IT WAS MY TURN TO TRY AND HELP OTHERS.”

Mike Hughey

The bond between our volunteers has grown through serving. The team describes the experience of serving in this season as “special,” “inspiring,” and “very rewarding.” Bridget described the effect of serving, saying “I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie that has developed with everyone working on the team. I think it has brought us closer as we work together to stream the services.” We don’t grow closer together during selfish pursuits. God grows us together as we reach out in mission beyond our comfort zones and walls.

Creating and consuming digital content is not all there is to spiritual life, but we hope that our digital outreach invites people beyond our walls to experience our worship and, most importantly, our God. Mike shares his hope that our church would “reach people it normally wouldn’t reach. If we can help someone by putting ourselves out there than it was all worth it.”

Ministering in a digital world means you may never meet the person whose life is affected by our church’s ministry. We might not see that one-person face to face, but if we can introduce God and the way of love to one new person, it is worth it.

Another team member, Marilynn, describes the mission saying, “We are called to spread Christ’s love and to make disciples wherever we go. We have tools to do that today like never before in history.” Let’s trust that God will take the faithfulness of our planting digital seeds and grow them up into flowers of real life discipleship live we’ve never seen before.

Photo taken by Walter V Marshall

This story first appeared in our October – November 2020 magazine issue. If you’d like to receive our print or digital magazine issues, subscribe here. Read the entire October – November issue online now.

Events

Christmas Eve Service

We invite you to celebrate Christmas with us from the comfort of your home. Our Christmas Eve service will be pre-recorded for the safety of our community and to enable some special opportunities.

On Christmas Eve, join us online at 6pm for our Christmas Eve service filled with singing, scripture, and reflection. We have some special musical moments planned for our Christmas Eve service that we’re especially excited for. You’ll want to join us on time for Christmas Eve as some of our special surprises will be scattered throughout the service.

Visit our worship online page on Christmas Eve for updated links to the service on Facebook and YouTube.

For those who don’t have internet service, please reach out to the church office to receive a DVD of both services in advance so that you can worship with us at the same time as though worshiping online.

Sunday Morning Worship

Join us for our Sunday morning worship. During our limited operations due to the coronavirus, we are offering a combined worship service of our modern and traditional service that is available online on Facebook and YouTube, as well as in person for those who wish to worship in person. Please see our announcement about safety guidelines for on-site worship at https://www.fbcofjackson.org/phase-3/.

Easter Worship

This year, our Easter service will be a combined worship service of both our morning traditional service and our modern afternoon service. There will be great music, an uplifting message, and baptisms! The service will be held in the sanctuary. There will be childcare provided in the nursery, which is located on the second floor of our education building.

Easter Sunrise Service

Join us at 8am at Bucky Harris Park in downtown Jackson for our Easter Sunrise service. There will be time for songs and a brief reflection on Easter.

After the service, you are invited to join us in our church’s fellowship hall (2 blocks away from the park) for an Easter breakfast.

In the event of bad weather or some other obstacle preventing us to meet at Bucky Harris Park, we will meet at our church instead.