Rev. John Rice

Dear FBC Friends and Family,

On Sunday the 13th I joyfully announced the calling of Rev. John Rice as our new Associate Pastor. Since that time, words of encouragement, congratulations, and affirmation have resounded from both within FBC and throughout the network of Baptists who know both John and our congregation. We are truly fortunate and blessed to welcome John and Sara to the family and to the ministry team.

Over the past weeks I have met with John on multiple occasions and he has quietly spent time with our staff, and the HR and Management Teams. We are unanimously impressed with John and clearly recognize the matching of his particular skills to our needs, personality, and values at this pivotal time. God’s fingerprints appear to be all over the matching of man and ministry. I believe that with all my heart.

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Teaser

In television and radio world they call this a teaser. It’s letting the audience know something is coming in the next installment without fully telling you what it is. I have to confess, most times that is an invitation for me to turn the channel. I’m a guy. That’s what we do. But every now and then the foreshadowing is interesting enough to keep me tuned in like Paul Harvey, waiting for the rest of the story. Sunday will be a very full day in our worship service. We will give folks a look into the life of our signature ministry Family Promise. We’ll also honor a special volunteer who is handing the reins of her particular ministry to a new leader. And certainly, we will thank and pray for mothers everywhere, particularly those gathered Sunday. Great music and what I hope is helpful, meaningful preaching will take place too. But there will be one more thing worth telling.

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Abide

I can’t help myself. One word takes me to a seemingly unrelated phrase or lyric that inevitably collides with one or more things happening in real life in real time. As Ray Charles famously sang “Here we go again. “ (See what I did there?) I’m living in First John these days. Great book. Fun to read. Funner to preach. So I got to chapter four and kept noticing John picking a word and repeating it a lot, as he is given to do. (Remember the whole darkness and light thing?) This week’s word; abide.

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Success

Not long ago a question was posed to me and to some of our church’s leadership. “If this church is really successful and the changes we want to see happen come about in the next five years, what would that look like?” Good question, with lots of potential answers.

As good Baptists would, first thoughts imagined significantly more people on Sunday morning and a sound budget; both admirable things. We are after all children and grandchildren of the movement that could attract and count nickels and noses like no Christians before or since … Truth is, these are not bad barometers, but we concluded pretty quickly they weren’t the best.

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Recovery, Grief, and Grace

Some moments live at the intersection of music, truth and real life. I won’t say it happens all the time, but it happens enough that I’ve spotted the trend. My conclusion is that God is in the guitars and gutsy lyrics and the Holy Spirit drops them off at just the right moments. You just have to be in tune, or should I say tuned in. Let me tell you about my recent my bookend encounters with Kristofferson and recovery, grief, and grace.

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The Crucifixion

For many years James Weldon Johnson’s “The Crucifixion” has guided my Good Friday reading and reflection. As I invite these wonderful and terrible words and images to once again provide transport to that place, I invite you to likewise make this sojourn of the soul.

“The Crucifixion”
James Weldon Johnson

Jesus, my gentle Jesus,
Walking in the dark of the Garden –
The Garden of Gethsemane,
Saying to the three disciples:
Sorrow is in my soul –
Even unto death;
Tarry ye here a little while,
And watch with me.

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A “Significantly Different” Week

With Sunday’s palm processional we will enter into the week called Holy. In biblical language the word holy essentially means  “significantly different”; a week unlike any other. And indeed it was, and annually is.

Holy Week is perhaps the clearest call on the Christian calendar to pay attention to what Jesus and those around him did, and generously apply those insights and instructions to our life and faith. It was a week of contrasting emotions where unbridled joy and unspeakable grief held hands and walked together. It was a week of purposeful sacrifice, though it seemed that only the One prepared to sacrifice it all understood. It was a week of conviction as He cleared the temple and judged the hearts of the smug and the greedy, and it was one of consolation as He showed the tenderest of mercies to folks as distant as a thief on a cross and as up close and personal as his own mother. Hallelujah, what a week. What a savior.

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Actively Engaged

A decade and change ago, I found myself laboring away on a pair of fronts; leading a growing church seeking to find a new identity and vitality, and the looming challenge of a doctoral dissertation. Something had to live at the intersection of the two, if not for the sake of the ministry, at least for my sanity and need to multi-task.

I found that sweet spot in the oddest of places – The Gallup Organization. Yes, that Gallup. With trips to their office in D.C. and the headquarters in cold and windy Omaha, I began to ingest all the data I could from their research on church engagement. Little did I know that it would profoundly affect my philosophy of ministry and put us ahead of a coming curve in the way congregations measure and strategize for what passes for success.

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Halfway

As a kid, I paid a lot of attention to the halfway markers that seemed significant to me. I forget when half-birthdays ceased being a bit thing. End of the first semester meant that, with one more of those, a year would end and I would – hopefully – be given a new designation that would make me feel infinitely older and wiser. The All-Star Game was halfway to a pennant and July 4th started the march to Christmas. You get the idea.

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FBC By-Laws

Some weeks when I sit down to pen these lines, I am directed by what I think and feel and write with great generality to all who run across my words. Last week was an example of that, and I thank you all for the gracious response to my tribute to Billy Graham. Words and word pictures cannot do such a legacy justice, but I tried and I thank you for taking time to read over my ponderings.

Other weeks, I used this forum to communicate to you things that are going on within the life of the church. Those take the shape, in their best form, of a letter from home. They are at the very least announcements of significant projects going on within FBC. This is one of those.

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