Practices for the Church on Mission – Proclaiming the Gospel

The third chapter of David Fitch’s “Seven Practices for the Church on Mission” is one that in some circles evokes a simultaneous “of course” and “yeah, but…”

Proclaiming the Gospel.  Evangelism.  Sharing the good news about Jesus.

It is the heart of why the church exists – to carry out this mission and embody it.  And yet, if we’re honest – sometimes we seem embarrassed to do so.  Or we say we’re ‘planting seeds’, but in such an obscure way that it would be hard to draw the line back to Jesus.

The problem with words

The words themselves: evangelical, evangelism, evangelist, have come to carry unfortunate connotations in many circles.  To some, an evangelist is less about sharing the Gospel and more about a slick proclamation that hides a personal agenda for one’s own power or financial gain (think some televangelists or the personal empires of some well-known church leaders).  Contrast that to Paul who wrote in 1 Cor 2:1-5 “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified….so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

To others, the word evangelical has narrowed further in the past 50 years to be identified with a partisan political affiliation and agenda.  To be sure – that does not represent everyone who calls themselves an evangelical (see Roger Olson), but we need to acknowledge that this is how many see the label.

And evangelism itself has suffered from both a too restrictive narrowing of its scope and hope and an expansion of its meaning that renders the idea almost meaningless; that doing nice things for people is evangelism.    I’m being a bit harsh here…both a concern about eternity and present acts of mercy are important facets of what the actual Gospel is — the question is whether we are actually as centered in the whole of the Gospel of Jesus as we might think we are.

Reclaiming the real mission

In other words – how do we rejoin the experience of the early church who prayed for boldness in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus (Acts 4:29, 28:31, 2 Cor. 3:12, Ephesians 6:19, etc) , while making sure that we are actually pointing to Jesus, and not our own political or theological preferences?

David Fitch pulls it together this way:

“The Gospel is that God has come in Christ, who has been made Lord, and a whole new world (the kingdom of God) has begun.  In Christ, God has begun to make things right.

Proclaiming the gospel therefore is the art of announcing to our neighbors that this new world has begun in Christ”

There’s so much good stuff here in this chapter, but I don’t want to simply regurgitate or copy what he has written.

Instead, I just want to highlight a few images that I find helpful in re-centering us in what it means to proclaim the Gospel:

Proclamation is less about haranguing people, and more painting a picture — it is about describing what God has done and is doing in the world; what the kingdom of God is like, and inviting people into that world.

Proclaiming the Gospel can happen in many ways, but doesn’t rely on our skills and technique, but on what we have experienced of the power and presence of God in Jesus.  We don’t have to have a perfect life to share Jesus (Paul didn’t!), and neither do we have to have some dramatic conversion story from a life of utter ruin (Peter didn’t), we just have to be real about the difference Jesus has made and makes in our lives today.

Proclaiming the Gospel includes us – but isn’t about us.  We aren’t the focus – and it’s not about gaining followers/subscribers/likes, etc…   it is about coming together in acknowledging  Jesus as Lord, not with the person doing the proclaiming being in a position of power over the other, but an invitation to a shared journey.  We’re not at the center of this, Jesus is.  We’re not gatekeepers, but those called to share what we’ve received.

All of this invites us to some important questions:

    • What is the kingdom of God all about?  What does it look like when Jesus is being acknowledged as Lord and people are truly seeking to follow and live in Christ-like ways?
    • How have I experienced God’s presence in my life?  What’s my story?
    • How does that reality, even as we experience it in part, change the way we face the concerns, values and realities of today?
    • How then, does the good news of Jesus speak to the needs of the people we meet?  (so that we can help paint a picture of how the gospel truly is good news to their situation)

Practices for the Church on Mission – Reconciliation

If we were to compile a list of essential practices of the church on mission, things like prayer, Bible study, helping people, might be near the top of our list.

I sincerely doubt pastor and theologian David Fitch would argue against any of those things being a vital part of our lives together.  Yet his list of seven practices for the church on mission directs us to think about how those things get habitually applied as we live out our faith.

Following the practice of the Lord’s Table, he lists reconciliation as the second key practice for the church.  And this is important.  Because as we read throughout the New Testament, there is a tremendous concern not just for the key theological belief about our reconciliation with God through Jesus, but also how we live that out in the rest of our lives in regards to our relationship with others.

The letter of 1 John puts it bluntly; “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20b)

Church community is hard.  If we’re in it for any length of time, we will not only experience the care and love of a community walking with us in Christ, but we’ll also see the reality that none of us are there yet – we will encounter gossip, griping, power moves, pettiness, and sadly, sometimes people who abuse their power or position.  I’m not about to excuse any of that.  It’s real.  It’s in the church because it is everywhere, and the church is made of people still dealing with their brokenness, pain and sin.  And there will be times where it’s not about ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’ but simply differences of opinion or conflict that comes naturally as we work through how to do life and do life together.

But what *does* make the church different than the rest of the world is its ministry of reconciliation – when we are willing to do the work.  Not just inviting people to be reconnected with God, but taking the initiative to be reconciled with one another when there is something that needs to be healed in our relationships.

In other words, when the church is a place where we own our mistakes and lean into conflict not to win, but to seek truth and renewed community; that provides a powerful witness of Jesus’ presence and power to the world.

One the aspects he names of the practice of reconciliation is found in Paul’s counsel in Ephesians 5:21: “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  This concept of mutual submission doesn’t seek vindication or punishment as much as restoration, healing and renewed fellowship.  At this point, I need to pause and say that the practice of reconciliation is *not* about diminishing or evading consequences where there have been situations of abuse or deep harm.

Genuine reconciliation involves both parties, truth telling, and accountability.  We quickly get into deep waters that require not just human wisdom and commitment but God’s Holy Spirit to guide us.

As throughout the book, Fitch explores what reconciliation looks like within the community of believers, but then also how we can be hosts of reconciliation in the wider network of our relationships – how do we help bridge fractures between people, model Christ-centered submission and humility to others, and take responsibility for our actions?

And in the “half circle” where we are neither the “in-group” or the “host”, Fitch addresses what that work could look like when tackling broader issues like the need for racial reconciliation.  Critically, he acknowledges that sometimes those who are in positions of power or privilege tend to assume that they (we, as I – pastor Brian – acknowledge my position of privilege), that we are the ones who have to come up with the solutions or set the agenda and understand the issues to fix things.  Instead, the work of reconciliation may need to begin with a lot more listening and letting go, so that we can engage more helpfully and as partners.

There’s an example of this in my experience that relates to the desire to care for others.  Lots of food ministries and soup kitchens involve people generously giving of their time and resources to gather and prepare food and serve it to those who are in need.  This is good, and it almost always comes from a good intention and desire.  Yet most folks who do the serving rarely have the opportunity (or take the opportunity) to eat with or get to know those they seek to serve.  Nor are there often ways for those being served to participate in a way where there is any kind of sense that they have something to offer, should they choose to.  I know – it’s structurally hard to pull these things off.  But, going back to the last article on sharing meals together, I’ve seen what happens when people slowly build trust across the table beyond the things that might otherwise divide us.  The willingness to sit, eat, listen, and care  for someone, not to fix them, but simply to honor them as a person created in God’s image, is a powerful step that can transform lives – ours included.

I’ve witnessed a retired correctional officer who had been recently widowed sitting down in a folding chair next to a young person who was staying in a local warming shelter.  As they shared a lunch that the older man had helped set up, they talked.  As they talked, they learned that this young man had spent some time as an inmate at the same facility (though not at the same time).  Over the next hour, I watched them share, laugh, find common ground, and the retired correctional officer offered some encouragement.  The younger man also created space that welcomed and honored someone who might otherwise have been seen as an enemy.  Reconciliation isn’t often easy, it takes vulnerability, risk, presence, attention.  It is the repairing of that which is broken – and as we know, so many things are easy to break and hard to mend.   The cross reminds us of how God took the initiative for reconciliation in Christ, the cost of that act, and the invitation for us to take on the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

And what do we find in that re-joining but communion?

God is inviting us to that table, how will we extend that through joining that work of reconciliation in our own relationships?

Practices for the Church on Mission – The Lord’s Table

In his book Seven Practices for the Church on Mission, seminary professor and pastor David Fitch examines the importance of the practice of Communion for the church – not only as an internal experience, but its implications for how we carry the Gospel into our everyday world.

It’s a short book, deliberately written to be easily accessible — in fact, I read through it in a day at the airport on vacation.  But I think he’s on to something, giving us a reminder of core practices: things we all can do and apply to both church and everyday life, as well as a set of lenses to look at those practices with new eyes.

Quickly – those three lenses are the circle, the dotted circle and the half-circle.

The blue circle represents the immediate Christian community – our sisters and brothers who share a commitment to Jesus and to one another.

The dotted circle represents how we open that circle to others as they are — how that circle expands and opens to welcome others in with hospitality.  It may represent things we do at a church building that those outside the church are invited to, or things in our homes or meetings, events or missions we are a part of that we invite others to.  It is a space where we consider how to genuinely welcome others as they are.

The third ‘half’ circle is where we meet others in the world as guests, as partners.  It’s the space where we aren’t in charge, aren’t providing everything needed.  We look for the work of the Holy Spirit around us, we carry with us the presence and message of Christ (as a treasure in the clay jars of our lives) — and we simply look for ways to join what God is already doing.

With those lenses in mind, it opens up new ways to consider the practice of the Lord’s Table, the first of the seven he writes about.

Paradoxically all too often what is meant to gather us together in Communion with God and one another has been one of the things that divides Christians of various traditions.

Instead of re-hashing arguments about transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorial feasts, or issues of how often do we have to do this, is it ok to use grape juice or do we have to use wine, who gets to serve, etc…   Fitch points us to honestly, more fundamental issues:

How are we recognizing and naming the presence of Christ when we gather to eat in his name?

How does that recognition of Jesus’ presence at the table with us call us to examine ourselves and our relationships not only with God but with one another (1 Corinthians 11:27ff) and submit ourselves to God and one another in mutual love (Ephesians 5:21).

When we are among other Christians, the practice of the Lord’s Table in the context of worship invites us to reflect on what we are doing in light of what Jesus has done: not only affecting our vertical relationship with God, but the horizontal relationships with our other believers.  Are we going through the motions?  Do we have ruptured relationships with others in our community that we haven’t done our part to seek reconciliation in?  Are we paying attention to the real presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit here and now?

In the second circle, we’re invited to think of the Lord’s Table beyond just the worship service context and into the meals we share with family and friends.  What does it mean to recognize Jesus’ presence here?  How do we ‘hold sacred space’ around the table we invite others to without making it weird?

Part of it is simply our own recognition and treating these meals as encounters where Jesus is present.  When we do that, and how we do that, is what we mean by ‘holding space’ and recognizing the presence of Christ in the moment, without expecting that non-believers will view it the same way.  So, following the pattern of Jesus, who consistently ‘gave thanks’ for the food being served, we express gratitude, hospitality, and take the time to create opportunities for genuine conversation that starts out with more of a focus on listening than speaking.  There will be enough opportunities to speak and share our experience, perspective and faith — but it needs to emerge from a genuine valuing of the other person, not just waiting till it is our turn to talk.

And finally, we are invited to consider the half-circle; where we meet people and experience their hospitality, or eat side by side with one another.

I think of so many of our feeding programs where we are invited to generously give to others (and that’s good!) and yet how few opportunities we have to actually eat with and listen to one another.  And fewer still, the opportunities to be served by those we might think actually need our help.  Remember that when Jesus sent out the disciples, he specifically called them to rely on the hospitality and welcome of others, not a call to mooching or taking advantage of people, but creating opportunities for mutuality.

Sometimes we get focused on how we can help, or naming the hurts in “the world” around us — and again, that’s good — but how can we also look for signs of God at work.

As I type this, I’m having a texting conversation with a person in Wisconsin who is a living example of this.  She is a believer who doesn’t have much by worldly standards, but works hard and is incredibly generous.

One of my cherished memories is of meals shared in the parking lot of a local library in Wisconsin, where what started as making some sandwiches to share with people experiencing homelessness became a sort of community potluck where everyone was invited to bring what they had, share it, and eat together.  Many times, this person would bring things she had prepared from food she had received from a local food pantry, to share with others.  And often, it seemed, that food would show up right as we ran out of other food and there were still people who needed to eat.  Sometimes we focus on other people’s pain to the exclusion of noticing what they want to give or contribute — because while we all have needs, we also have a need for meaning, to be able to help, and be part of community.

The meal table is a great place to start.  How can we recognize it as the Lord’s Table when we gather?


Current Ministry Information

Updates on our activities in the midst of Coronavirus.  We continue to follow IDPH guidelines for best practices in a changing situation.   If you have any questions, please contact the church office at (309) 662-4253, or contact a member of the church staff.

Worship: In Person and Online

Worship is streamed online each Sunday at 10am

Small Groups and Classes: In Person and Online

* Plans subject to change based on circumstances and will be posted here
* For information on hosting an in-person small group or class, click here.

For those who choose to attend worship or events in-person:

(Updated May 4, 2022)

  • Following current guidance, masks are not required for any activities at church.
  • At the same time, please feel welcome to continue wearing masks as you prefer.
  • We encourage those not feeling well to wear masks and/or to participate online.
  • Masks are available at the entrance to the church, along with hand sanitizer as needed.

Current Classes and Small Groups:

(click on the Zoom links to join) 

FBC Ladies Bible Study: 1st and 3rd Saturdays 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm online through Zoom

Breakfast Fellowship: 2nd Saturday of the month 9-10am online via Zoom

Wednesday Evening Bible Study: an interactive discussion on the scripture for the coming Sunday.  6:00pm via Zoom

Koinonia Class: Meets alternating Thursday evenings at 7pm in Barker Hall

Crusader Class: Meets Wednesday mornings at 11am – contact the church office for meeting location.

Meeting ID Numbers (if you prefer to save them / write them down)
1) The Church Account Meeting ID is our phone number: 309 662 4253
* Used for Sunday Prayer & Sharing time, the Wednesday Bible Study, Racism and Justice Class, Board and Committee Meetings
2) The Christian Education Account Meeting ID is: 822 018 8253
* Used for the LOGOS program, the Women’s Small Group, the Koinonia Class and Special Gatherings
To Join a Zoom meeting by phone, dial: 1 312 626 6799, then when prompted, enter the Meeting ID number, followed by the # key.

Using the Church Building for Classes and Small Groups:

Small group ministries for all ages are an important part of the ministry of First Baptist Church, and are continuing to meet and gather in multiple ways.

  • Classrooms and other meeting spaces are available throughout the week to reserve for small group gatherings.  Please contact the church office to reserve a time and place.
  • Reservations may be made through Jania by phone or email.

A word about ministry in this time:  

Over the years, we’ve heard it said that the church is not the building, it is the people.  The events unfolding in our world are challenging and upsetting, and at the same time, they reveal the essential truth that community and the bonds we share in love as children of God in Jesus Christ remain even when we cannot gather in person as we are used to.

At the same time, we are all leaning into and learning new ways of being the church in this time.  We believe that despite all of our uncertainty, God is present, God is active, and God is moving to redeem these events, bringing good out of what is not good.

One way we will continue to honor God and connect with each other is by gathering online for worship together; not as if we were watching Netflix or a podcast, but actively engaging and being together in a virtual space.

I believe that in the midst of something none of us would choose, God has given us the opportunity to ask some of the most important questions about our faith, to realize the value of our church family, to step into a time of fear and respond with grace, love, and the confidence that as Paul writes in Romans 8:39 “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

A word from Pastor Brian

To our First Baptist Church family and friends, and to those who are watching for how we respond in these times. 

Throughout the tumult of this past election year and in its wake, I’ve made a conscious effort to be careful in addressing the political conversations of our time.  Not that I don’t have personal convictions, but because they pale in importance to what it means for me as a pastor and for us as a church community to remain focused on the deeper call in living out our identity as followers of Jesus.

It is that calling – to not just believe in Jesus, but to live lives shaped by Jesus’ example, which challenges us beyond our partisan identities.  In one sense, this is an inherently political calling, for it calls us to follow Jesus into the world to be salt and light.  In another, it reminds us that while First Baptist Church welcomes and includes people of diverse political perspectives, God’s ways and God’s methods are not contained within any political party or platform.

Which brings us to the events we have witnessed today, and which continue to unfold.  How are we to respond as followers of Jesus?

Reflexively, we are to pray.  Before anything else, we are called to cultivate the response of naming what we see before God and placing it into the hands of the One who is sovereign, and who is able to work and move in the midst of human chaos.

Then, we must live in a way that reflects the image of Christ.  Jesus warned the people of Jerusalem that their eagerness to follow political messiahs would leave the city desolate, for they did not recognize the things that made for peace (Luke 19:41ff).  To the extent that Christians have gotten caught up in conspiracy theories, identified with a single political party or theory (whether Republican or Democrat or other), it is a distortion and misrepresentation of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  When we allow political leaders to define our understanding of power, success or greatness, or allow our culture to redefine Jesus away from the Son of God who reveals God’s greatest victory through sacrificial, cross-shaped love, we reflect a ‘gospel’ that is neither of God nor is it good news to the world.

When Christians use violent methods or join with others who are doing so, we are not reflecting the way of Jesus in the world, and we damage the credibility of our witness.

As Paul notes, freedom does not mean the freedom to do whatever we want regardless of its impact on others (Galatians 5:13).  And claims to be led by the Spirit must be discerned against the example of Jesus (1 John 4:1).

We who claim to be followers of Jesus, must call one another continually to live that out.  In these times, we have an opportunity to point to a better way, to be part of the healing of our nation’s wounds, and to rebuild the bonds of community.  It begins with prayer.  It must result in action, together, that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and reflecting the way of the cruciform Jesus.  (that is – sacrificial love that lifts up the other and makes known God’s truth)  It’s not something that one person can do by themselves, it will take us as a community, in all our political and cultural diversity, working together.

What can we do today?  Pray.  And commit ourselves to the way of Jesus and the love of our neighbor.

The Christmas Star

On December 21, 2020, the planets Jupiter and Saturn appeared extremely close together in the sky in what folks have been calling “The Christmas Star.”

Astronomers have another name for the phenomenon, calling it a ‘great conjunction’ – referring to how close they appear in the sky (though they were actually about 465 million miles apart at the time).  It’s also an exceedingly rare event; as you may have heard, the last time they appeared so close in the sky in a way visible to folks in the northern hemisphere, it was 1226 AD.

With all of the talk of the “Christmas Star”, could it be that something like this was what got the attention of the Wise Men and set them traveling to Jerusalem to seek the King of the Jews as described in the Gospel of Matthew?

I think it’s very plausible, with a few caveats.

The first caveat is that there is no physical object that would behave exactly like what is described in Matthew 2:9-10 where the star “stops” over the place where the child was.  The image here seems more an echo of God’s guiding the people of Egypt in the wilderness through the pillar of fire and smoke.  If so, that may be a more narrative element than intended as a descriptive one.

Which is the second caveat – attempts to scientifically ‘prove’ the genuinely miraculous aren’t necessarily helpful.  From a Christian perspective, we aren’t surprised that a God who both created the universe and is active within it, can so work within creation that natural things happen at a time and place that accomplishes God’s purposes.  From a non-theistic perspective, those could be called coincidences.  But when we try to explain the truly miraculous, by which I mean things that are genuinely outside of the patterns of nature & laws of physics – they are intrinsically unprovable and unrepeatable by scientific methods.  That’s not a slam on science, just describing its limitations.  Events like the resurrection, the transfiguration, miracles of instantaneous healing; when we try to make them ‘rational’ to fit a materialistic worldview, it just doesn’t work.

All of that to say; if the Star of Bethlehem fits into the latter category, we’re not going to get too far with explanations.

But…  there’s a reason Matthew tells the story of the Wise Men, and that suggests that God was communicating in a way they could understand, (kind of like the incarnation itself…).

First, we need to deal with some calendar stuff.  You might know that we don’t actually know what day Jesus was born on – that December 25th is the date chosen by the ancient church to remember Jesus’ birth, but not claimed to actually *be* the anniversary of Jesus’ birth.

But what gets weird is that Jesus was actually born ‘BC’ – yep.  Due to an error in the formation of the Anno Domini dating system in 525, which incorrectly dated the year of Jesus’ birth, the various sources of data we have point to Jesus being born sometime between 7 BC and 4 BC.  The clue in Luke’s Gospel about the shepherds being out in the fields by night also point to a fall or springtime date for Jesus’ birth.

Ok, with that timeframe in mind, let’s start talking astronomy.  Or rather astrology, because the Wise Men were actually ‘Magi’ – astrologers from Persia, people who (among other things) studied the night sky for omens and signs.

Astrology itself is based on the movements of the five planets visible to the naked eye (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) across the constellations of the zodiac.  Each planet and each constellation had different meanings.  While the stars trace a regular path across the night sky each evening and season, the planets seemed to move around all over the place.  The word planet itself in Greek means ‘wanderer’.  The wanderings of these planets across the sky was often seen as a message to those down on the earth.

However — the movement of the planets are not random; we can calculate and predict their movements (as could many ancient astronomers), which lets us rewind and fast forward the night sky to see what was going on back then.

So, were there any special planetary conjunctions between 7 and 4 BC?

You bet.

In 7BC – there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces

    • On May 29, 7 BCE
    • On September 29, 7 BCE
    • On December 4, BCE

In 6 BC there was a near conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces where the three planets lined up close to the horizon, looking west.

In both cases, an argument goes that Pisces, symbolizing the fish, had special significance in regards to the Jewish people.

In August 12, 3 BCE – Venus and Jupiter have a close conjunction in the constellation Leo (which is understood to refer to kingship), and then another even closer one in 2 BCE where they appear to merge.  The two brightest planets in the night sky merging as one would have been an impressive sight, and astronomer Roger Sinott made a case that the 2 BCE event was what the magi were referring to in Matthew chapter 2.

To be clear – I am not condoning or supporting astrology as an idea or a practice.  The Bible itself condemns the impulse to worship the stars (Deuteronomy 4:19) and attempts to divine the future (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

I do think that in this instance, it is possible God communicated with the Magi in a way they could understand, to point them to Jesus, the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Which again points us to a God who will reach out to us wherever we are, to draw us to the One who alone is the source of our life and hope.

May that then, be the invitation for us this Christmas – to not only be living with our eyes open for God, but the readiness to act on it, that Jesus may be king in our hearts and lives.

Blessings to you this Christmas season and always.

-Pastor Brian

(some references)

not an academic link but interesting for the topic:

Living our Faith in a time of Covid-19

In light of the need to provide for the health of both the church and community, FBC has suspended our in-person gatherings and regular ministries for the time being.

First Baptist Church continues to be committed to living out the love of God in these circumstances by caring for our neighbors, our church family and one another, encouraging each other and remaining connected.

Here’s our current ministry focus right now at First Baptist Church:


Worship will need to be online for a while; and we are working to establish the easiest ways for people to be able to join us in worship online.

We will stream an online worship gathering at 10am at

We encourage everyone who is able to join us at 10am and check-in through the comments/chat section as a way of sharing that we have gathered in spirit.  The service recording will be available afterward for those who can’t join at that time.

Following the worship service, we invite you to join us in a video conference where we can see one other, check in and pray together.

Please note that you will not be able to join the meeting until it goes ‘live’ following the worship service on Sunday.  

You may want to try the link anyway to install Zoom on your web browser or to install the app on your phone or tablet ahead of time.  Our evening devotional times at 7pm are also a way to check in and test out Zoom before Sunday.

Here’s a link on what Zoom is and how to use it.

Links to these events will be posted here by Friday; check back soon!


During this time when we are being discouraged from gathering in person and minimizing our personal contact with others, it’s vitally important that we find ways to stay connected with one another.

Our staff and leadership are developing ways to make sure we can be in communication with all our members, especially those who are unable to connect online.

At the same time, we encourage every member and friend of FBC to reach out to one another, check in on each other and see how things are going, particularly those who may be more isolated.  Call, text, send a card or a letter.  If you know of someone who is struggling, or who may need some help, do what you can, and let the church know so that we can respond together.

We are also thinking up creative ways that each of us can share and check in with each other online; from sharing a story of where you’re seeing God at work in the midst of this, to sending in silly hat photos…  We all need both spiritual encouragement and a good laugh — and sometimes they’re one and the same.

One of our primary ways we’ll have to share information quickly will be via. email; if you would like to stay in touch with latest developments, please email us at:


Our LOGOS program is not meeting in person, but our LOGOS team is hard at work to reach out to our families.  We will be posting videos, devotional material, resources, and finding other ways to stay connected.

You can find our weekly LOGOS videos here.

Likewise, our Small Groups and Sunday Classes are not meeting, but we are in the process of adding ways we can share devotionals, resources, and ways to pray for one another.

In the coming weeks, look for Zoom meetings to be posted that will allow us to gather online for Bible study and prayer.


First Baptist Church remains committed to reaching out to our community to bear witness to God’s love in action and in word.

We continue to partner with Sugar Creek Elementary School, collaborating in providing food packs and other supplies.

Volunteers from church continue to serve at Safe Harbor, Faith In Action, and other local agencies.

We will be posting ways that healthy individuals can care for the community and help folks in a variety of ways, and we are committed to doing what we can to help those who are affected by the indirect effects of coronavirus and its economic impacts.

All of this is a work in progress –

We are working hard to realign our entire way of doing ministry in this time; it takes time, and there will be bumps along the way.  Let us know how we can best help you in this time, and please be patient with us in the process!

That said – it is a reminder that *we* – all of us – are the church; and this time presents us a unique opportunity to live that out together.  May God bless and sustain each of us in spirit and in body in these days!

Grace and Peace,

-Pastor Brian

FBC Coronavirus Update (March)

To our First Baptist Church Family and Friends

This evening, the FBC board, Senior Pastor, Minister of Worship and LOGOS Director met to discuss our next steps in responding as a church to the emerging situation with the coronavirus.

As we prepared to meet, Governor Pritzker issued a statement this afternoon ordering bars and restaurants to close to dine-in customers by the end of day on Monday, March 16.  At the same time, the CDC continues to refine its guidelines for gatherings.

In light of our desire to protect those most at risk from coronavirus by following best practices concerning public gatherings, the board has unanimously agreed on the following course of action:

The Celebration of Life for Brenda Azinger will be held at the church Monday, March 16 at 11am, followed by a luncheon.

Beginning tomorrow afternoon, First Baptist Church will suspend all regular programming until further notice.

This includes gathering physically for worship on Sunday, the LOGOS program, our regular small groups, Bible studies and so on.

At the same time, the church office and our ministries will be at work communicating in a variety of ways with the church and community, including opportunities to connect with worship online, receive devotionals and so on.  We will be especially mindful of those who do not have access to ways of communicating online, and will appreciate the help of the church in identifying and reaching out to those who may need extra care and support in this time.

The office will remain open during regular business hours to maintain contact with members and friends through our website:, Facebook Page, by phone, email and other means as practical.

Official communications and announcements will come from the church staff as the board and staff work together to keep everyone informed.

Each committee and facet of our ministry is engaged in working to find ways to stay connected and carry out our ongoing mission to encourage one another in faith and to bear witness to the love of God in Christ through our caring for one another in the church and community.

Three things we would ask of our church members and friends at this time:

  • Be in prayer for our community and especially those impacted physically, economically and socially by this coronavirus outbreak. Prayer is an act of trust in God who is aware and moving in the midst of these circumstances.
  • Stay connected and compassionate. We will be working to provide ways to connect and encourage one another even as we cannot meet in person.  Please consider ways to call and check in on those who may be more isolated, experiencing anxiety or distress in this time.  May our times of prayer be opportunities where we allow God to speak and direct us and our hearts toward God and toward others.
  • Please continue to engage in and support the mission of the church as you are able. We will need everyone’s continued personal and financial engagement and support as we seek to provide ministry care for the church and community.  Checks can be sent in to the church, and online donations can be made through the website.  We do know that the financial effects of this outbreak are touching many lives – if you are experiencing difficulties or need assistance, please let Pastor Brian know.

One additional note relating to persons or groups and the rental and use of the church facilities outside of our regular ministries:

Any person or group who already has an agreement to rent or use the church from March 18 to May 1, 2020 will be contacted with the notification that First Baptist Church may need to cancel the approval of their event.  All other rentals and special services/requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

The church board will continue to meet and evaluate the situation and our response.  We will look forward to resuming our regular ministries and schedule as soon as advisable.

Please contact the church office and Pastor Brian with any questions, concerns or needs.  Thank you for your prayers, support and understanding.

In the peace of Christ,

-Pastor Brian


Participating in Christ – Chapter Five

Apocalypse — what comes to mind when we hear the word?  The end of the world?  The whole genre of post-apocalyptic movies, literature and games that encompass zombie outbreaks, post nuclear holocausts or the Blade Runner vision of a dystopian future?

Actually, the word apokalypsis literally means ‘un-covering’ or revelation; an exposing of reality that was previously hidden or unknown.  The book of the Bible we know as Revelation is literally called Apokalypsis in Greek – not because it is about the end of the world (why Christians think of it that way instead of as New Creation is beyond me, but that’s a different conversation), but because in it we find a revealing of God’s message and purpose in history to a servant of Jesus named John.

That understanding of apocalypse as being an unveiling or revealing of truth is essential to understanding this chapter from Gorman entitled: “The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit according to Galatians.”

It’s worth noting that Gorman’s main audience is pastoral and academic, engaging conversations that have been going on for quite a while in trying to understand Paul’s theology and how that relates to life, to the Torah, to God’s covenants with Israel and what that has to do with a community in Christ that includes Jew and Gentile together.

One of the key takeaways for me is that when Paul is writing about Jesus, he is not just passing along a revelation he has been given (i.e. information about Jesus or even his personal story of encountering Jesus), but that his life itself has become a revealing of the presence and work of Jesus.

In other words, because as Paul says in Romans 6:8 “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him,” this transforming work of God in us becomes a way God is revealing God’s self and God’s purpose in the world.

Participation in Christ then, is not just a personal mystic experience or a body of knowledge to be passed along, but a way in which our lives, being caught up in the life of God, makes God’s work visible in the world.  Lest we get ahead of ourselves, it’s essential to remember that for Paul, it is Christ crucified in which the character of God is revealed.  Which again brings us back to confront our temptations of a theology of glory vs. a theology of the cross.

This indwelling becomes the fulfillment of the promises made in Ezekiel and Jeremiah about receiving a new heart that enables us to live in right relationship with God.  In Gorman’s words:

“This apocalyptically [The dramatic way in which God] revealed new covenant is, and must be, revealed for what it is by being made visible in human lives and communities that are being transformed by the Spirit to bear testimony to the paradoxical reality of nature of God’s apocalypse [revelation] and new creation in the crucified Messiah”

In other words – making God visible as we live a life not only patterned after Jesus, but lived in the power and presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit within and among us.

To some, that’s a pretty obvious conclusion – yet it’s challenging precisely as we engage the scandal of a crucified Messiah as the one who sets the pattern for us.

One of the things I appreciate most about this approach is that it avoids the temptation to reduce faith to spirituality or knowledge or action, instead drawing all three elements together in a relationship lived in the presence and empowering of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in community with others.

Note: Dr. Scot McKnight at the Blog: Jesus Creed is also moving through this book, and it seems that we’re moving through at about the same pace, as his article on this chapter went up earlier this week.   His comments can be found here, and I’d highly encourage folks to give that a read as well.

Participating in Christ – Chapter Four

If Philippians 2:6-11 is a central description of what God’s cruciform love looks like in the person of Jesus Christ, the introductory verse of Philippians 2:5 is critical for understanding how Paul intends us to understand the implications for our lives and identity.

A complication is that there are different potential translations and interpretations of what the NRSV translates as “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”

Gorman highlights two of the main ways the passage has been interpreted.  Is it about imitating Jesus’ mindset or continuing in the identity we already have in Christ?  An example of this would be in the ESV translation: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

The bulk of this chapter is a fairly technical proposal that Gorman puts forward for a third way of understanding and translating this passage.  The in-depth rationale he presents for his translation will probably be difficult to follow for most readers, but we can take a look at where he lands and examine its implications.

He prefers to render Philippians 2:5 this way: “Cultivate this mindset – this way of thinking, acting and feeling – in your community, which is in fact a community in the Messiah Jesus.”

My sense of the core distinction between imitation and participation for Gorman is to guard against the idea of Jesus as just a moral example that we are to follow, which could be substituted by any other really good or moral person we should follow.

Gorman doesn’t like the word imitation, but there is a role for active response to who God is revealed to be.  The difference as I see it, is that we cannot imitate from the outside, as if we are apart from Jesus trying to be like Him.  Instead, to be a Christian, we are intrinsically drawn into community that is literally “in Christ”, participating in the continuing life of God in the pattern of Jesus the Messiah whose story reveals the character and nature of God in Philippians 2:6-11.

As he puts it, in Christ Jesus, “those who live in the Messiah are to be conformed to the pattern of his self-humbling and self-emptying, not merely as imitators of a model, but as persons whose fundamental identity is to participate in him and thus in his story.”

My core takeaway is the understanding that to be ‘in Christ’ is more than imitation of an ideal or example, but an entry into a community shaped and indwelt by God; Father, Son, Spirit.

If it all sounds way too esoteric and lofty; perhaps it’s useful to consider some related questions:

  • If Jesus is just an example, could we realistically substitute any other sufficiently good or wise person for him?  What would be missing in so doing?
  • What difference does it make that participation in Christ involves life in community, not just individual morality?
  • How does the mystical or spiritual dimension of this change how we view the Christian life?
  • What questions does this stir up for you?