As we conclude the B.L.E.S.S. sermon series, I want to remind you what the five missional practices are that will help you be a blessing to those around you. Here is how the authors of the book entitled B.L.E.S.S. - 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World summarize each practice.
B - Begin with Prayer
“When Jesus started His earthly mission, Luke 6 tells us that He went out on a mountain and prayed. Prayer is both how you discover your mission and how you live out the mission. Over and over again, we see Jesus retreating to pray. If you’re not sure who God is calling you to bless or where God is calling you to go to be a blessing, you can begin with prayer. And if you know the people you want to bless, begin praying for those people now.”
L - Listen
“Asking questions and then listening was central to Jesus’s life and teachings. Consider the blind man in Luke 18. Jesus didn’t assume the blind man wanted to see. First, He asked, ‘What do you want me to do?’ Then He listened. In the Gospels, Jesus asked more questions than He answered. Of the 183 different questions He received, Jesus answered only a handful. Any relationship starts with listening to someone’s words and life. True listening may be the kindest and most loving gift you can give someone.”
E - Eat
“Jesus liked to eat! Over and over, as in Matthew 9, we find Jesus with tax collectors and sinners…doing what? Eating! There is something about sharing a meal together that moves any relationship past acquaintance toward friendship - faster than just about anything else we can do.”
S - Serve
“Jesus told us straight up, ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve….’ (Matthew 20:28). He modeled for us that once you begin with prayer, listen, and eat with someone, there is a good chance that you’ll discover how you can best serve the person God is asking you to bless."
S - Story
“When people were ready to listen, Jesus would share His story. Like when doubting Thomas came to him asking, ‘How can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:5-6). When you befriend and bless people, they feel relationally safe and want to know your story. Then, and only then, you can tell them how the love of God and Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection have changed you.”
I want to encourage you to continue to put these into practice. We have been blessed to be a blessing. The best way for us to fulfill the mission of loving people and making disciples of Jesus Christ is to be blessers. I’m looking forward to meeting the people you’re praying for, listening to, eating with, serving, and sharing your story with!
Over the past few years, you’ve heard a lot about infrastructure. The past two presidents have talked about the need to improve the infrastructure of our country. One website defines infrastructure this way:
Infrastructure is the general term for the basic physical systems of a business,
region, or nation. Examples of infrastructure include transportation systems,
communication networks, sewage, water, and electric systems. These systems
tend to be capital intensive and high-cost investments, and are vital to a
country's economic development and prosperity.
If you have adequate infrastructure then you’re able to grow. Imagine a community that is seeing more people move into the area. In order to adequately serve the growing population, the community will need to expand roads and other public services. If the community fails to improve its infrastructure, not only will growth not happen but the current residents will experience the congestion of services.
Our church is like the community in my example. We want to see more people “move to our area” meaning we want to see more people become disciples of Jesus and worship with us. However, our current infrastructure can only handle so much. In order for us to improve and increase our services, we must expand.
The way we expand our services to those within our church and community is by our members, you and me, serving in specific ways. During the month of August, you will have the opportunity to sign up to serve and help us expand our infrastructure. We have several different ways that you can be involved in helping us fulfill our mission to love God, love people, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Whether it’s working with children, running the audio-visual system, playing an instrument, teaching a Sunday school class, planning short-term mission trips, spearheading our senior adult ministry, working with our teenagers, or wherever you may serve you will help us improve and increase the ministry of The Hill Baptist Church. I want you to pray about where God is leading you to sign up to serve!
A story is told of a young boy who sat in church and watched as the offering plate was being passed. Wanting to give something, he reached inside his pocket for something to put in. To his dismay, he had nothing inside. As the plate was passed down the row and came to him, he put the plate on the ground and stepped inside. He had nothing monetary to give, but he gave the most important thing he had—himself.
The story of the young boy reminds us that God wants us to give not only our resources but, more importantly, ourselves. Our church needs you. We need you to join us in the mission God has given us. We need you to give financially but we also need you to give yourself. We need you to serve.
During the pandemic, our ministry team strategy has become dormant. Now that we are emerging from the pandemic, we will be forming ministry teams once again. A ministry team is a group of people seeking to accomplish a specific part of our mission. Serving on a ministry team is a great way to use the gifts God has uniquely given you. Ministry team sign ups will begin in August. I want to encourage you to begin praying about where God will have you serve.
"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:" Romans 12:6
Next month the offering plate of opportunity will be passed. When it comes to you, what will you put inside?
Pastor Ron Jones
To help you prayerfully consider where God may have you serve, here’s a list of some of the potential Ministry Teams.
As we move into June, the spread of the virus is decreasing and we are beginning to see our city emerge from the pandemic. Let’s pray this trend continues. The pandemic has altered our way of life in many ways. Some of the alterations will prove to be temporary. The mask-wearing and social distancing will continue to be relaxed. Virtual school will be replaced by normal face-to-face learning. Restaurants, stadiums, and theme parks will begin to operate a full capacity.
However, some of the alterations will be more permanent. The increased use of technology will continue. Hopefully, the increased attention to personal hygiene will continue. One alteration that I hope will only be temporary is the decrease in church involvement.
I want to challenge you to emerge from the pandemic more committed than ever before to your relationship with Christ and His Church. I desire to see growth in you and growth in the number of people worshipping with us on Sundays! Now more than ever people are realizing their need for God and for community. Both can be experienced in the church.
I want to challenge you to commit to attending our worship services when you’re in town. I want to challenge you to reach out to those around you and invite them to join us for worship. If we’re going to grow, we need to take steps of faith. What is your next step? Maybe your next step is going from watching online to worshipping with us in person. Maybe your next step is placing your faith in Jesus for the first time. Maybe your next step is getting baptized. Maybe your next step is attending a Sunday school class or the Wednesday evening Bible study. Maybe your next step is volunteering in an area of ministry such as the children’s ministry, youth ministry, or music ministry. If we’re going to grow, we must be willing to take steps of faith. Let’s emerge from this pandemic with our faith firmly fixed on Jesus Christ and let’s move forward with Him by taking our next step!
A few weeks ago I shared an interesting statistic with the deacons. A recent survey done in April found that only 37% of adults feel comfortable attending a religious service. This means that over 60% do not feel comfortable! This statistic tells me two things. First, people are going to be slow in returning to the in-person Sunday worship service. Second, one of the best ways for us to reach people is going to be online.
We’ve all had to learn how to use technology over this past year and that’s not going away. Rather than seeing it as a burden, we need to see it as an opportunity. We need to get accustomed to not only inviting people to join us for our in-person worship gatherings but also inviting them to watch our online service. We need to not only invite them to our Wednesday Evening Bible Study but also to participate online using Facebook or Zoom. Other ways we can help them take a next step is to invite them to join our email list, like our Facebook page, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Before the pandemic, many of these ways to connect with people were not on our radar. Now Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, and Livestreaming are terms that everyone knows. Let’s make the most of these tools and invite people to take their next step to connect with our church.
Invite someone to join our email list. They can join by going to our website and clicking on “Subscribe to Receive Weekly Updates” which is located at the bottom right of the page.
Invite someone to join our Wednesday Evening Study by joining our Facebook Group “Wednesday Evening Bible Study” or by joining through Zoom (the Zoom information is sent out every Wednesday in the Mission Update email).
By the time you’re reading this, it will be Holy Week. Holy Week is a week set aside during the year when we focus on the last week of Jesus’s life that culminates with his resurrection from the dead. It’s a time when we’re reminded of what Jesus has accomplished for us through his life, death, and resurrection. On Palm Sunday we will focus on Jesus entering Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday we will focus on Jesus gathering with his disciples in the upper room to share the Passover meal. On Good Friday we will focus on the crucifixion of Jesus. On Easter Sunday we will focus on the resurrection. I hope you’ll join us for each of these special services.
In each of these services, we’ll be reminded of what makes the good news good. We’ll be reminded of the grace and love of God. We’ll be reminded of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We all need to be reminded of these wonderful truths.
Also, the good news of Easter isn’t only for us but for everyone. I want to challenge you to invite those you know to join us for one or more of these services. Here are some ways you can extend the invite:
Face-to-Face invitation - This is the most effective way to invite someone to come with you to one of these services. Remember, asking your friend to “come with me” is always better than simply saying, “You should come to this service.”
Phone or Text - If you’re unable to see your friend face-to-face, this is another effective way to share with them that you would like for them to come with you to one or more of our services.
Social Media - While not as effective as the previous methods, sharing the information about our services on your social media platforms helps to extend a broad invitation to those you are connected to.
I hope you will take a step of faith and extend an invitation! Remember, we can’t control how people respond but what we can do is take a step of faith and invite them to join us and trust God with the results! Let’s trust God together and take this step of faith!
As we move into the third month of the year I want to remind you of where we want to be by the end of 2021. We want to be a church and that is experiencing revitalization through:
the measurable personal growth of our members,
numerical growth in our worship services,
the creation of an effective online presence, and
the updating of the Sanctuary and Social Hall.
In order for this to happen, we must take steps of faith. We can’t do what we normally do and expect different results. We must trust God in new ways if we’re going to grow personally and as a church.
Here are some steps of faith you can take this month to help our 2021 vision become reality.
Participate in the Bible reading challenge in March. We’re going to read through the Gospel of Mark at least once.
Give. You should have received your giving statement for 2020. I want to challenge you to join me in increasing our giving for 2021.
Numerical Growth - We want to have 100 people worshipping with us by the end of the year. In order for this to happen, we need to invite people to join us for worship in person or online. Nothing is more effective than a personal invitation. Prayerfully consider who you can invite each week to our worship service.
Effective Online Presence
Share our content on your social media accounts. We regularly post on Facebook and Instagram. The more you share our posts the more people will be exposed to our ministry.
Another way you can help is by subscribing to our YouTube Channel. To subscribe you can go to our website (ww.thehillbaptist.com) and click on the tab “Online Service.” At the bottom of the page, it will say “Click HERE to watch past Worship Services.” Click “HERE” and it will take you to our YouTube Channel. Click “Subscribe.” The more subscribers we get the more options we will have to reach more people online.
Updating the Sanctuary and Social Hall - At our March Church Conference, we will be discussing and voting on a motion to upgrade the sound system in the Sanctuary. Our current sound system is over 20 years old and is unable to handle our current needs. A new system will enhance both our in-person and online worship experience. Pray for wisdom as we move forward with this project.
I hope you will join me in taking these steps of faith in March as we trust God together to make our vision become a reality.
I’m not a big Bob Dylan fan but in 1964 he wrote a song entitled, “Times They Are A-Changin.” We are experiencing many changes. As I write this, one of the biggest changes that is occurring is that our country is preparing for a change in administration. By the time you read this, we will have a new president and several new elected senators and representatives. In the months and years to come, we are sure to experience changes that will affect our daily lives. You’ve heard it said that change is the only constant. This is true for everything except God. The Bible says in Psalm 102:25-27,
“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a
garment. You change them like raiment, and they pass away; but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The fact that God doesn’t change should give us great comfort. It gives us great comfort because if God doesn’t change then his Word doesn’t change. This means that his Word is true and will always be true. Isaiah 40:8 says,
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
I want to encourage you to attach your life to that which does not change. Enjoy the grass and the flowers but don’t attach your life to them because they will be here today and gone tomorrow. Enjoy the grass and the flowers, seek to bring about positive change, but build your life on the rock of the unchangeable God. The times they are a-changin but let us place our trust is Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
I don’t think any of us were sad to see 2020 come to a close. The year wasn’t all bad but it was one of those years that you would not want to repeat. I know many of you are hoping that 2021 will be a better year. Although I can’t predict the future, I do believe this new year is full of promise because I know that God is at work. As we move into the new year, I want to share with you four parts of our vision for what we are trusting God to do in and through The Hill Baptist Church in 2021.
Our vision is that by the end of 2021, we want to be a church that is experiencing revitalization through:
the measurable personal growth of our members,
numerical growth in our worship services,
the creation of an effective online presence, and
the updating of the Sanctuary and Social Hall.
First, we want to see measurable personal growth of our members. We know there are many areas that are difficult to measure but we’ve chosen a handful that can be measured. We know that spiritual growth involves prayer, Bible intake, serving in the Church, giving, and missions.
As we begin 2021, I want to help you grow in these areas in the following ways:
Prayer - Develop a regular pattern of prayer.
Bible Intake - Read the Bible more this year than you did last year.
Serving in the Church - Discover your gift(s) and begin serving in the Church.
Giving - Increase your financial giving to the mission of The Hill Baptist Church.
Missions - Serve our City & World through words (sharing the gospel) & works (tangible expressions of love).
We will be providing opportunities throughout the year to help you grow in these areas.
Here are two specific Next Steps for the month of January.
Bible Intake - Participate in the Proverbs Challenge - Each day during the month of January read a Proverb. January has 31 days and there are 31 Proverbs.
Missions - During the month of January bring in canned food and nonperishable food items for our Little Free Pantry.
Second, we want to see numerical growth in our worship services. We are currently averaging around 55 people in our Sunday morning worship service. By the end of 2021 we want to be averaging 100 people. In order to see that happen we will need to be praying and working together to reach out to our community.
Third, we want to see the creation of an effective online presence. We are in the process of installing a new camera and equipment that will enable us to livestream our services. We have a few others ideas as well. One thing you can do throughout the year that will help us reach more people online is share our content. Shareour posts and our videos on your Facebook page and on your Instagram account.
Fourth, we want to update the Sanctuary and the Social Hall. We were already working on this before the pandemic. But we had to hit the pause button while we adjusted to the new normal. However, in 2021 we want to move forward with these updates. Our Property Renewal Committee will develop a proposal for the updates that we need to make in order to make these spaces as effective as possible.
These are the four major parts of our vision for 2021. I believe that the only way we can accomplish this revitalization is by the power of God. It will require all of us to trust God and take steps of faith. Every one of you has a role to play in this work of seeing this vision become a reality. I’m asking you to commit yourselves to this work as we move into the new year. If God is for us then who can be against us? Let us move forward in faith and trust God to do great things!
I’m looking forward to Christmas! This year as been filled with challenges but in midst of uncertainty God offers us hope, peace, joy, and love in Christ. To help you focus on the reason for the season we are making available to you a free Advent Devotional. You can pick one up in the vestibule of the Sanctuary. I will also send an electronic copy in the Mission Update email that goes out each Wednesday. If you’re not signed up to receive our Mission Update email then you can go to our website www.thehillbaptist.com and subscribe. Below is an introduction to the devotional and how to use it. I hope you will participate in the Advent readings and the Advent services this season!
Pastor Ron Jones
INTRODUCTION: GOOD NEWS IN TROUBLING TIMES
We’ve made it! We’ve made it to Advent and the Christmas season! And wow, can we certainly use some Christmas! It’s been a year like no other, to put it mildly. Global pandemic, economic recession, mass unemployment, political division, cultural upheaval, racial reckoning, record wildfires, extra powerful hurricanes, devastating floods. Did I miss anything? Maybe whatever personal struggles you are facing are a result of those wide-scale events or completely unrelated. In whatever form they’ve come for you, the realities of life have been heavy and humbling. We have been aware of the darkness around us.
It’s the ideal setting for some light.
It’s just the kind of backdrop for a Savior to come.
It’s the perfect time to rediscover Christmas.
Because no matter how troubling the times, and no matter how heavy our hearts, there is good news. The greatest news! As the angels proclaimed it on the night of Jesus’s birth long ago:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God
and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom
his favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)
This is the news of the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. This is the news that drives away fear and fills us with joy and holds us in peace. It’s news of the reality we are invited to step into and experience. And Advent is the time of our journey into this rediscovery of hope, peace, joy, love, and of Christ himself.
Wherever you are this year on your level of anxiety, uncertainty, or pain—
Wherever you are on your own spiritual journey—
Wherever you are in the midst of holiday stress or pressure—
Let me invite you into this journey of Advent.
HOW TO CELEBRATE ADVENT
Advent is a season that is officially observed in many churches. The four weeks before Christmas are set aside as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’s birth. The term advent is a version of the Latin word that means “coming.” But Advent is not just an extension of Christmas; it is a season that links the past, present, and future. Advent offers us the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, to celebrate His birth, and to be alert for His second coming. It is a season to explore and experience several key traits embodied in the arrival of Christ: hope, peace, joy, and love.
While the core concept of Advent remains the same, some traditions and practices vary. This reading plan is based on common practices, and we invite you to adapt it to match the traditions of your own church. One of the main traditions of Advent is the weekly lighting of the candles on an Advent wreath. A circular evergreen wreath represents God’s unending love for us. And the lighting of five candles throughout the season represents Jesus’s coming to a world lost in darkness. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” This can be both a meaningful and fun tradition for kids of all ages, and it can be easily adapted to fit individual, group, or family needs.
This reading plan contains devotions for each of the four weeks before Christmas. Based around the weekly themes of hope, peace, joy, and love, there are seven devotions for each theme. There is also a devotion for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day. These emphasize the rediscovery of Christmas in the practice and experience of each trait, and they lead us in reminders of good news in our troubles and uncertainties. Practical questions help to spur us toward ways to apply hope, peace, joy, and love in our own lives.
In addition, each weekly section contains an introduction page with a song to sing, verses to memorize, a question to ponder, and a verse to focus on throughout the week. We encourage you to use these sections as a guide for a weekly lighting of your own Advent wreath. Whether you do this alone, as a family, with friends, as a small group, in person, or virtually, the tradition of the lighting of the candles will add to the richness of your Advent experience. And singing the songs can make the experience especially fun and meaningful if you have kids.
In a season often marked by frenzied busyness, Advent is an opportunity to set aside time to prepare our hearts. The tradition and the devotions in this book are designed to help us place our focus on a far greater story than our own—the story of God’s redeeming love for our world. The story of His presence with us always.
So no matter what the department stores try to tell you, Christmas has not yet arrived. There is value as well as excitement in patient and expectant waiting. May this be a season of wonder for you. May it be a rediscovery of Christmas. And may the Holy Spirit lead you on a journey of peace, joy, and love—and ultimately to a deep encounter with Jesus.