We’re entering harvest time. Farmers prepare the soil, plant the seeds, tend to the crops, and wait for the harvest. For many crops, it’s this time of the year when the produce is ripe and ready. This is one reason why fall festivals are popular. They’re usually organized to celebrate the harvest season.
I’m not aware of any farmers within our church family but we’re still planning to have a Fall Festival. Our festival will not be focused on gathering crops but on gathering people so that they may have the opportunity to hear about Jesus. Our Fall Festival will be held on Sunday, October 29th. We’re asking everyone to join us for worship at 11am that Sunday. Then from 12pm to 3pm we will gather in the Milledge Rd. Parking lot for food, games, and fellowship.
I’m not a farmer but I was reading about harvest time. Did you know that there are several potential hindrances to harvesting? One of the biggest potential hindrances is having your machinery malfunction. If your combine is not in proper working order then you’ll be unable to gather the harvest. In a similar way, if our machinery isn’t in proper working order we will miss out on the harvest as well. Our machinery isn’t a combine. Our machinery is you and me. One of the biggest hindrances to the harvest is a failure to invite those around us to join us for an event like the Fall Festival. There are many factors that we can’t control but the one thing we can do is invite people. I want to challenge you to spread the invitation broadly and frequently for this event. Join me in praying that God will use it to help people connect with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
"Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” - John 4:35
I was listening to a podcast the other day and heard the presenter say something that stuck with me. He was talking about children’s ministry and he said, “If you reach the children then you’ll reach the city.” I thought that was a very bold statement. But as I began to think about my conversations with parents and grandparents, in most if not all of them they say one of the main reasons they attend a specific church is because of the children’s ministry. In other words, if a church doesn’t have a safe, inviting, biblically-based children’s ministry then most families will not stick around. As a parent, I understand the importance of belonging to a church that prioritizes ministering to the next generation.
Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:13-14…
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
We want to be a church that helps children come to Jesus. One of the new ways we’re seeking to do this is by launching the Awana program on Wednesday evenings. AWANA will meet every Wednesday evening at 6:30pm beginning September 6, 2023. Our AWANA club will focus on Cubbies, Sparks, and Truth & Training, from preschool (3 years old) through 5th grade. AWANA uses Bible-centered handbooks and special activities to help children gain a solid understanding of the basics of Christianity. This will be a great opportunity for children to learn about Jesus!
I want to challenge you to invite every family you know to participate in this great opportunity. You can invite people by sharing the Facebook event on your page, handing a family an invite card, or inviting someone in person. My prayer is that our church will be known for reaching out to the next generation and helping them come to Jesus!
As we move into August, you may find yourself saying things like…
“I can’t believe summer is almost over.”
“Aiken County started school on July 25? That’s so early!”
“I can’t believe school is starting back already. Back in the day, we didn’t start school until after Labor Day.”
Whatever you may be saying about the summer, it’s coming to an end and a new season of ministry is upon us. As the schools start back, a new rhythm of life and ministry begins. Here are some upcoming opportunities for ministry.
On August, 2nd, our gatherings on Wednesday will move to 6pm. We will share a $5 meal from 6-6:30pm. From 6:30-7:30pm we will have Bible studies of all ages. Please RSVP for the meal by going to our website (thehillbaptist.com) or calling the church office (706.736.8446).
Sunshine Sunday School Class Game Night will be held on Friday, August 4th at 6:30pm in the Social Hall. This is a great opportunity for you not only to have fun but to invite your friends to join you!
Youth & Jones Class Pool Party - After the worship service on Sunday, August 6th, we will host an end-of-the-summer/beginning-of-the-school-year pool party at our house. We’ll grill burgers, swim, and fellowship.
I share these three opportunities because each one provides a way for us to help people connect with God and the Church. Let’s not only look for how these opportunities benefit us but also how we can invite others to benefit as well.
Let’s not get to the end of August and find ourselves saying things like…
“I can’t believe August is almost over.”
“I should’ve invited someone to join me for the gathering my Sunday School class had.”
“I should’ve participated in the Wednesday evening times of fellowship, prayer, and Bible study.”
Instead, let’s be faithful in participating and sowing the seed of invitation broadly and frequently!
It’s heating up! But don’t let the heat drain you of your enthusiasm for outreach. Do you know the history of the word enthusiasm? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, “It may come as a surprise to many people, when they first look up the word enthusiasm, to see that its original meaning has to do with passion for religion, rather than passionate or eager interest in general. A brief explanation of the word’s etymology should clear this up. Enthusiasm entered the English language around the beginning of the 17th century. It was borrowed from the Greek enthousiasmos, meaning ‘inspiration or possession by a god.’ For the first two hundred or so years that it was used in English, enthusiasm was primarily employed to refer to beliefs or passions that related to religion.” That’s the meaning of enthusiasm that I want us to continue to embrace. Let’s continue to be passionate and eager to reach out to those in our community and invite them into a relationship with God. We need everyone to sow the seeds of invitation broadly throughout our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Let’s continually ask the Lord to keep us enthusiastic about outreach!
As we enter June, we will begin our summer schedule. Our summer schedule will offer unique opportunities to minister to children, youth, and adults. Our Sunday morning gathering times will remain the same (9:45am Sunday school & 11am Worship Service). The biggest change will be our gatherings on Wednesdays.
On Wednesdays in June and July, we will be offering a special children’s gathering from 10:30am-1pm. We call it Wacky Wednesdays. The children will be going through the Bible study curriculum called Twist & Turns: Following Jesus Changes the Game. They will go through rotations of music, Bible study, crafts, lunch, and recreation. I need you to spread the word and invite families to participate! You can register your children for this free event by going to our website and clicking on Wacky Wednesday. Let’s make the most of this ministry opportunity!
Along with the children’s program on Wednesdays, we’ll offer an adult ministry opportunity as well. The adults will gather in the Social Hall on Wednesdays for lunch and Bible study from 12-1pm. The cost of the lunch will be $5. You can RSVP by calling the church office or by going to our website www.thehillbaptist.com.
The third opportunity I want to share with you involves our youth. Beginning on June 11th, the youth will gather together Sunday evenings from 7-9pm. In addition to these Sunday evening gatherings, Brandon has also planned several other events such as a Youth Lock-In, Carowinds, Lake Day, Youth Retreat, and an end-of-the-summer Pool Party. Also, the youth are welcome to volunteer and help on Wacky Wednesdays.
Let’s spread the invitation to these events broadly both to those we know and don’t know so that many may grow in their relationship with Jesus!
I’m very encouraged as I look back over all the Lord has done this year! We’re already seeing positive results from the changes that have been made and the outreach initiatives that we’ve implemented. A few weeks ago, Brandon and I spent the afternoon going down a few streets in the National Hills neighborhood hanging door hangers. The door hangers shared about our church and what services we offer. The next Sunday I met a lady that was visiting our church for the first time. In our conversation, I asked her how she heard about our church. She said someone came by her house and placed a flyer on her door. I was so encouraged by that conversation.
In addition to continuing to invite and invest in our friends and family, I believe the strategy that we must exercise is what is called “broad sowing.” In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In the parable, the farmer sows his seed broadly and the seed falls on four types of soil. The farmer is not responsible for the type of soil the seed falls on but he is responsible to sow the seed. In a similar way, we need to sow the seed of invitation broadly. We need to extend invitations beyond those that we know. In order to do that we’ll be planning several outreach events over the next several months. These events will be designed to bless the community and provide opportunities for people to hear about both the gospel and what services our church offers.
Our role is to sow the seed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires that we take steps of faith and ask the Lord how we can be involved in broad sowing. I want to challenge you to help with these events in whatever way that you’re able to. You can pray. You can help plan. You can volunteer. You can call the people that fill out contact cards and thank them for coming to the event and invite them to church. We need everyone to be involved. Let’s trust the Lord together as we sow the seed of invitation. I believe as we do we’ll see some of those seeds fall on ground that will produce fruit!
First, let me say how encouraged I am at how you all rallied together to make the Easter Egg Hunt in Eisenhower Park a success! Your prayers, the door hangers you hung, the candy you donated, the eggs you filled, and the way you served made it a great event. Despite the rain, you showed up and served. Thank you! Let’s continue to build on that spirit of collaboration and service as we continue to reach out to our community!
As we spring into April, we head straight into Holy Week. Our Maundy Thursday Service is Thursday, April 6th at 6:45pm in the Social Hall after our meal which begins at 6pm. Our Good Friday Tenebrae Service is Friday, April 7th at 7pm in the Sanctuary. Then we will gather Easter Sunday for Sunday School at 9:45am and Worship at 11am.
I want to challenge you to make the most of these opportunities. Invite someone to come with you to one or more of these services. The most effective way to invite someone is through personal invitation. To help you invite those you know, we’ve printed some invitations for you to hand out. You can pick them up in the Welcome Center. I know we’re all busy but let’s not let our busyness blind us to the opportunities God will give us to reach people for Christ. Holy Week reminds us of the self-sacrificing love of Jesus. Let us display that type of love to those around us by giving them the opportunity to come and hear the gospel at one or more of our services. I’m looking forward to how God will bless our steps of faith.
We spent the month of January praying, fasting, and seeking the Lord’s guidance for the church. During the month of February, we began implementing some changes that we believe will help us be more effective in the mission God has given us. Thank you for being open to change. I’ve had several conversations and in each one there is a willingness to do whatever it takes to help people become growing followers of Jesus!
Now as we enter March, there are two ministry opportunities that I want to highlight.
The first is the Eisenhower Park Easter Egg Hunt. On Saturday, March 25th at 10am we’ll host an easter egg hunt in Eisenhower Park in the National Hills neighborhood. Here’s what I need you to do:
Begin to pray that many families in the National Hills neighborhood will attend this event.
Bring in candy. We need the candy to fill the plastic eggs that we’ll use for the event.
Volunteer to help set up and clean up. You can sign up as a volunteer in the Welcome Center.
Pray that we will make some great connections with those that come and that they would be interested in coming to a worship service.
The second event is on the 4th Sunday. Starting in March, we’re designating the 4th Sunday of the month as Invite Sunday. Although we want to invite people to worship with us every week, we will have a special emphasis on the 4th Sunday to invite people to worship with us! We’ll have some invitations printed and available in the Welcome Center. On the 4th Sunday, we’ll have a special item for guests in the Welcome Center as well as a clear gospel presentation in the worship service. Remember, we can all be involved in making disciples by inviting and investing. The 4th Sunday is your opportunity to invite people to come and hear about Jesus!
Let’s make the most of these opportunities and invite and invest in those around us so that they will become growing followers of Jesus!
As a church, we’ve been seeking the Lord for direction through prayer and fasting. We’ve been asking God to give the leadership of the church clarity of direction. We’ve been asking God to help us be open to how He leads. We believe God is answering our prayers and guiding our steps. There are three main areas where we believe the Lord has been answering our prayers for guidance and ideas.
The first area is the area of congregational worship. We believe He has led us to call Jim Thomaston to be our new Worship Leader. Jim loves the Lord and desires to use his talents to help people worship the Lord. His wife Shannon shares that desire as well. We’re excited about what the Lord is going to do through this change.
The second area is the church building. We believe the Lord has given us ideas for how to best use different parts of the church building such as the Welcome Center, the Youth area, the Children’s area, and the Children’s Library.
In the coming weeks, we will begin to use the Welcome Center as our Main Entrance to the Church. Until now, the Welcome Center has been used as a hallway. Now we are going to use that space as an area to welcome new guests to our church as well as one another. We’re asking our adult Sunday school classes to end at 10:40am in order to give people time to come down to the Welcome Center, grab a worship guide, and greet one another. You’ll also begin seeing new signs outside the building that will guide everyone to the Welcome Center.
Another area that will be changing is the Youth area. We are going to move the Youth area from the third floor of the Sanctuary building to the second floor of the Sanctuary building. This will put the youth on the same level with the other classes, give them access to a restroom, and make it accessible for anyone that may have trouble with stairs.
In the Children’s area, we will be creating a check-in station on the nursery side of the area. We will be placing a sign above the double doors that lead into that area that directs those with children to where they can check in.
Another idea that we want to implement in the Children’s area is to create a children’s library in one of the unused classrooms. The children’s library would be a place where the children can read a book or play an educational game on the iPads. Currently, the children’s books in the main library are not being used. We’re going to move the children’s books from the main library into the children’s area. This will give the children and the teachers easier access to the resources we have.
The third area is outreach. There are two main ideas that we want to implement in the area of outreach. The first is our online outreach. We’ll be launching a new website this month. As you may know, a church’s website has become the front door. Most people go to a church’s website before they go to the physical building. In addition to our website, we’ll be using other forms of social media as well. The second idea is to focus our outreach efforts on specific neighborhoods. As the outreach team meets to discuss this initiative, we’ll be able to share more details as to what this will look like.
These are three main areas that we believe the Lord has given us ideas to implement that will help us be more effective in reaching the next generation with the gospel. We’re continually asking God to lead and guide us. Because we know, like the Psalmist said in Psalm 127:1…
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Let’s continue to trust the Lord to build His church as we move forward by faith.
In this article, I’m going to share with you where we are as a church and where we go from here. Let me illustrate the life cycle of a church by using three colors. Green is the color for growth. Yellow is the color that represents a mixture of growth and decline. Red is the color for decline. When a church is in the green it’s growing in most areas. The members are growing individually, the church is growing numerically, and the gospel mission of the church is expanding. When a church is in the yellow, many of the members may be growing individually but the church is not growing numerically and its gospel reach is declining. When a church is in the red, most signs of growth are in decline. Prior to the pandemic, we were in the yellow. The Lord was gracious to us and we made it through the pandemic and have experienced growth in some areas. However, our additions have not outpaced our subtractions which have caused us to move further down the scale. As we enter 2023, I believe we’re in the bottom half of the yellow. This presents us with many challenges but also with many opportunities.
Before I share with you how we’ll move forward, let me share with you our current reality. Our current reality as a church includes both signs of growth as well as signs of decline. First, let me share the signs of growth that I see in you. I see spiritual growth in you. I believe you are growing in your love for God, in your knowledge of God, and in your involvement in the mission of God. When we’re gathered together, I see the love that you have for one another. I also see your love for others as you welcome those who are new to our church family. You believe the Bible is God’s Word and Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. You give generously of your time, talents, and treasure to the mission of God. You can’t manufacture those signs of growth. They are truly a testimony to the Spirit of God working in and through you. I am very encouraged by these signs of growth and I believe they will continue.
Now let me share some of the challenges of our current reality. This year was the first year since the pandemic with no restrictions. This has helped give us an accurate picture of where we are. Two indicators that are concerning are worship attendance and giving. These are not the only indicators that I’m looking at when I consider the health of our church but they are two of them. Worship attendance helps us see if we’re being effective in reaching new people with the gospel. Giving helps us see if people are becoming more generous which is a sign of spiritual growth. Giving also determines the church’s staffing, facilities, and mission objectives for the year. On this side of the pandemic, we’ve seen a decline of about 20% in our worship attendance and our giving. This is not unusual and is in line with what other churches in the nation are experiencing. However, for a church our size this percentage is very significant. It has pushed us down the scale and has placed us very close to the red.
My conclusion is that if we don’t make some bold moves in 2023 then The Hill Baptist Church may not exist in 3 to 5 years. Once a church reaches a certain point on the scale it becomes extremely difficult for that church to grow again. Our current reality is that we’re facing some challenges but thankfully we have the opportunity to make the necessary changes so that we can be more effective in the mission God has given us. I believe if we’re willing to make those changes then the ministry of The Hill Baptist Church will continue for many years to come.
This leads us to ask the question, “What changes need to be made?”
The deacons and I have been prayerfully discussing what changes need to be made for the past several months. But we need your help. We need you to join us in prayer as we seek God’s direction for the church. This is why we’re calling the church to start 2023 with 21 days of prayer and fasting. I have put together a guide for you to use during this time. You can pick up a printed copy in the vestibule of the church. You can access an electronic version on our website. You can also call the church office and have one mailed to you. Along with the guide, I’ll be spending the first four Sundays in January sharing more about this process. The deacons and I will be meeting throughout January to seek the Lord and finalize the plan for the changes that need to be made. Please join us in prayer and fasting as we seek the Lord during this crucial time. Pray for direction but also pray for openness to what God may have us do. We must all come to God with open hands, completely surrendered to Him.
Our current reality is a mixture of growth and decline. It’s my prayer that our future will be more characterized by growth. Let’s seek the Lord together and ask Him to help us become the people He wants us to be.