KOH2RVA: Day 330

soccer campI didn’t blog yesterday, but it’s not because I didn’t want to: it’s because I forgot.

I got up at five o’ clock for a day that didn’t end until ten, with less than an hour in the afternoon to come home and change clothes. I’m not complaining. It was a wonderful day. But I am explaining how Richmond’s premiere KOH2RVA blogger might have forgotten to bring you up to date on the mission.

So, where were we?

Yesterday we were at Day 329. Today we are at Day 330. Which means that in just over a month this year-long, every-member mission trip will have come to its end. What I learned at church yesterday is that there are things going on I didn’t even know about and there are members who are still looking for a way to get off the bus.

For example: I didn’t know that Buddy Burgess, who heads up the ministry of recreation at First Baptist, had conducted a week-long soccer camp at Essex Village in which 25 children had participated. I must have been on vacation that week. But I heard Ralph Starling mention it during worship yesterday and when I closed my eyes I could almost see those children laughing and learning as Buddy worked with them patiently and came back to do it again every day that week. If he had done it in Sri Lanka it might have been on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but he did it at Essex Village—one of the most neglected neighborhoods in our city—and because he did not many people knew about it. Even his pastor found out after the fact. But those 25 children will never forget it and for them, I’m sure, heaven came a little closer to earth.

I also overheard someone whispering about a church member who hasn’t found her way to “get off the bus” yet, by which I mean she hasn’t found a way to participate in this year-long, every-member mission trip (emphasis on every). That didn’t surprise me; what surprised me was the expectation that she would, as if it were simply understood that that’s what you do at Richmond’s First Baptist Church—you get off the bus! The person who was whispering to her friend wasn’t doing it in a gossipy way; they were putting their heads together, wondering what they could do to help this woman before it’s too late, before this mission trip comes to an end and everybody else gets back on the bus—tired and happy—only to find their friend hiding in the back.

To learn that good things have been going on while you were away, and that a culture has been created in which everyone is expected to be on mission, well…that makes a pastor’s heart sing, even at the end of a very long day.

Today is a new day.  It’s day 330.

What will you do to bring heaven to earth?

KOH2RVA: Day 322

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What are the signs of the coming Kingdom? They’re in the hallways at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

I’ve posted two of these previously, but take a look at what our bulletin board artists have done to communicate the truth that our church is on a year-long, every-member mission trip to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia–the KOH2RVA–and that we really do want everybody to get off the bus and onto the mission field.

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Children's Ministry

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Is KOH2RVA part of the church’s culture?  Has it gotten into our DNA?  We’re still working on it, but a walk down the hallways of the church will let you know we are moving in the right direction.

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KOH2RVA: Day 320

2013-07-22 13.51.16I’ve had this fear that First Baptist Church’s year-long, every-member mission trip called KOH2RVA might not make it all the way through to the end, that it might get off to a good start but then, halfway through the year, sputter to a stop.

That fear was unfounded.

If anything, it seems that our mission to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, has been picking up speed lately, making a final sprint to the finish line on September 8.  On Wednesday night I was sitting at the supper table with a half dozen of our members when Emily Johnston came over to say hello.  I had been wanting to see her, to tell her that I had received the message below:

Hi, Jim!

Hope to see you tonight, but if not, wanted you to know that Bill and I went over to Essex Village yesterday and had a grand time! It gave us a chance to work with children again, and that in itself, was great…the children, as you know, I’m sure, are very well behaved and most of them really want to learn. I can tell you more about our enthusiasm when we see you; it would be nice if more folks would give a little time to these people… the little ones still talk about Pakistan, where they were born.

Talk to you soon.

Emily

We talked for a while and as we did I looked around the table and realized that every person there had gotten “off the bus” and onto the mission field this year; in other words, there was 100% participation in KOH2RVA.  And this was not the elite missionary corps I was sitting with; these were “regular” church members who have begun to think of themselves as missionaries.

I know that what was true for my table on Wednesday night is not necessarily true for the entire church, but I was encouraged by what I saw—greatly encouraged.

I could almost hear the Kingdom coming closer.

KOH2RVA: Day 318

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Take a close look at the image above.

It’s a screen shot from my iPhone, showing the distance between Windsor Farms—the city’s wealthiest census tract—and Gilpin Court—the city’s poorest. According to my iPhone even if you are driving in heavy traffic it’s less than five miles, less than twenty minutes, from one to the other. And yet the two are worlds apart.

So, I was a little surprised to find this email from First Baptist member Leslie Beale in my inbox when I got back from vacation:

Jim,

Normally I wouldn’t send these but since you asked us to keep working in your absence I thought I would share. Kevin and I are volunteering at STEP‘s VBS this week serving the kids from Gilpin Court. And I suppose we are working to bring KOH2RVA but to us it just seems like summer fun!

I hope that you are enjoying your vacation,

Leslie

Leslie and Kevin don’t live in the wealthiest census tract in Richmond, but they still live a long way from Gilpin Court, socioeconomically speaking. To think of them and their three beautiful children–Paige, Christopher, and Carter–helping out with Bible School at Gilpin Court stretched my imagination. I needed proof. Leslie must have known that.

She sent pictures.

I’m going to let those pictures speak for themselves, but I hope what you will hear when you look at them is this: that bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, is work, but it’s joyful work.

To some people, “it just seems like summer fun!”

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KOH2RVA: Day 316

Anne4It was great to be back in church yesterday.

I preached the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42 and ended up talking about “holy moments.” At the end of the sermon I asked the congregation to recognize that that very moment was a holy one—when we were all gathered together, sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking up every word, just like Mary in the story.

But there was another holy moment that came later that afternoon.

I was in a meeting with the Associate Pastor for Communications search team, the team that is trying to find someone who can take David Powers’ place as when he retires at the end of next month. It won’t be easy. David is, in so many ways, irreplaceable. But we had a promising candidate at the table who had just asked an interesting question: “What is the mission of First Baptist Church?”

There was a brief pause, and then Anne Keo offered an answer. She started by saying that she had been at First Baptist all her life—almost literally. She was dedicated a month after she was born. She talked about her days in the youth group, when kids came to First Baptist from 36 different high schools in the area. “But since Pastor Somerville has been here,” she said, “there seems to be more of a push to be on mission where we are the rest of the week, and not only on Sunday mornings—for everyone to be a missionary.”

From the moment she said, “But since Pastor Somerville has been here,” I had been holding my breath, wondering what she would say next, but when she said that—about everyone being a missionary—I let it out in a sigh of relief.

It was a holy moment.

Because since I’ve been at First Baptist I’ve been trying to help it become a more missional church. Missional is different from “mission minded.” First Baptist has always been mission minded. We’ve been sending missionaries to other parts of the world forever, supporting them with our money and our prayers. But in the missional church everyone is a missionary, and the mission field is not only over there, but also right here where we are, where we live and work and play. This year-long, every-member mission trip called KOH2RVA is simply a way of putting that idea into action as we “labor alongside the Lord Jesus” to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

Looking back on yesterday’s holy moment I realize that when Anne said there has been “a push” for everyone to be a missionary since Pastor Somerville’s arrival she didn’t say it was a good thing. She might have been wishing this pushy pastor would leave things the way they were when she was in the youth group. But I could tell from what she said later in the meeting that she was learning to think of herself as a missionary, and that she saw this as different, and much more important, than simply “coming to church.”

It seems so simple: “Everyone is a missionary.” And yet to know that in your heart, to feel it in your bones, to begin to look at the world around you through “missionary eyes” can take years. I believe Anne is getting it, and who knows how the world will be different because she is?