According to Pastor David Freeman, the effort is part of a long-term strategy to reclaim the church’s passion for direct ministry to individuals.
“We went into this year with a goal of presenting Jesus Christ to our neighbors face-to-face. Instead of seeing First Baptist as an historic institution, we want people to know that we are interested in who they are and what they are going through today. While we can’t meet every need, we can help every person connect with God through Jesus Christ. That is our only motivation,” Freeman said.
“Barbara” is one person whose life has been impacted as a result. Unemployed and facing the challenge of changing careers, Barbara contacted Healing Broken Vessels, a local organization that helps equip women for life and work. After attending a women’s conference co-sponsored by Healing Broken Vessels and one of the Sunday school classes at First Baptist, Barbara became involved in the church and was recently baptized as a new member.
“This is a perfect example of how God has used Servebration to provide for someone who was struggling,” said Freeman. “Barbara has found the support she needed and a new church family.”
Diantha S. McLeod, director of Healing Broken Vessels, is thankful for the new partnership with First Baptist.
“When the Church approached me and explained the meaning of Servebration, I was excited. They support us in our mission and vision. The outpouring of a greater love for a greater cause is phenomenal. Servebration defines the true meaning of community that breaks down religiosity so that healing, wholeness and unity can be fulfilled. I am grateful for our adoption,” said McLeod.
Church leaders have also noticed a positive impact on the members of First Baptist Church. Benji Thomas, the church’s Minister of Education and Missions, is seeing the value of mobilizing Christians for hands-on ministry.
“Servebration has helped us to look beyond the walls of our church to the needs of our community. We've been able to help meet a lot of needs, but perhaps the biggest impact has been on our own hearts as we go out and serve in Christ's name. We have learned all the more that we can only serve and love others because He has first loved and served us,” Thomas noted.
Along with their involvement with local ministries, First Baptist is sponsoring several community events and service projects as part of Servebration. The most recent example was a community clean-up effort which focused on the neighborhoods and businesses near the church’s downtown Lebanon campus. Events scheduled for later this year include a community concert and a fall festival.
While Servebration is designed to conclude at the end of 2011, Freeman expects the momentum will carry the church forward for years to come. “Servebration has reminded us that our Sunday gathering is not the end but the beginning. By engaging our community face-to-face we are realizing the full impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We really do have Good News for our neighbors and there is nothing like delivering that news personally!”
Most of the church’s Servebration projects are open to any service minded member of the community. Interested persons should visit the church’s website at www.fbclebanon.org and click on the Servebration link. First Baptist Church is located at 227 East Main Street in downtown Lebanon and can be reached by phone at 444-3330.