We’re a small church, but after taste-testing a few other churches, I can say confidently that I wouldn’t want it any other way. Each Sunday, I walk in with the same responsibilities. I must get the coffee ready (although I’ve been slipping on that specific task for the last couple of weeks). Then, I prepare the Sunday School lesson for the kids. I let my eyes scan over the pews looking to see if anything needs to be put back into place. I peruse the tables to make sure everything that needs to be set out is ready to go.
I do this all in the quiet sanctity of our little church. Well, our congregation size is little, but our building is quite expansive. Furthermore, the First Baptist Church is a historical hallmark of our town, Blair. It was one of the first churches built, and its general history dates back to 1859, where meetings were held in the sod house of T.C. Hungate.
Can you believe that? It’s both impressive and humbling. Often times, I arrive at the church a long time before I’m needed. I quietly walk up the gentle incline to our front door – all the while I’m soaking in the early-morning noises akin to a small town. Knowing that I’m in no rush, I slowly unlock the church’s doors. Giving one last look to our little parcel of property, I enter the building. It’s like going home, but it’s a second home.
Taking out the bulletins for our 10:00 a.m. service, I turn left and walk up another small ramp. By this time, my calves are starting to feel it! I count each bulletin making sure that there are a few extra for one of our members to mail to other members who can’t make it. This particular member has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, and I’m not sure what we’d do without her.
Some mornings, after I’ve placed the bulletins on the entry table, I put my tote and purse on the back pew. I walk up to the front of the church, and I sit in the far-left pew. I don’t necessarily do anything. I just sit there, and I soak in the history, the atmosphere, and the Holy Spirit.
There’s some mornings where I can almost hear the flapping of fans during a hot, summer day. I can hear sounds of boots walking measuredly down the wooden aisle. I can hear the booming voice of an 1890s’ preacher dictating a sermon from the Book of Galatians. I can hear the church rising, preparing to sing Amazing Grace.
Every panel in our church, every panel in the stained-glass windows tell a story. They are saturated with the images they’ve seen. Funerals, weddings, sermons, and christenings are but a few of the events to have taken place in our sanctuary. It’s one of the few places I’ve been in my life where I can physically feel history.
Sundays are special for me. It's a day where I’m free to relax and enjoy. Then again, my definition of relaxing and enjoying involves First Baptist, so I’m always there (barring some catastrophe).
It’s not just the history, though, that makes our church special. What really sets us apart is our message, and the way we conduct ourselves. I’m not saying we’re the most polished group of people in Blair. No, we’re far from that (something I’m incredibly proud of by the way). Our church is built on rock. We don’t just mention a verse from the Word of God; we build our entire forty-five-minute sermon on the Word of God. When I say our church is built on rock, what I’m saying is that our church is built on the Word. That’s about the most solid rock you’re ever going to find, folks.
If our pastor (and if he reads this, let it serve as a warning! 😊) ever starts to preach fifteen-minute devotionals that focus more on my feelings and less on the context and original application of the verse, I will not come back. That seems stern, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. I know our pastor well enough to know that he’d never preach that type of sermon. I also know our congregation well enough to know that they’re just like me. We want to learn. We don’t want to feel artificial emotions. We want to really feel the intimacy that comes from a close-and-personal relationship with God. That’s what I want. That’s what we all want, and that’s what we strive for.
As Sunday School passes, I try to reset my bearings. The kids can wipe me out! But teaching kids is also a profound blessing because they humble me. Children have such a beautiful innocence about them that allows them to grasp certain biblical concepts that are otherwise difficult for adults. Forgiveness is easy for my students. It’s hard for adults. If I were to ask a group of adults, “Why did Jesus die for us?” I’d get a ton of answers. They’d range from, “He died for our sins because we are men and women made of flesh,” or, “To allow us a chance to enjoy the Kingdom with Him and God.” Both of those answers are true, but when I asked my students this question, do you want to know how they responded? They said, “Jesus died for us because He loves us.” It’s really that simple.
The children do their own thing during service, and that allows me to take in the sermon. Our pastor never fails to get my attention. My notebook is always jam-packed with information after a sermon, and it serves me well for all my late-night study sessions. It’s like my own personal reference guide.
Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and II Thessalonians are books that we’ve covered in their entirety during service. I’ve learned things about the Word of God that I never thought possible. And that’s a good thing, right? The more I study the Bible, the more I realize that it is, indeed, a supernatural book. It just is, and I found my attempts to refute parts of it futile. With my knowledge of history (and I majored in history in college, so my well is deep.), I thought I could cancel out certain parts of the Word of God, but I ended up becoming an incredibly devout believer. I don’t just believe that God’s real, and the Bible is a cute but good source of life lessons. No, I actually believe every single word written in the Word of God – every single word.
This has all been the fruition of me attending First Baptist Church. I honestly don’t know what I would do if something happened to my church. I couldn’t get this type of learning anywhere else. I’d have to commute quite a distance to get a decent sermon, and because I know this, I work tirelessly to keep our church open.
Every Sunday, my routine is relatively the same. But the mornings where I sit in silent reverence for my church and its history, I can’t help but feel the Holy Spirit. I made the right decision in coming back. I made the right decision in choosing to settle down at this little church on 18th and Lincoln. It’s like a home. Everyone that attends – well, they’re like family, and I’d do anything for them (except rob a bank).
And most importantly, we all like to learn. None of us want the cookie-cutter sermons anymore. We’re just tired; we’re tired of being fed Gerber’s baby food. We want a T-bone steak. We want some meat. We want to sit down, dig into the Word of God, and come out the other side better Christians for it.
What seems like a typical Sunday for you is a unique and valuable experience for me, and for that, I’m so blessed. About three years ago, my grandma dragged (not literally) me to a bible study at First Baptist. I begrudgingly said yes. Looking back, I wasn’t being dragged. I was being led by the Holy Spirit, and I’m so glad my heart listened.