You could say it’s been an unusual few weeks around here!
I can’t tell you the number of times this month that I’ve wished to have had a course in seminary on engaging the media. The intense interest in our church’s future has, at times, felt like a floodlight has been turned on and aimed in our direction. And like the capacity of a spotlight to starkly illuminate the object of its glare (while emitting some real heat!), the recent news reports have done just that.
Many of these reports have gotten the facts (mostly) straight. Yes, our congregation is readying itself for a vote this Sunday to restore the exterior of our Sanctuary building, renovate its interior, reduce our footprint by razing Buildings B & C and closing the Children’s Center, and reimagine our grounds with the addition of an atrium and planting of an outdoor chapel. Yes, that comes after years — even decades! — of careful study of our physical plant. Yes, it directly impacts the lives of those in our Children’s Center community. And yes, it has not been without grief and loss.
What has often failed to convey are the nuances, those subtleties that often lie just outside the spotlight’s direct beam. With the desire for more clicks, more views, and more interest, how might a journalist forgo the salacious lead-ins (“things are on the chopping block down at First Baptist!”) to capture the untold hours of prayer and deep listening to God that has been invested for years as our congregation has looked to its future? In the hurry to publish a story, how might the news media resist the urge to oversimplify the challenge at hand (particularly about our Children’s Center) but instead take the time to understand the countless ways that you, the individual members of our congregation, have given sacrificially for years so that First Baptist could have a substantial role in educating our city’s children in the name of Jesus? In the curiosity about a pastor who is also mama to three little ones, how might a reporter capture all those layers when I can hardly do so myself? These, and countless other examples, are caught around the floodlight’s beam, leaving the story incomplete at best.
But you and I both know that amidst the spotlights, floodlights, and limelight, we are called to be people of the Christ-light. We are called to hold it for one another, bearing witness to the Light of the world that shines in a darkness and cannot be overcome. So many of you have written notes of encouragement to our committee, which along with dozens of others from fellow pastors and community leaders in Winston-Salem, have held up that Christ light for me this month. Like a flame in the night or a burning bush in the wilderness, there is no corner of our lives where this light cannot touch, no parts of the whole it cannot illuminate, no shade or nuance it cannot capture, no hope it cannot keep our eyes from seeing. For such a time as this and for our road that lies ahead, may God equip us to be a people of more light, less heat!
Together in the work of Love,