Good News Free Will Baptist:  #30, Richmond VA Church

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A couple of weeks back I attended prayer #30:  Good News Free Will Baptist off Courthouse Road in Richmond, VA. 

I drove up to the mid-sized red brick building right on time, approached the sanctuary and let myself in.  The church was modest and simple.  There weren’t any ornate statues, colorful window decorations, or intricately carved altars.  Instead, just plain white walls and a couple comfortable chairs surrounding a simple wooden podium for the pastor to speak from.  It was just the way I liked it. 

 

The congregation was composed of about 70% blue hairs and 30% families.  They were ethnically diverse and very “Baptist looking.”  Don’t lie. You know what I mean by that.  It’s not a knock but think navy blue suits, militant hair cuts and floral dresses with half moon doily’s surrounding the necks of every elderly woman.

Pastor Glen Johnson welcomed everyone warmly as we all offered up a few quick songs to the Lord.  It wasn’t much of an eventful service but his message did strike a cord with me.

Pastor Glen spoke in a very direct manner and many times throughout the service his passion shined through.  He was discussing Christian finances and how monetary abundance might stand in the way of us and Christ.  This is a subject that truly intrigues me. 

Before starting this project, I always defended people like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer for having ministries that provided them with multi-millions dollar salaries.  If anyone dare question their mission I’d proclaim “It’s okay for Michael Jordan to make a zillion for dunking a ball, but Joel brings millions upon millions to Christ and he should live like a pauper?  That doesn’t make sense!!!”  My feelings on this subject have slightly changed but I wont’ go into that now.

Pastor Glen was clearly addressing his flock and requesting that they invest more into the church.  There were no two ifs ands or buts about that.  However, he was tactful in his approach, but incredibly direct and animated.  Several times he’d start pacing back and forth while moving along on a point only to dramatically increase the volume of his voice while slowly incorporating his arms into the conversation.  It wasn’t like a  “Hey Susie, give me your tithe or else” but more like a (normal tone) “if you’d like to spend your money on new fancy cars or boats, or luxury homes, please go right ahead, BUT THOSE WHO STORE UP THEIR TREASURES IN HEAVEN AND FEAR THE LORD WILL REIGN!!!!!”  ….Or something like that.

He challenged each of us to think about what we choose to invest in and I certainly continue to give this some serious thought.

He referenced Matthew 6:19 and asked us to examine where we store our treasures.  I found myself sitting in the pew that I had all to my self and wondering how I would possibly go about opening a heavenly portfolio?  Would a broker be involved? Did Pastor Glen mean just specifically giving abundantly to the church? 

Regardless of what the point of this verse actually was, I think Pastor Glen touched on something pretty important:  We can’t take our stuff with us.  Like my nana used to say, “You can’t eat a boat, or a large bouquet of flowers, or a super fancy house.”  See, she grew up in a time where she had to weld together old soap remnants to stay clean and eat pasta for every meal because it only cost a buck. 

Nana didn’t want any gift that couldn’t immediately benefit the health and happiness of her household in some way. Funny enough, regardless of her sentiments, every year for her birthday one of her 3 devoted sons would attempt to display their love for her by attempting to buy her some special gift, only to have her immediately unwrap it and say, “You can’t eat it.”  But Nana was on to something there. 

You can’t eat that boat, the fancy car, or the house.  And Pastor Glen was on to something too, you also can’t take it with you.  So what’s it all for?  And we’re not just guilty of this in our homes, but in our church’s too.  I can’t tell you in the past 30 weeks how many expensive floral bouquets, elaborate altars, and massive displays I’ve come across while worshipping.  Does Christ ask for any of this? 

Without sounding overly dramatic, I bet there’s one of God’s children out there that could eat for a year off the money we spend on our church flowers.  Should we feel some sense of shame in that?  And if not, then why do I feel so guilty?

I can’t help but wonder how we Christians can upgrade our cars to luxury status when there are children right in West Virginia who can’t even afford to eat?

Before anyone thinks I’m playing the role of Judgy McJudgerson,  I admit, I am no better.  I enjoy my designer earrings, fairly large house in the West End of Richmond, and a few vacations a year.  But I tell you the truth:  I want to want less for myself.  I want to have radical obedience to Jesus and when he asks me to give whenever asked, I want to run to do so.  So while Pastor Glen still only got his 10% in tithes from me last Sunday, he certainly got me thinking about how much time I spend growing my husband and I’s 401k’s as opposed to the time I spend investing in the Kingdom.

As the service concluded I followed the herd out but not without introducing myself to Pastor Glen.  I told him about my fascination with theology and learning about other faiths and he seemed to take interest.  We stood there in the lobby, just inside the entrance doors for about 30 minutes as the entire congregation trickled out.  We locked up the church together while casually discussing the Free Will Baptist doctrine. We discussed some of the issues I wrestled with daily, radical obedience to God, the dismal state of the Christian church, and freedom of choice as it relates to salvation.

While it was quite a hike for me to drive out to, I would certainly attend Good News Free Will Baptist again.  If you’re looking for a church that really honors New Testament Scripture, demands radical obedience to the Word, and loves a good doily dress, you may be a Baptist.  Visit Pastor Glen Johnson and Good News Free Will Baptist at http://www.goodnewsfwb.org/

Some things I found interesting about the Free Will Baptist Faith:

Free Will Baptists believe the Bible teaches three ordinances for the church to practice: Baptism in water by immersion, the Lord's Supper, to be perpetuated until His return, and the Washing of the Saints' feet, an ordinance teaching humility.

We believe that any saved person who has sinned (whether we call him a backslider or sinner), but has a desire to repent, may do so and be restored to God's favor and fellowship. Since man, however, continues to have free choice, it is possible because of temptations and the weakness of human flesh for him to fall into the practice of sin and to make shipwreck of his faith and be lost.

As the name indicates, FWB believe in Free Will.  It is God's will that all be saved, but since man has the power of choice, God saves only those who repent of their sin and believe in the work of Christ on the cross. Those who refuse in this life to repent and believe have no later chance to be saved and thus condemn themselves to eternal damnation by their unbelief.

 

 

 

 

 

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18 Comments

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 22, 2010

    several thoughts:

    - “I want to want less for myself.”  i commend you for that.  too many of us want to want more for ourselves, while saying we want less.  obviously, actually wanting less is best—but christianity’s directional.

    - we always joke on my wife that virginians are snobby—especially against west virginians.  so i got a real kick out of reading her your line about luxury cars while kids in west virginia are starving.  [i’m sure there are a few on the virginia side of the border as well…]

    - maybe this isn’t good to ask over the internet, but where in west end richmond to you live?  my wife is from glen allen.

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 22, 2010

    Great points on finances in this post, Jessica.  I have struggled with how the church presents wealth in America for quite some time.  We have billions wrapped in buildings across the country. Many, if not most, remain empty for the majority of the time with heat or air conditioning running while millions of people sleep on the street.  Its an equation that just doesn’t add up to me.  And I don’t know what to do about it.

    There seems to be a great hypocrisy within the American church when we ask for money to support God’s kingdom and yet it appears that the finances support more of man’s kingdom.

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 22, 2010

    Hi guys!

    I live in Short pump.  Just minutes from Glen Allen.  What a tiny world we live in, it’s just plain nuts!

    As far as my West VA comment, haha, I actually chose WVA because I was just told a story by my sister-in-law who was INCREDIBLY passionate about the subject about how she saw a special about this community in West VA where children were starving and it baffled her how we allow that to go on in our country and waste zillions of dollars on nonsense.  Ha, but I admit, we do tend to turn our noses up at those W. Virginians! 

    And tony, I too am becoming truly saddened by this.  I don’t want to be one of those Christians who are consistently talking about the “problems” in the church, but I can’t ignore this any longer.  It upsets me when I see a $500 chandelier hanging over my head as I’m preached to about radical obedience to Christ.

    I had always assumed as a Christian my purpose was to go out and bring people into the Christian community, but the more I cling to Christ, the more I feel He is equally concerned with getting the people in the Christian community to act like they actually belong to it. I know that sounds so negative, but I can’t help but feel constant disappointment among us.

    This is a totally different note: (well kinda) but do either of your church’s do this because I think this is AWESOME…. a local church here opens up it’s church up for homeless and feeds them, gives them places to sleep, shower etc. for an entire week every month from november to march. I just thought that was an awesome ministry.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 22, 2010

    wow, short pump.  i’ve been there lots of times.  christie’s parents live near crump park and mountain road—do you know the place?

    when we talk about money spent on church buildings and the like (and i tend to always be against chandeliers and buildings altogether, etc), we have to at least look at the other side.  the side where judas says my lines:  “that perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  and she just wasted it.”

    and then Jesus defends her.  i wouldn’t build a lot of my theology on that story, but it’s something to think about.

    lastly, christie’s church in richmond does the homeless thing you’re talking about—or something like it.  i think they work with other churches though, and so, only host people a couple of weeks a year or something.  i’m not sure.  i just know we ate thanksgiving dinner with the homeless there our last thanksgiving in the states (while they were being housed).  her parents go to 3 chopt road church of christ.

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 22, 2010

    Hmmm…great thought about Mary. Definitely something I hadn’t considered.

    Not sure how long it’s been since you’ve been here, but the mall at short pump is within walking distance from my house.  Christie’s parents church is within 5 miles of me, as is their home.  Church of Christ, huh?  I smell a church review in my near future.

    So funny you are that familiar with my home and you’re all the way on the other side of the world!

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 22, 2010

    you mean the nice, new “outdoor” mall?  i’ve been there once or twice, i think.  maybe to a restaurant once and movie theater once?

    church of christ is my particular christian tribe and heritage, though each congregation is autonomous, with its own leadership, practices, and bible interpretations—so they can be very different from one another.  and 3 chopt is one of our four sponsoring churches.

    do you have a home church?  i mean i realize you wouldn’t have been able to be there much lately, but are you on break from somewhere or something?

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 24, 2010

    Actually I don’t have a church home.  I’ve got my eye open for one though.  It’s my hope that at the end of the year, I get Baptized into a church that is the most in line with my understanding of Scripture.  It was really important to me to not just pick a doctrine so I decided to go out and search the Scriptures myself, however, I am certainly feeling the need for fellowship here recently and am looking forward to settling somewhere and learning from those more versed than myself.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 24, 2010

    so, jessica, if i’m not being too nosy, i’m curious about how this 52 prayers thing came about.  were you already a christian, but didn’t have a church home?  or were you considering / planning to recommit yourself to a church home?  or did you just move into a new area?  i guess i’m just wondering what you were doing before this whole project, and where it came from exactly?

    and i really enjoy reading about your adventures in visiting religious meetings and groups.  it’s a great idea.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 24, 2010

    oh, and jess, here is a link to bob odle’s blog.  he’s the preacher at 3 chopt church that i mentioned.  the sermons are always one of the highlights when i visit there—unless i’m preaching, in which case i’m wishing i were listening to him instead.

    http://rpodle6.wordpress.com/

  • Scott

    Scott August 24, 2010

    A couple points:
    The women at our church do not wear doilies around their necks… it must be a Virginia thang… They do dress up for church, as do the men.

    Second, people like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers are filling the buildings where they speak, but are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr Osteen would not state the Gospel message when asked by Larry King a few years ago. Joyce Meyers is a charismatic who is a motivational speaker, not a preacher of the Gospel. Would either of them think that David Brainerd had “lived his best life now?”

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 24, 2010

    James-I started the project because I found myself wishing that I had a passion in life.  Some people have soccer, others art, many twitter…but I had nothing that I just loved to do.  So I enrolled in some culinary classes to spark some desire in me and then watched the movie Julie and Julia.  If you’re not familiar, it’s about an aspiring writer who makes a different recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook everyday for a year and writes about her experience on her blog.  Well, I thought it was such a cool idea, and I’d always been fascinated by religion that after some brainstorming I decided to commit to this project.  I started the blog to flex my writing muscle and because I was fairly interested in who God was. I had always said I believed in Christ (and thought that there were many paths to God) but never really knew what that meant.  I realize now that if I had truly believed it before, there would have been some outward sign as to that belief and I wasn’t living the life of a believer.

    About 2 weeks in God had impressed on my heart that I would be no longer be a luke-warm Christian, who never read the Bible or attending church, but instead, I’d be following him full-time:)  And here I am.  I had thumbed through Scripture in the past, particularly proverbs, but am now devouring it.  I wake up every morning thinking about how I can glorify Him.  I am still playing out the rest of the year because I committed to it, but I have never been more certain in my life that the Bible is the key to understanding God.

    It’s amazing to me how God works, really.  I don’t believe in predestination but when I look back on the events that got me to where I am right now, I don’t see how He didn’t have a hand in it.  I wanted a passion, took a cooking class, watched a movie and now want to dedicate my entire life to sharing the love of Christ with others.  The joy living within my heart moves me to tears.  He came knocking, there’s no doubt about that.

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 24, 2010

    Scott, you couldn’t be more correct about Osteen and Meyer.  I’m not questioning their connection with God by any means (only He knows their hearts), but I certainly would not spend my time learning from either of them.  It’s hilarious too because only 4 months ago I would have told you all about how awesome Joel Osteen was and his ministry.  I will tell you (while I’m not a Reformed Christian) that I do love listening to Charles Stanley.  That man knows what’s up.

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