COVID-19 Response Update

Thursday March 19th

Church Family,
Our church, and specifically behind the pulpit of our church, is absolutely my favorite place to be. There are many (maybe most) weeks when my daily mantra is “if I can just make it to Sunday, everything will be OK”. This week, in the midst of all the chaos around us, was no different…

We are truly living in interesting times. Not since the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 has the church in America been asked to modify or stop church gatherings in the name of public health. That year 50,000 cases were reported across South Carolina alone, resulting in 14,250 deaths… many just days after diagnosis.

For the better part of three months at the end of 1918, the majority of SC churches shuttered their doors, associations across the state did not meet, and even the annual meeting was postponed until the outbreak had subsided. For our part, Baptist churches across this state saw this disruption as a duty necessary to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. (More recently, we did cancel a Sunday morning service 4 years ago when a state of emergency was declared in South Carolina because of severe weather and flooding.)

So we are not living in unprecedented times; our predecessors did face a very similar occurrence just over 100 years ago. Yet, I dare say that none of us were here to experience that, so this has caught us (especially me) off guard. We meet often to discuss church safety and good practices, but we have never met to discuss how to handle a pandemic. These times will surely shape and direct future conversations for years to come.

There is no handbook on how to pastor during a pandemic … except one. The Holy Bible has everything we need to handle whatever we face in this life, as well as the one to come. So, in times like these, we turn to the Word:

7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Because we know the Lord, we do not need to fear, we do not panic, and we do not participate in languuage and activities that further society’s decline into utter chaos. Because we know the Lord, we can live without the spirit of fear, knowing the He is always watching over us. His power inside of us gives us strength… strength to keep going even when things look bleak. His love for us and in us gives us love…. love that we can then share with those who are hurting. His gift of sound judgement gives us direction… direction to follow and lead with so that His people will continue to love and lead well even if all else falls apart.

In the spirit of sound judgement, I have met with the deacons and we have made some decisions to help safeguard our church family and our community from this virus of pandemic preportions:

Effective Thursday, March 19th, the following statement is in effect until further notice:

  • All activities for Sunday, March 22nd & Wednesday, March 25th have been cancelled.
  • this includes ALL classes, worship services, meetings, and any use of the church building and/or J.A.M. House.

*The deacons and I are expected to meet again (by telephone) on Monday of next week, as well as any other days needed, to discuss the remainder of March, but for now, this statement is limited to the dates listed above.

** We will have a livestream service this Sunday (March 22nd) morning at 11am, this service will be available on our church Facebook page as well as on our website (www.firstbethany.org) via a FB plug-in on the bottom left portion of the main page.

As always, the deacons and I are available to you by phone, text, social media message, or email – 24 hours a day. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to call upon us. I cannot express this enough: The Church Is Not Closed – because the church has never been the building, but the people inside of it.

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it – Matthew 16:18

This is an amazing opportunity for us, especially fathers and husbands, to step up and lead our families, our neighborhoods, and our communities well. Let us not waste this opportunity that we have in front of us to show a lost and dying world who Jesus Christ is and the difference He makes in our lives! I am praying for you all, please pray for me as well.

I will see you all soon – May God bless you and keep you safe in these times of trouble,

Rev. John H. Alexander, Jr. – signed

Mr. Clifton E. White, Chairman of Deacons – endorsed

There’s a lot of great stuff ahead at First Bethany…

Church family,

God is doing so many great things among us at First Bethany that I didn’t think that a simple social media post would do it justice. I hope that you will be as excited about the things that I share here as I am. Make sure you read all the way to the bottom to hear about the new things going on next school year!

We are currently in the middle of Vacation Bible School. It has been a phenomenal week thus far. I can’t say enough about the theme, the materials, the visual tools, as well as the volunteers that have given of their time this week… So many blessings to thank the Lord for! There is one more night left, please come and join us!

Normally, we would change gears immediately after VBS to our summer schedule. This year, we will maintain our normal schedule for two weeks, culminating in a special Wednesday night session for parents on June 19th. If you have a student that attends classes here at First Bethany on Wednesdays, please try to attend.

Then the following week, we will begin our One Church Wednesdays at the J.A.M. House

For the remainder of the summer, we will meet at the J.A.M. House each week. The schedule will be as follows:

6pm- gather for (Free) Light Dinner

6:30pm -Kids Devotion

6:45pm – Kids Recreation & Adult Bible Study

7:30pm – Dismissal

It’s going to be great fun and a great time to learn more about Jesus. Please join us!

In July, we have two special events that will happen on the same day in the same location, just at 2 different times. Please consider volunteering and attending these events….

We will celebrate the end of summer with a special church outing. We would love for everyone to attend. Students will be free, adults will be just $10. Sign up information will be available soon.

Somewhere in there, I would also like to do another Lake Baptismal Service, we will see where the Lord leads us…

I am very excited about our lineup for the Fall. You should here all about it at the June 19th Fall Preview For Parents, but I will give you a brief update on each:

We are well on our way to renovation on the Nursery… Soon you should be seeing some progress. Our prayer is that our Mission Friends will have a new space to learn in prior to starting back on August 7th.

This next school year, our RAs and GAs will combine to form a unified Children In Action group. They will share the lesson time before splitting up into smaller groups for Recreation and Crafts.

Our Youth Group, led my our Family Ministry Leader Patrick Griswold, will into a study called The Jesus Studies. The Jesus Studies is designed to cut through the confusion, teaching students a Christ-centered look at the major issues they deal with in their daily lives. I am very excited about this study!

Finally, I will be leading our adults through a Bible Study called Worldview… where we look at various wolrdviews of people both home and abroad and learn how to reach them.

In the midst of all these activities, we pray that we would continue to progress along the path that the Lord has set us on. We pray that we will KNOW God’s Word more faithfully and that people would come to KNOW Jesus as Lord and Savior. We pray that we would GROW in our walk with Christ while GROWing closer to one another. And we pray that we will listen to the Lord and GO; to make disciples and to baptize and teach as He commanded us to.

I will be praying for you, please pray for me, as we travel this path together.

I love you all,

Pastor John

Unworthy

Today means different things to different people, and people celebrate today in many different ways. I celebrate something different today, all the while realizing that I am unworthy to do so.

28 years ago today, I walked in to a Halloween alternative event at Laurel Baptist Church in Greenwood expecting something totally different, but I walked away with a relationship with Jesus Christ. It was the start of something beautiful.

I do things almost every day to prove my unworthiness, but He was faithful that night and has been faithful ever since and always will be faithful – because that is who He is.

Romans 5:8 HCSB
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

So my encouragement to you today, even if (especially if) you feel unworthy, look to the cross. Yes, especially on this day when our thoughts might tend to bend toward things dark and sinister, Jesus can take that darkness and emptiness that you feel inside you and fill you with His light. What a special day this could be!

And to our churches, there is no need to “demonize” this one day, the enemy prowls around every day looking to devour us. Teach the importance of standing firm every day, not just one.

And keep doing your Fall Festivals. ..even if it might seem like they are unfruitful, there might just be a guy like me in the crowd somewhere needing to hear about Jesus. In fact, I am pretty sure there will be more than one.

Thanks be to God that even though we are unworthy, He is love. ..the greatest personification of the word ever. ..Father, please forgive me for forgetting that sometimes.

Happy Reformation Day…
Happy anniversary (to me)…
Happy ___________ (whatever you want to call it)…

Psalm 118:24 – This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

April is Ripe with Opportunity

By the time that most of you read this, we will have had the amazing opportunity to celebrate Easter – Ressurection Day together.

I want to take a moment and thank you for your faithfulness to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering this year. It is a privilege and an honor to help support North American missionaries as they take the Gospel to places where it is needed most, including right here and now.

Screenshot_20180201-220722.png

If you have been with us in our services for the last few weeks, then you have seen the videos, and you know just how much this offering means to OUR missionaries. If you have missed any of these videos, please click the link below:

AAEO Testimonies

The truth is, missions isn’t what we do, it is the heart of who we are.

The heartbeat of our churches, big and small, is a heart for Christ who calls us to be missional… we MUST be passionate about reaching the lost for Christ !!!! The moment we lose that is the moment that the enemy starts to gain ground… placing our friends, our family, our communities, and our churches in his crosshairs.

Living in this reality, how will we respond?

14 How, then, can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard,and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. – Romans 10: 14-17

If you are looking for more opportunities to support and be involved in missions (and I know you are), the month of April is ripe with opportunity. Please take a moment to consider these:

Wednesday, April 4th – Missions Classes, Bible Study, #3Circles Training

Not just on April 4th, but every Wednesday this month, we have classes for everyone. Missions classes for the children. Evangelism (#3Circles) training for our teenagers, and Bible for our adults. There is something for everyone. And all these things prepare us to Go and tell the world about Jesus. Let’s be missional on Wednesday nights !!!!!

Sunday, April 8th – Forrest View Worship Service

Have you ever wished that there was a “built-in” way that you could #ServeMcCormick and the surrounding area without having to plan it yourself? An activity where you could just show up and be you? I have good news for you… there is. Please join us as we serve the residents of Forrest View Manor alongside of our friends from the Chapel In The Pines on April 8th (followed by missions meetings and food!)

Tuesday, April 10th – E.B.A. Men’s Ministry Supper @ Parksville

Men… come out and hear about what the Lord is doing in our association and how you can be part of it.

Saturday, April 14th – Children’s Ministry Day

Join our children as they go to distribute items collected for homeless veterans to the Kinard House in Greenwood. Our children are leading the way in missions !!!!

Thursday, April 19th – E.B.A. WMU Spring Meeting @ Red Oak Grove

Women … join with other WMU groups from our association and hear about what the Lord is doing through WMU!

Saturday, April 21st – Disaster Relief Training @ Mt. Airy Baptist (Easley)

Would you like to be trained to respond in times of need? Here is your next opportunity. Please see Wendy Gable for more information.

Sunday, April 29th – 5th Sunday Community Service with Chad Hartis @ Berea Baptist

Come and hear from the 2017 Mission Dartmouth mission team and from church planter Chad Hartis. Chad is the pastor of our church plant partner, South Coast Church, in Dartmouth Mass.

There are 5.9 million people living in the city of Boston, but the overwhelming majority are either practicing Catholics or those who claim no religious beliefs. There’s only one SBC church for every 39,257 people. The need for gospel-centered churches is very real in New England !!!

A little further south is the city of Dartmouth, Massachusetts; a city that Barna once named “the least biblically minded city in the nation”.  There, North Carolina natives and church planters Chad & Jodi Hartis have planted their family and their church to reach those who are far from God.

Come and hear from Chad as he shares his heart for this underserved region of our country.

Don’t miss out on these amazing opportunities to grow and walk closer with the Lord as He leads you in missions !!!!

I love you all,

Pastor John

 

March Is For Missions

I love the month of March. There is a little more sunshine and fewer cold days. There seems to be a spring in everyone’s step as they anticipate the dawning of a new spring. We begin to prepare for Easter and to focus on one of the things that flow out of our deep appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: Missions

This time last year, we introduced our “Missions Mantra” for 2017: #KnowGrowGo.

1485862022019
Yes, there is a double meaning to #KnowGrowGo graphic:  We do want to know Jesus and God’s Word, we do want to grow in our faith and in our walk with Jesus, and we must go and make disciples, baptize, and teach….  yet, if you look closely at the graphic, the globe is focused on Northern Africa; where our 2017 summer missionary spent his summer ! 

This mantra has served us well over the last year and we will continue to refer to it often. But today, I would like to introduce to you a new “mantra”, if you will, for 2018:

#ServeMcCormick

Last week, I was able to spend a say at a conference in Columbia, SC with hundreds of other pastors. I was a great day. I enjoyed the fellowship and encouragement greatly. I also loved being challenged by what was preached.

One of the main speakers, J.D. Greear, told a story that really challenged me (I will place a link to the video below). In this story, he tells of a time where he did not understand why he was invited to speak at a certain event……. (please click the link below).

JD Greear Video from Impact (start watching at 26:30 for this story)

What struck me about this story was the following quote:

Everywhere in the city… where there is something broken, there is somebody there from your church who is trying to fix it.

I have asked many times since I have been at First Bethany, “What is the biggest problem in McCormick and how do we impact it for Jesus?“. Maybe what I should have been asking is, “Where are the broken things in this city and how can we help love on those in need?“.

You see, if we limit our focus to one or two issues, we miss out on amazing opportunities to serve. Yet, if we will simply lay ourselves out before the Lord and say “use me”, I believe that He will show us numerous opportunities to serve Him by serving those in need in His name. Oh, what a blessing!

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:34-39

Thus #ServeMcCormick was born….

It seems simple, maybe even too simple, yet I believe that the Lord will not bless us with greater opportunities until we improve in this area. How are we going to do this?:

  • We have to keep inviting the community to attend events that will contain a Gospel message; like the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt and Easter services.
  • We have to keep preparing for times where the community might need us; by taking advantage of opportunities like the Disaster Relief Training happening throughout the year.
  • We must continue to perform acts of radical service to the community, like the annual Back-To-School-Bash; while looking for ways to #ServeMcCormick every day.
  • Most importantly, we must PRAY for those who know Him not, to be drawn to Him and to respond accordingly.

How will you #ServeMcCormick?

It is not a one-time event… it doesn’t happen just in one place… It is a lifestyle of service born out of a deep appreciation for what Christ has done on the cross.

 

Screenshot_20180222-205304 (1)
First Bethany Baptist Church is currently raising money for two missions efforts: A local mission trip to Edgefield, SC called C.C.C.  &  a return trip to Dartmouth, Mass. to work with church planting partners. If you would like to order a t-shirt, we are selling them throughout the month of March at the following link:

T-shirt order form

Let’s go out there and be the church… let’s be about our Father’s business… let’s #ServeMcCormick !

I love you all, Pastor John

Of Early Morning Apologies and Late Night Blog Posts….

I probably should hold off writing this until tomorrow… Or at least stop before submission and save the final draft for later, but I can’t sleep, my heart is heavy, so here goes….. If any of the 3 ( or so 😉 of you who actually read this blog feel offended, I am sorry… It is not my intent.

I had an argument with my 10 year old this morning before school. She wasn’t as enthusiastic about getting to school on time as I thought she should be… We both kind of handled it badly. I left the house to go to work and didn’t get too far down the road before I turned around. I couldn’t let her go to school being mad at me…. I had to say that I was sorry.

That would be the right thing to do on any morning. But, you see, this morning I could not stop thinking about what happened just a few days ago in Parkland, Florida. And I couldn’t stop thinking that IF ( God forbid ) something was to happen at my daughter’s school today, what would be last thing we said to each other.

It’s a terrible thing to think about. But I couldn’t stop. So I had to make sure she knew that I loved her.

It’s a terrible thing to think about because, right now, there are 17+ families and and entire community thinking about the last things they said to their students before they went to school last Wednesday.

My heart is heavy for those families… My heart breaks for them. I pray everyday for them, that somehow in the midst of all this, they feel God’s presence holding them close.

I keep this picture in my phone to remind me to pray

And that is the proper thing to do .. Pray. For these families, for their comfort, for their peace…. Pray. For this school… Pray. For this world… Pray. Pray that parents would once again value the Word of God and bring their children to church. Pray that the distractions that keep us from focusing on the Lord’s instructions would decrease so that our understanding of the Lord would increase. Pray that we (as the church) might play role in the revival of this nation.

Those are all proper responses

And then there have been the improper ones.

Of course, in a time like this, there is going to be some focus on reducing gun violence. There are going to be those who call for stricter laws and more thorough inspection of procedures. Of course there are going to be those who let their emotions surpass what they would normally think, say or do. It is a trying time. In many ways, a little introspection on how we feel about these issues is warranted.

(And I am neither proposing or opposing the implementation of tighter restrictions here)

Those are not the people that bother me. Those are not the ones who have caused my heart to break. Those are not the ones that are keeping me up tonight.

I am more concerned with the ones who are supposed to know what the following words mean, yet have seem to forgotten them here lately:

Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. – Eccl. 5:2

What we need is less divisive conversation and more praying. We need those who know the Lord to worry more about the Gospel and loving others than their own desires and opinions.

Here is the thing:

There is nothing more important than the Gospel.

Let’s make sure that when we are expressing our opinion on non-Gospel related issues, that we do not let our speech (or text) prevent us from sharing ultimate TRUTH with someone down the road.

Let’s pray.

And let’s be who we are called to be.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. – Matthew 5:13

I love you all , all three of you 😉

Keep fighting the good fight.

Pastor John

988 Miles

A few days ago, I had the privilege of leading a twelve-person mission team from the Edgefield Baptist Association to assist South Coast Church in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on an extended weekend mission trip. Five of the twelve team members were from our church. There are 988 miles between First Bethany and South Coast; it would take over 15 hours to drive that distance, thankfully we did not.

Screenshot_20171204-170432

But travel we did. And a great time was had by all. The mission was a success, and ministry opportunities were presented at every turn… even some unexpectedly. This article is not meant to be a full report (that will come at a later time), yet it is meant to give you a glimpse of what we experienced. I hope that you will find the following encouraging, exciting, and challenging:

Friday – 12 missionaries from 6 different churches departed from Edgefield at 4am to travel to Atlanta. From Atlanta, we flew to Providence, Rhode Island. Once there we picked up two rental vans (Red & Grey… you had to be there) and proceeded toward Dartmouth, Mass. Once on location, we met with Chad and Jodi (church planters) to get an overview of the weekend before going out to pass out invitations for the next night’s event.

FB_IMG_1512186398959

By the docks, we met a man named Yusef who needs much prayer. Please lift him up in your prayers as you read this.

Saturday – We started off the first full day by serving alongside South Coast at a ministry called Anchor Ministries (anchornb.com) that serves the local homeless population. They have a really effective mobile ministry

IMG_20171202_092825

“site” that is a school bus. Imagine your standard yellow school bus with the rear portion of the seats removed. People in need can come in, sit down and warm up, move to the rear to receive coffee doughnuts, and encouragement consisting of smiles and hugs. It was awesome and humbling to serve alongside South Coast and Anchor Ministries in this endeavor. I will never forget that morning. Please pray for Anchor Ministries.

We finished up this day by assisting South Coast with a free family fun night at their ministry location. We were able to help by serving hot chocolate and popcorn, as well as setting up and tearing down all the tables and props. It was a great night as many families and children came out to this event. Seeds of the Gospel were planted in many hearts; please pray for these families and for the ministry of South Coast.

IMG_20171202_183204

Sunday – South Coast is currently (but not for much longer) leasing space from an existing church; so their worship services are later in the day. After a morning of free time, we made our way to South Coast to help set up for the worship service. We all really enjoyed worshipping with South Coast and Pastor Chad did an awesome job delivering a great sermon. Afterwards, we had some time to spend with Chad and his family …. As well as some of their church members. Please pray for South Coast as they transition to their new facility and have their first service there on Christmas Eve!

IMG_20171203_000940_096.jpg

After dinner, we headed to the hotel where we had yet another unexpected opportunity to minister to a family in need. Let’s just say that few of us returned home with fewer warm clothes than we packed for the trip… and some new clothes were purchased. Please pray for this family… we don’t even know their names, but the Lord does.

Monday – The last day was a little bit of a whirlwind. After an extended breakfast time with the church planting family (and some tearful goodbyes), we headed for a brief tour of Boston, a little over an hour to the north. With the return flight time looming over us, we did not have much time to spend there. However, we were able to see a small portion of the city and take many pictures. We left the city and returned home via a very smooth flight to Atlanta. Please pray for New England and Dartmouth, Mass in particular, there is much darkness there even though the area is very beautiful.

Last Things

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved – Romans 10:13

How, then, can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are there feet of those who bring good news – Romans 10:14-15

I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth – Acts 13:47b

It’s hard for me to explain the depth of my gratitude to the Lord for sending me on this trip. The amount of space above is completely inadequate for that task. To Him, I am thankful for:

  • His Word – it sustained us leading up to as well as all throughout this trip
  • His presence – wouldn’t want to get away from it if we could, He is always there. I am grateful
  • Traveling mercies– both by ground and by air
  • The Mission Team– 12 people, from 6 churches, many who did not know each other well (and some not at all) came together and acted as one. It was amazing to see how the Lord worked in and through this mission team. The cooperation and concern shown by each of them was truly remarkable. I will never forget these guys… And I would be more than happy to gather them up again and storm whatever gates the Lord places in front of us. I am blessed.
  • The Church Planters – as much as I was affected by the ministry that we did, I was even more deeply touched by the depth of the commitment of the church planters that we were working with. South Coast and the entire Dartmouth community is blessed to have a couple like Chad and Jodi leading them, fighting for them, and sacrificing their lives so that those who know Him not may be saved. I am forever grateful for their love for the Kingdom. I could say much more, yet I will leave it at the following: I am inspired and challenged by this amazing family…. All my love to them.
  • Our leadership – to our DOM, our Missions Development Team, our Convention, and to NAMB – thank you for making trips like this a reality. I can’t be more thankful to you all.

There is too much more to say, and not enough room or time to say it…. Praise God for His mighty works.

To our churches and our pastors, please know that we (the mission team) are forever grateful for your prayers and support for this trip… there are just not enough words to adequately relay how appreciative that I am for your participation in this trip. This will not be the last time we travel to Dartmouth as a church. Please begin to pray now to see if the Lord might lead you to join us next time.

received_996497950500714.jpeg

I love you all,

Pastor John

P.s. if you were on this mission team and would like to add to the above , please feel free to leave your comments on this blog. I love you guys and look forward to serving with you again. Go Grey Van 😉