I have appreciated the wisdom of Bob Russell for a long time. Below is a very insightful article recently written by Bob.
Church Attire – Human Tradition or Biblical Principle?
About 18 years ago, Kyle Idleman came to my office with a serious concern. Kyle was 26 years old and had been hired six months before to be on Southeast Christian church’s teaching team. He was a phenomenal young preacher, and our congregation was enamored with him. At the time, I had been the senior pastor of the church for 36 years.
Kyle got right to the point. “I know you’ve got this policy that anyone who preaches at Southeast Christian is to wear a suit and tie. But I don’t feel comfortable in a suit and tie. I feel like a hypocrite in a suit and tie. More importantly, I don’t think I’m relating to my generation in a suit and tie.”
Appropriate, respectful dress in worship was fairly important to me, so I responded, “Well, Kyle, we’re worshipping Almighty God here. If you went to visit the president of the United States, don’t you think you’d wear a suit and tie?” (I knew he wouldn’t have a comeback for that!) But he responded quickly, “I’d probably not wear a tie if the president were my dad.”
Wow! I wasn’t ready for that answer. I should have had a good reply for him, but none came to mind. What did come to mind was a question for me: “Was I standing on a Scriptural principle or stubbornly fighting for a man-made tradition?” This was not the first time I had confronted the issue of our dress code with the church staff, and I had been churning about whether or not to lower the standard.
Over the years, I had prided myself on being flexible about matters of opinion. In leadership seminars, I encouraged ministers to be willing to employ new methods and not hold on to ineffective traditions. I often quoted a slogan, “Methods are many, principles are few, methods always change, principles never do.” And, “In doctrine, unity; in opinion, liberty; and in all things charity.” I often insisted, “The church that doesn’t change, dies.”
But when it came to our dress code, I had remained inflexible. I asked myself, “Is this a mountain I want to die on? Am I willing to run the risk of losing a talent like Kyle Idleman over whether he wears a scarf around his neck in the pulpit? What does the Bible say?” Look up “suit and tie” in a Biblical study concordance, and it’s not there. I doubt if Simon Peter wore a three-piece suit when he preached on the Day of Pentecost.
After a long pause, I reluctantly conceded. “Okay, Kyle, you don’t have to wear a suit and tie when you preach, but be neat.” The staff dress code changed overnight. While it was a big topic of conversation in the congregation for a while, most everyone eventually adapted to more casual apparel at church.
One Sunday, after I had been retired for a few years, I was sitting in the audience when Kyle walked out to preach. I thought, “Boy, he looks particularly slovenly today.” He was wearing a wrinkled, untucked shirt, black jeans, and tennis shoes. But he opened the Bible and preached a powerful, Scriptural sermon on sexual purity. You could hear a pin drop.
At the end of his message, Kyle said, “Now if you have broken any one of these commandments from God, I want you to know God loves you, Christ died for you, He wants to forgive you, and wash you whiter than snow. He promised, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Then he surprised us by adding, “We’re going to do something different to close our service today. For those of you who wish to give or rededicate your life to Christ by baptism, rather than just come forward and go to a side room to be counseled, I want you to come straight to the baptistery. I’m going to walk right into the baptistery now just as I am.”
(I thought, “Well, he’s dressed for it!”)
Kyle continued, “And I’m going to ask you to join me there. Come as you are and express your desire to begin anew by being baptized. It’s warm outside. You can go home wet. You don’t need a robe or tee shirt. Come as you are to Christ.”
We stood and began singing. I watched in awe for an hour and fifteen minutes as 117 people came forward to be baptized! That was only one of three worship services that morning. I estimated that over 50% of those who responded were under 35 years of age. I was so glad I hadn’t made a Biblical principle out of a human opinion a few years earlier.
Here’s my point. There are all kinds of traditions that Satan has used over the years to divide believers, split churches, and make people miserable. Drums, individual communion cups, choir robes, carpet color, fellowship suppers, selling of sermon tapes…on and on it goes.
As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept changes in methodology. (My most significant change over the last decade was moving from regular Cheerios to Honey Nut Cheerios!) If we’re not careful, we become hindrances to effective evangelism because of our negative, resistant attitudes. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we tie burdens around the necks of people that are too heavy to bear.
The next time the church you attend makes a significant change which you find objectionable, ask yourself, “Is this a Biblical principle or a human tradition?” If it’s a Biblical principle, stand firm and don’t waver. Be strong and courageous, and speak the truth in love. But if it’s a change in tradition, swallow your pride and make adjustments. There’s a great slogan in the Christian Church, “Where the Bible speaks we speak. Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”
I’m sure you are noticing some changes happening at FCC-Clinton. Whether it is the placement of information in the bulletin, where communion is served in the service, the method that the offering is collected, discontinuing of long held programs, or having women leading in worship, remember to evaluate: is your stress caused by a long held tradition being changed or a Biblical principle being challenged?
CHANGE FOR LIFE: Pick up a baby bottle and fill it up with your loose change for the New Life Pregnancy Center. Last year FCC gave over $5,000 through this campaign. Let’s top that this year! If you are writing a check please make that out directly to: New Life Pregnancy Center and your tax receipt will come directly from them. All bottles should be returned no later than March 8th. Contact Ann Marie Hubble or the church office with any questions.
ALL CHURCH PIZZA POTLUCK: Please join us for a night of fun, fellowship, and yummy pizza on February 9 at 5:30pm in the Family Life Center. Please bring your favorite pizza and 2 liter of soda to share. This event is open to everyone so please be sure to invite your friends, family and neighbors! The Annual Report will be available for first pick-up at the potluck. If you have any questions please call the church office or email. We hope to see you there!
Chairman of the Congregation
A new year is off to a fast start and we don’t want you left behind! Here is an update on what the leadership is working on:
SEARCH UPDATE: The leadership is putting a high priority on the search for our next lead minister. As anticipated, several additional resumes were received during and just after the advent season. While we will continue to accept and evaluate resumes until a minister is selected, a soft deadline for accepting resumes is January 15, 2020. The search committee is busy listening to sermons and checking the social media of the candidates that have applied and will present to the elders their top candidates to interview. We will not settle for a minister that God is not leading us too. Should none of the current applicants be the right fit for our church the search will continue until the right person is found.
ANNUAL REPORT: We are again preparing an annual report which should be ready for distribution at the All Church Pizza Potluck on February 9. This report will again be a summary of the ministries of 2019 as well as the financial highlights. As a teaser, I will tell you that God is good and our church is blessed, our financial giving exceeded our MAP need by more than $27,000. Praise the Lord, and thank you for your faithfulness in your financial giving.
Tonight January 13th: FEED ministry cook night at 5:30 in the new kitchen. This is a great opportunity to build relationships with your church friends and bless others who have a need.
Wednesday January 15th: First Kids Youth Group and JH Underground Student Ministry are back at 6pm.
Wednesday January 22nd: Adult Choir practice resumes at 6:30. Everyone is welcome! Come join us in singing, praising and worshiping the great God we all serve.
Sunday January 26th: New Attender Meet & Greet, at 9:30am in the sanctuary foyer. This is a great opportunity to meet our ministry staff and be given a special tour of our building. Invite your friends to join with you in learning more about what FCC is all about.
January 31st: Little Galilee Retreat for 1st-3rd grade students begins at 6pm at LGCC.
February 9th: Save the Date: All Church Pizza Potluck at 5:30 in the Family Life Center.
Finally it is with sadness that I am to inform you of the resignation of Jen Jacobs as our Financial Administrative Assistant. Jen was a great asset to our church and will be greatly missed but we wish her much success in her new position with the school district. There is not an immediate plan to replace Jen in the office with another full time paid staff. Her work load will be divided between current staff and volunteers. This plan will require a change in the church office hours which will now be Monday – Thursday from 8:30 until 4:30 and the office will be closed on Friday’s.
Chairman of the Congregation
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Are you still committed to those or have they already gone by the wayside? I actually don’t make New Year’s resolutions, while in concept sound like a great plan, I know for me they are not a strong enough motivator to change an embedded behavior. While I don’t make New Year resolutions there are things that I am very resolute with. In May of 1968 I was baptized and from that day I have been committed and resolute in my relationship with Jesus. That relationship has changed, developed and matured through the years but it began with a resolution to love Jesus with all my heart. Even at the young age that I was, this was not a flippant commitment that could be forgotten or negated. So why has this resolution to love Jesus with all my heart been so different than a New Year’s resolution? I believe it is because this is a relational commitment. Jesus loves me more than I could ever understand or love him in return. He is loves me so much that He died for me removing all of my shortcomings from God’s eyes and opening the gates of Heaven for me. Jesus is my constant companion and friend and He will never leave me and therefore I will never leave Him. I remain resolute to love Jesus with all my heart. This is one resolution that we should all keep. Happy New Year!
MEN DON’T FORGET & PLEASE COME: The Area Men’s Fellowship will be held at Clinton FCC tomorrow night (Tuesday January 7th) at 6:30 up in the Family Life Center. This is always a great time of fellowship with men from our surrounding churches. Our Kitchen Team has a great meal planned and there will be a offering taken for Little Galilee. Dr. Paul Boatman will be speaking and this will be a evening not to miss!
FEED MINISTRY will be cooking in the upstairs kitchen on Monday January 13th in the Upstairs kitchen starting at 5:30. This is a gender neutral evening and a great service opportunity.
MEET & GREET Are you new to FCC? If so, we would live to meet you! Please join us on January 26th at 9:30 am in the sanctuary foyer for the opportunity to meet our Ministry Staff and be given a special tour of our building. If you would like to attend, please call the church office or email firstname.lastname@example.org just so that we have enough resources prepared. We hope you will join us and bring your friends with you!
Chairman of the Congregation
Yesterday the choir, Dinelle, Samuel and Allison led us in worship. Yes, the melodies and harmonies were beautiful, but did you hear the words? Did you hear the complete story of Jesus from birth to resurrection? Did you come and worship the new born King? As one who enjoys singing, I have the opportunity to actually read the words to songs and internalize them. These words have enhanced my worship this Christmas season:
Where is He, oh where is He?
His start blazes in the night;
As we trace the changing skies,
He is hiding from our sight.
Can you tell us where He Lies?
We would worship Him tonight,
And will journey till we find,
And our search is turned to sight.
Your guiding light shows us the way,
We see your Morning Star ascend!
To You dear Christ, all searches come,
In you our journey finds its end.
The star beams its golden ray
Over sleepy Bethlehem,
Where with joy we find the child,
And with gifts we worship Him.
While we thought we came to You
In a little star lit place,
It was You who came to us,
Christ, the glory of God’s face.
Carol M. Hodge
This song is sung from the perspective of the Wise Men, but can’t you see how it parallels our own journey of coming to Christ. We look for Him, we seek Him, and He shows us the way with His light. We go to Him, and are excited when we find Him, and we worship Him. All the while, we are thinking that we came to Him, and the reality is that He loved us so much that He came to us! Christ, the glory of God’s face.
Another special worship opportunity will happen at our Christmas Eve services. Plan now to attend and bring your family and friends to our services to be held at 4pm and 6pm on December 24th. Both services will be identical. For many in our church Christmas Eve is a family tradition that keeps the true meaning of Christmas in the holiday. If this is not your tradition, won’t you plan on starting this year to make Christ your focus during this season? There is not an easier or better time to bring those who have drifted away from their relationship with God back to renewal than Christmas Eve.
Remember the men’s mission trip and the search committee in your prayers this week. The men are in Mexico building two houses and are short a worker or two with a couple of last-minute cancelations. Pray for their safety and success in completing the houses on time but also pray for their spiritual growth as they work together in Jesus name. The search committee will be reviewing the initial submissions of resumes and contacting those who have applied with a progress update. Pray for the committee’s discernment through this process.
Chairman of the Congregation
Glory to God in the Highest, Christmas at FCC! Many thanks go to Mary Holland and her crew for our beautifully decorated tree and decorations around the building. Their service honors God, enhances our worship, and brings all of us to a place where we can celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
There are several upcoming unique worship opportunities where you may worship the coming of the infant King. Next Sunday during both morning worship services the choir will involve the whole congregation in a worship experience with songs, bells, and readings telling the Christmas story in a unique and meaningful way. You are encouraged to invite your friends and neighbors to hear the Christmas story told through music and the word.
Plan now to attend, and bring your family and friends to our Christmas Eve services to be held at 4pm and 6pm. Both services will be identical. For many in our church, Christmas Eve is a family tradition that keeps the true meaning of Christmas in the holiday. If this is not your tradition, won’t you plan to join us this year and focus your heart and mind on the wonderful gift of Christ’s birth? Christmas Eve can also be a wonderful time of renewal for those who have drifted away from their relationship with God. Is there someone in your life whom God has laid on your heart to invite?
The 2020 MAP was approved during the congregational meeting yesterday by a vote of 216 to 10. As explained during the meeting, the finances of Clinton First Christian Church are strong. We have experienced a decline in giving since Greg’s departure, but we continue to be debt free and carry strong cash balances on our balance sheet. Even with the decline in giving we have a positive net revenue for this year. We are asking that you prayerfully consider an additional year-end gift to make up for our giving decline. Please look for a complete report of the church’s finances after the end of the year in the annual report.
Chairman of the Congregation
Please continue to pray for the committee searching for our next lead minister. The committee is being led by Tori Moore and consists of Cassandra Benton, Nate Bostic, Samuel Green, Rod Karr, Bob Phillips, Leann Sosamon and Jim Taylor. This committee has been meeting regularly, and they have started the process of soliciting for and receiving resumes of potential candidates to fill our pulpit. Part of the process of soliciting resumes is providing information about our church and the position. The search committee and the elders have developed a church and candidate profile which answers many of the questions that a candidate might have, but the committee is also charged with providing additional information that might not be included in the profile. Additionally, the committee is currently using the profile to develop screening criteria that will be used to provide the elders with the top candidates to interview.
Because of the nature of the search and the need to maintain confidentiality with the prospective candidates, we will not be able to share a lot of specific information about the applicants. I can tell you that we have already received a couple of resumes and have contacted several others who are praying about this opportunity. What we want everyone to know is that the window is now open for those who would like to apply. Spreading the word is something that everyone can help with. If you know of Godly men who are strong leaders and articulate God’s Word in a powerful way, and you feel this person would be a good fit for our church, then we encourage you to invite them to submit a resume. Please remember to be sensitive to this person’s current situation, contacting them privately and not on social media. The church and lead minister profile is available for you to have and pass along at the Welcome Center, on the church’s website and in the church office. Resumes should be returned to the attention of the search committee at the church’s address or the search committee’s email that is listed on the profile. If you would prefer for the search committee to contact your individual, please forward his name and contact information to Tori Moore or Cassandra Benton, and someone from the committee will reach out to them to gauge their interest. While we continue to work in God’s timing, we have set a target of mid to late January to have resumes collected so that we may begin interviewing in early February.
You may help by telling those in your network about our open position, but more importantly: Pray! Pray expectantly knowing that God has a plan and He is already preparing who He wants to be our next lead minister. Pray for the leadership as we strive to listen for where God is leading in this time of transition. Pray for the search committee and their discernment in this process. Pray that in all things God will be Glorified!
During your prayers of Thanksgiving this week lift up a special prayer of thankfulness for Pete and his leadership during this time of transition. A lot of specific things fell into place so that Pete was available. Know that I see this as God’s hand at work, and this gives me reassurance of God’s faithfulness and the expectation of His continued blessings in the next season.
In addition to Pete, be thankful for all of the staff members. I am so privileged to be able to see how hard they work in their own respective ministries, and each has gained my respect and admiration. Each lives out being the hands and feet of Jesus, and they continually show His love to others and desire everyone to know Him in a personal and profound way. Each is the example for all of us on how to bring someone to Jesus - not just telling us about Him. I love our staff and they are doing a great job.
Don’t forget that the bi-annual congregational meeting to approve the MAP is at the end of both services on December 8th.
Wishing you all a very blessed Thanksgiving!
Chairman of the Congregation.
Last Monday evening we held our annual MAP informational meeting and unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. Thank you to everyone who made the special effort to attend and to those who the weather kept at home we understand and appreciate your wisdom. I am available to answer any specific questions that you may have with regard to the 2020 MAP, but for now let me give you some of the highlights from last Monday’s meeting. The 2020 Ministry Action Plan that is presented for your approval on December 8th totals $943,789 which statistically is no increase over our current year. Of this total, almost 20% goes to support our benevolent ministries of Missions and the Neighborhood Care Center. Financially our church continues to be very strong and debt free. Current year giving is trending lower than last year but we fully expect for this year’s giving to fully fund this year’s MAP with some extra to add to our cash reserves. There are several capital and deferred maintenance projects that are not included in the MAP but instead will be funded out of cash reserves.
While we are on the topic of money, each year FCC collects three special offerings (Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas). This year our Thanksgiving offering will go to the Clinton Area Ministerial Association. CAMA funds help provide financial crisis relief to families in DeWitt County, Maroa, and Heyworth. CAMA funds are run through the Neighborhood Care Center where our goal is to not only provide some financial relief to families but to also cover them in prayer and love them in the name of Jesus. Would you consider making a donation to this wonderful ministry and partner with us in making a difference for the Kingdom? More information will be coming about the Christmas offering but it has been designated toward the purchase of a van at the Friendship Center.
There are a couple of special services coming soon. This Friday, November 22 is the Rooted Celebration at 7:00pm. Won’t you consider coming and supporting those who have just completed this ten week experience? You will be blessed with their stories and encouraged by the ways God is moving in our church. Next Sunday November 24th is the annual community Thanksgiving service at 6:00. This service of Thanksgiving will be at FCC this year and Dinelle is coordinating the service. We have much to be thankful for, please come together as a community of believers to celebrate His blessings.
Make sure you are in attendance this Sunday for a Lead Minister Search update!!
Chairman of the Congregation
I apologize for the lack of a blog the past couple of weeks. Sherry and I were traveling, and it was good to get away for no other reason than to be together and away from our responsibilities here in Central Illinois. While we were away much continued with the business of the church.
Don’t forget that tonight at 6:30 we will hold the MAP information meeting in the Family Life Center. This is your opportunity to hear from the ministry leaders what the plans are for 2020. If you are unable to attend, look for details in this blog next week as we move toward a congregational vote on the MAP on December 8.
The Lead Minister Search Committee has met several times and is making good progress. Resumes are starting to be collected and screened. If you know of someone you would like to have considered, please funnel those names to Tori Moore, Cassandra Benton or any committee member, and we will be happy to send them our church and candidate profile. Once the profiles are sent, it will be up to that person to decide if they would like to proceed with our process. Please continue to pray for all of those on the committee (Cassandra Benton, Nate Bostic, Samuel Green, Rod Karr, Tori Moore, Bob Phillips, Leann Sosamon, and Jim Taylor) as they continue this work.
Let’s continue to look for ways to become the “Passionate Community of Disciple Makers” that is the vision of our church. For years our church has provided communion to those who (for whatever reason, either temporary or permanent) are unable to come to our church building. It has come to our attention that either we were unaware of someone who desired outside communion or one of our volunteers missed their opportunity to serve. To those who were missed we apologize, and we recognize that we must do better. This opportunity to serve, however, should not only be the outside communion team’s responsibility. If you are aware of someone wanting communion, won’t you take the opportunity to bless that person with it? It does not matter if they have already received communion, and it does not have to be on a Sunday; the church will be happy to provide a communion kit, and no special training is required. All that is necessary to remember is that “Where two or more are gathered” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” This would be an example of a way to move from “Corporate to Contagious!!”
We are glad to be back and look forward to worshiping with you all this coming Sunday.
Chairman of the Congregation
I am sure many of you have already heard of the passing of Charlie Belangee and Barb Baker. Charlie and Barb lived their lives with a great love for Jesus and were the example of being the hands and feet of Jesus that we all should aspire to be. For forty years Charlie served as the Superintendant of our Bible School. Barb was instrumental in organizing our Benevolence ministry which she led for many years. While they both served in their areas with excellence what defined their service was showing the love of Jesus to others in a quiet, personal way.
Both Charlie and Barb were great examples of people carrying out the Great Commission. As they were about the duties of their service, they were loving those around them and bringing them to Jesus. This is exactly what we have all been called to do.
Please be in prayer for the Baker and Belangee families as they grieve the loss of Barb and Charlie, but also consider how you may honor their legacy by being involved in service to our Lord. Serve with a purpose: to honor God while showing others His love and saving grace.
In last week’s update it was announced that the search committee was being formed and I am excited to now let you know who will be serving on this very important committee. The eight members of the committee are: Cassandra Benton, Nate Bostic, Samuel Green, Rod Karr, Tori Moore, Bob Phillips, Leann Sosamon, and Jim Taylor. After much prayer each of these individuals were selected to serve because of their discerning hearts and commitment to our church and the Kingdom at large. We truly believe that God placed each of these individuals on this committee because of their specific gifts and abilities and because of that we trust that this group as a whole will have His blessings of effectiveness and success. As this committee begins their work please keep them in your prayers, pray that they will be strong against Satan’s attacks, clarity and joy in their work, and a cooperative spirit of unity in their search.
While your ministry staff deserves your appreciation all year long don’t forget that October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” FCC’s ministry staff is hard working and dedicated to promoting the Kingdom in Clinton and DeWitt County, why don’t you take a moment to send each of them a note of thanks and encouragement! While our ministry staff is very good, remember they are not there to do your work for you. Each of us needs to be out “Loving God, Reaching the World & Building the Church.” The corporate “programs” of the organized church don’t do that, we each have the individual responsibility to be out ministering and showing God’s love to others. Let’s move from “Corporate to Contagious.”
This Saturday October 19th is a great opportunity to serve with your family or friends at the Mobile Food Pantry. Sign up to volunteer on the church website under the upcoming-serve-opportunities tab.
This Sunday October 20th is a great opportunity to mix, mingle and visit down in The Underground from 9:00 until 10:30 for DONUT SUNDAY. Come grab a donut and head off to Bible School or stay and meet someone who you may not be acquainted with.
Weekly update on what's happening at FCC! Glad you're here!