Thursday, December 3, 2020

Christmas Traditions

By: French B. Harmon, PhD

One of the traditions I enjoyed as a pastor was leading the church in a Christmas Eve worship service. It was similar in every church--sing a few carols, preach a message, share in the Lord's supper and then the lighting of individual candles. To conclude, we would hold our candles and sing "Silent Night." Just reflecting on this brings back great memories (see photo).

One area that evolved was a discussion on receiving of an offering in that service. For sure, this would be one of the larger services each year and members are inclined to give. As a staff, we also knew that many families had several stops to make that evening. A leadership meeting was held to discuss shortening the service and direct people to give in designated boxes upon exiting and thus save a few minutes in the worship service. What followed was a wonderful theological discussion.

J--"Jesus" is the focus of worship. Worshippers should to hear a message of faith, hope and love that comes through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O--"Others" is the mission of worship. Members in the church need to hear the gospel imperative to reach their world for Christ through evangelism.
Y--"You" should be changed in true worship. When people "hear" the gospel message it challenges all to be more like Him. Believers should grow in their discipleship with Christ.

Upon reflection of these truths, the congregations I pastored received an offering during the Christmas Eve service. Many would joyfully give their tithes and additional offerings during that service. Others would be challenged to share their financial blessings and assist in helping the less fortunate. All would given the opportunity to reflect upon the birth and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One snowy Christmas Eve, I arrived early at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church to prepare for our candlelight service. A person in need knocked on the door. I answered the door and then heard the personal story of this struggling young man. It was almost time for the service so I encouraged him to join us.

By God's grace, he sat next to a beloved member that was spiritually sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Upon passing the offering plate, Sandra Strunk befriended the guest and showed him the love that comes from a relationship with Christ. That young man received more than expected when the "plate was passed" in that special service. Later that night he would receive Jesus Christ as savior!

I realize that the COVID19 pandemic might restrict us from certain traditions--passing the offering plates, sitting close in the pews and perhaps even sharing in candlelight services. What it can't change is the J.O.Y. of giving.

Give Jesus your "TIME"
Give Jesus your "TALENTS"
Give Jesus your "TREASURE"

The Kentucky Baptist Foundation stands ready to assist you in making legacy and permanent gifts to assist your church or related Baptist institutions and agencies that will truly bring joy for eternity. Merry Christmas from your KBF staff.

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Thankful Heart

By: French B. Harmon, PhD

I recently transitioned from being senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church in Somerset to my role as president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation. I am still in awe of what God can do through the local church. After thirteen years, I have found this move to be very emotional, broadly inspirational and forever thankful. Here are five thankful takeaways from a wonderful spiritual experience.

1. Thankful for a supportive wife and family. Being in ministry isn't for the faint of heart. The demands on a pastor today can be very great. Living with a supportive pastor’s wife has been a real blessing to me. Thank you Rachael. I am also appreciative of my children for living in the glass house and doing their best to serve the Lord.

2. Thankful for a great staff. Every Sunday was a significant event at our church. Planning and executing worship services, conducting weekly programming and promoting spiritual growth is always a work in progress. I was so blessed to have staff members that fulfilled their calling and graciously gave their best for Jesus Christ.

3. Thankful for a church that respected and encouraged pastoral leadership. No pastor is perfect, but to have served in a church that faithfully listened to the preaching of God’s word, bountifully gave resources to support the work of Christ and was active in all types of mission projects made for a fulfilling pastorate.

4. Thankful for a congregation that invested in young leaders. During my season of service we had the joy of working with many dynamic young leaders. We have watched with joy as several pastors, worship leaders and denominational servants have emerged. The church assisted these young men and women in their educational efforts, mission endeavors and presented meaningful opportunities for each to grow in their faith. I know each young leader expressed their appreciation to the church.

5. Thankful for the Bible. I found myself in many challenging moments during my pastoral tenure. However, what I always discovered was the power, guidance and truth found in scripture that made all the difference. It has become routine for many believers to automatically turn to their favorite author, theologian or personal friend for eternal guidance. That is good. In my life, the Bible is that one true word that points me on the right path for Jesus Christ. Remember to pick up that Bible and seek His will.

The late Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “The church is not the way to heaven but it is the sign that points to heaven.” As churches begin to reassemble, I encourage you to build the church and support your pastor. The world is now discovering that the church is “essential.”

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.