Journey Inward, Journey Outward

Like many optical illusions, this one took me a while to spot.

I was a college student at NC State, becoming involved and engaged in Baptist Campus Ministry, when I noticed the logo. 

As it turned out, the logo for the Baptist Student Union in the late twentieth century was an optical illusion. In bold strokes, the emblem was comprised of arrows pointing outward. But if you looked closely, you’d see that there was also arrows pointing inward. In fact, the arrows pointing inward helped to establish the arrows pointing outward. Do you see it?

This BSU star represented both the journey inward and the journey outward. In short, our relationship with God through worship, devotion and Bible study (journey inward) helps to establish our call to ministry and mission (journey outward). One cannot exist without the other. And yes, one aspect of the faith is reliant on the other for its energy and definition.

This logo is a good description of our mission and ministry at First Baptist Church.

Over the last few years, our process of listening and praying together to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God has yielded fruit. Recognizing that it was imperative for our church’s health to be outwardly focused, we nurtured the seedlings of what has become our 1st Explorers Ministry. In an attempt to be faithful to God’s call for us, and out of a desire to be leaders on Main Street in our community, we began serving families with a missionary’s zeal.

In case you haven’t heard, this is where we stand to date:

"Last Monday, our 1st Explorers Ministry geared up for the school year! A hymn that came to mind as I prepared for work on Monday morning was, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.’ As I hummed it out of tune and off-key, I was reminded of the many ways our church loves all the little children. For countless years, First Baptist made space for a half-day preschool known as The Play Factory. Hundreds of children and their families have been impacted by this ministry. This year, with a new name and new teachers, Wee Explorers began 'Learning, Sharing and Growing Together' with 12 preschool-age children! For the past three years, our After School Ministry has become an integral part of who we are at First Baptist. This year we have close to 60 children enrolled in our daily, After School Ministry. This past summer we provided a comprehensive day camp to 50 children. Our ministries to children and their families are growing in leaps and bounds, and I’m grateful to be part of a congregation that is making a huge impact on our community and future generations."

-Kelly Brown, 1st Explorers Ministry Director

Our ministry to the families in our community represents our journey outward. By providing quality, affordable childcare for working parents through our preschool experience and After School Ministry, we are doing justice. We are making possible a service ministry that helps to make families stronger. By providing a setting that nurtures friendships and mentoring relationships, we are seeking to love kindness. And also, by teaching our children the stories of our faith every single day of the week--save for Saturday—and exposing our kids to mission education on Wednesday afternoons, we are helping our children to walk humbly with God.

Our Summer Explorers Camp lived out these principles in a more comprehensive and saturated fashion through field trips, water days, mission projects, Bible study and daily chapel worship services. Is it any wonder that children made professions of faith during this time?

Although these services are provided on our campus and in our facilities, our work with children and families in our community is a mission. This is one of our many ways of journeying outward. Brothers and sisters, people around town now describe us openly as, “The church with the children playing out front.”

We cannot, however, forget about our journey inward. Remember, we cannot journey out unless we are also nurturing our connection with Jesus. As a church family, we must remain committed to nurturing our relationship with God—walking humbly with Him—so that we may remain tethered to the One who calls us to be Kingdom People.

The work of the church can feel heavy, even burdensome at times. Life and ministry are far less tidy when we are on mission. Let’s recall that the presence of Jesus made a mess—literally a hole in a ceiling!—because people were clamoring to be near him. When our mission is grounded in the mission of Christ, our spirits are restored and our vision is revived. And our mess—before we clean it up!-- becomes a testimony of God working in our midst.

Of course, our 1st Explorers Ministry is but one aspect of our mission on Main Street. But health begets health, and we are already seeing its positive impact on the other God-directed missions that are surfacing in our congregation to serve those who need assistance.

God is blessing others through us. Indeed. But we have not yet arrived, y’all. There is more to do because the harvest is plentiful. The workers are not few, for we are many! However, we must wed our work with God’s direction for motivation and endurance.

Our journeys into the world, as well as our journeys into the heart of Christ, do not end. Fueled by the Holy Spirit, God’s movement never tires, rests or retires.