By Pastor Dan Clemens
It was June 8, 1968.
“He was 36, and he had lost two brothers to assassins: first President John F. Kennedy, then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, before 2,100 people wearing black, the last surviving Kennedy brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, began his unannounced eulogy for Bobby.”
“It had been three days since Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just moments after celebrating his win in the California Democratic presidential primary. The nation was in shock, still reeling from the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., two months earlier and the riots that followed. RFK’s presidential bid had inspired hope that turned to despair.
“At the end of the eulogy, Ted Kennedy’s voice quavered over the words with which he left the crowd.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,” he said. “Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him.
“He paused, regaining his composure to quote Bobby a final time: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Source
1968: The culture of our country was torn and divided. The First Baptist Church of Hamilton was making plans to build a new building on top of “Mount Baptist”. They wanted to be a “light on the hill” to reach people for Christ. Hopes and dreams were ripe and faithful people, our spiritual forbearers, pushed into uncharted waters as they faced a new decade with faith and courage.
Here we are 52 years later. Poised to grasp a new decade of ministry, 2020, we are looking into a misty future in a nation who is tried of malice and hatred. What is to come? Is there hope for a better tomorrow? Dare we “dream things that never were and say why not”? I think we must. First Baptist Hamilton must look to our Savior Jesus Christ and see a decade and beyond of ministry and mission which is pointing the way to hope, peace, love, faith and an eternal relationship to God our Father.
Look at our heritage as a congregation.
“The Hamilton-Rossville Baptist Church was organized in 1829…” We are connected to those 191 years ago as the first Baptist witness in this Miami valley. “In 1841 the church officially organized as the First Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ohio. Little did that small band of believers, gathered in the home of Dr. Loami Rigdon, dream what great things God had in store for First Baptist Church. For through her doors would enter children, youth, and adults who would, in time, confess Christ as Savior, follow Him in the waters of baptism, and under the teaching and preaching of faithful ministers, prepare themselves for daily living. And out of her doors would come pastors, teachers, missionaries, directors of Christian Education, and dedicated laymen, who would go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” (Source: firstbaptisthamilton.org/history.html)
We are the heirs of the challenge to “go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” What shall 2020 hold? What can we know? What do we hope for and dream of?
I pray to have 2020 Vision as we look into this new year, and ahead to this critical decade, with eyes fixed on Christ. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 cautions us regarding vision, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In 2020 we must emphasis outreach as we seek to share the gospel and invite children, youth, men and women of all ages to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
We must make it our reason to exist to serve others and not ourselves. How will you reach out to those you know who need hope, love, and Jesus? Relationship, prayer, a verbal witness and invitation are the keys to reaching people for Christ. We will provide opportunities for you to share and invite people to, but let me be clear, outreach is about sharing the love of Jesus not just about having events and programs. We will develop new and reinforce existing groups to both draw people and give people community. New community groups, Alpha, Griefshare, Financial Peace University, Married People, MOPS/MOMS, Fight Club (men’s discipleship), First Students Ministry, First Kids Ministry, sports teams, and other groups will be continuing/beginning in 2020. We will serve in ministry and mission to reach our community and world.
2020 will be a year of construction as we renew this wonderful facility with which we have been entrusted. The lower level is presently in full construction. Carpets and ceiling tiles are removed. The walls of the future children’s worship center are being prepared to be removed and to enlarge the space. Doors have been cut in the walls of the locker-rooms to build a future children’s ministry work room and storage. Floors and plumbing are prepared for the installation of children’s restrooms near the entrance to the children’s wing. Colors for paint, hard-surface flooring, and carpet have been selected and be installed in the next few months. The goal is to be ready for our largest children and family outreach, Vacation Bible School on July 6-10, 2020.
Also, lighting plans are being finalized and we will begin replacement of LED high efficiency lights throughout the entire building by Easter, April 12, 2020. In July, the project will move to the upper level and will include new ceilings, hard-surface flooring, paint to the Family Center halls and rooms, and moving the main office. Then sanctuary updates to the platform and canopy will be completed.
2020 will be about leadership development. I am proud and excited about the leadership team we have in our ministry staff. We are blessed with anointed and gifted men and women who will lead us to new places of witness and growth. I am also pleased with our lay leaders who take responsibility for serving our congregation and community. I will intentionally mentor, disciple, and serve with our leadership as we follow Christ in mission and ministry. (And, to allay any hope or fear, I do not plan to retire in 2020.)
We enter our sixth year of the intentional revitalization of our congregation to reach the next generation while caring for the present generation. We have made much progress. We have a long way to go. As we seek to be the followers of Jesus in this time in history, I meditate on that challenging query, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” We must dare to do all things necessary to reach this generation even if they have never been done before. We must “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely [to this generation], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
These are exciting times! This will be the greatest decade of ministry for First Baptist Church Hamilton if we are faithful to follow Jesus. I look forward with great anticipation to serving Jesus with you this year, 2020! To God be the glory! Great things He is DOING!
Be the Light!