There’s a stretch of a 4-lane highway that runs through Birmingham, Alabama. I know it well because when I was born, we lived just off of that highway. We moved away when I was 5 to Columbia, South Carolina, for 8 years, then to Dayton, Ohio, for about a year and a half. We made our way back down to Alabama where I went to the last year of middle school and high school in Montgomery.

Whenever we traveled back to Birmingham, my dad always made a point to get off Interstate 65 so we could travel a bit on Highway 31 again. It was a welcome pause and nostalgic detour.

Flash forward to June 29, 1996. It was the first time I ever stood on Highway 31 rather than driving it. The occasion was the passing of the Olympic torch on its journey to the summer games in Atlanta.

There were probably 1000 people in the lanes going north and south while the torch made its way down the center line. I remember seeing it pass from person to person, not once, but twice – each person taking their turn for about 100 feet. There was a teenager with special needs, a middle aged white woman, and an elderly black man who took the torch from the person before them.

It was inspiring. Everyone was cheering while the beaming faces of the torch-bearers received the light and kept going.

That’s a picture of church. Since 1843, our church has been passing the torch from one generation to the next. This is our time, by God’s grace. We want to run our course with faith and confidence, making sure that we don’t stumble in giving the light to the ones coming after us.

Faithful in Sharing the Message

What a celebration it was to walk through our newly renovated children’s ministry area. Our theme in casting vision and raising funds for the space developed from Psalm 78:4 (ESV): “We will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord.”

In those light-filled rooms and hallways we will pass on the light of Jesus Christ to our children. Investing in our children and families is one of the most important investments we can make.

When children started to come to Jesus, at first His disciples shooed them away. But then Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, ESV).

One practical thing you can do today is to pause right now and pray that God will bring more children and families to learn about Jesus Christ and how to live with the Holy Spirit.

We say, “Let them come!”

Faithful in Leadership

Our Nominating Committee, led this year by Martha Rudder, has been tasked with identifying and inviting a new group of leaders to serve in our upcoming church year (July 2024-June 2025). This is no small task, but this capable team has done an excellent job filling every spot to serve on our councils and committees.

If you are not aware, our church is structured to have four main committees (Personnel, Finance, Facilities, and Long-Range Planning) and four ministry councils (Missions, Worship, Discipleship, and Community). These groups meet monthly to plan events and keep us on track in fulfilling our mission. The chairpersons and vice chairpersons all serve on our Church Council, along with the chairperson and vice chairperson of our deacon body. The ministerial staff also meets with the Church Council, which gathers monthly to discuss the direction our church and any issues we are facing.

I want to thank all those who have served in this past year and all those that have agreed to serve in the upcoming year. As we seek to mobilize the gifts of every member, we see the multiplication of ministry. Good things are happening as we serve together!

We also will celebrate the ordination of 3 new deacons and affirm 6 more for “active” service this Sunday during the 11am worship service. I hope you will be present either in-person, virtually or through television.

Faithful in Stewardship

I see these last six weeks in the church year 2023-2024 as a kind of passing of the torch. We need to run a good race until July 1 and finish strong so that we can be well prepared for God’s work among us in the new year. Then, the torch will be passed as we begin a new fiscal year July one. We want a strong start, because a strong start will lead to a fruitful year ahead.

Thank you for your generosity. It may be that as you continue to deepen in your connection to our church, you also recognize that there’s room for some growth in stewardship. Every investment you make in our church is a sacred trust. The light can grow stronger in Knoxville as you and I practice a sacrificial generosity.

Let’s not ever forget the promise of Hebrews 12 that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on. Let’s run the race with perseverance and keep our eyes on Jesus.

I look forward to seeing what God does among us in the months ahead. We have recently seen baptisms, testimonies, single adults and new families getting connected, and a great spirit of celebration in worship. I’m glad to be a part of the First family of faith.

Much love to you as you carry the light of Christ this week!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Brent McDougal