Sunday was a wonderful day for Immanuel Baptist Church (Immanuel FTL) and for Gulf Stream Baptist association ministry! To understand this, let's flash back a year ago.
January, one year ago, Immanuel was a church at a crossroads-but a crossroads that didn't seem to have much option for future ministry. Pastor Harry Watkins, who had faithfully served as pastor for a number of years, had passed away suddenly. Tom Sisk, one of deacons and long term leaders, had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. I met with the guiding committee of the church at the Sisk home to discuss options. There weren't many. Still, at every meeting like this, we are reminded that Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the church and that He will guide if we will seek His leadership.
At the same time, Living Hope Church was ministering in a rather dismal rental facility in Coral Springs that
they shared with another church. The last time that I visited with Living Hope was a rainy day. Like all the other worshipers, I waded through ankle deep water to reach the building. Inside, though great labor had gone into the worship space, it felt temporary.
Like so many things in the kingdom, what effectuated change was relationship. A little girl grew up at Immanuel. Later, Jamie would become the worship leader at Living Hope. Since it was in rental space, Living Hope did not have Sunday night worship services. With Pastor Larry's support, Jamie and her husband, Ivan, began to attend the evening worship at Immanuel...to encourage and bless as much as anything else. Through this relationship serious conversations began between the two churches. Association ministry was able to help and clarify issues. Even more, since I knew all the leaders involved I was able to share my respect for them to each other. I was my joy to remind them that the central question in an effort like this is: is this of God or not?
Earlier this year, the two churches, Immanuel Baptist Church and Living Hope Church, united under the banner of Immanuel FTL and the leadership of Pastor Larry Brister and Pastor Carol Vidal. Several years ago, these two pastors concluded that ministry together under one banner was preferable to two churches reaching out in two languages.
The anniversary service emphasized the unity of this shared ministry. A combined worship team led in singing in both English and Spanish; the content of the service and sermon were delivered in both languages.
There was a sweet sweet Spirit in the place on Sunday! In recent weeks and months, new people have come into the life and ministry of the church. Young people and couples have been part of this new thing the Lord is bringing to an 80 year old church!
Sunday was a special day. A church celebrated 80 years. There was joy and love. Still, I haven't yet mentioned the highlight of the day. The gospel was preached. An invitation was given. No one came forward. You ask, "how is that a highlight"? Because the invitation is not only a call to come to the front during the singing of "Just as I am" (Yes, they were old school on Sunday!). Pastor Larry also invited anyone who had opened their hearts to the Lord during the service to approach him afterwards. With great excitement, he texted me later in the day. A lady had come to him, having made Jesus her Lord.
80 years. The same mission. The same gospel. Be blessed Immanuel! It's wonderful to walk with you in service of Christ!