Community Engagement. That’s the new buzz word for me these days. This was what I suggested to Jim as a potential official descriptor of my new role at the church, and not to worry, I’d figure out what it meant along the way. The phrase is strong enough to signal some pretty serious ministerial weight but also vague enough to allow plenty of room for exploration and discernment. Some of this ministry area will not be new to the work of First Baptist. I will pick up responsibility for a good bit of the Missions Ministry that Laura Stout faithfully oversaw for her eighteen years on staff, minus a little here, plus a little there. One big difference is I won’t oversee children’s missions on Wednesday nights, so according to the law of conservation of workload, I’ll need to fill that gap with more missions programming initiatives and some new ways First Baptist can live out her calling of mercy, justice and loving kindness. Let’s call this gap X. Looking at it in those terms, Community Engagement (CE) is everything that Laura did as Missions Coordinator (M) minus her Wednesday night work with Children on Mission (CoM) plus the new stuff I want to help the church get into (X) – or in equation form: CE = M – CoM + X

What is the X going to be? Well, that’s where you come in. In the coming weeks and months, I will be working hard to clearly discern and articulate some exciting new areas of mission and justice work where First Baptist Greenville can engage in the community. I will welcome input, feedback and suggestions from the following, but not limited to: the members of First Baptist, the Missions and Affiliations Committee, Laura (she has already shared lots of helpful information with me!), the Holy Spirit, our sister churches in the area, justice-centered organizations across the country, the person of Jesus presented in the Gospels, local non-profits in the area, fellow staff members and, of course, the areas outside our church walls where God is clearly at work.

I do not yet know what new adventures lie ahead for the church in this area, but I do know that I am excited to be on this journey, and as you are considering new ways to get involved, consider the ministry of community engagement, whatever that ends up being. Come help me solve for X!

—Matt

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