September Newsletter

A Question About Contemporary Worship

At one of my previous Ask-the-Pastor events, a question came through that is worth addressing: “Do you think more contemporary services draw a younger group?”

And there really isn’t a short, yes-or-no answer to this. But it is pregnant for discussion!

The question gets at a widely held assumption that has persisted since the 1970s. Namely, that changing worship to be more “seeker-friendly,” complete with the kind of music that the kids are listening to on their own, will attract new people (especially younger people) to church so they can hear the gospel and be saved. The side advantage to this approach is that churches will endure, since they’ll have more young people in them. This has become dogma for many contemporary churches—a paradigm that demands that the church constantly change its worship and strategies to keep up with the changing times.

And yes, using newer, less-stuffy music is always a good idea. Jan and I are always on the lookout for new music for us to sing as a church or to offer as an anthem. After all, God commands us in Scripture to “Sing to the LORD a new song!” (Psalm 98:1) And this model has worked well for lots of churches. Many large churches have invested heavily in praise bands (and other programs to be more welcoming to young people and families) and have reconfigured their congregational DNA to be outward-focused and attractional.

“In a liquid modern life there are no permanent bonds, and any that we take up for a time must be tied loosely so that they can be untied again, as quickly and effortlessly as possible, when circumstances change—as they surely will in our liquid modern society, over and over again.”

Zygmunt Bauman

But I have a few of hesitations about adopting the whole scheme for our congregation:

  • If we radically changed our service and music style, it would be inauthentic to our current members. It would most likely seem foreign to our existing people, and they would feel odd in their own house of worship. Now, that alone is not the best reason for avoiding contemporary worship, but young people today can smell inauthenticity immediately. They can spot a fake a mile away. And that’s not attractive to them at all.
  • It is very unlikely that we would be able to attain the level of quality of music required to pull off a truly contemporary service. I have seen LOTS of poor contemporary services and only a couple of good ones. It almost goes without saying that doing a contemporary worship service poorly would not attract anyone. Maintaining contemporary worship week to week is also very resource-intensive.
  • Contemporary worship comes from a different blueprint than traditional, Baptist worship. It starts with the assumption that everything that doesn’t serve the purpose of evangelism (pleasing our guests) or is a hurdle to an outsider understanding the message must go. So out goes the call to worship, the Lord’s Prayer, and even the reading of Scripture. Contemporary worship—in its purest form—sits on the lowest common denominator: emotionally stirring music, teaching (which must also conform to the Blueprint), and little else. This style would obliterate any theological integrity we currently have in our worship.

My last hesitation is more philosophical. We are living in a time that has been labeled “liquid modernity” or “late modernity.” Modernity—or the Enlightenment—has been defined by its opposition to traditionalism. Modernism is all about change and challenging the status quo. And late modernity is the state when all the traditions have already been challenged until there is nothing left to challenge—when all structures and institutions have been dissolved away until there is no solid rock left on which to stand.

The Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman observed this:

“Forms of modern life may differ in quite a few respects—but what unites them all is precisely their fragility, temporariness, vulnerability and inclination to constant change. To ‘be modern’ means to modernize—compulsively, obsessively; not so much just ‘to be,’ let alone to keep its identity intact, but forever ‘becoming,’ avoiding completion, staying underdefined. Each new structure which replaces the previous one as soon as it is declared old-fashioned and past its use-by date is only another momentary settlement—acknowledged as temporary and ‘until further notice.’” (Liquid Modernity, p. 82)

This applies to worship and to the church, too. It’s one thing if you’re a lifelong Christian in your 70s who is tired of the same, old structured worship service and then decides to spice things up by attending a worship service that is completely different and constantly evolving. But it’s altogether another thing if you’re a young person today who has never known structure, permanence, or tradition and who has only experienced the constantly shifting sands of liquid modernity. That’s where the traditional structure and ethos of worship is on our side. Perhaps one of the things the church has to offer—besides the unchanging Word of Life, the gospel—is the connection to the past when we recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing a hymn that has been inspiring and instructing believers for 500 years. What if stability is what young people are actually longing for, instead of more change and upheaval?

So instead of contemplating how we can throw out the traditions of our worship in favor of a new paradigm, let us ponder how we can reconfigure our congregational DNA to be more welcoming and outward-focused, while at the same time keeping what is good and tried and true in our common life.

Pastor Ray

The Life of Our Church

Travel to the Holy Land with Pastor Ray

Mark your calendars and start saving your pennies! Pastor Ray is leading a group on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel, May 18-27, 2020. We will walk in the footsteps of Jesus himself! Visit the Lake of Galilee, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Armageddon, Bethlehem, Mount Carmel, the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, the Dead Sea, the Holocaust Museum, and more! Walk where Jesus walked! The total cost of the trip will be about $3,700 (all-inclusive, except lunches and souvenirs). If you—or someone you know—might be interested, please contact Ray and visit the tour Web site:

Worship at Al’s Barn

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15a) The Presbyterians in Atlantic are celebrating their 150th anniversary this fall, and they have invited us to share in their joy! We will join them for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 29, 2019, at Al Peterson’s barn (65648 Joplin Road), with lunch and fun following. We will not have worship in our own space on that day. There will likely be a carpool; stay tuned for more information. Come and enjoy a day of old-fashioned fun!

ABW Worship

ABW will lead Women’s Sunday worship on September 15, 2019.

HyggeFest 2019

Atlantic Parks and Recreation sponsors HyggeFest 2019! The Second Annual HyggeFest Music On The Green will be September 21st at 5:00 p.m. at Sunnyside Bandshell. Bring your own chairs, food, drinks, etc. In case of bad weather, the event will move to the United Church of Christ at 1607 Hazel Street. There is no admission charge, just come and enjoy an evening in the park! Talent from around the area—including our own Jan Highfill and Ray McCalla—will be performing on stage. (NOTE: “Hygge,” pronounced “hyoo-guh,” is the Danish word for fun.)

Tune in for Radio Devotions

Pastor Ray will provide devotions on KJAN (AM 1220, or 101.1 FM) the week of September 16, in the morning.

Sunday School

Join us for Sunday school every Sunday morning at 9:30, even through the summer months! There is no shortage of fellowship and coffee (or iced tea)!

World Mission Offering

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 ESV

One of our responsibilities, as Jesus’ representatives on Earth, is to share this living water that will satisfy people’s thirst and lead them to eternal life. One way we can do that is by supporting the World Mission Offering, sponsored by International Ministries. Our congregation will be receiving the World Mission Offering on Sunday, September 22, and Sunday, October 6 (September 29 we will be at Peterson’s barn). Please give generously to support the work of our global servants. For more information, visit

A Creative Way to Support Your Church

If you have an IRA and you’re 70.5 years old, then you probably already know about Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). If you’re not familiar with an RMD, it goes like this: At age 70.5 (for most retirement accounts), you must start withdrawing a minimum amount of money from your account—and that withdrawal is taxed as income. However: you can transfer that RMD directly to a qualifying charity (e.g., First Baptist Church) and avoid all taxes. In fact, you can give up to $100,000 from your IRA to the church each year! So it’s a win-win situation. Talk to your financial planner about how you can do this. For more useful information, visit:

Diaconate Meeting

The deacons will gather after worship on Sunday, September 8.

American Baptist Women

ABWM will gather on Wednesday, September 18, at 1:30 p.m.

Read Online: Save the Paper and Postage!

Read our newsletter online! You can also sign up to receive each newsletter (blog) as an email message. Just enter your email address, then confirm your subscription, and you’re all set!

Diaconate Meeting Minutes

Diaconate meeting of the First Baptist Church was held on Sunday August 11, 2019, and Pastor Ray McCalla opened the meeting with prayer.

Minutes of the July 14, 2019 quarterly meeting were read and approved.

Reports were given by Vicki Brown, Financial secretary; Luella Bartelson, Benevolence Secretary; Sandi Rhoads, Treasurer.

Lana Westphalen, realtor for the sale of the parsonage called Ray McCalla that she needed a record showing that the Trustees of the church were authorized to sign the sale agreement papers for the parsonage. Ray gave her the minutes of the January 2019 annual meeting showing who the trustees are and he also wrote a letter stating that the trustees are authorized to represent church business.

Preston Nelson has removed the shed at the parsonage and was paid $1,000.

Closing on the parsonage is scheduled for August 19, 2019.

An offer of $650.00 was made for the washer/dryer. Jerry made a motion to accept the bid and Luella seconded. A vote was taken and motion carried.

There are three dehumidifiers between the church and parsonage and none are working. We need to get rid of them. Vicki made a motion to get a new dehumidifier to the basement at the Church, seconded by Lyle Brown. A vote was taken and motion carried.

Jim suggested that at the next Diaconate meeting we discuss making an adjustment to Pastor Ray’s salary.

Respectfully submitted

Vicki Brown

Church Clerk

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