October Newsletter

How to Have Meaning in Your Life

I promise this isn’t click bait or a shallow self-help essay! This is freshly published data, hot off the presses.

The Cato Institute conducted a wide-ranging survey of Americans’ attitudes about poverty, work, and wealth (https://www.cato.org/publications/survey-reports/what-americans-think-about-poverty-wealth-work#who-finds-most-meaning-purpose). Which is interesting in itself. But tucked in the findings are data about people who find meaning and purpose in their lives—and people who don’t find meaning and purpose in their lives. As someone who seeks meaning and purpose for myself, I was intrigued to read on, and the results were stark!

83% of all Americans agreed with the statement, “I feel like I have purpose in my life; my life has meaning,” while only 16% disagreed. Good news, right? Well, if you break the results down a little more, you start to see the fault lines among those who feel a sense of purpose and those who just don’t.

The report summarizes the data: “Demographically, people who volunteer (54%), who attend church more than once a week (68%), religious people such as Protestants (55%) or Catholics (51%), people 65 and over (59%), and African Americans (57%) are more likely to find purpose and meaning in their lives than those who do not volunteer (37%), never attend religious services (36%), are atheist or agnostic (29%), are under 30 (36%), and are White (45%) or Latino (43%) Americans.”

Perhaps the most disparate measure was purpose and meaning when related to envy—one of the seven deadly sins, by the way. Of those who rate as highly envious of others, a meager 27% have meaningful lives, whereas of those who are on the low envy side, a robust 70% lead a meaningful existence. Similarly, 58% of those who are compassionate have a purposeful life; only 38% of the not-compassionate are purposeful.

So, what’s the first takeaway? Christianity leads to a better life. Although I believe that Christianity is true—and that’s the best reason to adhere to it—it also gives you a more meaningful life. This may seem like an overly utilitarian view of Christianity, but it’s true that seeking God leads to a fruitful life. It matters what we believe, and it matters what we do. So if you believe that there is no Creator, no goal or trajectory for this world, no justice, no grace or forgiveness, no eternal significance in what we do in this life, or no truth, then it’s no surprise at all that you will experience the world as meaningless and life as purposeless. But, on the other hand, if you believe in a God who is a loving Creator, if you believe in a trajectory for this world, justice, grace, forgiveness, eternal significance to our deeds, and ultimate truth, then you can’t escape the notion that life is brimming with purpose and laden with meaning.

And likewise, if you never engage in any transcendent activity that reminds you of your place in the cosmos, and if you never remove yourself from the center of the universe, then it’s no surprise that you will see things around you as pointless and meaningless. But for those who regularly worship God, they are constantly reminded of their place as beloved children redeemed by the Savior. Worshipers are formed by the Christian worldview that God is God and we are not.

The second takeaway? God’s commands are true. The Ten Commandments get a bad rap sometimes, especially by skeptics or by Christians who downplay the Old Covenant. But this survey vindicates the wisdom behind God’s moral directives. God knew what he was doing when he said, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s” stuff. Because coveting—or envying—leads to rotten fruit. It causes us to hate and resent—to feel cheated—instead of giving thanks and counting our blessings for what we have. Likewise, serving others (Mark 10:45) and imitating the way Jesus showed compassion to others (Luke 15:20; Mark 6:34) leads us to a place of humility and gratitude, rather than a place of entitlement. So, if we practice these virtues and strive to do what is right, then we will experience significance in a life in a way that we can’t while rejecting these virtues.

The third takeaway? The unbelievers and agnostics you interact with (and I hope you’re interacting with people who don’t share your worldview!) are almost certainly living in a gray world that lacks purpose and meaning. The secular world that many inhabit is a self-centered soup of Liquid Modernity that has dissolved all its ideals and institutions—including family, marriage, communities, gender, and even objective truth—until there is nothing left but themselves, floating alone. And that is a lonely place to be. So, in some ways, the church is positioned to offer a clear alternative to the chaotic Modern world that was supposed to deliver happiness and liberation but has failed miserably on both counts. The data back this up: to be a Christian is to live in a world infused with meaning and hope. To practice virtue and to follow God’s commandments leads to abundant life.

Pastor Ray

P.S. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, here is a thoughtful review of religion and demographics: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

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). We need to get at least 20 pilgrims registered by December 15 to make the trip happen. If you—or someone you know—might be interested, please contact Ray and visit the tour Web site:


Sunday School

Join us for Sunday school every Sunday morning at 9:30. We will be starting to study 1 Thessalonians on September 29.

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, 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 www.worldmissionoffering.org.

Camp Offering Sunday

Church camps have a crucial mission in the life of the larger church: to form a new generation of believers. In September, the Diaconate decided to give a gift of $500 to Forest Lake Baptist Camp in rural Ottumwa to help with their operation costs. In addition, the deacons decided to receive a special offering for our other Baptist camp in the region, Dayton Oaks (rural Dayton). On Sunday, October 13, we will receive that offering, so please give generously to support the mission of our camps!

Youth Group

B.L.U.M.P.Y.? P.L.U.M.B.Y.? St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has joined our youth group, which has been a joy (except trying to decide on a new name for the group!). Middle School (grades 6-8) and High School (grades 9-12) youth are invited to share supper, a lesson, and fun, every Wednesday from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church’s building (800 Poplar). See you there!

Youth Group Meals

Would you like to support our youth group—whatever it’s called? We need a meal for about 40 every Wednesday. If some of you would like to prepare a meal and deliver it, please let Ray know, and he will put you on the schedule. Thanks!

The Cass County Choral Society Is on the Move

We’re putting the choir together again for a Christmas concert, and we’re always looking for fresh singers (especially males!). Rehearsals will start on Sunday, October 6, from 3:00-4:30 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church building (800 Poplar). Rehearsals will be every Sunday (except Thanksgiving), and the performance will likely be December 19 and 20. Find us on Facebook for updates and information!

Quarterly Congregational Meeting

We will have our quarterly congregational meeting after worship on Sunday, October 13. We will first share a potluck lunch, featuring homemade pies from Lana Westphalen as a thank-you gift for selling our parsonage through her. We will also be recognizing Marlene Hess for her years of service as our organist. Please attend!

American Baptist Women

ABWM will gather on Wednesday, October 16, at 1:30 p.m.

Ray’s Office Hours

This semester, Ray’s office hours will typically be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (with some exceptions!) or by appointment.

Read Online: Save the Paper and Postage!

Read our newsletter online!

https://fbcatlantic.wordpress.com/blog. 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!

Thank You!

Dear Deacons and Congregation,

Thank you for your generous gift on the anniversary of my serving as pastor with you. I am humbled and grateful for your generosity, and I am happy that God has brought us together.


Another Thank You

Dear Jerry, Lyle, Jim, and the Congregation of the First Baptist Church of Atlantic,

I want to thank you for allowing me and Century 21 Dement Realty to serve your real estate needs. I value your business, and I want to express my appreciation!


Lana Westphalen

P.S. As an expression of my gratitude, I will be providing homemade pies for your congregational meeting on October 13! 

Diaconate Meeting Minutes

Diaconate meeting of the First Baptist Church was held on Sunday September 8, 2019, and Pastor Ray McCalla opened the meeting with prayer.

Minutes of the August 11, 2019, Diaconate meeting were read and approved.

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

At the last meeting it was discussed to increase Ray’s monthly income. It was decided we would give Ray a gift and Jim suggested the amount of $500.00, there was discussion and several felt that Ray does such a good job that we needed to increase the amount of the gift. Vicki Brown made a motion to increase the gift amount to $1,000.00, Chuck Smith seconded and a vote was taken. Motion carried.

Chuck Smith suggested that we update our visitor note cards that are in the pews for people to fill out when they visit church. They have not been updated in a long time and still have a 19___ date on the cards. Chuck will take one to Choice Printing and get new ones.

Jerry Rhoads purchased a new humidifier for the church basement. We have three old humidifiers that need to be disposed of. Jerry thinks he had a plan for the disposal.

It was suggested that we should consider giving more money to missionaries, Amounts and recipients were discussed. We will table this until the next quarterly meeting. Jim will put some money in the Stifel Nicolaus account but we didn’t decide on the exact amount to be transferred.

Forest Lake camp sent a letter giving information about the camp and asking for donations. Vicki Brown made a motion to send $500.00 to the camp, seconded by Kyle Benson. A vote was taken and motion carried. Jim suggested that we take up an offering for the camps and what money is given can go to Dayton Oaks camp unless

specified for a certain camp.

A check for $87,269.80 was deposited for the sale of the parsonage, $1,690.50 for sale of furniture and items in the parsonage, $650.00 for the washer/dryer from the parsonage.

Respectfully submitted

Vicki Brown

Church Clerk

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