It seems that every month or so I type an email similar to this in answer to questions about my church. So I thought it would be easier to compile a few emails I've sent out previously and post them here on my blog. Of course, it is not possible to cover everything someone would want to know before visiting or becoming a member of a church - so come and visit us. See for yourself! I'm not trying to proselytize, but if you do not have a church home, or if you just want to come visit a sister church, you are most welcome!
Unity Baptist is my church. I love it. I joined on January 19th, 1997, the day after Kevin and I married. Kevin has been a Unity member since middle school, when his military dad moved his family to Millington.
Unity is a Southern Baptist church, part of the SBC and the Mid-South Baptist Association, but we are “Reformed.” We teach Reformed doctrine and also have elder rule instead of congregational rule. The elders abandoned our former constitution, which leaned towards legalism. Instead, they prayerfully decided to adhere to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. You can find that entire document on the Unity website, listed here on my blog.
We had five elders. One retired from his work and moved to Mississippi (he was actually Unity's first pastor). One is about to retire and is building a house in Alabama, so he went inactive. Then Dax Hughes, our pastor, announced that he had been called to be associate pastor of a church in Kentucky, which puts us at two current elders. My husband, Kevin, is one of them. We are currently searching for a “preaching elder.”
A former Unity member, Nathan Sawyer, is one of three pastors who have started a church plant for John Piper's church in downtown Memphis. He is preaching all but one Sunday a month. (His home church is Grace Church Memphis, listed on my Blog Roll Call). The Sundays that Nathan is absent are times to hear prospective pastors. So far we have had five, with one to three more on the way. Jim and Kevin are both VERY methodical, intelligent, and thoughtful, so the process will likely be slow - but there really is no need to rush with Nathan helping. I thank God for his willingness to help and have been blessed so much by his preaching and teaching. If you can believe it, we’ve actually grown in this time without a pastor. We have had a family recently join and three more families who are “unofficial members.” None of these four came until we were pastor-less, which is amazing to me.
Let's see....what else? Our service is variable. If you took a poll of the congregation, you would probably find paedobaptists and credobaptists (although the official church stance is credo), pre-, a-, and post millennialists (no official stance here). We are casual in dress but recite the Apostle's Creed together weekly. We have home schoolers, private schoolers, and public schoolers. We have piano-led, traditional hymns but also have a worship team with guitar, bass, keyboard, piano, and drums. I've heard the drummer is very handsome! (It's Kevin….he's probably the only Baptist elder drummer on the planet.)
There are age-appropriate Sunday School classes but we do almost all activities together; young boys were playing on our men's softball team (okay, so what if we lost every game?) and teen girls came to the women's luncheon. Another example - Kevin teaches the boys' class.....ages 6-18. They have two teachers and plenty of students, so they could split into two groups. But the boys don't want to be split! I enjoy seeing them all giving each other their “official boys’ class handshake” during the greeting time.
Unity is also extremely hospitable and we love fellowship meals, which is why we bought a commercial playground . We don't have a bunch of children's programs, but the kids can all play outside while we visit. After a Sunday morning service, it is not unusual for people to still be sitting around visiting at 1:00, when the pastor finished at noon!
I always forget to add that our facilities are beautiful, because it always seems to be such a superficial thing. But when I read the Old Testament I am reminded that God put emphasis on beauty in worship. When we were considering what type of building to construct, the leadership decided that our main focus should be on the worship of our Almighty God. And so our church is beautiful. My own prayer is that the church body will reflect that beauty in our thoughts, words, and actions.
And…..we are STILL GROWING. This last part is important. There will always be a few things for the elders to hammer out. But we pray that those things will be handled with grace and love.
I thank God every day for my church family, and hope that He will grow His church in His time, both spiritually and physically.