Bevill's Chapel Baptist Church - 12/18/2011

Though our paths cross quite frequently with MBA events, I had never actually heard Pastor Benny Berry preach.  Regina, his wife, is the Financial Manager for the Madison Baptist Association, so I have dealings with her all the time and might I add that she is always very helpful. 

We arrived about 10 minutes early for Sunday School and it just so happens that it was Regina who pulled up to the door at the same time.  She helped us to get where we needed to go as our day began.  The class was friendly and after a bit of socializing we began the lesson.  The class was going through a book called Biblical Mathematics:  Keys to Scripture Numerics, that deals with the importance of numbers in the Bible.  It was interesting and I can't say that I had heard of the book before our visit.  Once class was over one of the class members helped us to find our way to the sanctuary for the worship service. 

The music was nice with the choir doing a special number and a trio doing another one.  Somewhere I have heard the trio before (perhaps at a special community service); they did a great job.  Regina mentioned something about her and Benny being here over 20, what dedication!  

When Brother Benny spoke with us it sounded like he had a cold but when he preached the message one could hardly tell.  He is a very soft spoken man but is very strong and sure when he brings the Word.  All in all it was a good visit and things seem to be going well at Bevill's Chapel. 

Mt. Zion Baptist Church - 12/4/2011

Yesterday we spun the wheel and it landed on Mt Zion as our next church to visit.  I know Michael Davis, the Minister of Education there and a big shout out to him as he will be graduating from New Orleans Baptist Seminary in two weeks !  I have also been to several of the weekly pastor meetings and an E-Board meeting or two at the MBA where pastor Ron Madison was present.  I had looked forward to hearing him preach as he seems to be a man of purpose. 

We arrived right at the time the first Sunday School was letting out.  A very nice lady greeted us as soon as we entered the building and took us to the welcome center.  There we were greeted again by several folks, filled out a visitor card and then escorted to a Sunday School class close to our age range.  The welcome center person introduced us to the teacher, Dwayne Jones, and then everyone in the class proceeded to introduce themselves.  A lot of organization here--nothing less than what I expected from a top notch Minister of Education like Michael.  After sharing prayer concerns and opening in prayer the teacher led a discussion out of Genesis.  He did a very good job, was very transparent and practical in his teaching.  It was also clear he had prepared well for the lesson.  Most everyone in the class participated at some point. 

The worship center was very beautiful and during the greet time Michael Davis made his way over to greet us.  Both the choir and the praise ensemble did a great job as well.  One thing I liked very much was how much space there was in the aisle.  Pastor Ron did a very good job bringing the message out of Hebrews concerning hope.  The points he made concerning the hope for our economy and our individual lives were spot on the way I see it.  I have heard many good things about Mt Zion and it appears they have good leadership there.     

Morningside Baptist Church - 11/20/2011

I guess the second time is the charm.  Last Sunday (11/13) we were on our way to Morningside, as a matter of fact were less than a mile away, when Denise began to feel really sick.  It was so bad that we turned around before getting to the church and headed right back home.  This Sunday we had no such episode and actually arrived ten minutes early.  Many times we take a few pictures of the church and specifically the church sign before we go in lest we forget on our way out. 
 After doing this I noticed what looked like someone I know from the Fire Department going in with his son.  As we approached the door we were happily greeted by several folks.  Once inside I inquired about Sunday School and a nice young man took us to our class...the one his dad was teaching.  I generally like to go to separate classes when we visit a church for several reasons but this day we would be in a couples' class together.  Mark Cowan was the teacher and he did a fine job with the lesson coming out of  the book of Hebrews, chapter 3.  Small world; Mark, who works for Sexton Welding Supplies, is the driver that delivered the welding supplies to where my wife used to work, so they knew each other.  There were some prayer concerns mentioned and then Mark prayed for every couple in the class. 

After class we made our way to the sanctuary and on the way I saw Erick (the guy from the fire department) in the hallway and spoke with him for a minute.  As we gathered to worship we saw and spoke with Darin and Christian Lightfoot who had recently been out to Camp Macoba with a group of youth from the church.  If you have never heard Darin and Christian sing it is quite a treat and I presently have their CD in my CD-player right now and have for the last month!  I guessed seating for about 200 here and noticed how really clean the place was.  Many of the churches we go into their size have from 50 - 75% elderly membership but this was not the case here.  It appeared to be around 40%.  There was also a first here for me....the pastor was actually part of the praise/team/band.  He sang and played the guitar.  The worship music was good led by Darin and Christian.  I meant to say something to the guy on the drums who did a great job as well. 
Brother Marty brought a message out of Daniel and really challenged the congregation.  This appeared to be one in a series of messages entitled, Courage Under Fire.  He spoke a lot about priorities and courage.  He held my attention the whole time, though it was a familiar message, by the way he communicated the scripture to the congregation.  This was the first time we had ever set foot into Morningside and I was looking forward to our visit as Brother Ron Lynch had told me good things about Brother Marty and the church.  I look forward to another visit in the future.

Neeley's Chapel Baptist Church - 11/6/2011

Neely's Chapel was our choice on this beautiful Sunday morning.  I met Pastor Lamar McGriff a few weeks ago when he decided to have a church outing at Camp MACOBA.  As a matter of fact, his memory seems to recall that he was the first one to bring a group up to the camp somewhere around 43 years ago.  What makes the number 43 stick out is that is how long he has been married and he believes the trip occured shortly after that time. 

We showed up at the church a little early as it was not as far from our place as I thought.  Pastor Lamar was there and greeted us with open arms.  He tells me that years ago the church used to be located where Patterson Road Baptist is today (off Oscar Patterson) and they moved because of constant flooding since the church sat right by the creek. 

This morning everyone started off in the sanctuary for general assembly time, where Brother Rayford led everyone in a song, we read a passage from 1 Peter 3, and then prayed together.  We were then dismissed and everyone went to their Sunday School Classes.  Denise and I decided to stay in the sanctuary where the adults our age seemed to be.  The song leader, Brother Rayford, taught the class from Acts 13:13-42 and did a very good job.  He asked how many had brought their Bibles and how many had read Scripture during the week.  I remember when all churches used to track things like this in Sunday School.  

Once the class was over we remained where we were and probably spoke to and shook hands with most everyone in the church.  Brother Lamar had told me earlier that we just might be the first from the MBA to visit the church and asked if I would speak a few minutes telling about what I do and about the Camp.  I did and hope everyone is a little more informed now.  Once the choir was through leading us in worship, the song leader asked if there was anyone else who wanted to sing this morning.  A couple relatively new to the church got up and the gentleman sang while his wife played the piano.  They both did a very good job. 

Brother Lamar brought a great message from the Book of John, chapter seven about the power of words; God's Word, specifically.  It really reminded me of some things.  He told Denise as we were leaving, that he'd had spent the week preparing a different sermon, but that on Saturday, the Lord spoke to his heart and gave him a different word, so to speak.  It was definitely a God-breathed message.

I saw this framed on the wall in the corner and found it very interesting. 

Next to it was probably an antique and something my kids' generation have never seen . . . it's even been awhile for me. 

I heard someone make a comment about there never being a problem in the church there.  We had a great morning of fellowship and worship and look forward to returning again in the future.

Cornerstone Baptist Church, 10/23/2011

I called the church on Friday and left a message for Brother Ed Johnson that Denise and I would be visiting Cornerstone on Sunday morning.  We arrived shortly before 9:00 am and the first folks we encountered were very helpful in directing us to Sunday School.  They not only asked what kind of class we were looking for, but someone personally escorted us to our respective classes.

When a church has a class taught by the Pastor, I generally avoid it so as to get a broader picture of the church.  Typically, for one of the same reasons, my wife and I prefer to go to different classes as well. On this morning I was in Mark Bell's class were I was greeted by everyone in the class.  Mark did a fine job with the lesson coming from the Romans 4.  The men in the class were very friendly with one another and seemed to know each other very well, they also made me feel comfortable as well.  One of them told me that they had been a church for 8 years, 3 in the building where they currently meet.  Denise had initially headed to the ladies' class, but because both teachers were unexepectantly out, her class joined another class.  Brother Ed led that class and was teaching out of the book of Ruth.  It was good, solid teaching and everyone seemed to enjoy both the teaching and participating. 
Brother Ed brought a very penetrating message about proper worship from Hebrews and Genesis, no sugar coating here.  They had a pretty good crowd and folks seemed to be unified in the direction there.   In fact, I was told that plans are being drawn up to increase their educational space, which is always a good sign to me! 

Lighthouse Baptist Church - 10/16/2011

Between being on shift and Denise's surgery and the long road of recovery, we've been laying low of late.  This past Sunday, though, we headed to Lighthouse Baptist Church, in Toney for service and Sunday school.  I've known Brother Randy Watts for close to fifteen years and count him as one of my closest and dearest friends.  One of the few men I'd feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night, if there was a need.  Bro. Randy has a true servant's heart and his love for the Lord is obvious.

Lighthouse was the church where Denise and I served in our early married years.  The church was newly started -- about a year old -- and Bro. Randy was the pastor who, along with several men of faith, birthed this church into being.
Today, more than sixteen years later, Lighthouse has a thriving church body and programs that truly minister to the life and need of the community.  In addition, Brother Randy and Lighthouse have played a tremendous role in bringing the new HEALS clinic to Madison Cross Roads Elementary.  This clinic sees to both the medical and dental needs of children in the community who otherwise might not receive care.

Sunday, Denise and I arrived for the 10:00 worship service.  The praise team was warmed up and ready and led us through several of our favorite hymns.  Brother Randy preached out of the last chapter of 1 Timothy, on the sovereignty of God.  He also gave Denise a little good-spirited  ribbing about her "Roll Tide" cast, but I think she gave as good as she got!

From worship, Denise headed on into the Ladies I Sunday school class.  There was also two couples classes -- one for the younger couples and one for the older couples.  Lighthouse also has a Sunday School session that begins at 9:00 for adults post-55.  As always, we enjoyed our morning and the fellowship at LBC.

First Baptist Church, Fairhope - 9/25/2011

This past week, Denise and I attended a PLACE workshop and training in Fairhope, Alabama.  The training equips 'coaches' to administer a variety of profile tests -- personality, spiritual gifts, talents, etc. along with noting significant life experiences, to determine where a person is best suited to serve.  So many of God's children are walking around serving in areas of their church that they're not passionate about, but just to fill a need.  If servants aren't plugged into the areas they were designed by God to fill, then they're not going to feel they're fulfilling their purpose, and likely will look for another church. 

We enjoyed the two-day training session immensely.  Since it occured on a Thursday/Friday, Denise and I decided to make it a long weekend and enjoy the local flavor.  Fairhope is a beautiful town and we took pleasure roaming its streets and shops (well, Denise enjoyed the shops) on Saturday.  Sunday, we decided to return to the host church of the PLACE conference, which was First Baptist Church, Fairhope.

The church itself has been a part of the downtown Fairhope landscape for over a hundred years and has seen it's share of trials, from hurricanes to flooding to fire.  At one point in the not too distant past, a terrible building fire shut down their sanctuary.   They held worship services offsite, and continued to hold Sunday school and other programs in the education section of their church.  As you might imagine, having to deal with the two locations took its toll, and the church struggled with growth.

Now, though, you'd never know it happened.  The church is quite beautiful and they run two worship services; an early, traditional service, and a later, contemporary service, with Sunday School in between.  Since we had to travel that afternoon, we opted for the earlier service.  Their choir, orchestra and children's choir were all in full force that morning and the music was wonderful.  The church is in the middle of a building campaign -- to build a new education building and add more parking -- and the pastor, Dr. Jerry Henry spoke that morning on passion of service and participation.

For Sunday School, we headed over to Rev. Brent Shaw's class.  Brother Brent is the Minister of Education and Administration for FBC Fairhope, and was the coordinator for the PLACE Conference.  I've met him several times before in connection with ABREA functions.  Brother Brent's class was a fairly large couple's class, and we were greeted and welcomed in high fashion.  In anticipation of using PLACE at FBC, Bro. Brent is walking his class through a spirital gifts inventory.  Our time that day was spent exploring truths and dispelling myths relating to spiritual gifts.  Bro. Brent is a great speaker and we enjoyed his class very much.

While FBC Baptist is not a part of our Madison Baptist Association, we know that a lot of folks from Madison County vacation on the Gulf and perhaps in Fairhope.  This would be a great church to visit if you find yourself in Fairhope on a Sunday morning.

We also hope to have more on the PLACE training available to churches in our area in the very near future.

Bethlehem Baptist Church - 9/11/2011

Prior to today I had never been to a service at Betheleham Baptist in Hazel Green.  I make the specific reference to Hazel Green because we also have a Betheleham Baptist in Laceys' Spring. 

We were greeted by many different folks as we found our way to the main entrance--which was clearly marked I might add.  We chose to attend the 9:15 worship which was contemporary and very good.  I especially liked the song the praise team performed while the offering plate was being passed, "All My Tears".  A little something different here was that the worship leader was also the lead guitar player.  He did a great job!
We shook hands and were welcomed by many, including Pastor Lon.  Speaking of Pastor Lon, he and some other men have really helped us out in the past at Camp MACOBA, with mowing and some weedeating.  One time that I know of, he put on a pair of waders and got in the pond so he could get a better angle at trimming back some trees that had become overgrown. 

His message was a very evangelistic one and came out of the sixth chapter of Ephesians ... this man does not seem to lack passion! 
After the service we made our way to Barry and Myra's Sunday School class, where I met Steve Farrow coming out.  I really like Steve and he too has been up at the camp and we've also had lunch together.  He is also the one who recommended this particular class. The class was on the topic of marriage and family.  My guess is there were about 50 folks (generally couples) in the class with a pretty wide age span.  Both Barry and Myra did a great job and there seemed to be a good spirit residing there.  I look forward to another visit in the future! 

New Market Baptist Church - 9/4/2011

It is always a pleasure to visit New Market Baptist Church.  Pastor Don Schultz is really loved by the people there and I certainly understand why.  He has been up at the Camp a few times since we have been there and I have also had lunch with him before.  He is a very caring and dedicated servant of the Lord and is such a shepherd to his flock.  
If I am correct he is second only to Dr. Jackson at Whitesburg Baptist when it comes to tenure in the churches of the MBA.  Brother Don is also our reigning Camp MACOBA Lawnmower Race Champion! The people at New Market Baptist are also very friendly, especially Bill and Sara Rotenberry's Sunday School Class.  They usually have an outing or two up at the camp every year.  We missed Wells Johnson and his lovely wife Mary Jane, as they were on their way to see about Well's sister...please keep her in your prayers.  
As we drive by the church every day on our way into town it seems they are adding a new member or two every week.  God really seems to be blessing the work going on there!   

Farley Community Church - 8/21/2011

What a great time we had at Farley Community Church this past Sunday.  The last time I had visited with Brother Dave the church parking lot had not been paved.  A few years ago we spent an afternoon together because I was anxious to hear the story of how the church got started.  What a great story it is with God
getting all the glory! 
The more I get to know Pastor Dave the more I like him.  I remember back several years ago seeing him for the first time -- singing with his brother at Shocco Springs for a Sunday School conference.  They were very good.  When we arrived, we were greeted by several friendly folks and Brother Dave led us to a Sunday School Class right after he got out of morning worship.  It was a great class and the teacher, Alan Nelson, did a marvelous job with the Word and life application.

We did not arrive in time for the traditional service so we stayed for the contemporary one which also was great and packed out!  It would seem that Brother Dave has a great team of leaders here at Farley as God continues to do a wonderful work.  We look forward to coming back here in the future.

Brownsboro Baptist Church - 7/31/2011

Sunday morning Denise and I had the privilege of visiting Brownsboro Baptist Church, located off Highway 72 in Brownsboro -- right next to Madison County High School.  I'd heard great things about Brother Joseph Cooper's preaching and have served with him on the Association's leadership team for the last couple of years.  And while I would not say we were real close friends (yet), I would certainly consider him a friend.  He has a great sense of humor, is very passionate about discipleship and fun to be around. 

Our visit to Brownsboro Baptist was the first time I had ever heard him preach and this soft spoken man was bold in the pulpit!  He brought a great message and pulled no punches.  It is very good to my heart to see that in the next generation of Preachers coming up there are some who can really bring it. 
Not sure what I was expecting from Worship but both Denise and I were very pleased.  I noticed a guy playing the mandelin and a young man on the elecric drums.  The choir loft was full and the singers did a great job on the special of Amazing Grace.
The church had good mixture of folks age-wise.  Sunday School was good with all the men making me feel very welcomed.  I noticed right before the Worship service started that the sanctionary was 80% full.....hmmm, maybe good things are going on out at Brownsboro Baptist Church!  :)  

Oakley Baptist Church - 7/24/2011

A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with Brother Harold Sellers when the subject of who would be the next church in our pathway came up.  It might have been me who brought it up.  Anyway, I asked Harold if he knew anything about Oakley Baptist, which is only about 10 or 15 minutes from Camp MACOBA.  Without hesitation he replied that it was a great church and he loved the folks there.  He went on to say, if my memory serves me correctly, that if he lived out that way he would attend there. 

 This past Sunday we had the pleasure of visiting Oakley Baptist Church and it was a wonderful experience.  The pastor there is Brother Charlie Hammons and we were warmly welcomed by him and his wife, Judy.  Brother Charlie has been the pastor of the Oakley congregation for ten years, not including two years as interim pastor.  I had heard great things about Brother Charlie but had never met him before.  The church itself has been there for over a hundred years -- since the late 1800's.  Brother Charlie showed me a picture of the church that at one time had been facing a different direction and was picked up and turned around when the main road changed many years ago.  A new educational wing has been built in his tenure.

As always we attended both Sunday School and worship, and both were very good.  I did see a familiar face while I was there and that was Brother Louis Rickets.  He has helped out with some projects at the camp from time to time and as a matter of fact brought his bulldozier out in the spring to help clear out some brush.  Mr. Rickets said there was only one other person who had been attending the church there longer than him.  It was good to see him again.    Everyone was very welcoming and friendly.  I was in a mixed SS class where Brother Sonny Bryant was the teacher and did a fine job.  During the worship time he and his wife sang a couple of special songs while he played the guitar and she played the banjo.  As we were leaving we received many invitations for next Sunday's Fifth Sunday Sing and the potluck dinner to follow.  I can almost smell the chicken frying right now!