At the time of this writing I have not been in on any of the meetings with our friends from First Baptist. The spokesmen for Bethlehem so far have been Dennis Smith, Dick Fast, Roger Fast, and Cavour Justus. My role has been one of prayer and counsel.
The idea of somehow teaming up with First Baptist for the glory of Christ in this city is not a new one. It has been tossed about in various meetings and from many people over the past several years. However, it was never pursued as a serious possibility because we knew of no such interest on their part.
The change came when one of our men in an informal business setting simply alluded to the possibility of some kind of togetherness. This casual remark some months ago has resulted in at least three preliminary discussions between small groups of lay leaders in both churches.
It appears that these discussions have been remarkably pleasant and inspiring. At least, it is fair to say that sufficient expectancy has been aroused among the men so as to cause them to inform each church this week that the discussions are underway and should now take on a more official nature with the involvement of the congregations.
First Baptist is presently without a senior pastor. Peter West resigned at the end of 1985 under doctor's advice because of serious health problems with his vocal cords. He has served, I believe, eight years and was much loved by his people. I have enjoyed his fellowship in the Downtown Clergy Fellowship.
My first contact with representatives of First Baptist is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20. When this meeting was set up I made it clear that I did not want to meet with them alone, nor give any impression that I was being interviewed as a pastoral candidate in the usual sense. So I will probably meet them along with our church chairman. I am totally committed, and joyfully committed, to the people at Bethlehem. What God has built into our corporate thought and worship and life together over the past six years is very precious to me.
We will schedule a congregational time for questions and input as soon as possible. Be much in prayer. This will be a church decision—to press on here with the exciting future God has promised or to work something out with First Baptist.
Seeking first the Kingdom with you,