Welcome to the historic First Baptist Church of Memphis, serving Memphis & the Mid-South since 1839. You will find exciting ministries, mission opportunities, and vibrant worship.

Sunday Mornings:

9:30am Sunday School
11:00am Worship

Wednesday Evenings:

5:00pm Dinner
6:00pm Bible Study

200 East Parkway North, Memphis, TN 38112 ⋅ Office: 901.454.1131



Page 2 of 2

Behold! I will Do a New Thing Isaiah 43:19

Happy New Year!   It’s 2015.  Does it seem different?  Does it feel different?  Have you even begun to stop noting things “2014”?   Supposedly it is different.  We treat it that way.  We talk of turning over a new leaf, of our dreams for a better year, of New Year’s Resolutions.  We even have an image for all of this—a new born baby boy to replace the aging old man that was 2014.

And yet, is it any different?  Are these days any different than those that have gone before?  Isn’t this idea of New Years a bit arbitrary?  Indeed we have the stop and start of all kinds of years at other points on our calendar.   School Years, Fiscal Years, the Liturgical year.  And then there are the Chinese and Jewish and Mayan calendars, just to name a few, which have a much different date noted as New Years.

When you stop and think about it then…there really isn’t anything necessarily special about this turning of the calendar.   And yet the good news is that there could be.   Yes, the good news is that any day can be the start of something new and positive and meaningful and hopeful, not just for you, but for those around you.   And the better news is that you and I will have something to with that...by the choices and decisions we will make, by the priorities we will choose.  Yes, with God’s help, we get to participate in the “new thing” that God is seeking to bring to pass this day and every day, regardless of the date a chronologist wants to put on it. 

Yes, this New Year can be new.  It can be new because we decide to try something new for the first time.  I think such brand spanking newness is needed in our lives, at least every once in a while, so I encourage you to go for it. 

 But for the most part, I think the meaningful new will come from the raw material of what has been.   Such newness is at the heart of the gospel message.  It’s the meaning of redemption.  Its why salvation and salvage and salve all have the same root, and largely the same meaning.  So can 2015 be new?   You bet it can.   But its best newness may come from what we choose to do with what 2014 has left us.  

What will we do with the civil and racial unrest that Ferguson and New York left us?  Will we dare to listen to those different than us?  Better yet, will we make a new friend?  Will we dare to get otherwise involved?

What will we do with the grief we carry from friends that have died?  Will we withdraw or despair or will we vow to live life all the more fully?   Will we rise to carry on their legacy?  Will we fill in the gaps?  Will we invite others to do the same?

What will we do with the life-giving and life-sustaining and joy-filled aspects of 2014?  Will we continue them?  Can we grow them?  Can we share them?  Can we pass them on?

I write this article in the middle of Advent, when we remember that a young mother waits to give birth to another baby boy, one which will bring much newness.  Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful poem Young Mary, begins and ends with this amazingly profound understatement, “I know not all of that which I contain.”I think that’s how I feel about this baby we call 2015.  We have no idea of all that it will contain.  But the majority of whatever it will be, already is.  It’s just a question of what we will do with it.Happy New Year my friends.  May it be filled with God’s “New Thing.”

 Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the January edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Thursday, January 1, 2015
Share |

Company is Coming

“Company is Coming.” What emotions does that phrase evoke for you? Excitement,anticipation,worry,anxiety,wonder? I had a friend who said those were his three least favorite words because anytime his mother said them, it meant a day of serious cleaning. I guess there is that part of it. There’s always some preparation in welcoming someone new into your space. But when I chose that phrase for this year’s Advent, I was seeking to tap into something a bit deeper and far more positive. 

Getting prepared for the arrival of company is, of course, not an unknown phenomenon this time of year. Chances are, if you are not getting ready for family to come to your house, someone is getting ready for you to come to their home. But if you grew up in a family that you loved and that loved you, and you looked forward their arrival…then even the work of preparation is done with air of joyous anticipation and expectation. Sure it was work, but it was all in service to these who were coming who were so special to you. What’s more, it was an investment. Getting ready now would allow you to make the most of the time you would share together.

Advent is the celebration of God’s coming in the person of Christ to keep company with us.We experience this advent of God in Christ in three distinct times. First we draw alongside the children of Israel as they long for the coming of the Messiah, and we reflect on the significance of what it meant for God to come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Secondly, we wait for the return of Christ, and we strive to remain alert to the fact that such could happen at any moment, and thus live like it. And then in the meantime, in the in-between time where we find ourselves at this moment, we seek to be aware that Christ comes to us even now, in moments of Grace and Truth, Justice and Mercy and Peace. But evenfor the Christ among us now, there is much competition. So much can cloud our vision, clog our ears, fill our lives and hearts that even if Christ is right in front of us, we can miss his coming. Advent is the call to do whatever we have to do to open up and to pay attention, to not miss out, to not miss the coming of such Divine company.

Lots of suggestions could be made as to the best way to be so attentive. Among them are the themes of our four Sundays in Advent:

  • Advent 1 calls us to attention,to be alert, to Wake Up. 

  • On Advent 2, Isaiah and John the Baptist call us to Clean Up, and clear out space for our comforting Company to come alongside us and lead us home. Mary will invite us to Tune Up 

  • On Advent 3, to join here in singing the song of God’s deliverance.

  • On Advent 4, we return to John the Baptist to learn maybe the most basic tenets of all hospitality,to Lighten Up, that it’s not about us, but our Guest and what that Guest wants to do in and through our lives. 

  • And then what’s left to do come Christmas, but Welcome our company. 

I hope you’ll join us in the journey this Advent. Company is Coming. Let’s get ready! 

One Caveat. If there is a sense in which this theme struggles to work…it is this. One of the most effective ways to open ourselves up to Christ coming in a new way this Advent, is to be attentive to how Christ is already present among us, especially in the least of these. I challenge you to make that a part of your Advent preparation this season. Find some time, as an individual or family, to engage in service, in sacrifice. Make that a part of your spiritual discipline. Meeting Christ along the way makes it easier to recognize Him in Bethlehem.

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the December edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Sunday, November 30, 2014
Share |

I am

I’m writing this article on the Sunday after we at FBC had the honor of calling the Rev. Brittany Krebs to be our Minister of Music and Youth.  It was a wonderful weekend filled with amazing fellowship and dialogue and worship and singing and bowling and laughter and food and, of course, the opportunity to welcome Brittany and Kyle into the FBC family.

After leading us in worship through music on Sunday morning, Brittany preached beautifully during the Modern Vespers service that evening.  She preached on the call of Moses from Exodus 3, emphasizing the significance of the name of God.  She spoke of how “I am that I am” in Hebrew has no verb tense, that it could be translated numerous ways such as “I will be what I will be.”  The point being that God is not limited by time and situation, that God will be with us no matter where we go or what we do, and that that promise holds true not just for us, but for everyone.  And yet, at the same time, God is intimately concerned about each one of us.  Just as God knew Moses personally and called him by name, God knows us and calls each of us by name.

What an appropriate message given the fact that we had just called Brittany to come and serve with us, a call we all felt was a part of God’s call upon all of our lives.  But the appropriateness goes far beyond the situation at hand, for the reality, for both Brittany and us, is that we do not know all the future holds.   We need the “I am.”  We need a God who will hold us no matter what the future holds.  We are, of course, very excited and very hopeful, and rightly so.  If we will be faithful, God will no doubt bless our journey together.  But there will be challenges and struggles, too.   Just ask Moses.  There always are.

I was struck by a recent reading of Psalm 23.  What a text.   It is such a hope-filled testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of the “I Am.”   Indeed what makes it so powerful is that it does not deny the challenges of life—shadow of death, table full of enemies.  Man, that’s tough stuff.  And then it mentions being anointed.  God never anoints/calls anyone to a life of ease, but to mission and purpose and challenge.  (And God calls us all.  You good Baptists know that,  right?)  Maybe then that cup that overflows in Psalm 23 represents a life that is filled not just with milk and honey, but with an amazing mixture of all that a faithful life contains. What enables us to experience all of that and dare to live grace filled, abundant lives is the fact none of us ever does any of that alone.  God is with us.  God will never leave us.  God will be with us to enhance our joys, to calm our fears, to deepen our meaning, to enrich our fellowship, to challenge our complacency, to dry our tears, to lengthen our laughter, to guide our way.

I am that I am.   I will be what I will be.  We are all called.  We all dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Let us lean into that strong name, that strong promise, as we lean into the future together.  I can’t wait to see it!

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the November edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Saturday, November 1, 2014
Share |

On Being Rooted

Liturgically speaking we are in Common Time.  Common Time refers to the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, and then from Pentecost to Advent.  (Note here at FBC, we follow the Methodists and refer to the latter as Kingdomtide, but the point remains.)  The name is accurate in that these periods of the church calendar year are devoid of major religious observations. But I’ll never forget Glenn Hinson lecturing that all time is holy and that we should never see any time as “common time.”  Dr. Hinson suggested that we see this time through an agricultural lens, the equivalent of the fall or winter, when not much flashy is going on above ground, while all the while the essential work of sinking our roots deeper is being accomplished.

This idea of rootedness is certainly one that scripture affirms.  Think of the parable of the sower.  The objective is to sink deep roots, in good soil, and in so doing eventually bear much fruit.  Think of Psalm 1. “They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither, in all that they do, they prosper.”

Lillian Daniel, a Congregational Minister in Glen Elyn, Illinois, has written a book called When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Finding God in Surprising Places, Even Church.  In it she provides a spirited defense of the relevancy of church and spiritual community that has provoked considerable debate, some about her points in general, some about her sometimes biting sarcastic style.  I like the book, but can see the point of her critics.

Daniel likens those who claim to be “Spiritual But Not Religious” as those who pick beautiful bouquets of cut flowers—a rose from here, a lily from there, etc.   For a time they are indeed beautiful, sometimes splendidly so, but they don’t tend to last because they are not rooted.  In contrast she says that religious communities offer us a rootedness that comes from history and wisdom older than us and a community of people who care about us.

Now Daniel does not ignore the challenges of such a struggle.  She acknowledges that it’s hard to find meaning in a book that we did not write or choose, that its hard to find God in the company of people who are “just as annoying as we are.”  (I love that line.)  But, she concludes, that it is worth it.  Writing for herself and those like her, “Tired of decorating our lives with bouquets of our own choosing, we’re ready to go deeper, and even ready to put in the hard work it requires, because being part of a religious tradition takes work.”  

It’s this last point that sticks with me.   When we speak of rootedness, we think of an unconscious process of nature, something that just happens.  It’s a botanical metaphor, so it’s not perfect.  Maybe for us we could liken it to breathing or growing.  Not a lot of work involved there.  And I think that’s how we often times approach our spiritual rootedness.  At best it’s a passive endeavor on our part.  It’s not our job.  It’s the job of the dirt to be nourishing, and the job of theContinued on page 5other plants and/or weeds to get out of the way.  And to some degree, maybe all of that is true.

But the way in which Daniel and Hinson use it, in the end, we are responsible for our own rootedness.  There is work involved.  Sometimes hard work.  All of this begs some questions:  What does it mean to be rooted?  Do you feel rooted?  If so, why?  If not, why?  How long do you have to be a part of a community to feel that way?   What’s the upkeep?  How often do you have to be present to still feel rooted?  What work is involved?  More immediate to this season, I think Dr. Hinson would ask, “How will you make use of this Holy Time to become more rooted?”

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the October edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Share |

Crying Out

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately by the news.  From Gaza to Iraq and Isis to Ferguson to senseless violence here in our city, some in our own schools, my heart has been breaking for the brokenness of our world.  Even the suicide of Robin Williams hit me hard as it reminded us all of the secret pain that so many carry with them in such a way that it never makes the news, until…

I have a confession to make.  I avoided a lectionary text a couple of weeks ago.  It’s the story of the Syrophonecian Woman from Matthew 15.  You remember it.  It’s the story of a desperate mother crying out for Jesus to heal her daughter.   The problem is, she’s not a Jew.  She’s a foreigner, a fact that gets her initially dismissed by the disciples and then Jesus.  Still she cries out.  Jesus goes so far as to call her a dog.  But even this does not deter her, for the woman simply adds logic and wit to her cry and says, “Even the dogs get the crumbs.”  And in her stubbornness, she gets through.  She stops Jesus in his tracks, causes him to do a 180, in every respect.  She leaves not only with a healed daughter but with a compliment, “How great is your faith!”

I avoided this text, not just because it is a hard text, but because my take on it is one that you have heard before, and is one that is hard for some to hear.  Some say that Jesus’ initial refusal to help this woman, and his reference to her as a dog, are just a test of her persistence and faith and/or of the faith of those standing around.  But I read the text in a more straightforward way.  I think the woman teaches Jesus something, or at the very least, reminds him of who he is supposed to be.  I realize that’s a hard reading for some, to think that Jesus could be taught.  But to suggest that Jesus would adapt and learn and grow does not make him any less, in my mind. Quite the contrary, it makes him more, and further sets an example for us.

But I read a blog on this text recently that pointed out that before this story is about Jesus changing his mind or learning something new, it is a story about a person crying out, a mother who refused to allow her voice to be silenced in the face of sorrow and grief until she is heard, until her need is met.  It seems to me to be a rather close parallel to Jesus’ parable of the friend who goes to his neighbor at midnight and cries out for bread until the neighbor gets up and meets the request, not out of great love and concern mind you, but just to shut his friend up.   Both stories suggest that healing begins with our cry, with letting our need be known.   But is that all there is here?  A simple reminder that for our needs to be met, we must let them be known?   Possibly.  But when you add these texts to the strong Biblical tradition of lament, I think there is something more. 

I think scripture is saying that there is an inherent power in our crying, and in our crying out; that our healing and that of this world actually begins in the midst of the tears that we shed for the pain we know and know of; that if we are doing this thing called life and faith correctly we will find ourselves continually crying out on behalf of ourselves and others for healing and hope and peace and wholeness; and that such cries please God.  And while such cries may not change the mind of a God who is, no doubt, already engaged, maybe God does hear those cries and says, “Here is one that shares my pain for the brokenness of creation.  Here is one that I can work in and through to change this world.”

So, if you are needing to cry out.  Please do so.  For yourself, for others, for these situations, for those to come.  Cry out to God.  Cry out to one another.   Cry out over and above the obstacles that will be put in your way.   Listen, too, and be willing to serve.   But keep crying out until something is done, someone is changed, someone is healed, even if that someone is you. 

Grace, David 

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the September edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Monday, September 1, 2014
Share |

On Adjusting

Well this will be quite a different August from what I was expecting in May.  Of course this has been quite a different June and July, as well, since we became aware of Scott and Kim’s departure.  It certainly kicked things into a different gear for me this summer with a new set of priorities.   The CBF General Assembly became a networking and interview opportunity that we could not pass up, and the past month has continued that theme as we have put a Search Committee into place. Changes, expected or not, require that we adjust, that we be flexible.  We have to be willing to let one vision of the future go, so that we can fully enter into a new vision.  

As I have engaged in such conversations, though, I have learned much more than names and gained much more than resumes.  I’ve met people and heard stories that I have found comforting and encouraging.  It’s very clear that we are not alone.  That there are many urban churches like us who have had a glorious past, who are presently striving to chart a new course toward health and stability.  And for those churches that are really daring to think this way, many are surviving, if not thriving.  Furthermore, there seems to be, on first glance, ministerial candidates out there who are not just interested, but excited about coming to serve churches like us, provided that we really are willing to take some risks and think outside the box.   Now, I’m not promising any results or timetable here when it comes to new ministers.  I’m just encouraged by what I have seen, and the resources that may be out there for us, human as well as ideas.

It seems to me to be a tricky thing to talk about the need for change when we serve a God of miracles, for whom nothing is impossible.  And yet most all movements of salvation require change.   Forgiveness requires confession and repentance.   Healing requires assessment and treatment.  Reconciliation requires vulnerability and reaching out.  Growth and maturation requires spiritual discipline.  Even eternal life requires that we go through the valley of the shadow of death first.    Ours is a God who is ever seeking to do a new thing, but for that to happen, generally speaking, something must pass away before something can become new.   And sometimes, this may not be a theoretical necessity, but more of a practical requirement. Sometimes you only have enough resources (time, money, human) to promote a certain number of ideas, themes, programs, priorities.

Our leadership takes the challenges before us very seriously.    Our staff, Vision Team, Deacons, key committees, all understand the reality of our situation, but they also understand the strength of our fellowship, the potential of our resources, and, as one member is fond of saying, “that God isn’t finished with us yet.”   And so the question becomes:  How can we live out our identity as a progressive missional urban congregation and achieve our potential?  How do we need to adjust?   What needs to change?  What can we let go of, and allow to pass away?  What must we hold on to?  What do we need to celebrate and lean into?  What new things, even after 175 years, is God calling us to be a part of?

I’ll be honest.  I’m something of a creature of comfort.  I don’t like having to adjust, to change.   I gather some of you feel the same way.  But I’m grateful that God’s love and call will not let any of us settle for comfort.  And so I can also say with all honesty, I’m excited about the days ahead, about the new adventures we will take, about new people, ministers and members, that will join us in this journey.  Let’s dare to be flexible and adjust as the Spirit calls us into our future.

Grace, David 

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the August edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Friday, August 1, 2014
Share |

Vision On the Horizon

As most all of you know, we are in the middle of a vision process.  Our vision team (Emily Callahan, David Hankins, Mike Ward, Linda Marks, Paul Martin, David Richardson, Jennifer Kellett), along with our staff and various committee chairs, has been hard at work behind the scenes.  We are on target to present a vision plan to you in the upcoming fall, but offer you the following report in the meantime.  

We appreciate the participation by the congregation in our Vision Day this spring. We received lots of good information and ideas and are hard at work on exciting plans for the future. This is a challenging period in the life of our church. We are a vibrant congregation and have celebrated successes and milestones recently, including our 175th anniversary this year. Our church is sound financially due to the sacrificial giving of many.  At the same time we are not oblivious to the fact that offerings and attendance have been declining in recent years. The plans we are developing will begin to address challenges and opportunities, as well as emphasize core values that bind us together as a church family.  As the Vision Team continues their work, many of you have asked what you can do to help our church.

Four things every member can do now are…

  1. Pray.  Remember your church every day. Pray for our pastor, our staff and ministries. Pray for our Vision Team. Pray that we will totally depend on God to lead our congregation to make wise decisions that will allow us to minister and worship together as a family of faith for generations to come.
  2. Attend. Your attendance is more important now than ever before. Attending worship is your most visible expression of your love for First Baptist Church.  More of our members in worship enhances our sense of community and improves the worship experience for our congregation and visitors. We ask that you make church attendance a priority. If you attend 35 Sundays a year, would you make an intentional effort to attend 40 Sundays over the next year? If you usually attend about 40 services a year, would you commit to 45? Etc.
  3. Give sacrificially. We are facing key staffing changes. With the departure of Scott and Kim Looney, we are looking at how we will staff key ministry areas for the future. An important component of the decisions will be the finances necessary to attract new ministry talent with skills that complement those of current staff and the needs of our congregation.  A tangible, immediate way to help us plan for the future is to increase your giving now.  Giving involves time as well as money. If you spend an hour a week ministering to fellow church members, would you consider investing two hours? If you give two hours now, would you consider three? We are all ministers. Being intentional in our efforts to minister to each other, our community and our world will make our church stronger.
  4. Invite.  We love First Baptist.  It is special to us.  God comes alive for us in worship, study, community, and service. And we are not unusual.  Others need such a church.  And we need the influx of new talent and ideas energy that others would bring us.  Think of one person, one couple, one family you could invite.   It’s simple math.   If we all brought one person to church, our numbers would double.

As we dare to face the larger challenges before us, let us rise to these simple challenges now.  God is faithful.  God has provided before.  God will provide now and in the future.  So, let us be faithful as well.  God still has important work for us to do as a congregation.  We will not be discouraged.  We will lift each other up, seek God’s will for our church, and be ever open to new possibilities on the horizon.

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the July edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Share |

Finding God While Scattering

The Summer Scattering.  That’s what I call it—the diaspora that happens around here, and pretty much every place where summer weather and school vacations make such alternative plans and travel possible.  It’s certainly not a bad thing.  But it does take us out of the regular routines and gatherings and places where we tend to at least think more about God and faith and community and service.   Indeed it may be for that very reason that it is a good thing, for it stretches us to become aware of the Holy in new ways and places—which is more or less the thesis for this article.  I write this to remind you to be alert and open to such possibilities even as you are away from familiar places and routines.

In the Bible it says several times, “Those that have ears, let them hear.”   It never technically says,  “Those that have eyes, let them see.”   But such is clearly implied, as Woody Guthrie would later prove, the two lines work awfully well together in a song.  But the good rhythmic King James here really doesn’t give us a good sense of the meaning of the Greek.   A better translation would be “Those that have ears, listen up!” And in like manner “Those that have eyes, open them!”  It’s a call to be alert to the God that is constantly seeking to comfort, save, call, challenge at all times….even when we are scattered.

So if you are in town this summer, I hope you will continue to gather with us, but if you are scattered, don’t leave God behind….listen up, open up to, as Barbara Brown Taylor would put it, the Altars in the World.

In your journeying, consider the idea of pilgrimage.  What are you leaving?  What is your destination?  How are you getting there?  What does God’s presence mean at every stage of the journey?  What might this trip teach you about your life journey right now, and as a whole?  

In traveling into another place, how is God visible there?  Could there be opportunities not just to be served, but to serve?  How might that add to your experience?  What does living in a space owned/inhabited by others teach us about stewardship and hospitality and how dependent we are on the grace of God and others?

What does the act of relaxation and vacation have to teach us about Sabbath and our need for rest?   What does it have to teach us about our valuable yet not essential place in this world, of how all that we have is not generated, earned, or bought, but comes to us as gift?

What does this scattering have to teach us about Community and the God-in- others?  Whom do we miss?  Whom do we meet?  Whom do we get to know better?  What new lessons do we learn from new communities and people that we can bring back to our church and community here in Memphis?

In short….as you scatter, both near and far….listen up, open up.  God has much to teach you, and us.  And when you’re in town, let’s gather up for each other and for new folks moving into town. Summer is not just the season of scattering, it’s also the season of relocating.  Let’s be here to welcome others and report on how God is moving in our midst even now.

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the June edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Monday, June 2, 2014
Share |

Whew! What's Next

  April.  Usually such a sleepy little month…Not this year!

  We began the month with the celebration of our 175th anniversary.  What a great weekend!  Saturday afternoon with all the displays, Sunday morning worship with Sarah Holloway and so many former members joining us, the dinner on the ground (of the Fellowship Hall), Modern Vespers that evening—such a good time of memories, and community and dreaming around the theme of A Foundation…A Future.  

  We continued the month with the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist General Assembly on April 11-13.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal and convocation at Trinity Baptist on Friday night.  The spirit continued on Saturday as we joined our fellow TCBF folk from across the state in service projects throughout Memphis.  And then on Sunday, after our children began Palm Sunday worship morning, we had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of CBF to our pulpit for worship.   

  Holy Week followed—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Egg Hunt and Great American Bake Sale, the Flower Cross, Easter Sunrise at Levitt Shell, Easter Worship, and Modern Vespers on Easter evening.   And last weekend, we joined congregations throughout our city in participating in the Mayor’s Faith in Action City Clean-Up on Saturday, followed by an Earth Day emphasis in worship on Sunday, not to mention the River City Band Concert that evening.  

You see what I mean by “Whew!”   Indeed, given this schedule, and the fact that regular meetings and such continued, this may have been the busiest month of my ministerial career, and I would respectfully submit, maybe one of the busiest in the 175 year history of FBC.   But, I’m not complaining.  Are you?  What blessings!  What memories!  What reconnections!  But also…what possibilities!  What opportunities!  What ideas and energy for the future!

Thanks is due to so many: the 175th Anniversary Task Force; Kati Hoffman and Scott Looney who represented us on the TCBF General Assembly planning group; the Missions Committee and their work on the TCBF service day, the Great American Bake Sale, and the Faith In Action Cleanup; the Children’s Committee and Leadership for the Palm Sunday processional and the Easter Egg Hunt; our Flower Cross leaders; and, of course, our amazing ministerial and support staff.  I’m sure I left off someone.  Do forgive me.  

But most of all I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to simply have been a part of God’s good work in and through FBC this past month, as well as the one to come.   So , in the words of Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been—Thanks. For all that will be—Yes!”

Grace,   David 

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the May edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Thursday, May 1, 2014
Share |

Connecting the Dots

Wow!  Its here! What’s here?  April.  April is here.  It always seemed like a rather humble, unassuming month.  But not here.  Not at FBC this year.   It is loud and proud and chock full.  We have many wonderful opportunities for all of us to be present to God, to one another, to our community, and to ourselves.  Indeed, it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle if not execution of all of it.  

First of all, it is Lent, and Holy Week will be the second full week of this month, with Easter being April 20.  But before that we have our 175th Anniversary on Sunday April 6, with a grand homecoming and dinner on the grounds.  And then on April 11-12 we will join Trinity Baptist and Second Baptist in hosting the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Assembly here in Memphis, culminating in Dr. Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of CBF, preaching at FBC on April 13.   Whew!  I’m tired already.  But each of these has something to teach us, by themselves, and as they stand beside one another.    

The themes are rich.  In Lent and Easter we have the themes of sacrifice and resurrection and new life.  In the TCBF assembly we have themes of community and missions.  In our anniversary, there are themes of faithfulness, foundation, and future.   What might we learn by connecting the dots?  Here are some thoughts/questions for reflection that have occurred to me.

How many sacrificed over and over again to give FBC these 175 years?   What types of sacrifice are required of us now as we lean into the future?

Jesus was not/is not a stagnant entity.  He grew and changed and adapted over time.  We see this clearly in his death and resurrection and ascension.  How do the challenges of today require us to change and adapt?  What do we need to let die, so that something else might be born?  What is God seeking to bring to life within us and through us even now?

Jesus did not operate alone.  He did what he did in community.  He came to create a community.  That being said, it was not a large community, and yet through that relatively small band of disciples, he changed the world.   Our main state and national affiliation is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  It is much smaller than the SBC.  What challenges are here?  What opportunities are here?  How can we work together and with other Christians as well as people of other faiths to have a maximum missional impact on our community and world?

We, as a church are also smaller than we once were, and thus our vision has changed over the years.  What opportunities and challenges does this offer us?  How can we maximize our missional impact?  What steps do we need to take, what sacrifices do we need to make, to make possible the next 175 years?   God is faithful.  How are we to be faithful to God, to our heritage, to one another, to our community?

Our faith teaches us that God is everywhere, and that God can use anything and everything to teach us and lead us and guide us and shape us.   We have a full and active month ahead of us, but let us not allow it merely to be busy, but rather rich as well.   Let us drink deeply from these wells.  Let us attend to what each moment has to teach us.  May we listen closely.   May we follow eagerly.  And so may we honor our Foundation by leaning into our Future.

Grace, David 

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the April edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Share |

A Future for a Foundation

What do you buy someone or something for their 175th birthday?  It’s a tough one, isn’t it?  I mean especially when that someone already has their own gym, bowling alley, racquetball court, commercial kitchen, organ, bell tower, etc.  Talk about having it all!

Well, we’re talking about a church here, of course, not a person.  Still, it’s our church, it’s our entity, it’s an institution we love and cherish and value, and so no ordinary gift will do.  It needs to be special.  

Well, I’m not the best gift giver in the world.  I’ve had a few duds of my own over the years.  But if I’ve learned anything about gifts, it is that the best gifts are gifts of oneself—one’s time, energy, thoughtfulness.   Even if the gift is a simple item, it needs to be one that shows that thought, intent, and effort went into its procurement.

Maybe that could be a starting place for us as we think of what we might offer this beloved church that turns 175 this year.  At the end of the day, the best gift we could offer our church is an investment of ourselves into the mission that brought FBC into being in the first place—a commitment of our time, talents, and resources—intentionally, thoughtfully, freely offered.  In short the best gift we could give this grand foundation of a church, is our investment in its future.  Others “paid it forward” so that we might be here today.  We can do the same for future generations.

One image that might be helpful to us here is one that I learned from the noted church historian, Dr. Martin Marty.   Dr. Marty once said that it is of utmost importance how we handle our heritage.  He said one way was to dismiss it.  We can say this is a new day that requires new ideas, so the sooner we get rid of the old and make way for the new, the better.  Such a vision, says Marty, is almost always nearsighted.  “What is” was created to meet the needs of people far more like us than not.  Thus a strategy of dismissal almost always ends in regret.  

On the other side of the spectrum is nostalgia, that deification of what was and the ways we used to do them that fails to take into that change is necessary.  Splitting the horns of this dilemma, Marty suggests a third model: Restoration.  Now while we are familiar with that term from home repair, its true definition, says Marty, is much more obvious and Biblical.  Restoration, means literally to “Re-Store.”   Think of the church as a store.  Over time the shelves of the store become depleted, as people come in and use what they need.  That’s OK, of course, because that’s the purpose of the store, in some sense.  But for the store to remain vibrant, it must be restocked, re-stored, with that which the customer really needs, in packaging that makes it accessible and even attractive.  That will mean, says Marty, that some products will come and go while other “staples” will never go out of style.   For us such staples would include—grace, acceptance, missions, forgiveness, spiritual development, etc.  Even these, however, will need to be repackaged and remarketed from time to time.

Like all metaphors, this one has its limits.  Indeed the only way this one works is if we understand that one of the products that church offers, maybe the main one, is the opportunity to serve, to give back, to give our lives away.  But still, this idea of Restoration has potential for most all churches, especially those 175 years old.

So as we think of the future we seek to shape for this grand foundation of a church, how might we “re-store” its shelves?   What is essential and needs merely to be adapted?  What new elements and approaches might we stock on the shelves?  What part do each of us play in that?  What does this “re-storing” ask of us?  How might we be a part of what God is doing now and “pay it forward,” too?  If we think of it in these terms, it makes all the sense in the world that one of the first ways we will celebrate our anniversary is to spend a morning beginning to think about such questions.  

Vision Day is Sunday, March 23.  On this day, we will gather in the Fellowship Hall at for breakfast to be followed by sharing conversation around the tables.  We will be discussing that which we love and adore about our church, that which brought us to FBC in the first place.  We will be defining our essentials.  And in the process, we also begin to think about new offerings and approaches that might help us capitalize on these strengths.   I trust that you will make every effort to be present.  You can call the church office or make your reservation online

Until then, Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the March edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Saturday, March 1, 2014
Share |

Expressing Our Devotion

  Chances are you have seen it by now—the viral video of the Lutheran minister in Montana who proclaimed his sermon would be one minute due to the start time of a playoff game.  He told all present that they could help themselves to the communion elements, then proceeded to reveal that beneath his robe was a San Francisco 49er t-shirt, before he walked out the back of the church.  Now, as I understand it, he was just joking about the fact that he would not be preaching.  Makes you wonder what his sermon really was about.  Maybe it was one that called into question where our deepest sympathies lie—God or football?

  You remember those days and those sermons, don’t you?  They usually were always focused around the Super Bowl and whether or not we were going to cancel Sunday night worship to accommodate our devotion to the pigskin.  Thankfully, most churches I know of have moved beyond that.  Indeed, many have found a way to accommodate the game, making it an opportunity for fellowship.  As I write, I’m already aware of two groups in our own church that will be getting together to watch the game.  

  Of course, the NFL has struck back in this battle, too.  Did you know that it is actually against the law to show the game at church to a group of more than just a handful?  To do so you are supposed to pay a fee, and about 8 years ago, the NFL brought charges against several churches.  Thankfully the backlash over such action was so great that the NFL backed down.  But still, in going as far as they went, one was made quite aware that the NFL was first and foremost devoted to money.

  All of these situations, along with a certain romantic holiday of this month, raise the question of devotion.  To whom or to what are you devoted?  For whom or what will you drop everything?  What is the pecking order of your devotion?  What comes first, second, third?   The challenge of our faith is to be single minded.  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness...”   “What confession brings you to these waters?... Jesus Christ is Lord.”

  These are familiar words that roll rather easily off the tongue for those of us raised in church, and yet when you see them in the light of these questions, the implication can seem rather harsh, unreasonable, almost impossible.  And, I think, that is the way it is supposed to be.  These commands, these calls to commitment are not meant to be glossed over quickly.   But note, too, that scripture never assumes that God will be our only devotion.  Indeed, it assumes just the opposite.  It assumes that since we are devoted to God, that we will care about what God cares about—family, friends, the poor, creation, justice, etc. And that we will display that loyalty in the right way, with the right priorities, with action as well as words.  In other words, our devotion to God becomes the lens through which we evaluate and express all other devotions.

  February will give us an opportunity to express our devotion to God and specifically God’s work in and through the life of First Baptist Church.  You will be hearing much about vision and stewardship, and you will be called upon to participate, to commit, and to serve.  May our devotion to God give us eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts and arms ready to receive and to respond to all that God has in store for us.  

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the February edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at Saturday, February 1, 2014
Share |

Happy 175!

Happy 175!

Well, Happy Birthday, First Baptist.   Didn’t know it was your birthday?  Well technically, not quite yet.  We’ll have to wait until April formally to light the candles and such.  But when you are celebrating 175 years…what’s a few months?  And since ours is truly a celebration of not just longevity, but perseverance and faithfulness, we’ve decided to not just make it a week, but an entire year of celebration.   You will be hearing much more about this in the near future.

But other than an excuse to have yet one more party, what do such anniversaries offer us?  How can they help us, today, to be more of the people of God we are called to be?

Well, it quite obviously offers us an opportunity to look back and remember and be challenged by the example of those that have come before us.  It offers us an opportunity to take stock of where we are.  It offers us an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness to this congregation, as well as the faithfulness of thousands through the generations.   But if all it offers us is a glimpse back, an assessment of what has been…then the real power of such an anniversary has been sadly missed.

History is wonderful, interesting, intriguing.  I love it.  I love museums, historical biographies, arrowheads…you name it.   But far too often, such emphases turn into nostalgia--a memorializing and idolizing of what was.  And lost in all such thought is the rather obvious truth that the best way one can be faithful to one’s history is not necessarily to preserve it, but to allow such a history to propel us into the future. 

Indeed, think of even recent saints—Warren Jordan, Henry and Margret Martin, Frances Marks, Dr. Caudill, etc, just to name a few.   These are some of the folks who made the history we will celebrate this year.   If given the choice, would they choose a tribute or a plaque, or would they choose you and me being fully engaged in outreach and missions and pastoral care?   

Indeed, the best way we honor our heritage is to allow it to challenge us to be faithful as well, to allow it to lead us to a commitment that says, the circle will not be broken with us.  With this in mind, the theme for our celebration will be “A Foundation…A Future.”   

One very special way we will be focusing on our future will be a Vision Process that you will be hearing more about as well.  How appropriate!  Don’t you think?  In this year of celebrating our heritage, we will also be fully engaged in clarifying who we are and where we are going. 

I encourage you even now to begin praying for this process and the leadership that will be guiding us through it.  The foundation has been laid.  God stands ready to lead us into the future.  What a grand thing it is to be a part of FBC!

Grace, David

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Share |

A God Who Dares

The question “What if?”, when applied to the past, can at times be much fun, at other times pure trouble.  At times it can be interesting, intriguing to wonder how things could have, would have been different had things happened differently, had different choices been made.  And when we apply such questions to God, or what we believe about God, of course, we’ve entered a vast territory of limitless possibilities.

But, one of the convictions of traditional Christianity is that in the beginning, God chose to create.  God did not have to create, but God chose to do so anyway.  Furthermore God chose to give humanity and creation free will, meaning that they could choose to do and act and think in ways that were productive and constructive and life giving…or not.  God could have just as easily made creation to be a puppet of God’s will, but instead God gave us free will.  And then, when humanity rebelled against God, God could have said enough with all of this and wiped it all out. But instead, God refused to give up on us and kept coming to us offering repentance and redemption and reconciliation.  And then when God’s prophets were only partially successful in bringing humanity back, God chose to get personally involved, by coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Again, God could have chosen to remain high and lifted up, continuing to work as best one can from a distance, but instead God came to be with us in our suffering and pain and death to show the depth of His love for us, and to personally invite us to be a part of the building of the Kingdom of God.  God dares to do all of this for you and for me.

Well, as Newton would teach us in Science, for every action there is an equal and opposite re-action, and the same is true in relationships.  Every time someone takes an action toward us and for us, it calls forth a response within us.  Obviously had God not created us, we would not be able to choose at all.  And the same would be the case had we not been given free will. But given that those are true, and the fact that God refuses to give up on us, that by God’s grace forgiveness and redemption and service in the Kingdom of God are still possibilities for us…God’s daring activity for us, dares us to respond.   And such will be our theme for Advent.

  • Advent 1 is Dare to Expect.  The apocalyptic texts of this day remind us that we can expect more than we could ever imagine, from God and from ourselves.  
  • Advent 2 is Dare to Hope.  Life can weigh so heavy that despair looms large.  Christ’s coming gives us cause to keep hope alive.  
  • Advent 3 is Dare to Believe.  Isaiah writes of being ransomed and redeemed.  Dare we believe such is possible for us and for our world?  
  • Advent 4 is Dare to Trust.  Our world can be a scary place.  Fear cannot only be ever present, but crippling.  In coming to be with us, Jesus showed God to be worthy of our trust and modeled for us what it means to be faithful, rather than fearful.  
  • And Christmas Eve, based on all of the above, we will Dare to Change, ourselves and this world.

So, this Advent, dare to follow the lead of our God, who dares to come and redeem and restore and bring hope.  Come and be present and consider what it would mean for you to Dare to Expect, Hope, Trust, Believe, Change.  See you soon!

Grace, David

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the December edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Sunday, December 1, 2013
Share |

On the Intergenerational Church

If you were like me, you were raised in an intergenerational church.  There were people present from 1 week (in the viewing window no less) to 100, and everywhere in between.  At every age that I can remember, there were those older than me present and those younger than me present, each offering their own unique gifts and struggles.  We spoke of church as the family of God, and going to church did have the feel of a weekly family reunion where you reconnected with those that were many times even closer than blood relatives.

But this past month, I read an article that mentioned a generational church, which is a church composed almost totally of a single generation of people.  And then that same week I went out to eat with a local pastor whose church is pretty much a generational church, comprised of those in their twenties and thirties.  And then you don’t have to look far to see many congregations that consist only of seniors. 

It’s a phenomenon which should not have caught me off guard, but it did.  I say it should not have caught me off guard because for decades now, even our typical multi-generational church has been becoming more and more segregated by age, and by this I’m referring to more than just Sunday School.  In many larger churches you may have totally different worship services for children and youth and college/young adult, even seniors.

In some respects, the dynamics here are not new, nor are they peculiar just to the issue of age.  We tend to like ourselves—our views, our likes and dislikes, our tastes—and thus we tend to seek out those with whom we share such things in common.  Its just too much work to deal with diversity.  And many times these dynamics follow along generational lines.  Common history and experience many times leads to common views and taste.  And thus, we see what is happening in church today.

And yet, is this really what we want?  At the very least we should stop and consider what we are giving up.  We should consider the unique gift that each generation makes to the church family.  Do we want to give up the blessing that only seniors can offer?  Do we want to abandon the life wisdom of median adults?  Can we really live without the prophetic enthusiasm of young adults, the energy of youth, the joy of children?   Now, to be reminded of such significant truth does not negate the fact that creating intergenerational community, as with all types of diversity, is work, because it is.  It will demand patience and time and a willingness try things outside our comfort zone.  And at times it will require us to agree to disagree.   

But when the Body of Christ is at its best, it is a complete body filled with numerous diverse parts all doing their part to further the Kingdom of God.  And this, in my book, includes not only the diversity of spiritual gifts, but the diversity of the generations and what they bring to the table.  It may be hard work to create an intergenerational church, but I would contend that its worth it.

Recently one of our young adults wrote beautifully of the sadness she was experiencing over the death of a senior adult in their neighborhood.  She said the woman had been the glue of the neighborhood, always stopping to talk and take interest in what was going on in your world, a surrogate grandmother to most every child in the neighborhood.   As I read her tribute, I thought of how I had experienced the same dynamic, time and time again, in our church, and how blessed we all are to be a part of family of faith of many generations.

So, as we face our future and all the challenges that accompany it, I do hope that we will do so, not by retreating back into our own groups, generational or otherwise, but as a family composed of those “across the ages.”  It may be hard work, but we will be the better for it, and the Kingdom of God will be the better for it.

Grace, David 

This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the November edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at Friday, November 1, 2013
Share |

What a Website Can Say

I don't know about you, but I think websites say a lot about organizations. In today's world, people do research online before checking out restaurants, schools, churches. And so a website is often the first introduction you get to a church. And, as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I get that. And that's why launching this new website is such an exciting new step in the life of our church. It's been on my priority to-do list ever since I was invited to join the PR committee at First Baptist because our previous website just didn't convey who we are or what we're about. One of our core values is hospitality, and we want that to be reflected when you visit our website as well as our building. 

We hope you find our new site welcoming, accessible, and easy to use. We hope you find evidence of the community, relationships, and dialogue we take pride in at First Baptist. We hope you find an emphasis on spiritual growth, worship, and service in our community. And location matters. When our city experienced population flight years ago, we could have followed. But we made the decision to stay put, to serve our city, and to help make it a better place. And look around - Memphis is thriving, and we're glad to be a part of what's going on. 

We partner with Levitt Shell, just across the street to our west in Overton Park, to help them build community with 50 free outdoor concerts each year. We partner with Caritas Village, Rachel's Kids, and others to serve the Binghampton community to our east, where a federal grant from the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program is helping that community thrive. And that's just what's happening on the immediate borders our church property. 

Use our website to get to know us. Get to know our history, our values, our staff, our members. Read our blogs - we'll be posting twice a week, once from a minister and once from a lay person. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Check out our events page and join us. We are a Midtown congregation for all of Memphis.

Posted by Meagan Walley at Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Share |



200 East Parkway North, Memphis TN 38112
Office: 901.454.1131 ⋅ Fax: 901.454.1135
Email UsGet DirectionsService Times