Eggville Free Will Baptist Church

January 29, 2006

This morning I attended the Eggville Free Will Baptist Church. Let me say right up front that this is a true country church. You can only get there by traveling on several winding country roads. The well-kept buildings testify to the pride and sense of ownership of those who worship there. I arrived just before the service started at 11 AM. When I entered the sanctuary, three or four men immediately greeted me. When I sat down, another man came by to say hello. A man turned around from the pew in front of me and introduced himself. During the service, several people said how happy they were that I was visiting today.
To put matters in perspective, I think there were 100-125 people in a sanctuary that would seat around 300. Looking around, I was immediately struck by the family feel. People always talk to each other before a service begins, but this was different. You had the feeling that everyone knew everyone else on a first name basis. The feeling was one of easygoing friendliness. Jess Moody says that people choose a church with their noses. They can small the joy. I wouldn’t say that I could smell the joy. It was something different, something more like peace and contentment. The word gladness comes to mind. These hardworking country folk were glad to be in church this morning. I don’t suppose they get too many “unattached” visitors and that may explain all the folks who greeted me. Certainly this was the most outwardly friendly church I’ve visited in the last four months.
The service started when the choir of 10-15 people sang a worship chorus followed by the congregational hymn “Praise Him, Praise Him.” The music director called on Brother so-and-so from the congregation to lead in the invocation. I couldn’t hear all that he said, but he prayed that “if there be anyone here today who is lost, may he come to know Jesus.” Then we sang a version of “O For a Thousand Tongues” combined with “Blessed Be the Name.” At the conclusion of the song, six men walked forward to receive the morning offering. The choir sang a rousing medley of worship songs to a taped accompaniment. I was pleased to see that the pastor added his voice to the choir. There was another song, then it was time for the sermon. The pastor announced his text from Matthew 10, then knelt behind the pulpit to pray. Though his voice was muffled, I heard him ask God to make the message of the gospel crystal-clear.
The sermon started with the story of a pastor in a Communist nation who was asked to renounce Christ. When he refused, they cut off his thumb. Then they cut off the other four fingers one by one, leaving only a bloody palm where his hand had been. This happened, the pastor said, during the Cultural Revolution in China. The sermon proceeded to develop the warning of Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33 about confessing Christ before men or disowning Christ before men. Those who disown Christ on earth will be disowned by Christ in heaven. Very sobering words. The pastor challenged us in various ways and with various Scriptural examples, always returning to Matthew 10. He ended by quoting a hymn. And suddenly the congregation stood. Time for the invitation. As we sang, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” the pastor exhorted us to confess Christ openly. Referring to Paul’s statement in Romans 9 that he would wish himself accursed for the sake of his Jewish brethren, the pastor said he would gladly walk the aisle for all of us, 125 times, once for each of us, if that would make a difference. Ten or so people came forward to kneel at the steps and pray while the pastor exhorted us. He said he was waiting for us to make a move.
When the invitation was over, the pastor read the announcements from the bulletin. The men will have a breakfast next Sunday. The pastor said he hoped that the man hosting the breakfast would have his wife make homemade biscuits. Someone said Amen to that, but it sounded like they would be “homemade from Sam’s Club.” Then news about the upcoming Valentine’s banquet. The pastor has invited the young pastor from the Free Will Baptist Church in nearby Pontotoc to speak. He didn’t have confirmation, but he announced that Brother Moody was coming anyway. The young children will have a lock-in sometime in February. The teens have a lock-in this Friday night. When the pastor asked if there were any other announcements, a woman asked if the “Destination Unknown” was still scheduled for tonight. Yes it is, though he couldn’t say where the youth would be going, a comment that brought a chuckle from the congregation.
Then there was news about the sick and the shut-ins. The pastor mentioned that his mother was facing a major medical procedure on Monday. He fervently exhorted us to pray for the long list of the sick on the back of the bulletin. He also mentioned several he had visited that week and gave brief updates.
After calling on someone to pray, the pastor slipped to the back of the sanctuary. I was pleased to see a good number of children and teenagers in the back of the church. They seemed genuinely happy to be there and to be with each other. As I walked out, I thanked the pastor for his message, and he and his wife both thanked me for coming.
Today we had spectacular weather in northeast Mississippi. Yesterday’s storms are long gone, leaving us with blue skies, lots of sunshine, and temps in the low 70s. I mention that because I heard one of the teenagers say something about the weather as I walked to my car. Preaching about confessing Christ openly is always a challenge. Last Sunday I was in Beijing, China. Today I worshiped at Eggville Free Will Baptist Church. Let me say plainly that I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the service. Churches like this make up the true backbone of evangelical Christianity in America. I know the megachurches get all the press, but the vast majority of churches in America have less than 200 in worship. The people I saw obviously love their church and they love each other. And they received the Word with open hearts. Plus they were friendly to someone they didn’t know. What more can you ask on Sunday morning?

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