September 23, 2020
Dear First Baptist Fort Lauderdale Church Family,
In the same way, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy wrote to the church of Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.”
First Baptist Fort Lauderdale has abundant opportunities to be used in great ways by God. We believe wholeheartedly that the Lord is working through our Church and will continue to do so as we serve our city, reach our community, and welcome our friends and neighbors to experience the transformational ministry of a JESUS FIRST life.
This God-ordained mission can only be accomplished when we are united in His purpose and vision for our church. Sadly, over the past several months, we have been divided by discord and disagreement within our Body, led by a self-appointed advocacy group convened on the Internet. Their actions and communications, which do not represent the leadership of First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, has not only impacted us as a congregation through confusion and misdirection but has also hindered our ministry to those inside and outside our church walls.
In Ephesians 4:3, the Apostle Paul urges Jesus’ followers to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” While we recognize this independent advocacy group purports to espouse a message of unity, we are grieved by their actions and misinformation that have had the exact opposite effect as a result of their spread of misinformation regarding the duly-elected spiritual authority and administrative governance of our church as outlined in our bylaws. We are hopeful that true unity can be again achieved among our membership, but recognize it is a process.
For this reason, the First Baptist Fort Lauderdale leadership, with the full support of the Trustees and as prescribed by our bylaws, has partnered with Peacemaker Ministries to assist in biblical mediation among our membership with a goal of reconciliation and restoration.
Peacemaker Ministries is a non-profit, nondenominational ministry with a mission to equip and assist Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. As an independent party, Peacemaker ensures everyone directly involved in conflict is given a chance to be heard. Their proven and respected process will allow those willing to participate to create a plan to move forward under an umbrella of forgiveness. For more about the steps Peacemaker will utilize, visit https://peacemaker.training/conflict-reconciliation/.
The leadership of First Baptist Fort Lauderdale is committed to entering into the Peacemaker process with humility and open-mindedness. Over the weekend, our Executive Director of Ministry Services Steve Blount sent personal invitations to a cross-section of individuals within our Church membership and leadership to also participate in the necessary steps. While not all church members received an invitation to join, those invited represent a variety of viewpoints and affiliations as it relates to the current disagreements.
The goal of the Peacemaker practice is to achieve healing, restoration, and unity, ultimately becoming a healthier church body. This process does not replace our annual business meeting, the date for which we will announce in the next two weeks.
We know many of you are eager for this business meeting to occur and want to remind you of the nature of this upcoming event. The purpose of this annual business meeting is to receive and approve reports, recommendations, and proposals; receive new members into membership; vote on Trustees-at-Large and Deacons; approve the church budget.
Finally, we want to clarify the roles of our Trustees and Deacons.
As deemed by our bylaws, The Trustee Board shall provide business and administrative governance for all the ministries of the church, subject to the oversight accountability vested in the Deacon Body and the church congregation. The Trustee Board includes two Pastoral Team Trustees, four Deacon Trustees, and four Trustees-at-Large.
Alternatively, the Deacons are a group of men who are the servant leaders of the church, as set forth in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, who serve the church and support the pastoral staff in matters concerning the welfare and unity of the church.
All of our members must conduct themselves in a manner consistent with biblical standards and the church’s Statement of Faith and Practice. In addition, our leadership – including Trustees and Deacons – are held to a higher standard according to Scripture. Each of these individuals sign commitments upon agreeing to serve, which include abstaining from talking critically about others that would cause division within the Body of Christ; actively supporting, loving, and encouraging our pastor and his staff as he gives leadership to our Church as the God-called under shepherd providing spiritual and administrative leadership pursuant to 1 Timothy 3:1-7; and committing to be a peacemaker promoting the unity of the Body at all times.
Per our bylaws, when leadership or members act contrary to these standards, church discipline may be administered by the Trustee Board pursuant to guidelines established by the Pastoral Team.
Church family, the Trustee Board fully supports the leadership of our Lead Pastor, James Welch, as is evidenced by a unanimous vote of confidence this summer. We believe Pastor James has been God-ordained to lead our church and has a great vision for expanding our ministry influence – in Fort Lauderdale, across our nation, and around the world.
God’s Creation is a perfect example that growth often requires change. Change can be hard, but we hold tight to the fact that our God never changes (Hebrews 13:8).
As Church leadership, know we are praying for you and our membership, and ask that you pray for us as well. Together, we believe if we are faithful to God’s Word and calling, He will use First Baptist Fort Lauderdale in ways we cannot even yet imagine. We look forward to seeing you again as we re-open our church to mid-week Bible studies beginning October 7 and to corporate worship on Sundays beginning November 1.
The Trustee Board of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Inc.