Embracing change is perilous and priceless

“At a time when many Baptist churches are closing their doors, the testimony that has been repeated over and over is, ‘Our neighborhood has changed, but we didn’t.’”

This was the observation of Mark Hearn, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Duluth, Ga., in his keynote address titled “The Die is Cast,” at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2019 “Strengthen the Church Conference.”

“Fear of death is a very lousy motivation,” Hearn said during his message about why churches need to change based on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

FBC Duluth began to change after Hearn heard a speech by the mayor that rocked his world soon after he arrived at the church in 2010.

“There are 57 languages spoken at Duluth High School,” the mayor said. Hearn thought that such a large number must surely be an error. After researching local demographics, Hearn discovered the mayor was right, and the number has continued to climb.

Soon thereafter, FBC Duluth began to embrace various cultural groups in their community. As of August 2019, 46 nationalities are represented, to which Hearn can say, “We truly reflect a mirror-image of our community.”

In his message, Hearn borrows from the historical illustration found in Mark Clifton’s book Rubicons of Revitalization. Hearn lists three “Rubicons” Baptist churches will need to cross in order to avoid being “segregated churches in an integrated world.”

1. The rubicon of preference.
Like the Apostle Paul, we will need to choose to be inclusive of all cultures through our actions.

2. The rubicon of deference.
Hearn explains that by yielding to one culture, we are promoting all cultures and saying, “You are welcome in this place.”

3. The rubicon of reverence.
Churches that decide to cross this cultural rubicon will do it not because of fear of dying but because of reverence for the gospel.

Hearn titled his message “The Die is Cast,” because churches that choose to cross the rubicon of cultural diversity are making a decision “not to turn around but to press forward.”

In this video, Hearn warns that “the path of the rubicon is perilous … but the reward … is priceless.” Watch the video to learn practical tips from Hearn’s experience that can be applied to your context.