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By Jim Somerville

Big Bend National Park is a desert.  It is dry and rocky and full of scratchy, prickly, thorny things.  What you don’t expect to see in a place like that is a hundred-foot-tall cottonwood tree, hung with tender, white blooms.

But that’s what I saw.

cottonwood treeOn my first hiking trip to Big Bend I came up over a rise in the trail and there it was, that tall, beautiful tree, looking strangely out of place among all the scraggly, surrounding undergrowth.  When I got closer I found that the ground around the base of the tree was damp from a spring that watered its roots.

Here’s the truth: we live in a time when the church in America is struggling.  Attendance and giving are down in every major denomination.  The religious landscape is looking more and more like a desert.  But I believe that First Baptist Church can be an exception—just like that cottonwood tree—if we will only “water the roots.”

How do we do that?

Frankly, by coming faithfully and giving generously.  And, frankly, by doing it through this summer, when the pastor is on sabbatical, and the sanctuary is being renovated, and we’re worshiping in the gym.  It would be a little too easy, under those circumstances, to take a vacation from church, to come back in September.

To let the tree wither.

It’s not completely up to us.  Paul once said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (I Cor. 3:6).  Somebody else planted this tree called First Baptist Church, and God has given it the growth since then, but let it be said of us when this summer is over,

“They watered.”


Jim SomervilleJim Somerville became RFBC’s 16th Senior Pastor in May 2008, following pastorates in Kentucky, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. He earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary. Jim has used his preaching, teaching, storytelling, and writing skills in many venues throughout the country. In his time off, he enjoys traveling, backpacking, sailing, reading, watching movies, and spending time with his family. Jim met his wife, Christy, at Georgetown College. They have two daughters, Ellie and Catherine.

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