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By Darvin E. Satterwhite. Photos by Janet Chase.

In July, 2008, I attended FBC for the first time, not really knowing what to expect. My family and I had been members of a small rural church for many years and I had my apprehensions about attending a much larger church in the “Big City.”

For several Sundays, we came solely to the worship service and found that FBC welcomed newcomers with open arms. But this was more than a “feel-good” experience. Something greater was at work here.

On the way to worship service, my wife and I would discuss some of the everyday issues and frustrations that sometimes confront us as Christians, only to be presented with a message from Jim Somerville tailored to the very same concerns that we had been discussing. It happened so frequently that we knew God’s hand was truly at work in FBC’s ministry to us.

Darvin Satterwhite

Members of the Footprints Class during Sunday morning Bible study.

Encouraged by this reception, we considered doing something that we had not done in years – we started to look for a Sunday school class to attend. FBC’s website listed numerous options in ages and study formats, and we decided to try the Mustard Seed Class. One visit was all that it took for us to feel right at home.

I wondered if my family’s reception by FBC was typical. Nate Varnier, a friend, started attending FBC several months ago. I asked him what his experience had been like, and he offered the following insights:

Visiting First Baptist Church my (now) wife, Julie, and I were overtaken by a welcoming spirit from both the staff and members. People turned in their seats to greet us, people stopped as they walked down the aisle to say hello, and the ministers caught us as we left the service to just say how much they enjoyed having us. For such a large congregation I was surprised to see the one-on-one attention given to the visitors of the church. I’ve consistently told others that First Baptist is a big church with a small church atmosphere.

Nate’s experience sounds very similar to my own.

There are many reasons the strong sense of Christian fellowship seems to exude from the members of FBC. The worship service, the music, the various ministries – all enhance our spiritual experience as Christians and contribute to cementing the bonds that make us the body of Christ. But I have found that one of the significant blessings in attending FBC comes from the variety of small group studies that are available, particularly those offered in our Sunday school classes. I think Lewis Myers expresses the strength of these studies best when he tells us:

Bible study is the core of who we are as Baptists and really defines us. I am passionate about believers immersing themselves in the Word of God, and small groups are effective in this. Fellowship is a by-product of mutual commitment to a common task. Functioning, productive small groups are absolutely essential in a large church such as ours. They launch us into ministries more extensive than in the small group, but remain the home base where we are restored.

A place “where we are restored” – that may best capture the essence of FBC’s small group studies. It is in Sunday school classes where each person can express among Christian brothers and sisters his or her hopes and doubts, praises and frustrations. And, in so doing, we realize that the Holy Spirit is truly at work to bring Christian restoration in a world that is too often spiritually draining.

Darvin Satterwhite

Darvin Satterwhite teaches in the Footprints Sunday morning Bible study class.

For two and a half years, I eagerly anticipated Sunday mornings in Bible study and worship. Then, I was asked to do something that, a few years back, I would have never considered. An opening for a teaching position became available in the Footprints Class, and I was offered a temporary teaching assignment. After much prayer and encouragement from church members, I decided to give it a try.

Six months later, I am still teaching in Footprints – teaching but also learning quite a bit from class members. I have found Christian fellowship and blessings as everyone in the class has made me feel like a long-time member: I was a stranger and they took me in (paraphrase, Matthew 25:35c).


Darvin SatterwhiteDarvin, his wife, Flo, and daughter, Emily, began attending First Baptist in July 2008 and joined in late 2010. He and Flo have been married nearly 26 years and have three children: John (who works in Richmond), Darcy (an upcoming senior at Virginia Tech), and Emily (an upcoming freshman at Christopher Newport). Darvin teaches the Footprints class and has a predominantly civil law practice in Goochland County where they reside.

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