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By Sally Ann Smith. Photos by Paul Bickford.

Callout-tv-crewAs worship fills the sanctuary each Sunday, there is a discreet and dedicated team of volunteers capturing the joy and message of Sunday morning and delivering it to the living rooms, hospital beds, hotel rooms, and prison cells of those who cannot physically attend First Baptist.

Since November of 1986, FBC’s TV Crew Ministry has extended God’s love beyond the church walls. As David Powers, Associate Pastor of Communication, notes, the response has been overwhelming: “Every week we hear from someone who says, in effect, ‘Thank you for being a lifeline for me – providing a way to worship right where I am.’ Heaven comes a little closer to earth every Sunday morning at 11 am as those folks gather in front of their TV or computer to worship with us.”

media team

Camera operator’s view of WebClass

The FBC TV Crew is a team of about thirty who are devoted to this ministry’s success. Generally, each volunteer works about half the weeks of a two-month schedule, but there are many who are geared up and excited to serve almost every week.

MediaTeam4Amy Kane was drawn to this ministry because, “It is a ministry of faith, and it allows me to serve without my ‘self’ getting in the way.” Amy reiterates that often it is the team’s prayer to remain “transparent” as they do their work during the worship service. “I think this does happen, because when I meet new people at church, they sometimes say that I look familiar, but they can’t place me.”

While the team works hard to stay invisible as they perform their jobs, they are responsible for making our Church’s message and mission the most visible.

MediaTeam5In recent years, the ministry has extended ways to broadcast the Sunday service beyond just television. Now, the service is also streamed over the Internet and shared via podcasts, allowing members and seekers to access and participate in FBC’s service from literally any part of the world.

Janet Chase, who has served on the crew for over a decade, notes, “I regularly hear kudos from family who ‘attend’ FBC on TV when they can’t get to their own church. My in-laws even tune in online when they are weathered-out of their local services in far Southwest Virginia.”

MediaTeamWhile away on vacation, members like John and Shirley Seibert still start Sunday with their church family on their iPad.

In October 2011, the Ministry launched a WebClass Bible study. It is streamed live from a studio on the second floor of the FBC building Sunday mornings at 10:00. Shelia Dixon, who manages the questions and comments that come via email during the WebClass, shares that what she loves most about this ministry is getting to know the hearts of the people our church wouldn’t be able to connect with otherwise: a teen with cerebral palsy, a physically ailing woman in Tulsa, and many local seekers. They are “very inquisitive with tons of questions,” she says, and because of our Church’s use of technology and willing volunteers like Shelia and her husband, Charlie, these people can interact and continue a spiritual dialogue within the class from their homes.

MediaTeam2Many long-distance attendees never have the opportunity to come inside FBC’s real walls. But for others this technology provides a future member’s first introduction to First Baptist – a safe, loving and worshipful setting in their homes transitions into their home church.

TV Crew members: Bill Bandy, Chuck Batteau, Kevin Beale, Paul Bickford, Matthew Brown, Keith Carroll, Janet and Mark Chase, Susie Coomer, Elise and Skyler Cumbia, Charlie and Sheila Dixon, Win Grant, Rick Henshaw, Bill Hodge, Amy Kane, James Kyle, Bob Linkous, Jim Mairs, Scott Medina, Mark and Trevor Norton, Benjamin Oliver, Jack and John Pettigrew, Dwight Ross, David Storey, Brenda Street, John and Richard Ward, Ollie Wells, Stephen West, Tom Wright.

To get involved in this powerful and vital ministry, contact David Powers at 358-5458, ext. 117. A current need is for volunteers to serve as stage managers, camera operators, and crew members for the WebClass. As with most of God’s work, the only experience needed is a willing heart; the team will provide plenty of training.


Sally Ann Smith Sally Ann teaches 8th grade English at St. Catherine’s School. She serves on the Ministry Consultation Committee for Hanna Zhu, contributes devotionals to Appointment with God, and is an active member of the young couples class with her husband, Clint. Sally Ann and Clint reside in the Near West End and are proud parents of their daughter, Bellamy, who will be two in February, and are excitedly expecting a son at the end of January.

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By Steve Booth. Photos by David Powers.

WebClassOn October 9, 2011, the Communication and Formation ministries of Richmond’s First Baptist Church partnered in beginning an online Bible study class. Facilitated by Dr. Michael Harton, the class is webcast from the First Baptist Church campus via the world-wide web. The class takes place at 9:45 a.m. each Sunday – at the same time hundreds of other adults, teenagers, children, and preschoolers are studying God’s written word.

WebClass

Initial WebClass facilitator, Dr. Michael Harton.

When a minister in another church heard about WebClass, he voiced the obvious question, “What do you hope to accomplish with this new ministry?”

“To provide those unable to come to the church building an opportunity to engage the Scriptures and grow as disciples,” was the response.

But after further reflection, it also includes providing a safe place for people to receive and ask honest questions emerging from dialogue around a biblical text.

Recently I was interviewed by a young doctoral student who was assessing the value of online theological education. I must admit being cynical regarding its effectiveness when I was first asked to serve as an online instructor. The personal engagement needed between facilitator and students was hard to envision.

What I discovered, however, was unexpected: The online experience created the safe emotional environment necessary for open and honest questions and dialogue. With the guidance of a thoughtful and sensitive facilitator, the student is encouraged to question and reflect theologically on how one moves from awareness of God to belief in Christ to a living faith evidenced in behavior and choices.

WebClassRobert Mulholland says that Christian “spiritual formation is the process of being conformed by God into the image of Christ for the sake of others.” That is the ultimate goal of all Bible study classes, whether online or in a more traditional setting. And just as in more traditional settings, men and women choose to participate in WebClass, taking an intentional step in cooperating with God in their spiritual formation.

Editor’s note: Over the initial three months of the class, each Sunday an average of 20 online participants joined eight who take part on the set. Online participants can contribute to the discussion and ask questions at www.FBCRichmond.org/webcast.

There are many online resources for personal Bible study. Here’s a partial list.

http://www.bible.org

http://classic.net.bible.org

http://textweek.com

http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu

http://www.biblegateway.com

http://www.biblestudytools.com

http://www.studylight.org

http://www.blueletterbible.org/study

http://netministries.org/bbasics/bbasics.html (includes Bible Pronunciation Guide)

http://bible.oremus.org

http://www.searchgodsword.org

http://www.ccel.org

http://unbound.biola.edu/index.cfm?method=unbound.showBibleStudyTools

http://www.bible.is/ENGESV (online audio Bible)


Steve Booth (Booth@FBCRichmond.org) serves as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Before joining the pastoral staff of First Baptist in 2002, he served the Bon Air Baptist Church, Huguenot Road Baptist Church and the Richmond Baptist Association. He also serves as an adjunctive faculty member for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He received the B.S. degree from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, the Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and the Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, MA. He and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of three children.

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