Fresh Eyes for Familiar Truths

Women's MinistryChurch Blog

women's Bible study Philippians Richmond Virginia

“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
“I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…”
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
“Do not be anxious about anything…“

The book of Philippians contains some of the most well-known and oft-quoted verses in the Christian vernacular. With its long-standing familiarity, there are several dangers and benefits to teaching and studying this short book in the local church.


  1. ARROGANCE: “I’ve heard this before!”
    First, we could easily arrive at a familiar Scripture with a prideful attitude, thinking, “I’ve heard this before,” and becoming callous to the truth. We could approach the passage with preconceived ideas of what the main ideas are, or what we should take away, and fail to look for something new, recognizing that any and all understanding is a work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. APATHY:“I’ve seen this before!”
    Second, we could come to a commonly-referenced passage with a degree of laziness, believing, “I’ve seen this before,” and not caring to apply ourselves to the careful study of the Word or forgetting that Scripture is always profitable, no matter how many times we’ve read it.
  3. ABUSE: “I’ve used this before!”
    Third, we could take a recognized verse and pervert the meaning, suctioning it out of context without regard for the author’s original audience or intent. We can state, “I’ve used this before,” as an excuse for isolating statements and mishandling them for personal gain.
  4. APPROPRIATION: “I’ve made this say something it’s never said before!”
    Fourth, we could try so hard to find a new meaning for a well-known verse, maintaining, “I’ve made this say something it’s never said before,” that we forget a text cannot mean something to us that it did not mean to the original author or reader.  In attempting to make a verse say something different, we appropriate implications and risk misinterpreting the point.
  5. AMBIVALENCE: “I’ve applied this before!”
    Fifth, we could hesitate to study a widely-recognized passage, saying, “I’ve applied this before,” ignoring the fact that knowledge should result in obedience. Our uncertainty in revisiting familiar verses begs us to consider whether we are consistently and completely living out the applications found therein.


  1. HUMILTY: “I don’t know!”
    First, we can never grasp the fullness of God’s Word. We are frail and feeble and must regularly beg the Holy Spirit to be our Guide and Teacher. When we read a verse like, “I want to know Christ…,” we must approach it with submission and meekness, recognizing that we, as finite beings, can never wholly know Christ in all His glory; but, we can strive to know Him better every day.
  2. HUNGER: “I want more!”
    Second, different seasons of life make different passages resonate in different ways. Having a solid foundation means there is something upon which to build. Studying a familiar passage in teenage years is going to look different than it does in retirement. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” takes on new, timeless significance when we have seen the good work unfolding in our life, and it should awaken in us a desire to see that good work continue until it is complete.
  3. HARMONY: “I see now!”
    Third, there is something to be said about studying an oft-quoted verse within the broader narrative of Scripture. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” conveys a much deeper meaning when we understand that Paul is talking about contentment amid abundant prosperity or abject poverty, not dangling a good luck charm that gives unfiltered access to anything we desire. When we study context, we see the consistency of God’s words and correct false doctrine or bad teaching.
  4. HONESTY: “I’ve been there!”
    Fourth, there is relational value in transparently sharing the way a passage has ministered to our spirit with fellow brothers and sisters. Flippantly quoting, “Do not be anxious about anything,” may or may not be helpful or encouraging when a friend is facing difficulty, but sharing personal insight and perspective rooted in experience with these beloved verses, especially with people who may not have considered them in that light before, could be extremely uplifting.
  5. HEART: “I love Him!”
    Fifth, familiarity often produces affection. There is a reason, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” is cited regularly at the gravesides of saints who have gone to be with Jesus. There is comfort in clinging to memorable truths. Like old friends, verses that we know and love can continually refresh our spirits and make us long to know and love Jesus more.

Ladies of Immanuel, we invite you to join us this fall as we study Philippians together. May God grant us the grace to look at these familiar passages with fresh eyes, avoiding the dangers and embracing the benefits. May we prayerfully request the humility, hunger, harmony, honesty, and heart we need to grow in our love of the Living Word through our study of the written Word.

Sarah feiler Immanuel baptist Richmond virginia

Sarah Feiler


Making the Switch

Jonathan WhiteChurch Blog

Make the Switch by Jonathan White Immanhel Baptist Richmond

We all know that change is inevitable. Whether we initiate it ourselves or someone else forces us to change, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus’ words certainly ring true: There is nothing more constant than change. So, think about a change that you enjoyed, and now think about one you didn’t. What was different about them? Why did you like the first and resist the other? Let me offer four potential reasons:

1. You lacked a common goal.

This could have happened because (1) the change wasn’t communicated or (2) everyone didn’t agree on the goal. Everyone sets goals for themselves, and churches are no different. Whether it is being more involved in the community or having vibrant ministries, we are all working towards something. If a change is not clearly communicated, it makes it difficult for people to support changes when they do not understand “the why” (even if a deep-rooted passion to support the change exists). God provides a proper example in Genesis 12. He clearly articulates to Abraham his plan for him and for Israel. In addition, people need to agree on the goal. Of course, you’ll never get everyone to agree, but it is important to genuinely consider opposing opinions and compromise where possible. People appreciate feeling like they have been heard and a conversation that thoroughly discusses their concerns goes a long way in arriving at a shared goal.

2. You lacked a good plan to achieve your goal.

We have all been there. A plan is communicated, but important items were not considered. More often than not, those leading the change either assumed you cared about something you didn’t or didn’t realize you cared about something you did. In my prior career, my role was to help organizations understand how to change effectively. This required not only understanding what was being changed, but the people who were being impacted. The plan was only as good as the level of collaboration. Jesus is a prime example of this. While he could have accomplished his missional purpose without our assistance, he instead commissioned his disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Likewise, we would be wise to work with others to identify their needs before making unilateral decisions that affect someone else.

3. You lacked the resources to enact your plan.

For example (and this is just an example), let’s say Immanuel desired more vibrant worship in their members, and the plan was to change the style of music. The next questions would be: Is there anyone in the church who could lead that genre of music? Do they have the proper instrumentation for it?  How will we transition from our current style to our new style?  It’s important to consider all these details, otherwise the change will fail. But, even more important than these details are the people involved. You need people who have a heart and a passion for what the goal of the change is setting out to achieve. After all, preparing people’s hearts is just as important as preparing their minds. New behaviors begin to take root when the gospel truth catches fire within our hearts. The hearts of the people are a viable resource to tap into, so it is important to understand what matters to them and educate them on how reasons for a particular change are guided by the Gospel.

4. You weren’t prepared for the change to occur.

Change is a process, but that does not mean effective change must happen slowly. For example, moving out of your parents’ house can seem daunting unless they took the time to prepare you to be successful by equipping you with tools like budgeting, critical-thinking, and sound decision-making skills. It is the same for any change. What matters most is not the speed at which the change occurs but that the time was taken to prepare and equip people for the future. Going back to our example about Jesus missional purpose, he spent three years teaching his disciples and preparing them for a time when he wouldn’t be physically with them anymore. Not that they were alone for the Holy Spirit was provided as a guide. Similarly, we should remain involved even after the change occurs.

So, think back to your examples of a change you enjoyed and a change you didn’t. Do these reasons resonate?  What can you do to overcome these barriers? What can you do to reduce the negative impact of change? How can you, with Christ as your example, prepare those in your life for changes that may come? Understanding why people oppose change shows us what not to do and will ultimately help people in being able to make the switch.

Jonathan White


Jonathan White, Pastoral Intern
Immanuel Baptist Richmond

Pray for Family Fun Fest Follow-Up!

Jon DillonChurch Blog

I praise God for the perfect weather and great opportunity to connect with families in our community at our very first Family Fun Fest at TJ High School this past Saturday. I thank the Lord for the good participation and incredible spirit of many in our church who helped to make this happen. From those who worked directly with me throughout the process, to those who came out to canvass the neighborhoods, to those who were involved in giving, praying, and preparing, and to those who participated in setup, cleanup, and working the event, thank you and may the Lord bless you as you did it all for the gospel’s sake and his glory!

Because of this event, there are many in our immediate community who have now had a personal encounter with Immanuel Baptist Church, and we trust that God will use this in his purpose to seek and to save those who are lost. My favorite part was watching our church family enthusiastically interact with each of the families who attended. We will be following up with several of these families so please pray for the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts.

Jon Dillon 2019


Jon Dillon, Discipleship Pastor
Immanuel Baptist Richmond

The Storm-Tossed Family

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

storm tossed family
Russell Moore earned Christianity Today’s 2019 book of the year with The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home. Dr. Moore serves as the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The book’s goal is to shape the family in light of the cross, a reference to the Gospel that Jesus died for sinners in order to adopt sons and daughters into God’s family. Moore writes, “These families of ours can be filled with joy, but will always make us vulnerable to pain. And the joy and the pain are pointing us to the same place: the cross.” (p. 3)

Moore is vulnerable about his own family, candid about Christian families, and at times blunt about the brokenness of many families. I encourage you to read Moore’s book, not only for family fixes but for the hope that God can redeem what is broken. On Sunday, August, 18th, I will give away three free copies of The Storm-Tossed Family in the 5:00 pm service gathering.

Explicit in each chapter is the Christian Gospel, that a cross-shaped life moors a family to the Lord Jesus Christ preserving them through the storms of life. Moore talks the reader through each phase of family life—from childhood to adulthood to death. His examples of broken family life leave the reader thinking, “Lord, I hope that never happens” then confessing “Lord, your grace is sufficient if it does.” Moore reassures, “The only safe harbor for a storm-tossed family is a nail-scarred home.” (p. 5)

Here are quotables from the book for each family stage:

To Husbands and Wives

“A cross-shaped masculinity walks not with Esau’s swagger but with Jacob’s limp. A cross-shaped femininity comes not with the glamour of Potiphar’s wife but with the Bible-teaching prowess of Eunice and Lois.” (p. 82)

  • “The cross-shaped marriage is one in which a wife cultivates a voluntary attitude of recognition toward godly leadership.” (p. 88)
  • “Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (p. 89)
  • “The wise path would be to choose a mate that one can imagine not only lying in bed on a honeymoon, but kneeling by a bedside at hospice.” (p. 112)

To Mothers and Fathers

  • “Children bring with them the sense of our responsibilities, and with that the tremor of terror that we won’t be able to live up to those responsibilities.” (p. 190)
  • “The love of a parent is seldom seen any clearer than when a parent exerts the effort to affirm the gifts and callings of a child, especially when those gifts are different than those of the parent.” (p. 228)
  • “If laughter and joy are not part of our families, something is wrong.” (p. 235)
  • “If ‘good’ children were merely the result of technique, then we could boast of our own righteousness through the lives of our children. It is not.” (p. 252)

To Grandparents

  • “When we see godly older people pouring their lives into younger generations and churches doing the same, there is almost always one common denominator: the older generation is remarkably free of bitterness and jealousy.” (p. 204)
  • “When I was a younger father, I assumed that much of this relaxed grand-parenting mode came from the exhaustion of age or of being out of touch with the day-to-day needs of childrearing. I suppose that is true in some cases and in some ways, but it is probably more true that age and experience teach one how to better differentiate between immaturity and disobedience.” (p. 273)
  • “If, though, we judge the value of our own lives by our ‘usefulness’ and our ‘independence,’ we will despise the revelation in those who once seemed strong and independent that things are quite otherwise….Dependence is not weakness. Weakness is not failure. Failure is not fatal.” (p. 286)

To the Church

  • “A church that focuses on the family is in line with the Bible, but a church that puts families first is not….a Christianity that puts family first will soon find itself uncomfortable with Jesus.” (p. 51)
  • “The church is not a collection of families. The church is a family. We are not ‘family friendly’; we are family. We learn the skills within the church to be godly sons or daughters.” (p. 60)
  • “We tend to remember the storms that threatened our lives more than the rains that saved them.” (p. 291)

Michael Wilburn


Michael Wilburn, Senior Pastor
Immanuel Baptist Church


Job Change: Four Elder Perspectives

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

Certain seasons of life bring job transition. Along with the changing responsibility and schedule comes a new perspective on life. Perhaps you are searching for a new job or anticipate retiring in a few years. How should you approach it with a Christian desire to please God? Four elders of Immanuel Baptist Church experiencing this transition share their perspectives in response to four basic questions.

How does a job transition challenge your identity?

John Denler

As a husband and father in a single-earner family, I realized how easy it is to identify much of my self-worth to my employment. This was particularly true when I was laid off but also when considering retirement. Worrying how I would support my family contributed to this false reality imposed on us in our culture. My value is not found in my job. We must remember our true identify is found in Christ and Christ alone. Once we grab onto this truth, the transition, whether when laid off or retiring, can change our emotions from fear to expectancy as we wait to see God’s sovereign grace and sovereign plan for us being realized. Read Matthew 6:25-34, Romans 14:16-18, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

Kevin May

In my transition, the issue was not the position but the process. As a manager who had leadership privileges, without a real reason and within 15 minutes, I was stripped of duties, phone, computer, access codes, credit cards, etc.  and escorted out of the building to my car as if I were a criminal. It was more of a head game, but it did take me a few days to remind myself and be re-assured that my identity was not in that single position. I really needed to come to the position that who I am is much broader and, in the Lord, much larger than any occupation. The Lord has been gracious in using these few months through various organizations, people and opportunities to put me in various leadership roles to re-assure this area of responsibility.

Hank Sierk

To some degree my identity has always been connected to my work. Work consumes a significant portion of every day and the relationships there are a part of life’s fabric. When I was young, changing jobs had an element of the excitement of risk-taking, new challenges, long-term plans, different surroundings and people. What I did loomed large in my self image. Change seemed like a normal progression of life.

Retirement, on the other hand, appears to be the end of something. The goodbyes, retirement parties, promises to never forget you, are known –  based on our own life experience, to be shallow. The unknown of ‘no work’ seems foreboding and absolute. There has been a comfort in routine, refined over many years. What defines who I am? What will it be like when my wife has me around the house all the time? What will I do when all the postponed projects are completed? Will we have enough money to live on? Will I be healthy? Should I take on other work?…and on and on goes the list of questionings…

I think retirement needs to be viewed in the same way as young life transitions. It is a new set of challenges, to be sure. There are many decisions that loom large on the immediate horizon, but these are surmountable.  How does the Lord want to use me now that I have somewhat more freedom of schedule? When I was working everyday, careful use of time entered into every decision. How can I avoid losing that sense of urgency about available time? My first weeks outside the work routine make me realize how easy it would be to slip into a relaxed, do it tomorrow, mindset. How can I make this a special time of growing closer to my wife and family? I think if my focus is on what’s next, it will be a healthy transition.

Gary Thomson 

The thought process of a career transition began as a “way of life” many years ago with the decision Janice and I made to live conservatively and contently. As the opportunity for a career transition became more intense, many of the typical barriers, while discussed, weren’t driving issues. Two months into “next” I am challenged by how much what I did “defined me” in my thinking but I find great peace in thinking of what’s ahead.

Who were the first people you talked to about the transition?

John Denler

The decision to retire was a major assessment which included my wife, Alison, from day one. It was a process over time as we discussed the pending decision both in our ability to retire and what I wanted to do once retired. Obviously, one of the most important aspects of our discussion was the need we prepare for a diminished annual salary. After making the decision to move ahead, we reviewed it with our financial planner and started taking the “next steps” to include notifying our children, then my employer. I also asked the Elder board and our SOMA group to pray for wisdom before I made the final decision to notify my employer and give them 60-days’ notice. See Proverbs 15:22

Kevin May

I talked to my wife, then called my children. I wanted them to hear it from me and to know that we would be ok. Next, I began to speak to my closest friends and support group. From there, it was the broader network that would help in the job seeking process.

Hank Sierk

I had a fairly significant and highly stressful job, being responsible to implement cyber security controls at my company’s generating facilities. While I liked my job and really enjoyed the comradery of the people I worked with, the toll on my health was showing up. I had been considering retirement for some time, but with a son still in college, had delayed it. The retirement option came upon me suddenly as a special offer from my company. We had been talking of retirement, certainly, but not immediately. This brought it up front and center.

I spoke to my wife first, of course, as soon as I was advised of the opportunity. The retirement package offered incentives to smooth the transition into retirement. While there were many unknowns, after much prayer, counsel and thoughtful consideration, we decided to proceed and trust the Lord for our future.

I also discussed the decision with close friends, then with those I closely worked with. Work associates were not anxious for me to leave but understood the special opportunity and were supportive. I must admit that I miss my daily interactions with these people. The Lord has been  growing me to understand that my self-worth is in Christ, not in what I do.

Gary Thomson

The discussions were really just between Janice and me and were ongoing over a significant period of time. My advice is to plan for both what you can and cannot control in your career. Innovation drives disruption and no company or individual is exempt from the risk created by innovation. For us, the advance planning allowed for a question of timing as opposed to a “should we do it” conversation.

What advice would you give to others in a job transition?

John Denler

First, commit your decision to God’s will and direction (Luke 12:13-21, Parable of the Rich Fool). As you commit to God’s wisdom, decide what you will want to do with your time and prepare for it before making your final decision and notifying your employer. I’ve been planning this for over a year. I have a clear picture in my mind of what I want to do after retirement to include: serving God in additional ministry opportunities, getting back into photography, taking day-trips with Alison, and visiting family. Bottom-line, ensure you can retire to provide for your real needs then have a plan to keep busy and in God’s service.

Kevin May

First, I would advise people to seek individuals or groups who have knowledge in transitions. In my case there is a Richmond group called Career Prospectors. A support group that can encourage, but more importantly give up-to-date advice on items such as resume’s, LinkedIn profile, interviewing, etc.  Second, I would take the time to evaluate who you are and who God wants you to be. Your new career will be a big step and you want to make sure you are stepping in the right direction. Finally, take the extra time that you have been given to invest in your life and those around you. I am actively seeking employment, which most will tell you is a full time job, but through this I have taken the time to volunteer and spend extra time with people I care about.

Hank Sierk

• Pray for guidance.

• Have a plan.

• Consider all the issues, family, financial and personal.

• Discuss it with those you trust.

• Don’t be fearful.

Gary Thomson

Trust that the God, who has directed your steps, will continue to do so. Stay patient. In those situations where the transition was not planned, it is easy to get impatient and “settle.” Stay positive. Pray.

What has God taught you about trust and fear in your transition?

John Denler

First and foremost, I must trust God to provide for my family and me. For me, building that trust started years ago when I was laid off from work twice. As I looked back, after finding employment, I could see God’s hand in finding a better employment path for me to walk. Second, fear is a debilitating burden to carry and we should always take those burdens to God and let Him carry them (Isaiah 43:1-2, 1 Peter 5:7). Third, remember that in marriage you are a team. God has given you your wife to both encourage you and discuss your concerns (Genesis 2:18).

Kevin May

I am reminded to be thankful for his grace because when there is trust the fear is removed. I truly believe that God knew all about the situation, the job and knows where I will be working. My responsibility is to renew this trust daily which will result in me seeking His wisdom, walking with the right attitude and encouraging those around me.

Hank Sierk

Fear is the enemy of trust. God loves us and has promised to provide for us.  Whenever I start to fear the future I lean back on God’s promise to never leave or forsake us.

Gary Thomson 

Trust God and seek His guidance on living in a way so as to allow both unexpected and expected career transitions to be something that allows you to trust versus fear.

Get Ready To Run The Incredible Race!

Gloria DuffeyChildren's Ministry, Church Blog

Vacation Bible School – The Incredible Race

Vacation Bible SchoolJuly 29 – August 2Ready, set, here we go! We’ve got a whole world to see. Experience God’s love for every tribe, language, and nation!We welcome you for a week of Bible lessons, crafts, games, snacks, and fun with old and new friends (Ages: 4 yrs old through 5th grade). Feel free to message us with any questions! Register at:

Posted by Immanuel Baptist Richmond on Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Ah, sweet summertime.  The lazy days of summer.  Time to do anything and everything… at least that’s how we start off this sunny time of year. Too quickly though, we hear, “I’m bored!” or “There’s nothing to do!” followed by a few sighs. Well, all of that is about to end! Pack your bags for The Incredible Race – an adventure unlike anything you can imagine.

Each day, we will dash from continent to continent on a worldwide trek to discover how we are all connected in this thing called The Human Race. You know it started with Adam and Eve and maybe you’ve heard about the Tower of Babel, but what does it mean for us today? Get ready to use clues and amazing challenges to explore how people all across the world are part of the same family. God wants us to share His love with our friends and neighbors as well as with people we don’t know, whether right here or far away, no matter how similar or different we are.

Vacation Bible School is next week, Monday – Friday, from 9am to 12pm. All racers, ages 4 years old thru 6th grade, are welcome.  Invite your friends and neighbors along for the adventure.

Get ready to run The Incredible Race! One Family, One Race, One Savior!

*Pray for our workers, our children, good weather, collection of school supplies for our Family Fun Fest, and our visitors on Friday. Most importantly pray for our Father’s Love to embrace everyone who attends VBS and especially for those who do not have a personal relationship with God, that this week they will open their hearts to Him.

Gloria Duffey

Gloria Duffey
Director of Children’s Ministries

Family Fun Fest: An Echo of Faith!

Jon DillonChurch Blog

Family Fun FestThe Apostle Paul testified of the church in Thessalonica that “the word of the Lord” had echoed from them throughout their immediate region and their “faith in God” was known everywhere the apostle went  (1 Thess. 1:8). What a great testimony! And notice that it began in their own community first. They evidently were intentional about reaching their community with the wonderful gospel which had liberated them from idol worship and gave them hope in the Lord Jesus Christ! Here at Immanuel Baptist Church, we should strive to have a testimony in our community like the Thessalonican church did in theirs.

It is for this purpose that we are hosting our very own Family Fun Fest at Thomas Jefferson High School on August 10 from 10am to 2pm. This event is an intentional effort to connect with our community that we might have the opportunity to share the blessed gospel with them and invite them to be a part of our church family. To put on an event like this, it takes a lot of time, effort, and expense, but it is a worthwhile investment with potentially great returns which we look to God to bring about.

There are many different ways you can participate in the Family Fun Fest. The most important way is to volunteer to work in the event. This way gives you a chance to personally meet the people in our community which I believe will help develop your compassion for them and drive your passion to reach them. Also, working the event will serve to build up our faith as a church and unify us “in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

We have created a link on Signup Genius where you can see all of the slots that need to be filled and choose the one that best suits you. Most of the jobs are divided into two 2-hour shifts, but you may choose to work all 4 hours either all on one job or split it between two.  If you can also help with set-up or clean-up, that would be great too!

One of the jobs that is particularly important to me is being a part of the connection team.  The connection team is responsible for meeting and getting to know those who attend for the opportunity to give a personal invitation to our church or to share the gospel depending how the conversation might go. If they decide to visit our church, there will be a familiar face for them to see.

If you are not able to volunteer to work, you can certainly help by giving towards the needs of the event. We are collecting school supplies to give out to the students who attend to help them as they return to school in the following weeks.  You can buy the supplies yourself and leave them at the designated drop-offs or you can make out a check designated to “FFF school supplies.” We will also be purchasing some drawstring bag backpacks to hold the school supplies to which you may give as well.

I am really excited about the prospect of this event, and I can hardly wait to see what God will do through us as we send out the Word of the Lord to our community. Please prayerfully consider how you might participate, and pray “that God may open to us a door for the Word” in our community.

Jon Dillon 2019


Jon Dillon
Discipleship Pastor

Do you ever read the last chapter of the book first?

Rosemary WillafordChurch Blog

Rosemary Willaford CEF Missionary Retirement BlogDo you ever read the last chapter first in a book? My friends know that quite often I do – just can’t wait to find out what is going to happen. Do you ever wish you could do that with LIFE? I admit – I do! BUT that would take away our needing to depend upon God our Father, having faith that HE knows, HE directs, HE has a plan.

Little did Bill and I know when we got married in 1966 what God had planned for our lives together! After 10 years in the Navy, then 27 years supervising the running of two nuclear reactors, an opportunity came up for Bill to take early retirement at the age of 55. The option was presented and we walked through the open door little knowing what God had for the next leg of our journey called “LIFE”.

As chairman of the State Board of Virginia for Child Evangelism Fellowship for 8 years, Bill would often call Headquarters and ask if there were any possibilities for a State Director as we had been without one for the last six years.  Their response would always be that they were working on it. In the midst of a retreat that we had put together for the staff across the State bringing in the Vice President of CEF of International to be our speaker, God revealed the next part of HIS plan for us. Bill was asked by the Board to step down as chairman and then to take the position of State Director. At that point in time, we asked God for 10 years. And indeed, God gave Bill those 10 years.

From traveling over the five states for which Bill was responsible as Mid-Atlantic District Director to spending time with our Virginia State staff, God chose to write the rest of the chapters of Bill’s life here on earth. With joy in serving, love for his staff, and a heart for the children, God led us each step of the way.

What a privilege and delight it has been for me to serve as Administrative Assistant to CEF of Virginia for 18 ½ years. As I come to the end of the book on my serving with CEF as of the end of June, I do it knowing that God can use each of us – we just have to be willing. Having grown up in Immanuel and being under the teaching of Pastor Seume – a man who had a huge heart for missions – being a “missionary” seemed far out of reach – not even an addendum to my book. I could pray for them, support them, encourage them and I considered that to be what God had for me. But God had a different plan.

Walking into the buildings of Immanuel at any given time, I always know that I have come “home” and that my Immanuel family is so dear and precious to me. Words cannot express how much I thank you for all that you have been to me during this portion of my journey. From encouragement, to offers to help in preparing for CEF training school, to majorly praying for the ministry and for me and for financial support – none of this would have been possible without you being the feet and hands of Jesus to support in all areas of my life. My prayer for you is that you will see Jesus as you walk through the chapters of the book HE has written for YOUR life.

I would like close with sharing the theme song from our 2011 CEF training school. I do not know who wrote it. There is no copyright but the words are powerful and thought-provoking. The title is Just Outside These Walls:

Just outside these walls, there is a world that’s lost.
The mission field begins just outside these walls.
Just outside these walls, despair runs free.
Hopelessness is found just outside these walls.
How will they know, if they’re never told?
And how will we tell them, if we never go?
Just outside these walls, a lost world is waiting.
Will we answer the call, just outside these walls?

Just outside these walls, a world is searching,
Looking for the Truth we hold so dear.
Just outside these walls, can you hear them calling?
Oh, they are crying out for help, just outside these walls.
How will they know, if they’re never told?
And how will we tell them, if we never go?
Just outside these walls, a lost world is waiting.
Will we answer the call, just outside these walls?

Just outside these walls, the Savior is waiting
For his church to appear, just outside these walls.
Just outside these walls, all hope is not lost.
Just outside these walls, we will carry the cross.
Just outside these walls, we will go where we are told;
Where the hope of Jesus belongs, just outside these walls.
Just outside these walls, all hope is not lost.
Just outside these walls, we will carry the cross.
Just outside these walls, we will go where we are told,
Where the hope of Jesus belongs, just outside these walls.

Rosemary Willaford


Rosemary Willaford
Missionary, Child Evangelism Fellowship

How Should Christians Meditate?

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

How should Christians meditateJoshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) wrote a book on Christian meditation. As a Puritan, he pastored St. Stephen’s Walbrook in London. Charles Spurgeon said of Watson, “There is a happy union of sound doctrine, heart-searching experience, and practical wisdom throughout all his works.”

Listed here are quotes from his book, The Christian on the Mount:

“God allows time for our calling. He grants some relaxation; but when it is said that the godly man meditates day and night, the meaning is frequently, he is much conversant in the duty.”

“Meditation is chewing on the truths we have heard.”

“Meditation is the palate of the soul whereby we taste the goodness of God; it is the eye of the soul whereby we view the beauties of holiness.”

“Meditation is the soul’s retiring of itself so that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections.”

“A Christian enters into meditation as a man enters into the hospital, that he may be healed. Meditation heals the soul of its deadness and earthliness, but more of this afterward.”

“Study is a work of the brain, meditation of the heart; study sets the mind at work, meditation sets the heart to work.”

“Meditation on God’s truth would make us ambitious to imitate him. We would be true in our words, true in our dealings.”

“Meditation on worldly vanity would be like the digging about the roots of a tree to loosen it from the earth. It would much loosen our hearts from the world and be an excellent preservative against the love of earthly things.”

“Meditate much on hell. Let us go into hell by contemplation so that we may not go into hell by condemnation….The serious meditation on hell would make us fear sin as much as hell.”

“Without meditation, the truths of God will not stay with us. The heart is hard and the memory slippery; and without meditation all is lost! Meditation imprints and fastens a truth in the mind.”

“Just so, it is hard climbing up the rocky hill of meditation; but when we get to the top, there is a pleasant prospect, and we shall sometimes think ourselves even in heaven. By holy meditation the soul, as it were, has breakfast with God every morning.”

“Meditation is an excellent means to profit by the Word. Reading may bring a truth into the head, but meditation brings it into the heart!”

“Holy meditation would have quenched that wildfire of lust.”

“Meditation is a spiritual index. The index shows what is in the book; just so meditation shows what is in the heart.”


Pastor Michael


Michael Wilburn
Senior Pastor

What I Learned about Biblical Exposition

Jonathan WhiteChurch Blog

Biblical Exposition Immanuel Baptist Richmond

The journey begins…

I had the opportunity to attend The Charles Simeon Trust workshop on Biblical Exposition from May 29-31 in Washington D.C. I began my journey down the “pathway of preparation” one early Wednesday morning, accompanied by my faithful companion Jon Lowery. We both traveled with the intent to not only grow in our ability to teach God’s word but also to learn to deepen our own knowledge and understanding. Once there we had the ability to fellowship with other brothers in Christ from various theological and geographical backgrounds. It just proved that even where there may be differences, what remains true is a faithful commitment to understanding and staying true to God’s Word. 

Pathway to Preparation

During my time at the 3-day workshop, I learned to apply several principles of effective biblical exposition when preparing to teach or preach. The first and most important to remember (at least my opinion) is to Stay on the Line. Staying on the line simply means that we neither add to, nor subtract from the text that is being preached or taught. One way to avoid being tempted to stray from the text is to follow the proper “pathway.” 

Biblical Exposition Immanuel Baptist Richmond Jonathan White

The pathway properly walks us through the steps to carefully exposit God’s Word, taking the biblical text from its original context to today. If we deviate from the path, we run into several pitfalls in communicating the text properly: moralizing, legalizing, or contextualizing. Now I could write several blogs about just this concept alone, but I want to focus on two areas that I personally found most helpful.


Attending the workshop helped me to identify a pitfall where I tend to prioritize communicating application over detailing the author’s intent. That isn’t necessarily wrong in my personal studies, however when communicating to an audience I realize they need to follow how I moved through the text to application. To help you understand structure, picture this:

Do you remember being in school learning to write an essay? Did your teacher walk you through the process of outlining your thoughts to organize what you were going to write about? Just like your school essay, each biblical passage also has a structure, or outline that emphasizes the author’s main points. Identifying this structure reveals the author’s emphasis. The original author’s outline should influence our own preaching outline, which ensures we stay on the line while preparing us to effectively communicate the passage to today’s audience.

Text and Framework

Another principle I found valuable is understanding the influence of our framework on the text. We all have a framework, be it theological, political, social, and/or cultural.  Our experiences form our understanding of the people we engage, the places we go, and even the things we read.   In other words, our framework shapes our reading of the Bible. However, the primacy of the biblical text and its meaning must remain intact even when it challenges our framework, otherwise we run the risk of imposing our interpretation onto the text. This is something to bear in mind even during personal devotions so that we avoid influencing the meaning of the text based on our own perceptions and how it relates to our lives.

While I am sure there is more than one way to skin a cat, or uh…sermon, the Simeon Trust workshops have provided a helpful methodology of biblical exposition to pastors for almost two decades, being instructed and supported by prominent pastors like Mark Dever, D.A. Carson, and J.I. Packer. This was a great experience for me, and I am grateful to Immanuel for the opportunity to attend.  I also pray that this summary helps you in uncovering a new way to grow in God’s Word!

If you would like to learn more, Simeon Trust has regular workshops and online lessons as well.  Visit for more information.

Jonathan White


Jonathan White
Pastoral Intern