Word-Centered Church

Michael WilburnChurch Blog


As a pastor, I frequently get caught in a conversation describing the church. People expect a pastor to give a sales pitch with a church invite. Often my answer doesn’t satisfy the expectation. I can see it on their faces. They expected to hear about a church identified by location (Monument and Thompson), history (128 years), or denomination (Baptist). Their ears are trained to receive a quip mission’s statement, so hearing “Immanuel is a gospel-preaching church” is met with a pause waiting for the added value that makes the church special. I resist filling the gap with a program or special event.

Here is the reason: The church must be word-centered. Because Scripture transforms people, the Bible should gather the congregation as the people of God.

By word-centered, I mean that the Bible must be preached and received. The Word of God searches the heart, and the people of God surrender the will. A Word-centered church is a congregation gathered for the preaching and receiving of God’s Word. That is why the center of the platform, the focus of the service, and the description of the church ought to be word-centered.

Consider the power of God’s Word to change us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God’s Word instructs us about what is right (teaching), what is wrong (reproof), how to get right (correction), and how to stay right (training in righteousness). Over time the Bible trains an army engaged in the work of the ministry.

So when guests are given sermon cards, the bulletin cover follows the sermon series, and the worship services are called gatherings, these are more than marketing choices. They show the church’s commitment to the Word to do the work.


Pastor Michael

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Goliath Must Fall

Tom SmithMen's Ministry

Men – If you are in any way like me, you grew up with stories of GIANTS. From my earliest years, there was the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Then in the early 1960’s and 1970’s, television was filled with every kind of giant – all due to exposure to atomic bombs.  A giant woman, giant ants, and even giant ‘Lepus’ rabbits. All these things kept me awake on a Friday night when my parents would allow me to watch “scary movies”! These giants were usually taken care of by a hero with a secret “ray gun”, and all was well in the end!

And who of us who grew up in the church could forget the story of David and Goliath – the small boy who stood up against the 9-foot-tall giant that terrorized the entire Israeli army, and then took him down with one small stone?

But as I grew, I began to face some REAL giants such as Fear, Anxiety, Rejection, Comfort / Laziness, Addictions, Sickness, Unemployment, Financial and Family Fears and Worries, Tragedy, Loss and many more. As I faced these giants, there did not appear to be a hero with a “ray gun” or a small boy with a slingshot to take care of the giants in my life. Then what? Do I just cower in fear, run from them, or succumb to them and allow them to overtake my life? Especially as men, we DO NOT want to admit that we can’t handle the giants we face every day, or even admit that they scare us!

But praise God, this summer I discovered a great book by Louie Giglio entitled ‘GOLIATH MUST FALL’. Of all the giant “Goliath’s” in our lives – and men, we all have them – none of them are bigger than Jesus. Nine feet tall or 10,000 feet tall is nothing to him! And He wants to set us free from them all. To Him, a giant is anything in our lives that appears to be larger than Jesus’ ability to rescue us! Praise Him that there is NOTHING that can do that!

Men, join us this fall as we will look into this series – ‘GOLIATH MUST FALL’ – and learn how Jesus will knock our life’s giants to the ground with a resounding THUD!!

Eyes on the Prize

Peter and Sara BunnChurch Blog

This year in Word of Life Kids Clubs we will present many goals and award prizes as they accomplish them:

Develop consistent daily time in God’s Word.

Study key doctrines of Scripture as well as character studies, apologetics, Bible book studies, and Christian basics.

Memorize 24 verses that come from the Bible studies so they can articulate their faith to others.

Discover, develop, and deploy their gifts by serving in the local church and community.

Read through 3 or more Christian books, building a biblical worldview and personalizing their faith.

Earn college scholarships & money towards camp.

Develop personal evangelism by learning how to share their faith and invite others to church activities; or participating in evangelistic activities.

These are great goals for anyone! You are welcome to learn along with us. Word of Life offers a Quiet Time Devotional and Memory Verse Packs for adults as well: https://wolstore.org/collections/student-ministries/products/quiet-time-with-commentary-2018-19

Word of Life Kids starts September 12! What fun we have, church family. We hope you will pray about serving along with us as a Bible teacher, small group leader, or check-in-coach at the pre-school or elementary age levels.

Our true focus

The Word of Life Olympian motto is Philippians 3:14 (Ask an IBC elementary ager to show you the motions – Go on! ?): I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Even as believers, none of us “have it all together” but we press on toward eternity in heaven as we daily follow Jesus. No turning back.

Word of Life Olympians Theme Song:

A blast from the past. Excited for the new year!


In the Providence of God

Paul DreillingChurch Blog

In The Providence of God

Pastor Michael’s topic for Sunday is entitled Health and Wellness as he shares from Proverbs 17: 22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  I remember back to our days as missionaries in South America when God orchestrated a corrective surgery to save the life of a 12-year-old girl in our church.

The phone rang one night and it was a friend of ours from Florida.  He owned an orange grove near Orlando which had been for sale for some time. Being strategically located near the interstate he finally sold the property to Walmart for one of their distribution centers.  As we talked he told us that the Lord had laid it on his heart to donate the tithe from the sale for a medical need and he was calling us to see if we knew of one.  We thanked him and said at this time we didn’t know of anyone he could help, at least not yet.

In The Providence of GodAs was our custom several times a month, our family would travel further out on Saturdays to several smaller communities to hold Bible studies.  The day after the call from our friend, we were finishing one of the studies when the father, knowing Becky was a nurse, asked if she could listen to his daughter Dolly’s heart.  Pulling out her stethoscope, Becky listened and said to me in English, “It sounds like a freight train.”

Because of rheumatic fever years earlier one of her heart valves was not working properly.   We called our friends and told them what was happening.  That week we took Dolly and her dad into the Baptist Hospital’s heart center.  After a number of tests they found Dolly’s problem and began prepping her for surgery.  While talking to the social services department about the cost of Dolly’s, it hit us that we didn’t know how much our friends wanted to donate.  We immediately called and in the providence of God, his gift covered Dolly’s surgery almost to the dollar.  Isn’t the Lord good?  Dolly had a successful surgery and 3 years later after the death of her parents, she and her husband became the guardians of her younger siblings. Here she is pictured with her “family.”

Paul Dreiling

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The Biggest Win

Paul DreillingChurch Blog

Let’s hear a “Hip, hip, hoorah” all you football fans. The 2018 fall season is just around the corner and it’s time to cheer for your favorite team. I heard a news story the other day about a high school that cancelled their varsity football team since only 18 players showed up for pre-season practice. When I mentioned this in a business yesterday, the salesman, who was about my age, said, “That sounds like enough players to me. When I played most of the players played both ways (offense and defense) anyway.

Last year the Philadelphia Eagles were crowned Super Bowl champions. After the game when the head coach, Doug Peterson, was interviewed, he gave credit to the Lord for their victory on national television.

In addition to the coach, there is a core group of Christians on the Eagles team who are serious about their faith.

Plenty of NFL players attend weekly chapel services, but rarely does their excitement for God’s Word equal the Eagles group. They have immersed themselves in a deeper understanding of the Scriptures which includes the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Josh Cooley (a Liberty University graduate) just released a book, The Biggest Win, which provides a unique, insider look into the lives and faith of six Christian players on the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl champion team. “The book explores how these famous athletes remained committed to God’s Word, genuine Christian discipleship, accountability and sharing their faith at the highest level of sports. Whether you’re a male or female athlete, The Biggest Win will encourage you to find your ultimate identity in Christ, not your athletic achievements, and to pursue the greatest prize—eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Bible Study Magazine).

Paul Dreiling

A Key to a Vibrant Church

Paul DreillingChurch Blog

What a joy it is to look around on Sundays and see all the faithful attendees at Immanuel Baptist.   Thank you for your faithfulness.  You have been a great encouragement to the staff and to each other.   It takes so many people to make our church minister effectively and it’s wonderful how many of you “step up to the plate” to volunteer. Hopefully, you have learned that you can’t, out give the Lord.   Thank you so much – it is great to watch.

As we have tried to do through these Churchwide letters, the Book of Hebrews teaches us to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”  I want to share one of the most important activities we found as missionaries that could be done to help an “emerging” church to thrive.  It is not necessarily a hard thing but only took time and commitment.  It makes a healthy new church and can revitalize an older church.  Have I got you guessing?  One of the most important things you can do is visiting with each other.

This took many forms on the mission field but it is important for the life of a church to get together to eat, picnic, walk, and etc. outside the walls of the church.  I know we enjoy the fellowship while we are at church, but there is something very special about a meal or time in each other’s homes.   So, maybe the Lord is prompting you to invite someone over. Go ahead, let’s get it on the calendar.   It is a perfect place to practice, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (I Thes. 5:11)


Living in Redemptive Community

Women's MinistryEvents

Philemon is a small book in the New Testament, but it is powerful with gospel truth.  It tells the story of how one man’s useless slave became another man’s useful son.  It shows us what happens when Jesus saves people – their lives are transformed, forever impacting their relationship with God and with others.

When we read this book, we see ourselves in the character of Onesimus.  Before Christ, we were hopeless, fearful, and rebellious.  We were slaves to sin and deserving of punishment.  In Christ, we received forgiveness and acceptance – a new identity and sense of belonging.  We were changed from useless to useful.  For every believer, the grace extended to Onesimus is the same grace that has been extended to us.

When we read this book, we also see ourselves in the character of Philemon – not only are we like Onesimus, but we also have people like Onesimus in our lives.  Paul shows us, in Philemon, what gospel love looks like; it changes how we love others.  When we have been wronged or betrayed, we are free to extend the same forgiveness that we have received through Christ.

The book of Philemon reminds us that when we encounter Jesus, everything changes.  We belong to Him, and we belong to each other.  The story of Onesimus and Philemon is our story — the story of Jesus transforming every facet of our lives, and showing us what it truly means to live in redemptive community.

Ladies of Immanuel, please join us on Tuesday nights during the month of August as we study this book together.  It is our prayer that God will refresh our hearts with a renewed love for Jesus and people, as He continues to write these stories of redemption in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and world.


  • August 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th
  • 6:00 PM
  • Led by Sara Lowery and Sarah Feiler
  • Home of Sarah Feiler (Church Hill)

VBS Memories

Gloria DuffeyEvents

When I was five years old, my family moved from southern Virginia to Richmond. Every June, I looked forward to the end of the school year. While my friends went off to summer camp, I looked forward to spending several weeks with my grandparents on their farm. Sometimes, my parents drove me to their house but many summers, I rode a Greyhound bus to South Boston, VA. Yes – at the age of seven, I sat in the front row seat of the bus with my favorite doll, Mrs. Beasley, and we watched the scenery go by on the two and a half hour trip. Traveling alone was exciting but what I looked forward to the most was attending Vacation Bible School at my grandmother’s church.

During VBS, the small country church was decorated in a special theme. I vividly remember sitting in pews embossed with church members’ names, singing songs and saying pledges with my cousins. After the opening ceremony, we could barely contain our excitement as we walked to our classroom, anticipating the activities of the day. I listened intently as my teacher made the Bible lessons come alive and I learned important lessons that have stayed with me over the years. It was difficult to remain patient, knowing we would make beautiful crafts after each lesson. Our creations included an octopus made of yarn, a jewelry box made of craft sticks and a caterpillar fashioned from colorful pompoms. Afterward, we would go outside to swing, jump rope and play hide and seek. Our fun ended with a refreshing snack of cherry or grape Kool-Aid and those pretty butter cookies with the hole in the center. My grandmother and I headed home for lunch each day after she helped clean up and prepare for us to repeat the fun the next day.

The week of July 30 – August 3, we at Immanuel Baptist Church are looking forward to our week of VBS. What a great way to make memories which will last a lifetime. We will walk through the forest to our camp where we will sing songs, say pledges… and possibly see a moose! Our adventure will then take us to our campsite where our camp leaders will bring to life Peter’s amazing journey as he learns how much God loves him, even when he fails. Each day, a young adult will describe a personal journey to faraway lands where they have shared God’s love with children in Ethiopia and Jamaica. These stories of love will inspire us to bring school supplies for children attending The Charter House here in Richmond. We will end our week of fun with a picnic for our campers and their families as well as our camp leaders on Friday, after our Closing Program.

Come out and join us for Camp Moose on the Loose. We look forward to seeing you there!

An Introduction…

Paul DreillingAnnouncement

When we become Christians God gives each of us a spiritual gift that he wants us to use.  “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (Peter 4:10).    Hopefully, you have found out what your spiritual gift is and are reaping the joys that come with it.  One of these gifts is service.  Those with this gift know that nothing in life is more fulfilling than meeting the needs His Spirit shows us.  And an extra special blessing comes when they find a job in which our gift can be used.  Such is true for a new Immanuel staff member, Scott Morris.

Scott officially joined the Immanuel staff as of July 1st.  He will be working three days a week doing set-up & cleaning along with opening & closing the church on Sundays.  Growing up on a farm in Louisa, he attended Beulah Baptist Church and accepted the Lord when he was 12 years old.  He graduated from Louisa High School in 1990.  For the past 30 years, he has run his own construction company doing home improvements.   In 1995 He moved to Richmond where he met his wife Laura and they were married in 2004.   Scott and Laura joined Immanuel in 2011.  Over the past five years, he has worked at Immanuel doing painting and providing nightly cleaning at Monument Pediatrics, a property the church leases.  He feels blessed to be a part of the Immanuel family that upholds Christian values.   Scott enjoys sports, canoeing, hiking, camping and family time.  Please welcome Scott to the Immanuel staff.

What does Christian hospitality look like?

Immanuel BaptistEvents


Join us November 17, 2018 as we spend the day listening to Dr. Rosaria Butterfield share what Christian hospitality looks like in our current cultural climate. Dr. Butterfield will show us how “radical, ordinary hospitality” can be used to glorify God, serve others, and live out the gospel in word and deed.

Cost: $12
Time: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM (Lunch is on your own)
Location: Immanuel Baptist Church

Register at ibcrichmond.org/events
Further questions can be directed to womensministry@ibcrichmond.org

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former tenured professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University, converted to Christ in 1999 in what she describes as a train wreck. Her memoir The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert chronicles that difficult journey. Rosaria is married to Kent, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor in North Carolina, and is a homeschool mother, author, and speaker.

Raised and educated in liberal Catholic settings, Rosaria fell in love with the world of words. In her late twenties, allured by feminist philosophy and LGBT advocacy, she adopted a lesbian identity. Rosaria earned her Ph.D. from Ohio State University, then served in the English department and women studies program at Syracuse University from 1992 to 2002. Her primary academic field was critical theory, specializing in queer theory. Her historical focus was 19th-century literature, informed by Freud, Marx, and Darwin. She advised the LGBT student group, wrote Syracuse University’s policy for same-sex couples, and actively lobbied for LGBT aims alongside her lesbian partner.

In 1997, while Rosaria was researching the Religious Right “and their politics of hatred against people like me,” she wrote an article against the Promise Keepers. A response to that article triggered a meeting with Ken Smith, who became a resource on the Religious Right and their Bible, a confidant, and a friend. In 1999, after repeatedly reading the Bible in large chunks for her research, Rosaria converted to Christianity. Her first book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, details her conversion and the cataclysmic fallout—in which she lost “everything but the dog,” yet gained eternal life in Christ.

Rosaria’s second book, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, addresses questions of sin, identity, and repentance that she often encounters during speaking engagements. She discourages usage of the term “gay Christian,” and she disputes “conversion therapy,” in part because heterosexual sin is no more sanctified than homosexual sin. Her heart’s desire is for people to put the hands of the hurting into the hands of the Savior, who equips us to walk and grow in humility.
Rosaria’s third book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post Christian World, blends memoir and theology to warmly invite readers into her home, sharing from her life and experience how “radically ordinary hospitality” can allow strangers to become neighbors, and by God’s power, those neighbors can be part of God’s family.

Rosaria is zealous for hospitality, loves her family, cherishes dogs, and enjoys coffee.