Dear Members and Friends of First Church,
I look ahead to what is in store for us in the winter season of 2020 with excitement. In addition to our usual excellent concerts and speaker series, our men’s and women’s Great Banquet weekends, and our weekend worship services, we have some special opportunities ahead of us.

Two of the Protestant mission world’s great statesmen will be with us on consecutive weekends in January—Dr. Bob Blincoe and Dr. Scott Sunquist. Though they may not be household names, those who are involved in the work of Christ’s Kingdom know them well. Bob Blincoe is Executive Director of Frontiers, the largest mission organization focused solely on the Muslim world. He has had decades of direct experience working with the Kurdish people. Bob will be speaking in Naples on Monday night, January 6, and will be a guest in our worship services the day before. Scott Sunquist is the new president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the graduate school with which we have a close relationship. Scott was previously the Dean of the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary and is a well-published missiologist. He will be preaching on January 11 and 12.

Again this January, four grad students from Gordon-Conwell will be with us for a mentorship—designed to be an immersion in all aspects of the life of a large church. These young pastors-in-training are gifted and passionate about their faith. Most of us will have the opportunity to meet them as they stay with us. Our seminary scholarship fund continues to enable these students to finish their training and enter the pastoral ministry with minimal financial burden.

First Church received several bequests in 2019 and Session is prayerfully considering God’s leading for the use of these funds in ways to maximize their Kingdom effectiveness. We are so blessed by those former members who had the vision and foresight to include their church in their wills. A portion of one of the bequests has allowed us to host Pastor Su Kim and his family for their two-year internship in preparation to become missionaries to Thailand.

New additions to the Resurrection Garden and the Meditation Garden on the campus of our church were just completed in December. The new niches are available as final resting places for many more of our church members. The Scripture Wall includes selected verses given in memory or in honor of people we love; they are intended to be a spiritual inspiration to all who pass the wall. (A few spaces are still available.)

I led a Town Hall discussion in November on how the Protestant church in North America is changing in the early 21st century. Truly we live in interesting and disruptive times! If you are interested in learning more about this important topic, I recommend the new book The Myth of the Dying Church by Glenn Stanton. It is available in our BookCenter (and at online retailers). The secular journalists who have proclaimed that Christianity is a dwindling and irrelevant force in modern America are missing what is really happening.

Our pastoral staff is full this winter. Dr. Allen Walworth is ministering to us through his preaching and teaching all the way through the month of April. Pastor Su continues working with our youth and mission programs, and we are also blessed to have Pastors Steven, Brad, and June as part of our team.

My prayer is that you have a wonderful, healthy, and blessed start to your 2020.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Doug Pratt

In my 40 years of pastoral ministry, I have always cherished, valued, and depended on volunteers to serve my congregations. People who willingly give time and talent to sustain the Lord’s work are indispensable for any ministry, and what makes volunteerism special is that it is the purest form of service. I love the words of Peter to a group of  volunteer elders who were guiding the churches he was serving as a pastor: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve (1 Peter 5:2).

– Pastor Doug Pratt