Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 2004.
Softcover, 240 pages, $14.99.
How do you use
preaching to lead a congregation through a time of dramatic and unsettling change?
As senior minister of the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington,
DC, H. Beecher Hicks has faced that challenge. With a changing community and
a ministry that has outstripped their land-locked facilities, Hicks has led
the Metropolitan congregation toward a new vision of an enlarged campus in a
suburban location – and he used preaching to cast the vision and lead the people
to claim that vision for themselves.
Baptist Church was founded in 1864 by a group of freed slaves worshipping in
a Civil War army barracks. For 140 years, the church has been located at 12th
and R Streets NW in the Cardozo-Shaw neighborhood of central Washington. Yet
in recent years, that historically African-American neighborhood has seen an
influx of affluent white residents who have created continuing conflicts with
the church over many of its long-standing community connections, such as the
use of parking at a neighboring school. In addition, the church – which has
grown to more than 6,000 members and a multiplicity of ministries – has simply
outgrown its own facilities, with no opportunity to acquire additional property
in the area.
Facing that challenge,
Hicks and church leaders led the congregation through a multi-year process of
facing the realities of their situation, looking at options, and ultimately
choosing to relocate to a suburban location 12 miles away. (Ironically, more
than half the members were already living in the county to which they are moving.)
No matter how logical it all sounds, however, pastors who have led their churches
through change recognize how turbulent such a process can become.
In On Jordan’s
Stormy Banks, Hicks talks about the process through which the church has
traveled, and he shares the sermons he preached in the process of preparing
the church for this major change. Most of the messages are based on the Moses
narratives of leading the Hebrew people through a time of movement and change.
As he closes the
story, Hicks observes, “Those of us who are engaged in this preaching profession
preach with the hope that not only will we cast a vision, but that in doing
so our own vision will be sharpened. . . . We seek not only to speak a word
to the people on behalf of God, but also to hear God speaking to us directly
Pastors and church
leaders who read this volume will find their own vision sharpened, and will
find themselves better equipped for the challenging task of leading churches