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September 8, 2019

(4:30) What will happen to FBA (First Baptist Academy)? This is the question we have received the most. FBA is very important to me and the church. I have three children at FBA. One of our trustees and lay leaders that was involved in planning from the very early stages is also the Chairman of the School Board. We talked to Susan Johnson, Head of School, about this plan a long time ago, and she is in favor of this plan. The plan is for the school to continue. The future of the school is linked to the future of our church, so if our church is in trouble our school is in trouble. When we have a healthy church, we have a healthy school. The school will continue.

(6:22) Will we be renovating the preschool parking garage and will it have enough parking? We will be making renovations to what we currently call the Preschool Parking Garage. It is budgeted in the plan. The weakest logistical part of the plan is not having enough parking for Sunday morning, and we will have to come up with other arrangements. There’s a list of options for us to consider including retaining a parking garage, selling garages to businesses that won’t need them on the weekends, and working out a deal to have access on the weekends. We are in the early stages of these conversations but we have options.

The happiest pastors I know are those struggling to find parking. Right now, we have hundreds of empty parking spaces every Sunday. It will be a happy day when our problem is reversed and we are trying to find places to park everyone. We have four to six options we are working on.

(8:35) If there’s a budget crunch, why are we hiring additional staff? Language is really important in this question. We are not hiring "additional staff." In fact, we have been reducing staff and eliminating positions. There are fewer people on staff now than when I was hired. These reductions are painful. We have not been hiring "additional" staff but hiring people because we need people here to do work.

Since becoming the Senior Pastor, everyone, including myself, that has been hired makes less than the person occupying the position before them. We save money every hire. We have been collapsing positions together, so one position may previously be two or more positions. We recently made a hire for a SERVE Pastor where we collapsed three whole jobs together. We threw the description to this guy and said, "God help you!" We are asking him to do a lot, and now there are two less positions we have to hire for.

(10:45) What will happen to Passion Play, VBS, Trunk of Treats, and other special events? That’s a tricky question. I will answer it in two parts. First, the decision we made today places Passion Play, Pastors’ Conference, Trunk of Treats, VBS and other events in jeopardy. There’s a question mark next to all of those events for the same reason we had this meeting. Right now, we have no idea how we can pay for Passion Play. We are working on it, and we are going to try. If we want to have anything like Passion Play, we have to be able to afford it, so we need to get to a place that we can afford. Our financial challenges make events a real burden for us.

Second, when we get into new facilities we can afford, all of our events will look different. We aren’t talking about whether or not we will do them. It will look different at the length of a city block. When we get in the facilities, will we still care about these things? Will we still care about Easter? We will care about it as much as we ever have. Jesus is still alive with a beating heart, blinking eyes. We want to celebrate the Resurrection every day! The best way we can celebrate that is in facilities we can afford.

(13:37) What will happen to choir and orchestra? How will choir and orchestra work with multiple services? We are going to have choir and orchestras. I believe that Dr. Scott Connell is the best person to direct our choir and orchestra and we will continue to have choir and orchestra in the Hobson. We are going to continue to invest in our choir and orchestras.

(15:42) What will the seating in the Hobson be? We will have auditorium seating that seats 1,000-1,200 people. We’ve looked at adding a second balcony, turning the seating in a different direction, and other options. We will share more on seating and the Hobson set up later when we have more details.

(16:23) Will the Hobson block be wheelchair and handicap accessible? Yes, the new building will be handicap accessible. The new building will fit ADA codes.

(16:51) Is the Hobson on the historic registry? No, the Hobson is not on the historic registry. I have heard rumors for years that it is on a registry. It is not on the local, Florida or National Historic registry. Our church did this on purpose because it imposes qualifications on what we can and cannot do with our building. Because we are not on the registry, we have no limits regarding the renovations. The Hobson is one of the most historic buildings in Jacksonville, built right after the Great Fire of 1901. It is historic, but not in a technical sense.

(18:43) What options were considered other than the plan this morning? Were there any other options other than the one we voted on? Yes, other options were considered. Since I became Senior Pastor, all I have done is try to figure out how to keep our church going. I knew we were in [this kind of] trouble since June 2017. Since then, I have spent a lot of time talking with staff members. I became Senior Pastor in September 2017. Before that transitional period, I asked for the keys to information so I could know exactly what kind of situation we were in, and I realized we are in a great big problem. I wrote a big document and tried to help us turn it around.

I asked a lot of questions. First, what if we could change nothing and just get enough people to our church and have enough people giving to fix everything? This led to the square footage and money problem. Thirty-seven million dollars for hundreds of thousands of square feet is just not a realistic option. I have to stand in front of you and give you a plan and strategy that’s responsible and has a chance of success. It was really clear that wasn’t a responsible plan.

Another option, that was never seriously considered by me or any other staff involved in the conversation, was to sell everything downtown and relocate to where we can build a better, newer property. There’s a major funding problem. Where will we come up with money to build a whole new building that has room for everything we need? We probably cannot afford property [to] build [the] building we would need to have. It seems unrealistic from the financial perspective. The other problem is location. In my office, I have a pin drop map of where our church lives. People from Ocala, Brunswick, Lake City and other place in every direction. If we move, we cut off a big number of you and eliminate your ability to come. Experts say six miles away is the number we need. You would lose a great number of people who would have otherwise come.

We looked at other blocks, even this block (Lindsay Memorial Auditorium block). Well, it’s too much money. Eventually, we came to the option we have. We needed a building that had good bones to save money on the renovations, would preserve the legacy of our church, and get us to the right size footprint.

(24:31) Should we continue giving to the Nocatee building fund? We have to. We made commitments down there, and if you don’t keep your commitment, we are in a lot of trouble. You made pledges and we need to keep our commitment. There’s still work to be done, we still need to pay for Nocatee. Nocatee needs our help.

(26:08) Is it unbiblical to go into debt? If I thought it was unbiblical to go into debt, the members of our senior staff, or lay leadership thought it was unbiblical, we would not have proposed going into debt. I hope no one thinks I would suggest something unbiblical. Let’s talk about this– it’s an important question. Our standard to live by is the Scripture, and we have to live and die by it.

The Bible is very cautious on debt, but there is no verse that says it’s a sin to go into debt. There’s also no verse that says it’s a great blessing! Those are two extremes. The reality is the vast majority of people in this room have been in some kind of debt. We do it for good and noble purposes.

A true story from my own home: Carson, my oldest, was born quite early, premature, with heart and lung problems. I didn’t have the money, but took on debt so my son could be wheeled into the NICU. We had the choice to spend money we [didn’t] have to help or say we can’t treat him. Everyone in here would say it is more responsible to treat a sick boy than not go into debt.

More commonly, there’s a lot of house debt in this room. So many of us have decided to take a house loan because of the benefits – the long term financial benefits, hospitality, [and] a safe location.

The Bible presents a really cautious picture of debt. Psalm 37:21 says "the wicked borrow and do not pay back, but the righteous give generously." There is an assumption about lending here. What’s wicked isn’t that you borrowed, but that you didn’t pay back. The act of borrowing is not sinful, but presented in a neutral way.

Another passage, Matthew 5:42. "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Jesus gives a command to you and me that there are people who need to borrow, and it’s an endorsement from the other perspective. It’s good to borrow to someone who needs the money.

Luke 6:35 says, "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Another reference to lending where Jesus says to lend and expect nothing in return. It’s a command to lend, a personal Christian ethic to lend and expect nothing in return.

Matthew 25:27, "Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest." This gets to another thing. If it’s a sin to borrow money, then we’re not allowed to have mortgages. Then we’re not allowed to sign up for the credit card deal [to save] 25% that day, and you pay it off that day, you cheated the system. More than that, you can’t be invested, either. If you’ve got a 401K, the way banks get it is earning money off the filthy lucre. If you’re invested and you think it’s a sin to borrow, you’re involved in a system corrupt and you have to get out.

I talked to two people today. One person who has a very strong preference against borrowing money. He told me, "I don’t like doing it, but I’ll get on board because I trust the leadership." Another loves to borrow money and saves off of it. These are preferences. If you are uncomfortable borrowing money, then be uncomfortable borrowing money, but it’s not a sin.

There’s another passage, Proverbs 22:7, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender." This is a caution. A caution is different than saying something is a sin. We have to be very, very careful.

The biblical view of debt is that lending can be very helpful, but you must be very careful. We need not call it sin when other brothers and sisters have different preferences.

There are 4 principles for taking out debt. One, it must not inhibit your service to God. If you are borrowing money and you can’t tithe, give, invest in ministry, then you’re in the danger zone on borrowing money. Second, the affordability principle. We are a house-poor church. If you are house poor, you can’t put gas in the car or feed your kids. Third, the necessity principle. We don’t borrow money for foolish reasons. We borrow it because we need it. Fourth and finally, the integrity principle. We must plan to give the money back.

There is also a stewardship principle. The Bible does command us to be good stewards (Luke 14:20). We must calculate the cost. Can we afford what we are going to do? The situation in our church is unlike any other situation you can face. We have bought with prior church wealth such vast amounts of property we now cannot afford to pay for. What’s making us bad stewards is owning property we cannot afford. A loan won’t make us go broke.

(39:25) Our accountant, they audit our books every year, said that when we right-size this ship we will see four million dollars of cash flow back into our budget. Right now, with no loan, we are being bad stewards. We cannot afford to not get this loan.

In my last meeting someone texted me and said the air conditioning went out in the LMA. I thought "no one will ever believe me!" Maintenance came over and got it working. Just as I walked in here, we had a pipe burst. We have to wrap that up with duct tape and do whatever. We can’t afford that to be happening on 1.5 million square feet every day. The best way for us to be kingdom-minded, engaged in necessary spending, and have integrity as a church is to get out of this death spiral we are in as a church.

Every day in the month of July, I don’t care who are you are, you had more money in your bank account that First Baptist Church did. If you had $1 in your bank account, you had more money. We spend 1.2 million dollars a month. When you’re praying the offertory prayer, I think you’re praying, but I’m desperate. When they go across the street, I’m laid out on the floor, stretched on my face begging Jesus Christ to help us make it another week.

No, it is not a sin to have a loan. I don’t have another way out. I have yet to hear from someone who has a better plan.

(43:42) What is the timeline to start this plan? We will start as soon as possible. The longer we sit, the more money we will waste. We have already sent out loan packages to banks that have expressed interest but couldn’t act because we need to vote as a church. We need to get financing in order. We need to start the permit process. I hope we will start construction in the next couple months. [The year] 2021 is our earliest possible date of moving into the new facilities.

(44:32) What are the plans for the other properties we own? The other properties that we own are the Ortega property and Hilliard. We own the deeds to both pieces, and we are going to entertain offers on everything. One of the ways we can stay safe financially borrowing money is by those properties, they are worth millions. We will not pursue deals for those until next week, and I will share more after that. We have millions of dollars of equity in those properties, and that’s money can immediately be injected into our cash flow.

(46:10) Why are we planning on more multi-site if Ortega closed? Ortega closed because we weren’t doing it right. None of this commentary is on the people at Ortega, they are good, godly, and gracious people. There’s a way to do multi-site that works and does not work. We talked with half a dozen multi-site leaders across the country and everyone said Ortega couldn’t work. It was too close to our downtown campus. There’s a magic line you draw in order for another campus to be successful. Ortega was too close, it was too small, [and] it needed too much repair. Ortega needed half a million dollars a year and you know, we don’t have that money to spend.

Nocatee is different. It’s far away. It’s attractive, and it’s working. You can do it well, or not well. Ortega wasn’t set up well. We are committed to doing things well. If we can’t do it well, we won’t do [it]. There were weeks when Ortega had $200 in [the] offering. You can’t live that way. You can’t do that when the church is eight minutes away and costs half a million dollars.

(48:20) What is our plan if we see growth after we move into the Hobson? That is a really important question. We grew 3% this year! What if that keeps coming? My prayer and plan is that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I talked today about the problems built into that megaplex ministry model with multiple city blocks and millions of square feet. What happens is deferred maintenance multiplies and turns into what we’re dealing with today.

We will respond to growth with multiple services and multiple locations. Instead of sprawling with many square feet, we will develop smaller locations throughout the city and grow that way.

I can’t predict the future. What I think and pray for is having our first Sunday in the new facilities in the spring of 2021. It’s wonderful and beautiful! We have people come because they hear about it and were invited. These people want to stay and we have to add a service to accommodate everyone! We are able to baptize 20 people right there, across from City Hall in broad daylight at our outdoor baptistry. We keep growing. I want to say in the fall of 2021, "There’s too many of us! I want 500 people to volunteer to go to our new Yulee Campus! To our new Oakleaf campus!" I’m not making policy, but wouldn’t that be wonderful! Wouldn’t it be good to send people to other campuses and reach that community where they are? That’s exciting and compelling. Our ministry philosophy is as our church grows, we will add in services and other sites.

(51:41) How soon can we meet in the LMA to save money by not being in the main auditorium? A number of members have asked this. We think it would be cheaper to meet in the LMA. We are doing a cost-benefit analysis on this. We think it would be a good half measure to get over here before we move to the Hobson. I’m talking to Scott Connell about this, but the real logistical issue is the choir and orchestra. We are working on how to accommodate this right now.

We can’t move out of the Main Auditorium until Pastors’ Conference. We have commitments for Christmas, Pastors’ Conference, and Women’s Conference that thousands will be here for. We can’t move until after [we fulfill our commitments].

September 15, 2019

(3:49) What kind of seating will there be in the Hobson? We are still in the early days of planning and are working on this. We want the Hobson to seat 1,000-1,200 people. This would be the sweet spot for us. One of the things I shared in the presentation is that the size of the new facility is a really good thing for us. We are talking to designers, and not many growing churches are building large auditoriums. Not that many people want to come into large rooms, rooms a lot like this [auditorium]. One thousand- twelve hundred seats are larger than most rooms they are designing across the country. For us, that’s a relatively small space. For churches across the country, it’s relatively large. We think this will be a sweet spot for us with multiple services.

(5:10) Do you know if we will have pews or other kinds of seating? It’s hard for me to imagine that we will have pews in the Hobson.

(5:42) I don’t believe there’s any scripture that refers to debt as a tool but that debt is dangerous and we should stay away from it. Is debt a tool for us to use? I spoke on this topic extensively last week. If you want to know where I am on this in terms of the biblical principle of debt, you can listen to the FAQ from September 8th and visit fbcjax.com/thestorycontinues. I will share two things tonight.

First, if I or any member of our staff or lay leadership thought it was intrinsically sinful to take on debt, we would not have proposed it. We are determined to lead from a standpoint that the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). A biblical view of debt is more complicated than saying it is sinful and wrong. One thing I shared last week is that the bible gives more freedom to debt than saying it’s wrong.

Second, practically speaking, we will be in debt one way or another. You don’t have a pastor who loves debt or borrowing money. The borrower is the slave of the lender, I believe it. I’m telling you, we are already enslaved. A week ago I presented that we are in debt $72 million. We borrowed against ourselves when we didn’t take care of our property and now we owe $72 million. What I proposed, and the church approved, is that instead of being in debt for $72 million and no future, we can have a future with $30 million of debt. I’d rather live than die and have $30 million of debt than $72 million. This is a plan to get us out of our slavery to the lender. Until last Sunday, we didn’t have a plan. Today we do.

(9:42) Is there a PR plan in place to handle the negative press or community in terms of downtown campus? Yes, there is. First, let me share this. One of the things that came up last week was how we are consolidating staff. One of these attempts is our serve pastor, Coty Hoskins, where we consolidated three positions into one. Another way we are doing this is instead of hiring a new communications pastor, we asked Scott Connell, the worship pastor, to assume the role of communications as well. Scott is serving in this role very well, and we are very thankful for the work he is doing.

Communications has put together a masterful communications strategy in my view. Another church in the SBC was in a similar position 10 years ago. When they saw all of the communication coming out last week, the senior pastor of that church gathered their staff and asked: "Where was this 10 years ago when we were in this position?" Their evaluation was we are doing incredible and exciting things.

We do have a strategy and we are thankful Scott is leading that. Another thing [is that] there also hasn’t been a lot of negativity. Most of the feedback we are receiving is positive.

(11:57) Will middle and high school be together in one youth group or will they continue to be separate? We have no plans to combine middle and high school ministries. There is a philosophy behind this. There is a lot that happens between sixth grade and the time you graduate high school- a lifetime of difference! There is so much happening. We don’t have any plans to push it together. We intend our student ministry to be subdivided into middle school and high school ministries.

(13:25) Would it be better to rent out the building we currently have, than to sell them? This depends on what you mean by better. If better means possible, then no. Some churches have done this. Churches [with] large real estate [holdings] have found that it’s possible to divest themselves of all of the maintenance expenses that come with their property by earning money on it through long-term leases. We have sister churches in the Southern Baptist Convention who have leased out property in 99-year leases. You would get your cake and eat it, too. You would keep your property and preserve it for future options while making money on it right now. Some pastors have done this and won’t be alive when the lease is over but will preserve it for future generations. You get the option for future generations and revenue, which is considerable.

Jacksonville doesn’t have a real estate market open to that kind of reality. There are reasons our properties aren’t conducive to that as the cost of demolition. It’s too expensive. We would consider long term leases if someone approached us. We have received a lot of interest in terms of buying property, but none of them have been for leasing property.

(15:25) Once the property is sold, do the proceeds go to paying off the loan? Part of the logic for the argument I made (taking out a loan) is that [it] helps our financial situation to take a loan because we have a lot of wealth in our property. We are asset rich, meaning our value is in our property, and cash poor. We believe there’s more value in our property than the debt we are taking on. We have several priorities for the proceeds from the sale of land, and one of the main priorities it to pay off the debt that we enter into.

I would love for the property proceeds to go to the debt. There isn’t anyone happier about not having to go into any debt at all. I can’t make any promises. We have a lot of interest from a lot of people and places. I would love it if we could seal the deal before we go into any debt.

(17:19) We believe we heard cafe but not kitchen. Moving forward, are meals on Wendesday nights not part of the plan? I have heard this question a lot over the last week. There is a technical difference between the two, and I do not know what it is. What I want to say is [that] we will have food and a place to eat it. You can call that a café, kitchen, or whatever you want. We plan to have food and a place to eat it on Wednesday nights.

One lady in our congregation asked me, "Am I going to have to cook dinner on Wednesday night now?" You will not have to cook dinner on Wednesday night. I don’t know what the details will be. We planned as far as we could go before we had to stop and get the church approval to move forward.

The next phase is the schematics of square footage and specific locations. Once we get the specifics, we will work with our team to figure out what’s possible. Don’t hold me to café or kitchen, but we will have food.

(19:15) Speaking of voting, why did we have to vote immediately? Why did we not have the opportunity to have our questions be answered? [That’s a] [g]reat question with a couple of answers. First, this is the way we do it at First Baptist Church. Nobody in here has a story about having half a business meeting where we talk about the situation and then later a second half where we approve it. There’s no precedent for doing that. When we call a pastor, we vote right then. When we approve a budget, it’s right then. When Homer Lindsay brought Jerry Vines, he presented the motion and we voted on it. In the life of our church [when] big things happen, we get together, we talk about it.

The reason we do that by precedent is because of a really important and practical issue. We told our church for three weeks that something was going to happen. I told you to expect something big. I talked to a lot of people who changed their travel and vacation plans to be there. Our church will have 3,000-3,500 people here on a Sunday. As many as a third of the crowd here this morning won’t be here next week. We have a 30% churn in our attendance from week to week. When that 30% isn’t here, there are 30% new people in the seats. It’s unfair to have people show up ready to vote on it one Sunday and not hold the vote. It’s also not fair to ask people who didn’t hear the plan vote on it. The only way to practically do this is to have a business meeting and show up ready to think.

I haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t excited about this. People are excited! A common statement I have heard is "Anyone with eyes has seen this coming. We are thankful to have a plan and do something about it." So many of you were ready for this and chomping at the bit to have something to do about it anyway.

Because it’s the way our church has always done it, and because it would be unfair to do it any other way, we did it that way.

(23:01) Can you explain what the trustees do and how they are chosen? There are three requirements to be a trustee. First, you have to be a deacon. Trustees are a subcategory of our deacons, [and] they can only be selected from the deacons. Second, you have to be nominated by the Senior Pastor. Third, you have to be voted on by this congregation at our annual business meeting. Being a member and having business meetings is important.

The reason I had people stand to vote first to oppose the plan last week is that I didn’t want to be accused of pulling a fast one. I don’t mind sharing this, I asked for a bunch of paper ballots to be ready in case there was a close vote. If we couldn’t eyeball it, we had thousands of ballots ready so it wouldn’t be a problem. We were ready to hand a paper ballot to every member and have a sure count.

If you are a member, you get to vote any way you would like, and no one is pressuring you into anything. We have these trustees, and when we get up and say these are the trustees, you must listen and vote.

Once you are a trustee, you serve for a one-year term. You can be re-elected for four years of any five years. No one can be elected a trustee for more than four years every five years. The job of the trustees according to the bylaws is to "assist the Senior Pastor." Trustees administer things like write checks, approve the budget, [and] help with legal and financial oversight. The role of trustees is not to govern. They do not have any governance authority, but they serve at the pleasure of the Senior Pastor.

For example, in our last meeting, we talked about several issues. We talked about a couple of financial issues, some contractual issues, reviewed financial reports, and six other things. I think our trustees are good, faithful, godly men who love you, love our church and love Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for their insight, wisdom, and support. We have 15 currently. The bylaws require at least 11 and no more than 17. But I am thankful for every one of those men.

(27:37) How is Heath’s hair not grey? Well.... Where’s my daughter? One of her favorite sports is to count my grey hairs. The last time she counted I had about 30.

(28:11) How many services will there be in the Hobson? There will be multiple services. I’m reticent to give a number because then it becomes law and you start to ask questions you don’t need to. There are numbers we’re working off of and we will make a formal decision closer to ribbon cutting. There will be multiple services, but it’s too early to talk specifically.

(29:05) We just spent a lot of money renovating the LMA. It is capable of holding a lot of services, why don’t we keep the LMA too? This question fits into a larger question: How did we get into this situation? How did we decide on the Hobson block? What I want you to understand is we spent a lot of time on this. Since we started rolling this plan out in concentric circles a couple of months ago, I have yet to be asked a question we haven’t seriously considered and thought about. I want to encourage you that you are not the first person to think about this. I can’t even begin to think about the numbers of hours and weeks we’ve been thinking and talking about what has been public this week. I want to encourage you that every iteration that is a consideration with our downtown property we have thought through. I’m talking crazy and wild things that would make you sweat if you knew it entered our minds.

The ten reasons that I gave for the Hobson last week are meant to give a positive argument for why that block. Why not this one? The size issues. We think it will be better to be in a smaller, more historic space. We think the Hobson is better for multiple services and will increase the opportunity to serve. If you are talking about why not the LMA block, too? You are talking about more square blocks, doubling in size and it’s space we don’t need. We have to be disciplined in that.

What does it take? We could have services here but think about everything it would take to sustain everything. Even though we have poured millions of dollars into this building it isn’t enough. There is real trouble in this building regarding differed maintenance and it makes it not affordable for the long term. The Hobson block was also chosen because it has everything on it. It is too expensive to renovate the LMA block to have enough adult space, office space... we can’t do it. We spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to get this block to work, and we just could not do it.

I will also say, there is no way to make these decisions as a church committee. I will never know how many days and weeks I’ve poured into this. We’ve had meetings upon meetings with people flying out of town and into town to talk to architects and designers. We’ve met with the best people in the world about this. My sermon on Sunday was an hour and twenty minutes and that’s the best I could do! To bring everyone in on everything would stop our church and would be crippling. I’m working with the best team. You will just have to trust..that we are making the best decisions we know how to make.

(34:18) Will we continue to have international ministries on campus? Is there a plan? This is like a lot of questions that come up where people are basically like, "What are we losing? What are we getting rid of?" This plan is not about eliminating anything. There’s not a dartboard in my office of ministries we are trying to get rid of and so the way we want to eliminate them without pain is by moving to one block. This plan is not about eliminating anything, it is about preserving our desire to do ministry as a church.

We are not trying to quit anything. Everything we do will have to look a little different. Choir and orchestra will look different. The school, this was the first question from last week. Another thing about the school – First Baptist Church is one corporation and First Baptist Academy is another corporation. They have their leadership and their board. We have had a very close relationship and are thrilled about it. We are not trying to end it, and they have used our physical space. So, if we are having a problem with our physical space, they are having a problem. I love First Baptist Academy, all three of my kids go to First Baptist Academy. First Baptist Church did not decide about the future of First Baptist Academy. The future of the academy is up to the board and they are working hard on generating solutions. It’s not going to look the same, it will look different, but it’s exciting. We have not decided to end the Academy.

International congregations: It will look different, we are going to have to figure out where everybody goes, but we have not made any decision.. that International congregations will end at First Baptist.

(38:03) Will there be a consolidation of Sunday School classes due to less available space? Yes, we will have to consolidate Sunday School classes in preparation for the new building. We’re not trying to end anything, especially not Sunday School. What I want to appeal to you is to be flexible! You know from the presentation that we don’t have a physical space problem. We have plenty of space for everything! The issue isn’t the amount of space, but the layout of it. We have been working hard on where everyone will go when the time comes and I just want to ask you to be flexible. Yes, there will be some consolidation, but we will share more specifics later.

(40:03) Who will preach at satellite campuses? I think the most important thing we’re talking about is consolidating down to one city block. The second most important thing is whether First Baptist Church will have multiple preachers or just one. We haven’t been having this conversation publicly, but [we] have been talking behind the scenes about this.

There are two ways you can do multi-site churches. One way is to have a preacher for the whole church that preaches live and via video for every location. Another model is the multiple preacher model. This would mean live preaching at every campus, either from the Senior Pastor or the campus pastor. We have done a hybrid of those multisite models, and I am taking this opportunity to reset and decide what is best for the future of our church.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both options. There’s a negative and positive to everything in life. I gave the senior staff a list of 10 different vectors that I want to make the decision on and throughout the fall we are going to be thinking hard about what that looks like. I’ve asked our senior staff to be honest about their preferences, but [make a decision] based on whatever is best for First Baptist. I don’t know yet. You can pray for us, and we will see what happens.

(43:28) So helping with the demolition may not be feasible, but is there anything we can do to help physically with the church rebuild? I appreciate the desire to go and get sledgehammers. This is serious work, and it’s a sophisticated operation, we could save money if we did that, but we’d probably have a code problem.

Honestly, if you will pray..for all of the moving parts. There are a hundred million things that need to happen before we move in the Spring of 2021. If you would give and be generous. We need you to be generous and help us get from where we are to where we need to be, both in terms of paying for construction and meeting our bills between now and then. There isn’t any way to get from where are to where we need to be without your help. That’s the truth, and everything costs money.

I beg you to be flexible. I want to ask you to be flexible when it comes to knowing the information. We will tell you as much as we can and as quickly as we can. There are times I could give information that will just lead to more questions than we have the bandwidth to handle. Please be flexible. There are so many decisions that have to happen between now and 2021. I don’t want the information to be received as a promise. I also want to ask you to be flexible when we ask you to do things that feel uncomfortable. One of my high school teachers had a sign that said: "Be flexible and you won’t get bent out of shape." If you just show up to church expecting it to be different and expecting it to change and just get frustrated when we don’t talk about the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ but are calm for everything else we will be in great shape. So pray, give, and be flexible.

Still have questions?

To submit a question for Pastor Heath, email askapastor@fbcjax.com.