Like the city of Lawrence itself, our congregation began in the settler days of Kansas, and like Lawrence, we’ve evolved with the times—into the vibrant, friendly, missionally committed American Baptist congregation we are today.
Our mission is simple: “To love God, love others as self, and serve the world.”
Carrying Out Our Mission
Welcome. Worship. Work. Wonder.
As we practice our faith together and seek God’s leading for our congregation, we find ourselves relying on the framework of four core tasks to help focus us.
Welcome is the foundation of who we are as church. We welcome all who enter our “doors”—whether in person or virtually—as family. We welcome the presence of God’s Spirit working through our worship, work, and wonder. When you worship with First Baptist, our deepest hope and joy is that you will enter as guests, but leave as members of our family—God’s family.
Our worship is primarily a response to God’s grace and faithfulness. It reminds us of the profound need for Sabbath from our daily routines. We listen for God’s spirit together as we sing, pray, and learn together. We understand that our worship does not end at noon on Sunday, but extends to all we do as we live a life seeking to follow Christ and live in God’s Spirit.
When we talk about work, we mean many things. We are working together as a congregation to be the presence of Christ in our world. It takes hard work and effort to be Church—to be in relationship with one another and seek God’s will together. Part of our response is to do God’s work—by taking care of our building, by serving our local community, and by giving to and serving missions projects around the United States and the world. We commit ourselves to the difficult but life-giving work of being and doing life together.
Feeling wonder at God’s grace and faithfulness marks all we do, in and through our welcome, worship, and work. We embrace the mystery of God’s work in our world and throughout history. We gather together to wonder together about and explore the questions of our faith. We welcome questions and uncertainties, understanding that often faith rests in discovering further questions rather than in finding concrete answers. We acknowledge and appreciate the myriad ways that God is at work in each of us—through our creativity, intellect, and relationships.
A “Sending Church”
Located in a university town, we think of ourselves as a “sending church.” We’re very accustomed to welcoming people who are here to attend or teach at one of the universities for a few years who then go on to live and serve in other places. We’re blessed to have a core of locals (and are always glad to add to them!) and we’re also blessed by the freshness brought by those who can only be with us for a time but who nonetheless will forever be a part of our church family. And, we’ve expanded our thinking to welcome our online congregation as well, learning to help those people participate and serve from where they are.
An Intergenerational Church
We also value our intergenerational nature. Children and youth are encouraged to participate in worship services and also help lead them. We have Sunday school/life groups for all ages. And each year, the youth group kids choose an adult mentor who isn’t a family member to support them throughout the year. Senior adults serve in active, integral roles, helping to lead worship, participating in music groups and discussion groups, and more.
A Missional Church
We take seriously the need to minister and serve in our local community and around the world. We believe that it is our responsibility as a congregation to love others as God has loved us. As American Baptists, we believe that to live out the gospel requires social justice and service to the poor alongside our worship and preaching. Our missional commitment has led us to collaborate with missionaries and the local residents they serve in Haiti, supporting their work and working alongside of them on a 2011 church-wide mission trip. In 2020, a collaboration with AMOS Health & Hope for a trip to Nicaragua was underway, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trip was canceled and funds were sent instead for support.
A Creation Care Church
FBC embraces a model of creation care called Earthworks, based on the words of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!…I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers.” The Psalmist reminds us of the beauty of God’s creation and our role to be stewards of it. To that end, we’ve created a six-team collective, inviting the congregation to participate in the shared work of Psalm 8. Learn more about the Earthworks teams here.
A Celebratory Church
As all good Baptists do, we celebrate at any chance at FBC Lawrence—pastoral ordinations and anniversary dates, Thanksgiving, special holidays, and our annual birthday, which is celebrated on the first Sunday of June.
An American Baptist Church
Though we come from diverse backgrounds, both religious and non-religious, we’re glad to call ourselves American Baptists. And as American Baptists, we believe fully in the freedom of each person to worship as he or she believes fit. We celebrate a diversity of cultural and theological beliefs throughout our congregation as well as throughout the American Baptist denomination itself.
Because of this, you’ll find people at FBC Lawrence who lean left on the political spectrum as well as people who lean right. In fact, we often refer to ourselves as a “purple church.” Pastor Matt even wrote his dissertation on the topic of the “purple church.” This means that we disagree at times, and when we do, we try to do so honestly and respectfully. We do our best as humans to be open-minded, willing to explore and challenge each other to more deeply understand the gospel of Jesus and issues of the day.
An example: After a three-year process to discuss and pray about the issue, a majority of the congregation voted to continue to allow the pastoral leadership to determine what weddings they will perform, but explicitly adding and including the ability to perform same-sex weddings at First Baptist. Several church-wide conversations took place, revealing the diversity of thought on the decision. A thoughtful and vocal minority expressed concern and dissent, but the majority of the congregation felt the decision was an important way for us to be a welcoming church.
To more fully understand what it means to be American Baptist, visit the ABCUSA national website.
We welcome you to worship, study, and serve with us, wherever you are!