Birthday Party = A Charge of Life!!!!!

Rebekah with Paul Reiter (pastor from 1977-1995)

5oth Birthday party = A Big Hit! What an amazing weekend! Where to begin?

I simply have to share about the past two days with my faith community here at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon. I need to be careful not to sound as if I’m writing advertising copy for a great church I’m understandably partial to… or trying to make life around here sound too good to be true. But I’ve got to say – in all honestly – that my church really is a living community of faith, and it’s full with the most amazing people. Fact is, we love really well here at fpcBrandon, and it’s no exaggeration to say that spending Sunday morning with 400 people who love this eloquently is always good medicine for the soul.

Our oldest sign and our newest building

Over the centuries, a key element of the definition of church (or at least what church is supposed to be) has been the mandate to, “Be the visible evidence of the Kingdom of God on Earth.” In other words, the core mission of any given faith community is to tell the truth about God’s love in action. We need to do this in such a way that we make an exhibition of Kingdom life.

Being a committed part of a living faith community is – I believe – of critical importance if we’re serious about building this “Life-Charged Life” we’ve been discussing.

What a charge! That’s one reason our church birthday party was such a hit this weekend. This is what the Kingdom of God looks like; this place, these people! And it’s impossible to experience such vibrant, life-charged community without being both refreshed and filled up at the same time.


Part One – Saturday Evening: “I like ribs,” Rebekah said; “let’s have a barbecue!” So we did. It was a birthday bash of epic proportions. Best estimate 300 plus people showed up for “dinner on the grounds” under the massive oaks and some big tents bought in for the occasion.I walked around with my camera and had the best time simply watching people meet and greet and eat. People showed up from way back in our church history.

I’ve posted lots of pictures on facebook, but have no idea what few shots could possible do justice here.

Yummy barbecue

Tours: Part of the festivities involved tours of the partially completed “Campbell Discipleship Center”. It was my first time behind the ropes and I am seriously amazed at the size of the project. Rebekah gave me a “hard hat” tour. She’s literally oozing excitement. I know exactly where she’s coming from, because the whole point of a “discipleship center” is to invite then equip people to make the move from cultural Christians to Followers of the Way of Jesus. What we’re up to at church is all about the life-charged life!

The word is “Community”. Community is one of my key life-charged words. We’re building a discipleship center because we want more people to experience this particular blessing in their experience of faith. But the community is much more important than any structure we can erect. Or, as Rev. John DeBevoise said in his “keynote” sermon Sunday morning (more about Sunday morning in “Part II”), “Don’t let your concrete get in the way of your koinonia.”

Life on display during the evening program....

Koinonia is the Anglicisation of the word “κοινωνία”. It’s the concept of building community, a coming together that’s not only celebratory but intimate. I believe koinonia is not optional but necessary when it comes to “The Life-Charged Life.”

This weekend, celebrating 50 years of witness to the truth of koinonia in this community, I feel deeply privileged to be a part of such vibrant life.

Peace – DEREK

Below, I’ve pasted just a few of the photographs that illustrate what I’m talking about…. (It’s a slide show…)

Church Birthday

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Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at, and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

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