# 27 WHY I ENJOY
MEMBERSHIP IN THE FRIENDSHIP MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
IN CHARLOTTE, NC
Vernon M. Herron, D. Min.
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church at Charlotte, NC
Over my life span of 80 plus years, I have been affiliated in membership with six Black Churches and have pastored five congregations. Of the eleven experiences, my membership in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC) in Charlotte, NC of five years has been most satisfying and noteworthy. Though short in membership duration, my ties and roots with this congregation are deep and intriguing. My late father held membership in FMBC and served as an usher during the late ‘20’s. After his death, the late Zachariah Alexander, Sr. enrolled my three siblings and me in the FMBC Sunday School. I was a “handy boy” in the Liberty Street home of the late Pastor John Lewis Powell and was a pupil of his wife, the late Mrs. Ruth Davidson Powell, in the vacation church bible school class at the Brevard Street address. The late pastor Coleman W. Kerry and I were schoolmates at Shaw University. He was one of the six pastors who signed my Certificate of Ordination. His wife, the late Marizetta Hardy Kerry, her family and the Herron family were neighbors in the Second Ward community. In Baptist circles, I was taught by the late Mrs. Beulah Perry and a Madam Walker. After holding membership in the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in 1995 I joined FMBC under the pastorate of Dr. Clifford Jones.
According to Dr. Charles V. Hamilton, a noted historian, there are more than ten million members of the organized institutional Black Baptist Church in America.
Holding membership in FMBC, Charlotte’s third oldest African American Baptist church has been most rewarding to me for growth and maturity. This declaration is factual and defies the writing of Eddie Glaude, Jr., Ph.D., professor at Princeton University, that “The Black Church Is Dead.” (That is another subject to be addressed later) Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is “alive for Christ” and I enjoy membership here for ten reasons:
First, the church has a “Christo” focus which is Christ-centered and reflects the birth, work, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. It is not a political organization, a social club, a business for profit, a fraternal order, nor a family society. The membership is a Divine entity existing as “the people of God, called…to be the Body of Christ and Inspired by the Holy Spirit.” This focus is on a living organism which confirms my theological perspective.
Secondly, FMBC has a mission outreach which is global and inclusive. As a fundamental unit of mission, the church takes its mission mandate seriously.
It ministers to all peoples at home, abroad and “unto the uttermost part of the earth”. The immediate needs of the community are of a priority, e.g. supporting senior citizen programs for hunger, homelessness and other community issues. That outreach includes supporting Habitat for Humanity, Housing Initiative or Disaster Relief Initiative.
It also takes the form of a partnership with the Winterveldt School in Mabopane, South Africa in the purchase and building of a fully equipped Christian educational center for grades kindergarten through high school; the purchasing of a farm to build three greenhouses to grow vegetables for sale; a brick making machine for building houses and business offices; construction of a sewing facility, all built in an effort to create economic interdependence. That outreach also includes medical and religious mission teams of preachers, doctors, nurses, technicians and teachers going to Jamaica, Africa and Guyana.
The mission edict, to “strengthen thy brother” has never been lost. Because of mission involvement, that makes me feel enlarged. Here, I feel a bonding with my brothers and sisters around the world which confirms my missionary zeal.
Third, I find that the teaching and preaching ministry of the church is scripturally based, is made relevant to the culture of its membership and responds to the meeting of human needs. This ministry constantly points to the incarnation of the eternal Word as “logos,” the Son of God and Himself God. Even though the Word is universal, yet it speaks to our “culture of need” and embraces human concerns.
FMBC teaches and preaches a gospel of belief, eternal life and human services.
When it provides a community table, (food for the poor), provides a transitional facility for the homeless, challenges one’s health status through a parish nurse, develops corporations for housing, the work force and education, etc. one is able to see faith move to action. It is good to be a part of a church which lives out the gospel. Here, I feel a kinship and can identify with this ministry. Following the example of our Lord, I am motivated to “go and do likewise.”
Fourth, the worship experience is inclusive, enabling, and inspiring. Even though the worship is formal in planning, it gives me the opportunity to commune with the Divine, to engage in a holy worship response, to fellowship with the gathered church as a Christian family (koinonia) and to receive Divine inspiration for continued daily living.
The worship experience at FMBC is adaptive. It is not wholly African, Anglican nor Western. It contains a bit of each. It may include preaching, testimonies, hymns, meter singing, use of organ, piano, orchestra music, anthems, drama, dancing, visual-aids, the act of giving, the observance of ordinances and special days, fellowshipping, funerals, etc. Some elements of worship may embrace our racial heritage, cultural or early religious experiences, economic or current realities. Because the services are rich and always relevant, I can hardly wait until the next service! Here, I feel HIS presence.
Fifth, the church program is designed for the whole family. The holistic approach is followed in an attempt to enlist, service and bless the family as a unit, i.e. father, mother, children, lineal and collateral relatives. It offers specialized ministries for children, youth, adults, senior citizens, men and women. It covers teachings in Discipleship, Christian Education and literary interests. Here, my loved ones and I feel included.
Six, the demographics of FMBC are interesting; its membership is diverse at every level; it provides intellectual comfort, stewardship involvement and cultural enlightenment. FMBC is a mega church with a membership approaching approximately 7,000 members, of which 62% are females and 38% are males. The age groups reveal 8% children and youth; 60% adults 18-54; 23% senior citizens; while 8% is unidentified. According to the Rev. Sandra Williams, it is often commented by person visiting from other areas of the country, that FMBC has the largest male church population in the country they have ever witnessed..
Worshippers and members come from all stations and ranks of life. In church, one may be seated next to or jointly singing from a hymn book with one who is the city’s Mayor, a former Mayor, a legislator, a Judge, an educator, a financier, a doctor, a technician, a retiree, a student, a laborer or a struggler. Since God calls men/women from all walks of life to do His work and to worship HIM, we do so as ONE in the Spirit and as ONE in the Lord.
Whether in preaching, music or art, one can be intellectually stimulated with new insights, questions and resolutions. In stewardship one is taught the meaning of giving as well as being custodians of the spending process. Culturally, one is challenged to “think” and then “do.” Here, I feel a part of the family of God.
Seventh, the church government is scripturally based, legally prudent, morally sound and practical in operation. FMBC is a congregational form of government. It is its final authority under God. It has a budget of approximately seven million dollars for ministry and mission. Its government uses standard accounting practices and has internal controls in place for all employees and officers for accountability and transparency. It has governing boards with term limits. Each board is knowledgeable of the IRS rules. Here, I am confident in the way the church is governed.
Eighth, the church program dictates the nature and structure of the church building and not the church structure dictating the program. FMBC has experienced at least four houses of worship. First, it moved from a small structure as its beginning, to a Brevard and First Street address; on to 3301 Beatties Ford Road address and now to 3400 Beatties Ford Road. In each instance, the church built according to program need. Here, we are beginning to see the causative effect syndrome in action: “Mission determines purpose, purpose determines program, program determines structure and structure determines staffing.”
Today, we now worship, work and play in a spacious five year old building; it was erected at a cost of 25 million dollars; it has an auditorium seating capacity of 3000 , stained glass windows depicting a Biblical and African American history, a huge Fratelli Ruffatti pipe organ with approximately 6,000 pipes, classrooms, conference and service rooms, children’s teaching and play areas, music and dance areas, gymnasium , office and lecture space. In the planning and occupancy of the present structure, church program dictated the structure. Here I recognize structured vision.
Ninth, the ministerial staff is diverse, gender neutral, theologically trained, charismatic and is respected throughout the world. As of this writing, the ministerial staff consists of three females and five males. All staff is college trained, holding earned degrees as Master of Art, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, or Doctor of Philosophy . Staff members hold leadership positions in national and world church bodies including the Lott Carey Foreign Missionary Convention, The Baptist World Alliance and with alliances in South Africa.
The staff spends much time in prayer, counseling, teaching, preaching, greeting and nourishing worshippers. FMBC is an unusual church with unusual leadership and that blesses my soul.
Tenth, the fellowship constantly lives in a “state of expectancy” and is heaven bound. In this world, the church learns “contentment” but looks toward the promised return of Jesus Christ.
When Thou, my righteous Judge, shall come
To take Thy ransomed people home-
The church is waiting to “be caught up.” Come, Lord Jesus.
Membership in FMBC is a joy with a sacred trust; it requires a commitment to the LORD JESUS CHRIST; it requires a faithful stewardship, “not forsaking ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another.” (Heb. 10:25); it offers support for abundant living beyond self existence. Long live Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC “that our joy may be full.” II John 12.
To visually review my personal testimony, see YOUTUBE CLIPS FROM EASTER 2010.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leTFWXRA6Qw Christ the Lord Has Risen Today
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDQoBAsJE7A It Wasn’t the Nails (Soloist- Mr. Emanuel McAuley and Cliff Harrington)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpoiP3ffUgw Orchestra “An American Spiritual”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo6EI1KVh0k The Blood Still Has Miraculous Power (Soloist- Diatricia Willis and Ensemble)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q9uZ3MY02U Worship Medley (Soloist- Darnetta Richburg)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUuXfGsvGgA That’s Love (Youth Choir)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByHcIIy3_ps Holy Is He (Holy Holy Holy)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkbht3ImAi8 Parade of Children J
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOGw6NgJGGY O How Precious (Soloist- Joyce Petty)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIdlhYTGuc4 Just For Me (Soloist- Sam McKelton)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJiU3ChvwOQ Don’t Cry
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwO0rryT_XA On The Third Day
These were taken by Terresse Womack of our Drama Ministry.
ABOUT FRIENDSHIP MISSIONARYY BAPTIST CHURCH:
It has three Sundays services; 7:30, 9:30, & 11:30 A.M.
A seven day a week church program: morning, noon, and evening.
See more information at: http://www.friendshipcharlotte.org/