What are you doing next summer? There'll be a mission outreach talking to people about Christ. So again, August 6th to 11th, 2023, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Go to faithandfamilyretreat.com. I hope to see you there. The spiritual condition of America, politics, culture and current events analyzed through the lens of scripture.
Welcome to The Alex McFarland Show. In Matthew 16, 18, Jesus said, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Building the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
What are some things that are working these days? That's what we're going to talk about, plus more on today's edition of the program. And I'm here at First Baptist Church of Dillon, South Carolina, with a very valued colleague and friend, Pastor Jamie Arnett, the senior pastor of First Baptist Dillon, graciously giving us some time today. And we're going to talk about church.
We're going to talk about what God is doing in and through First Baptist here. But we've also got some updates on the very inspiring story of Jamie and Kathy, his wife, very special. You don't want to miss this conversation. But welcome, Jamie Arnett. And thanks for being with us again on the program. Thank you so much for having me. And I've always enjoyed spending time with you and always impressed by your ministry on AFR, listen to the radio program and how you so graciously field questions and also in a very compassionate way, deal with some of the most complex or controversial issues.
So delighted to be with you this afternoon. Well, you know, a little back story, folks. You know, we evangelists only show up when we need something. And I had the privilege of preaching at First Baptist Dillon a couple of years ago, and it just so happens you all are not too, too far from I-95.
And every now and then, when I'm going up and down the eastern seaboard and I need a place to use an office for a while or just stop in and see you, my dear brother, I stop here many times. But do you remember when I came to preach here, COVID was just kicking in. And I think you and I both at that point, since there were some radical changes going on in the world, and it really has been never the same since. Would you agree?
Oh, absolutely. I remember that the week you came, it was the very next week everybody started shutting down. And so everybody was having to make decisions on how they were going to handle church life in the midst of COVID. And I think that was the last Sunday that most churches were open for a little while. Thankfully, our church here at First Baptist remained open during the whole time or season through COVID. It was kind of a difficult decision for us, but we were able to stay open. We didn't have a lot of attendance initially, but we had some people that were very faithful in the coming. Our praise bin was very faithful, and some of our members were very faithful during that time. And we still have had to go through that same rebuilding process as other pastors and churches have had to do.
I remember, Jamie, when I came, it was maybe late February or early March of 2020. And when I came to preach, COVID was some abstract thing in the news. And my wife called me and said, you might want to go to the grocery stores down there and buy paper towels and toilet paper. And I'll never forget, from one day to the next, I did go to the local grocery store here in Dillon, and the place was packed, and people were suddenly buying everything that wasn't nailed down. And that shows the world can change radically overnight, can't it?
Sure. In fact, we were in Israel when everything started unfolding here, and we heard on the news that everybody was out of toilet paper in the United States, and we were kind of puzzled by that, because I didn't think it was real, that people were scrounging for toilet paper in the United States. So when we came back, then we felt the whole shift of the things taking place from the COVID outbreak. Well, navigating change. One of the beautiful things about the Christian life is that we can be prepared. Those of us that have built our life on the Lord Jesus Christ, whenever the world throws something at us or life just almost knocks us to our knees, I mean, it can be painful.
It's not fun. Nobody likes stress or change. But in Christ, change, even tragedy, is survivable, isn't it? It is survivable, and I think one of the keys for anybody dealing with change is to make sure that they have the right foundation. And when you have the right foundation, I don't think the change is going to be as dramatic. It doesn't mean it won't be challenging.
It doesn't mean it won't be hard. But we have a strong foundation, and through COVID, for us, that was the decision-making for us. We felt like God's Word said that we were not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and we didn't want to do that. And so even though there was a lot of people who did not attend church during that time period, we wanted to maintain that aspect, and we left the doors open. Anybody who wanted to come or felt safe to come, they were welcome, but we didn't force anybody, but at the same time, we didn't exclude anyone.
We wanted the door to be open. So thankfully, the Lord helped us to navigate that difficult time. You and your wife, Kathy, have an amazing story of leaning on God through unimaginably stressful things. I want to get there.
I want people to hear your story. But for just a moment, I want to talk about First Baptist Church, because one of the things that I rejoice over when I look at your church is that you're leading people to Christ. I know there's a Spanish-speaking church associated with First Baptist, but you're leading young people to Christ, and you have got babies being born and young families being nurtured and young people coming to Christ, and I want to hear how that's going on.
I mean, what are you doing? Because churches across America, folks, we can learn from each other. I've always sensed the hand of God here, but what every pastor wants, reaching and retaining people, especially young people, you're doing it.
Talk to us about that, if you would. Well, first of all, I need to say I've been at First Baptist for 18 years, and I've been on staff here for 18 years. I've been the lead pastor for the last four, but the strength of First Baptist preceded me. We had an older group of people here that were nurtured in Christ. They were strong in the Word, faithful servants of Christ. So before I ever came to First Baptist, they were already serving in those capacities, and they were great examples of Christ's likeness. So when I came to First Baptist 18 years ago, I didn't really know why I was here, because all these people were already strong in the faith.
It wasn't like I was helping them to grow or to be nurtured. They were nurturing me through that period of time, and so I missed that generation. So they laid a strong foundation of staying firm in the faith, committed to God's Word, and faithful servants. And now we have a young group of people who are now taking that mantle who have come into our church. We really went from predominantly older to now predominantly younger. And just last year, Mother's Day, we dedicated 14 babies. So we had about 20 babies probably, maybe a little bit more than that, born in the last year, year and a half here at First Baptist. So we're so thankful to have all these young families.
But they're reaching each other, and that's really what makes the difference. And our church has always been a serving church, loving church, but also been dedicated to Scripture. And that is our foundation, is the Word of God. We teach it, preach it, and believe it. Well, when we come back, I want to talk about some advice or maybe some encouragement you could give to the 345,000 churches across America.
Studies show that many of them are plateaued or declining, but church growth in the 21st century is possible, because it's happening here. Stay tuned. Plus, an amazing story, folks, an amazing story of overcoming tragedy and leaning on Jesus through some of the most unimaginable pressure a couple could ever face.
Don't go away. The Alex McFarland Program with our very special guest, Pastor Jamie Arnett. He's going to be back in just a moment. Fox News and CNN call Alex McFarland a religion and culture expert.
Stay tuned for more of his teaching and commentary after this. In recent years, our nation has suffered greatly, and we seem to be on a rapid moral decline. We've rejected God, morality, and we've almost completely lost our sense of patriotism. It's no wonder that many are asking the question, is this the end of America? Hi, Alex McFarland here, and I want to make you aware of my book, The Assault on America, How to Defend Our Nation Before It's Too Late.
You know, our nation has seen politicians that are corrupted by greed, and they've got a vested interest in power, and many of our elected officials seem to care little about the country that they've been appointed to serve. Read my book, The Assault on America. We can stand up for our great nation and defend America before it's too late.
It's available everywhere. You can learn more on my own website, which is alexmcfarland.com. Read the book, The Assault on America, How to Defend Our Nation Before It's Too Late. He's been called trusted, truthful, and timely. Welcome back to The Alex McFarland Show. Welcome back. We're here in beautiful South Carolina, and Pastor Jamie Arnett is our guest. Let me ask you this. Your church is growing, and the hand of the Lord is here.
I just had a beautiful lunch with you and many of your people, and just a lot of joy, a lot of laughter, a lot of friendships. How do you attribute your health and growth here at a time when some people are saying that it's just not possible to do outreach? Well, some of the things I've already mentioned earlier. One is to make sure that we are biblically sound, which we do. We make disciples. Our church is a disciple-making church.
I think third is that we have good relationships with each other. When I say family church, when people come into our church, they become part of a church family, and it really is a church family, and we nurture each other, we strengthen each other, and I think that's part of the magnet that draws people to a church like this. Even people who have never maybe didn't live in this community, they come into this community, if they get plugged in, then they get to be nurtured in this church, and I think they become part of a greater cause, and I think that's part of the journey.
I love something that you're doing. You know, post-COVID, not everybody came back to church. You started a program to go after the lost sheep that vanished during COVID, didn't you? We did. We called it Operation Abraham.
We were taking it out of Genesis, where Lot was kidnapped, and he was taken captive, and Abraham went after Lot to go get him back and his family. Well, we felt like COVID had really kidnapped some people spiritually, and so we felt like we wanted to go back and reach out to those in our church family who were missing, and we needed to go back and try to get them back. So we started a program last August called Operation Abraham, where we went out and tried to reach out to people who were part of our church family that were no longer here. And what are some of the steps of that program?
How does that work? So we got a list of all the folks in our church that were not attending, and we started going out on Sunday evenings, and we started going to visit each household. And then we had an event. It was kind of a Sunday school kickoff.
We called it Connect Group Kickoff, and we invited them to that one kickoff where they could come and we could get back reengaged in attending their classes again. You know, I commend you, brother, and I know this church, there's prayer, there's just unified vision, but you, from the pulpit, you preach the Bible. And just even this week, Jamie, I got a very distressed call from what had been a very stalwart church in another city, and several people called me all within the space of a few days, and this church is kind of going woke, and started out with kind of saying, well, you know, some stories in the Bible aren't really true, and you don't take the Bible literally, but it's more of an inspirational book than literal truth. And from this slippery slope of drifting from the Bible, now it's a full-out woke universalist message.
And that's an extreme case, but here's my point. One of the reasons that I respect you as a colleague in the ministry, you've always preached from the pulpit the Word of God. I listen to your sermons online. I've been here to church, but I've listened to you. You've kept the Word of God front and center in your pulpit ministry.
That's why God is blessing you, one of the main reasons, I would say. And that's what the pulpit is for. It's the proclamation of the Word of God, isn't it? It is the proclamation of the Word of God, and that's the only source that we have.
I mean, where else can we go from there? And so I don't have the really right to be able to change or amend what God has already spoken through His Word. I believe that is God's revealed Word for us. For this day and every day, it is a word that is perennial.
It's for every age and every stage, every time, period in life. When we read the Word, it really exposes who we are as a people. Whether it was 2,000 years ago or right here in the 21st century, it precisely diagnoses our problem. We have a sin problem, and there's only one cure, and that is Christ Jesus. So we do preach that, and I think that the Lord does bless the preaching of His Word.
And it's not because of us. It's despite us that God blesses us when we proclaim His Word. So God's Word is faithful, and we want to be faithful to it. Well, you've been faithful to this church and to the call of God. I also happen to know that you're a very faithful husband. And your marriage, you and Kathy, had a major hit come years ago in the form of health challenges in the life of Kathy. And you've been such a great witness in the way that you're ministering to your wife, standing strong for your vows. Talk to us about that if you would be willing to share your story.
Well, I can share a lot about our journey. Kathy and I were married in 1990. And because of a disease called Huntington's disease, our family has suffered in a lot of different ways. Early on, her brother was diagnosed with this same disease.
He was 29. He and his son were tragically killed in a car accident in Arizona in 1993 on Interstate 10. And two years later, her dad, who was a state trooper, had retired because of this disease, always would take an afternoon drive, and was tragically killed in a car accident in 1995. Just two years after that, Kathy started having some problems, mainly depression, kind of volatile emotionally. We just attributed it to all the loss that she had had in her life. Well, what we didn't know, that was really the onset of Huntington's disease, the psychological impacts and the emotional impact was first.
And then, by 2004, we knew we had a real problem. She started falling down at school. She was a schoolteacher, taught for 15 years, couldn't stand up and things of that nature. So that kind of was the onset of this disease. And Huntington's disease, what are some of the implications of that?
What is that disease, Jamie? So Huntington's disease is a neurological disease. It's genetic. It's passed down from a parent. And so if a parent has it, every child has a 50% chance of contracting that disease.
And so the manifestations of Huntington's are very similar to having Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS, all three in one disease. She will have movement problems, cognitive problems. And then as the disease progressed, as it is for her, she's immobile. She's been in a wheelchair for a number of years now. She cannot speak.
She can't do anything for herself. It's completely total care. How long were you all married when all this set in? So we were married in 1990. We started having the first symptoms in 1997.
We now, looking back, realize, but in 2004, we knew we were in for a long journey. How did that impact you emotionally, Jamie? Well, I think for caregivers, Kathy and I suffer in different ways. We both suffer. She suffers the disease and all the implications that it brings in her life. And when I look at her, I just feel very grieved for her, for this loss that she's had in her life, with all of her movement and independence, all the things that she's lost in life. As a caregiver, I suffer the responsibility of taking care of her.
I do think that this disease affects us in different ways. I think it certainly affects me as a caregiver. Sometimes as a caregiver, you feel guilty. You feel like you're not always able to meet the needs that she has. You certainly can't change the circumstances. So as a caregiver, you can feel guilty. And yet you're still trying to juggle all the responsibilities that you have in the home and also as part of a staff.
Well, you are an inspiration. You're very faithful to the Lord. You're very faithful to Kathy.
You're very faithful to your marriage vows. We're going to come back, and I want to hear from your heart about how you have maintained emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and I know you've done it by leaning on Jesus. Folks, stay tuned. More with Jamie Arnett on the Alex McFarland program. Hi, Alex McFarland. I want to make you aware of my book, The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity. You know, we interviewed hundreds of children and parents and families to find out the questions that children and people of all ages are longing to find answers for. In the book, we've got practical, biblical, real-life answers that they have about how to be a Christian in this modern world.
My book, The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask, you can find it wherever you buy books or at resources.afa.net. He's been called trusted, truthful, and timely. Welcome back to The Alex McFarland Show. You know, it's been said that being a Christian is not the subtraction of all your problems, but it is the addition of Jesus Christ with you every day through life's challenges. Welcome back to the program. Alex McFarland here with our very dear friend, Rev.
Jamie Arnett. You know, Jamie, we talk to people, a lot of younger people that I'll talk to, and they'll say, you know, my parents grounded me for two weeks. My life is over, you know, or I'm temporarily unemployed and life is hard. But you've carried a cross, and I know God has great rewards in heaven for you, but you and Kathy are carrying a cross that is lifelong. And I want to hear how you have done that, and I'm just going to ask you, did you grieve?
I mean, your marriage was radically changed, your responsibilities radically increased. Did you grieve? Were you ever angry at God? You know, I'm a pastor, I'm serving you, God, why me?
How was your reaction when the gravity of all this set in? So I want to say, first of all, that the way that we've been able to handle this in our journey is not really what I've accomplished, it's what the people around us have helped us to endure. I'm so thankful for our church family here at First Baptist, who has really come alongside of us in some really profound ways.
I could name so many people that have been instrumental in holding our arms up through this. I'm so thankful for our church, people in our life like, I think, Jean Reeves and her brother Don Wilson, who have been so instrumental in helping us to provide some need for Kathy. Jean Norris and Diane Gooden, Connie Johnson, Cindy Herring, these ladies who have stayed with her for a number of years so faithfully to not just sit with her, but to pamper her. So they didn't have to invest in Kathy like I do.
I'm her husband, I have responsibilities. They chose to do it, and they chose to pour themselves into our situation. So if there's going to be reward in heaven, they're going to be the ones with the rewards. And so I'm thankful for them.
I pray that God will bless them. I've got to say this. I thought it was so special. One of the ladies that I met today, not only looking after basic needs, but even doing her nails. And I think about how precious that is. Your dear wife in a wheelchair, and yet gave her a manicure, because every lady likes a manicure. That's very sweet, isn't it? It is, and so they went beyond just taking care of her.
They nurtured her, pampered her, and took foot washing to a whole other level. And so I was just so thankful for them, and sometimes I tell them I won't see them in heaven. They'll be so close to Jesus. I hope that they'll remember me when we get there. But I'll be far away, they'll be near. They are just legitimate servants of Christ, and they don't know the impact that they've had in helping us through this journey.
I don't feel like we could have done it this far without them. So Jamie, minister to listeners across America right now. You may, dear listener, never have a family member with a debilitating illness, and I pray to the Lord that you never do. But into every life, pain comes, pressure comes.
How do you navigate it when the unthinkable becomes your new normal? Well, you asked a question earlier, and I want to kind of get back to that. But you asked me how this affected us. Was I ever angry with God, or was I ever upset? Well, I remember one day I was struggling. I told God that I felt like Satan was using this disease to beat me down, and it was destroying me. And so the moment I said that, it dawned on me what the apostle Paul said. He said that a messenger of Satan had been sent to buffet him.
And so I went and looked up that word buffet, and I realized it really simply means beat down. And so Paul felt what it meant to be beat down. And then I realized I'm not just talking about something I'm experiencing, something very similar that the apostle Paul must have felt when he asked the Lord to remove this thorn from the side. And God of course said, I'm not going to do that, but my grace will be sufficient. And I think it's one thing for me to talk about God's grace being sufficient. It's another thing when I have to experience it and rely on it. And God's grace has been sufficient for us through this journey day by day. And it's really, I've talked to him about it. I think when you deal with a disease like this, it's easy to feel lonely and isolated.
And it's not that people mean to do that, it's just it happens over time. I think about missionaries who are alone on the mission field. When you're a caregiver sometimes, you do feel like you're alone on the mission field. But our church has not let me stay that way. So how does a person appropriate that sufficient grace? I think Christians would say, Amen, God's grace is sufficient.
How do I tap into that and stand on that in the hours of a long, long day? Well, I think one of them is, I talk to God about every need. I share with him all my heart, my concerns.
When I fail, I'm telling him, I failed this, I need you to help me. I ask him for forgiveness, I ask him to give me the strength. I'm always asking for God's strength.
And then I think about what Jesus said in Matthew 6. He told his disciples, sufficient for today is its own trouble. And I think one of the things I have to learn is that I can't do more in a day than I can do. Sufficient for this day is its own trouble. And so instead of using all my thoughts and energy on something I can't control for the next day, I need to get through this day first.
So it's one day at a time. What about when we have a bad day and we feel like we've failed God and God's probably fed up with me and God doesn't love me so much anymore because I've blown it one time too many. Jamie, do we ever exhaust the patience of God? Thankfully we do not exhaust the patience of God. And I know how many times I have failed God and I've told him that. And one of the things that, you know, I think it was Jeremiah who said, his mercies are new every day.
And that I think we have to live in that reality. Yes, I've failed God and I've told him so many times that I've failed him. And, you know, I shared with our church several months ago, maybe even a year ago, I am the worst sinner that I know. I don't know everybody else's sins. But I know my own.
No wonder Paul said I'm the chief of sinners. He knew his own struggles. I know my own struggles and failures and certainly God knows them. So I have to be transparent with the Lord because he already knows my heart.
And thankfully he doesn't cast me off. Even though there may be times when you feel that way, you know that's not a reality. Well, people listening, regardless of the pressure, financial, relational, marriage issues, just life in general. I was reading Proverbs 15 this morning that talks about having a crushed spirit. Jamie, the person who thinks they're just about crushed, how can they begin to start to come to that solid ground with Jesus, even not just surviving but thriving, joyful in Jesus? Give us some steps about how to get to that place even in the midst of pain. Well, that's kind of a challenging question because in some ways it's a process. I think as we learn to depend on him more, I think he gives us greater and greater grace. But it's hard to know how to tell people in steps how to do that. I think you just have to learn to depend on him day by day, staying in his Word. I know those are kind of the cliché kind of answers, but those are fundamental. Staying in his Word, praying, seeking his face, and also letting the people around you support you.
That was a hard transition for me to become dependent on other people because I didn't want to be dependent, but yet I had to learn to do that. And so God's used other people in our lives as well to encourage us. I want you to give your website. Some people find First Baptist, and just how can we be praying for you? Okay, fbcdylan.com, that's our website, www.fbcdylan.com. You can follow us there, and we also have a Facebook page and a YouTube page.
It's FBC of Dylan. And so we'd love to have you check in with us there. You can be praying for us as a church that we continue to grow, nurture people and disciple all these new people that are coming into our church. We want to be faithful in making disciples. And for me personally, you can just pray that I would be the surrendered servant that God requires and asks me to be. Is there any particular part of God's Word, any Scripture that you would recommend to people that need to lean on the arms of Jesus at this time? You know, there's a number of verses in Scripture that give me comfort, and one of them is, he is a very present help in time of trouble. And another one that really touches my heart is it says that, Psalm 121, he says, I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the one who made heaven and earth. And I think about, you know, we were in Israel, and we're just standing over the Megiddo Valley, and there's this plain. There's no telling how many battles took place in the Megiddo Valley, but I can almost imagine someone being in the trenches, and they're fighting hand-to-hand, commenting, and they look up to the hills to see when the reinforcements are going to come, because they're worn out, they're exhausted. And when they look to the hills, they don't see another army coming.
They see the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He is the reinforcement. So to me, I think that's been a verse I really leaned on, because when I'm at the end of my day and at the end of myself, I realize that my help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
And you cannot exhaust, as you said earlier, you cannot exhaust his strength. Pastor Jamie Arnett, please give our love to Kathy, and I want to thank you for being with us on the program today. Folks, you can listen to this.
I'm on all the social media platforms on Facebook and YouTube, and I don't even know all the names, but my website, AlexMcFarland.com, my travel schedule is on there. But share this with a friend. I'm sure it will be an encouragement to somebody. In the meantime, you stand strong for Jesus Christ. Know that we love you, that we're praying for you.
Tell somebody about this program. But most of all, tell somebody about Jesus. PO Box 10231, Greensboro, North Carolina, 27404. Or by calling 1-877-Yes-God-1.
That's 1-877-Y-E-S-G-O-D-1. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again on the next edition of the Alex McFarland Show. Christian author and speaker, Alex McFarland, is an advocate for Christian apologetics. Teaching in more than 2,200 churches around the world, schools, and college campuses, Alex is driven by a desire to help people grow in relationship with God. He arms his audiences with the tools they need to defend their faith, while also empowering the unchurched to find out the truth for themselves. In the midst of a culture obsessed with relativism, Alex is a sound voice who speaks timeless truths of Christianity in a timely way. With 18 published books to his name, it's no surprise that CNN, Fox, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets have described Alex as a religion and culture expert. To learn more about Alex and to book him as a speaker at your next event, visit alexmcfarland.com, or you can contact us directly by emailing booking at alexmcfarland.com.
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