By John D. Pierce

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Communities, including congregations, tend to share cultural identities.

When pastor of First Baptist Church in Monroe, Ga., near the college town of Athens, Glen Money said you could yell, “Go dawgs!” and “a hundred people would show up.”

Coming to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Fla., a few years ago, Glen noted the diverse congregation had less of a particular cultural or denominational identity.

So he and the church are spending 2020 with a clear, singular focus to lay claim to a shared identity as followers of Jesus.

“We’re going to do 52 weeks of Jesus,” he said.

The church is providing members and guests with “52 weeks of Jesus” coffee mugs as daily reminders of the congregation’s focus and priority.

Of course, clergy and lay leaders of just about every church will tell you they are focused primarily on Jesus. But the reality is that other cultural and political ideologies get baptized and often push gospel priorities — revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus — to the corners.

Glen, who last year participated a Jesus Worldview Retreat hosted by Nurturing Faith, said he hopes the yearlong emphasis will reinforce and ensure the church’s priority and identity for the years ahead.

“This is going to be what we are known for — not as ‘the big church on Gandy,’” he said of the church’s shared identity. “But as followers of Jesus.”

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