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Student choir plays important role at First Baptist in Newnan

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NEWNAN, Ga. -- The student choir at  First Baptist Church in Newnan  is playing a key role building community within the congregation, providing a sense of genuine belonging, offering new opportunities for learning, encouraging student engagement, building character, enhancing worship and glorifying God.

Lee Chitwod, minister of music at First Baptist, believes that involving children and youth in the church’s music ministry is “essential”. He specified, “Music making and teaching the next generation is all about discipleship. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us ‘To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might’, so in our singing we must incorporate this and other biblical truths."

Chitwood  also serves as worship and music consultant in the west central region of the state for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

“The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16 to ‘Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’ So, we sing the Word so that we may know and remember God’s truths, promises, commands and develop an intimacy with Him," he said.

Chitwood continued, “We are called to raise up the next generation of believers to worship the Lord and love Him with all their hearts. Singing for a believer is not a choice. The Bible commands believers to sing unto the Lord. A choir setting gives Christians the opportunity to be a vital part of the worship experience, not just the singer who is a talented soloist. The students in our choir are putting into their minds and hearts foundational truths they will never forget.

“We value our children as our greatest earthly treasure,” declared Chitwood, “so when we see a student come to salvation we are filled with joy and gratitude. If we properly disciple those students, their passion for sharing the Gospel can be extremely impactful. When students invite their friends to church, youth groups grow in number. Students become great influencers as they share their passion for Christ and bear witness of His transforming grace.

“Students may not fully grasp the principle of discipleship, but as they pray together, sing together, and serve together, they will begin to see how prayers are answered and how God works. When our Senior High Choir is on mission expeditions, they sing music they have learned by memory, learn how to share the Gospel through personal evangelism and see how their concert ministry can bear fruit as people are saved and as others renew their relationship with Christ. Our ministry helps students see the importance of fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.”

Throughout history God has used students to spark revival. According to the Lausanne World Pulse “many revivals were started by faithful students uniting together in fervent prayer. The Student Volunteer Movement, which began in the late 1800s, alone sent out twenty thousand students into the mission field, while sixty thousand more prayerfully and financially supported those who were sent.” College campuses have been a seedbed of prayer, evangelism, revival and missions activity. In 1967 the Jesus Movement erupted and swept across the country exploding on college campuses and coffee houses.

No one can reach students like other students. The George Barna Research Group has recently characterized Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) as “the first truly post Christian generation.” Chitwood fears that Biblical faith is not being taught to today’s youth in the home or even in the church as effectively as the need demands.  

Chitwood explained, “Churches must be careful that our emphasis is not simply on trying to “draw numbers.” Our fundamental purpose must be to evangelize and equip young believers in their faith. The choir, which is and will always be a method of praise and proclamation, must use music to prepare each student for the challenges of life that lie ahead.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:15 ‘Sing with the spirit and the mind also.’  Jesus said in John 4:14 “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We must help each student understand that their song must not communicate partial or incomplete truth, but full truth textually and contextually. They must sing with their heart and the mind. One cannot be void of the other. Whether it is an anthem that has stood the test of time or a contemporary song, lined with a heart melody and full of Biblical truth, students who are exposed to these songs have the opportunity to respond in faithfulness.”

In addition to the church offering small group Bible studies, worship, and special events, Chitwood has a fully graded music ministry with five children’s choirs beginning with age three and continuing through fifth grade. He also has a middle school and Senior High choir in addition to his adult choir. The church orchestra, directed by Chitwood, is composed of both adults and students. He stated, “All of our choirs lead in worship during the year. Our middle school choir does a one-day tour each spring. They also join our Senior High Choir in attending REELFEST.” (GA Baptist Youth Choir, orchestra, praise band and song writing festival each January). {The next REELFEST IS Jan. 21 & 22, 2022}

The Senior High Choir takes a mission expedition each year based on Acts 1:8, including instate, regional, national, and international tours. In 2021 the Newnan SHC ministered in Georgia to churches, women’s shelters, food banks, the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home in Moultrie and the City Mission on Bull Street in Savannah. As a result of the students’ efforts in these ministry centers two dozen people received Christ as their Savior. In 2022 the Senior High Choir will be traveling to Ecuador to be Christ’s ambassadors in a myriad of ways as they sing, serve, and share the Gospel on their international mission trip.

Chitwood concluded, “If a church or a Christian ministry of any kind wants to reach students, they must be genuine and communicate the truth in love. Students are searching for truth and the church has the greatest truth ever told in the story of Jesus. Address the hard topics of today with God’s Word and share truth, not personal opinions. Show compassion to those who are hurting in the church. Make sure that the worship is participatory and not a spectator event. Biblical content and engagement with people will become the litmus test to successful worship.

“And those who seek to reach students for the Kingdom must remember that the method employed to attract youth is the very thing that must be used to keep them. If you attract youth with superficial and shallow enticements you will fail to make disciples, but if you draw them into the family of faith with truth, love and authentic Christianity you will most likely win them to a faith that will not falter.”

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