A Life Group Testimonial

The first round of life groups at Forest Hills are wrapping up, and we'll soon open signups for groups beginning in September. Have you wondered what you've missed? Here's a testimonial from one participant:

"My name is Camilla, and I moved from Brazil to the USA 1.5 years ago to attend a PhD program at NCSU. I live here with my husband, and he is also a graduate student there. We have been participating in the contemporary worship since we arrived in Raleigh, and people at Forest Hills have welcomed us very well.

When I heard that the church was organizing life groups, I was pretty excited because it would be a great opportunity to deeply discuss and learn from the scriptures. It would also be a good way to meet new people and make new friends!

I am really enjoying the life group. Usually we discuss the same message that was shared in worship. This gives us opportunity to dive deeper in the message and think about how we can apply it in our everyday lives. Also, it is a moment that we can share and learn from the group experiences. One thing that I can highlight about our group is the willingness to listen and discuss different points of view about the message. I really believe the life group is an great opportunity to grow in faith and make us more active Christians. I will definitively participate in next ones!" 

Camilla Abbati

Camilla Abbati



Sliding Into Summer Tour

There’s something special about summertime. Whether you’re at the pool, watching a movie, or taking in a baseball game, there’s something about this season of the year that’s unlike any other. Personally, I think that certain something is freedom. Our work schedules aren’t so hectic, the kids are out of school, and we’re able to get away more often to do things that we like to do.

Freedom gives us the chance to step away from our responsibilities at school, work, and elsewhere. As you revel in all these summertime freedoms, remember that these freedoms don’t replace our responsibility as Christians to be the presence of Christ wherever we may be.

As part of our Summer Tour emphasis, we want to remind each Christian that our call to be salt and light isn’t something we can walk away from while on vacation. Wherever we are, and whatever we’re doing, never forget to let others see Jesus in your words and actions.

As a reminder of this call, be sure to pick up your FREE Summer Tour wristband here at church (baskets of wristbands are available in the Gathering Place, Fellowship Hall, and Sanctuary). You’ll find a hashtag on these wristbands (#FHBCSummerTour) that you can use on your social media posts over the summer to let your church family know what you’re up to!

Also, even though things slow down here at Forest Hills over the summer months, we’re still seeking, serving, and sharing Christ together. There are special opportunities over the summer for spiritual growth, prayer, community service, and so much more. To find out more about these opportunities, make sure you visit foresthills.org/summertour and stay informed through our emails and social media posts.

So remember, wherever you go and whatever you do, let others see Jesus in you!


Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

What's Happening In Life Groups?

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We’re well into our first round of life groups at Forest Hills! For the past few weeks, three different groups have been meeting around Raleigh. It’s been a great opportunity to share life together—to talk with one another about frustrations at work, to plan Memorial Day cookouts, to laugh together, for our children to play together, and for us all to get to know one another better.

We’ve also been reading through the letter of James, and trying to apply the scripture to our lives. Each week we discuss a part of the letter, and share with one another how it might affect our lives. At the end of every meeting, we ask ourselves one question: “What is the gospel in this text, and how does it change me to live differently this next week?”

Over the past weeks, I’ve begun to see how each of our three groups answers that question differently. Each of the three groups is unique; each has a different dynamic and a different “feel” to it. That’s because each person in each group is different. Each person has a different social, moral, political, and religious viewpoint. When we all sit down together in one room, it’s a hodge-podge group…if we passed one another on the street, we might not give one another the time of day! Yet in these life groups, we find that we are all linked together by our shared desire to follow Christ more fully. During our meetings, I’ve thought often of something that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1939:

"A Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. Among humans, there is strife. 'He is our peace,' says Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:14). Without Christ there is discord between God and humans, and between one person and another person. Without Christ we could not know God...but without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor would we come to him. The way is blocked by our own ego. Christ opened up the way to God and our brother. Now Christians can live with one another in peace; they can love and serve one another; they can become one. But they can continue to do so only by way of Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ are we one; only through him are we bound together."

That’s one of the beautiful, mysterious truths of these groups—they reveal to us our uniqueness and distinctiveness as people, but in our uniqueness we are shown even more our dependence on Christ. Without Christ, there is nothing to hold us together in these groups. Without Christ, we could not be growing together into a community.

Keep your ears out for further updates about what we’re learning in our groups, and I hope that you’ll have the opportunity soon to hear from others who are participating in them. If you’d like to join a group this fall, you can register your interest at foresthills.org/lifegroups.

Andrew Garnett, Minster for Serving Christ

Andrew Garnett, Minster for Serving Christ

Be Flexible

In a couple of weeks, our church will begin a time of transition as Neil steps down from his position as senior pastor. For many, the loss of their pastor brings up many different emotions as well as expectations for what’s to come next. But before anyone gets too carried away with those emotions or expectations, I’d like to offer a word of guidance and encouragement as we prepare to enter this next chapter…be flexible.

While the journey from losing an old pastor to gaining a new one seems like it should be a straight line, it rarely ever is. Instead, there’s all sorts of twists and turns that we end up going through. When you have very rigid expectations of what this process looks like (and how long it takes), you’re going to be disappointed and frustrated more often than not. But if you’re flexible, and remember that you’re following the Holy Spirit, you’ll be better able to see the twists and turns as a spiritual exercise…one that ultimately reveals whether we’re willing to settle for what comes quick, or to seek and find that which is hidden just around the corner.

And what we come to find around the corner brings its own expectations and emotions as well. Most everybody in the church has a picture in their minds of what our “ideal” pastor looks like. Maybe you’re picturing an older man with white hair and a soothing voice. Perhaps you’re imagining a young woman with a wealth of educational experience. Or maybe, you simply want someone who can pack the pews with their sermons. Regardless, it’s safe to say that we all have opinions regarding what type of person is best suited to lead our church. But if each member is dead set on finding and hiring their “ideal” pastor, then we’re going to be a church full of disappointed disciples. Instead, we need to be flexible and admit that while we have our own “ideals,” God’s “ideal” should trump ours every time. So be flexible and pray for the person that God’s raising up to lead our church, regardless of whether they fit your mold or not.

Lastly, remember that just as we’re beginning this time of transition, our next pastor soon will too. They’ll have to navigate the challenges of saying goodbye to one place and hello to another. As they do, the best thing we can do is be flexible. While we might want our pastor to be in the pulpit the Sunday after we call them, we need to be flexible and allow them the space and grace to say goodbye to where they’re already serving, to relocate their families in a responsible manner, and to not overwhelm them with too much too soon.

So, as we begin this time of transition, I hope you’ll remember to be flexible. And as you do, don’t forget to be in prayer each day for our church, our leaders, and our next pastor.

Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

A Prayer for College Graduates

 Over the coming weeks, colleges and universities across the nation will say so-long to scores of seniors who’ll be graduating. As they walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, they’ll be entering a world that’s chock full of challenges and opportunities. Whether you’re a senior who can’t wait for the big day, or a parent nervous about your child’s future, I hope you’ll join me in praying for our college graduates…

God, thank you for the gift of education. Thank you for all that you’ve allowed me to learn and experience over the past several years. As I look ahead to graduation, I’m filled with gratitude for Your love and guidance during this period in my life, and for the support and love I’ve received from countless friends, family members, and staff members at my college.

Lord, as I end this part of my journey, I have to confess that I’m a mixed bag of emotions. I’m excited about graduating and celebrating this achievement in my life. But Lord, I’m also grieving the loss of a community I’ve grown to know and love. I’m overwhelmed with the student debt that I’ve taken on and the competitive job market I’m about to enter. Regardless of whether or not I know what’s next for me, I’m praying for you to walk with me as I leave one phase of my life and enter another.  

Lord, as we walk together through what’s to come, give me the patience needed to wait for what You have in store for me. Give me the courage to meet new people and make friends wherever you’re calling me next. And reveal to me the calling You’ve placed on my life and provide me opportunities to take what I’ve learned and use it to help others.  

Finally, Lord, I pray for ears to listen for Your voice. I pray for eyes to see where You’re leading me next. I pray for feet that’ll carry me where You’re calling me to go and a heart to embrace what You’re calling me to do.  

May all that I am, and all that I’ve learned, be used for Your glory now and forever. AMEN.

Tyler Ward, Minster for Sharing Christ

Tyler Ward, Minster for Sharing Christ

The Challenges of Change

Change is a fact of life. Eventually, it touches everything and everyone. Sometimes, that change is voluntary. I want to change my diet, I want to change my job, etc. Other times, that change is involuntary. My parents are aging and now I have to take care of them, my office is downsizing and I just got let go, etc.

In spite of the unique challenges that change presents in your life, I think we can all admit that there are some major changes occurring in our world right now that are creating some very big challenges for all of us.

What we’re encountering nowadays are seismic changes in politics, climate, religion, human sexuality, and so much more. And when we stop to survey the challenges of such change, it’s tempting to lose heart and question where God is in all of this.

But God’s response to that question is this…take heart. In John 16:33, Christ shares these words with us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It’s comforting to know that the God who overcame the grave has also overcome the challenges we’re facing, both individually and as a people. And while it may seem that everything we’ve ever known is changing before our very eyes, there’s an anchor for us to hold on to that is firm and secure. There’s a steady tree by the water which we can grab onto and from which these challenges cannot sweep us away. That steady presence in the midst of chaos and change is Jesus Christ. And for those who reach out to Him in faith, these challenges won’t overtake you.

As you navigate the challenges of change in your life and in our world, I hope you’ll take heart and remember that while you’re going to face troubles, Christ has already overcome them. And not only that, He’s going to be with You as you face them day in and day out. In support of that truth, hear these words of comfort and encouragement from Isaiah 43:1-2…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you,

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

These words of comfort and encouragement that God shared with Isaiah continue to be words of comfort and encouragement for us today. For while it’s easy to become discouraged when we see the challenges we’re facing, God stands before us and says, “Don’t fear, I’ll face these challenges with you, and as long as you’re holding onto me, you’ll make it through.”

In a world that’s always changing, we’re able to depend on a God who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. In a sea of change, through times of transition, the Lord and His love remain steady. All you have to do is hold on!

Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

Tyler Ward, Minister for Sharing Christ

Seeing Jesus

A few years ago one of our cars reached the point to where it had very high mileage and was constantly needing repair. So I reluctantly started the process of researching an affordable car that would take its place.

After searching for just the right car, I began to notice how many other people drove that very same type of car. They were everywhere. Everywhere I would go, driving to work, taking the children to school, even just a quick trip to the grocery store, I would see that same type of car everywhere I went!

It’s amazing to me what we see when we’re looking for something and what we don’t see when we’re not. When we drive a particular type of car, we often notice how many other people do too.

There was a story a few years ago in the Washington Post about a violinist who played in a Metro station in DC. He played nonstop for 45 minutes. About six people stopped by to listen. After making around $32, he packed up and went home.

If you’ve ever been to Washington DC, then you know that it’s pretty common to see people playing instruments out on the street or in a train station. But what makes the story interesting is that the violinist’s name is Joshua Bell. He’s one of the most renowned violinists alive today selling out performances at an average price of around $100 per seat.

Who would expect such a well-known musician to play for free in a Metro station in DC?

In a similar way, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, we are told that two of Jesus’ disciples were walking down a road that led to the small town of Emmaus. As they were walking, Jesus came and walked with them, he even struck up a conversation with them, but they did not realize who he was.

How often do we miss seeing what God is doing in our lives, in other people's’ lives, and all around us because we aren’t looking for it?

Now that we have celebrated Easter and Christ’s resurrection let’s remember to keep our eyes open and look for all the ways, big or small, that God is at work around us!

Lord, give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Amen!

Neil Westbrook, Senior Pastor

Neil Westbrook, Senior Pastor



What is Mission Outreach International?

Do you remember the first time you learned about God? Where were you when you first heard the name of Jesus? Was it a peaceful place? Did you feel loved and welcomed? When did your relationship with God begin?

Mission Outreach International is a spiritual and cultural outreach for internationals involved with the Ministry to Internationals at Forest Hills. May 19-21, we will travel together to the Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, experiencing God through Baptist and North Carolina heritage, times of friendship building "outside the church," with Bible Study, quiet time, and space created for interpersonal conversations about culture, community, and Christ.

God always moves in amazing ways to open the hearts of people to His Will and Way. Rev. Dr. Donnie Wiltshire is our guest speaker.

The theme is centered on Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.”

You have a team of 8 from Forest Hills who will lead this outreach that is made possible by the support of the Ministry to Internationals. Thank you!

Come alongside us in prayer for the preparations and during the three days of MOI in May.

Please pray for:

1. Safety in travel, lodging, logistics (Psalm 139:5, Deut. 31:8

2. Conversations seasoned with the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15, Ephesians 5:1-2)

3. May we be instruments of God’s peace (Matthew 5:9, James 3:18). 

What is your Mission Outreach?

Easter Invitations

For Christians, the two biggest days of the year are Christmas and Easter. On these days, we gather to celebrate that Christ is born and Christ is risen! These holidays serve as the pillars of our faith, reminding us again and again that God’s love has come down for all people and that nothing, not even death, can separate us from it.

Because of the importance of these dates, we naturally use them as opportunities to invite friends and family to join us in worship. Regardless of who you are, we all know people we are searching after truth, purpose, understanding. We all know people who aren’t sure what they believe. And what better way to expose them to “the way, the truth, and the life” than by inviting them to join you on Easter Sunday.

I know what you’re thinking. Does an invitation make a difference anymore? Is something so simple as that still effective? The results might surprise you.

A few years ago, LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board to determine which of 13 approached is the best-received when a church wants to be heard. The research showed that the best-received means of seeing new people walk into one’s church is, well, a personal invitation.

  • 67% of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
  • 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
  • 63% of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member.
  • 56% of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a friend or neighbor.

There’s potential in your personal relationships. The question is whether you’ll un-tap that potential by extending an invitation to someone you know. I hope you will. But if you’re like many of us and would like to, but don’t know how, I’d like to share some best practices to consider before you stick yourself out there and invite someone to join you in worship on Easter.

First, pray for the person you have in mind before extending the actual invitation.

Second, extend a clear and direct invitation, letting them know important details like where the church is, what time worship starts, what to wear, whether lunch is involved, etc.

Third, go out of your way to make sure that they actually make it to church. If need be, make yourself available to pick them up, meet them in the parking lot, etc.

Fourth, don’t make things weird if your friend or family member doesn’t accept your invitation. Don’t ruin a relationship over their reluctance to join you in worship. Instead, pray for how God might continue to use you to move your friend or family member closer to His love.

Sometimes, all it takes to change someone’s life is a simple invitation. Are you ready and willing to extend such an invitation today? I hope you are, and I’m praying that you do!

 - Rev. Tyler Ward

Hosting Nagoya University Students –Bloom Where You are Planted

It has been said to bloom where you are planted, and yes, while our roots can be transported by wings and wheels, we are called to serve God wherever we are. 

Forest Hills is planted near a large neighbor, N.C. State University and the Ministry to Internationals has developed a strong relationship with the University over the years. We are welcomed back to the New Student Information Fair each semester where we share about the opportunity to worship, learn English, and serve at Forest Hills and our partnering churches, just up the street from north Campus. As a result, many students, scholars, and others come!

Since opening with the academic year in August 2016, our Wednesday English and Cultures classes have welcomed 118 people from 17 different countries. On Sunday mornings during our ESL Bible Classes, we welcomed 18 new students since January 2017! More than ten willing and wonderful church members and volunteers from Forest Hills have diligently prepared lessons, provided warm greetings, initiated friendly conversations, prayed, and have met physical and emotional needs of internationals from around the world.

Countries of Origin for those welcomed by the International Ministry thus far in 2017:

Two of these special church members are Tom and Vicki Hollowell, who recently hosted 3 Japanese students in their home, offering the opportunity to help with food preparation. These Graduate and Doctoral students from Nagoya University in Japan came to N.C. State to participate in a Global Training Initiative at NC State, a two-week intensive training program. In addition to lab shadowing, company site visits, and a variety of research workshops and projects, families like the Hollowells host students in their homes for an American Family Dinner.  With the Hollowells, not only did the students encounter an “American Family” but they also were welcomed with Christian hospitality and the graciousness love of God.

The Hollowells are serving the Lord by opening their home and welcoming international students through an opportunity provided by the International Ministry at Forest Hills. Thank God Almighty for planting and growing us each day and moment. 

How are you blooming for the Lord where you are planted? Join me in prayer and be sensitive to God’s response. He is at work!

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13: 1

Prayer Opportunities

Please pray about and contact Jason if you are interested in joining

  1. Prayer Team for the International Ministry or
  2. Refugee Committee - Exploratory 

Finding God's Will, Part 3: Another Way of Finding God’s Will

In part 1, we saw that the ways Christians “find God’s will” are sort of a mixed bag; some may work, but others may not. In part 2, we saw that the New Testament never imagines that we really need to find God’s will anyway; God's will is about big-picture things that we already know about, like salvation and holiness.

In one sense, it's a huge relief that we don't have to agonize over God's will! It's so comforting to know that God has told us most of what we need to know already; we know God's will for our lives. But that doesn't change the reality that we face major life decisions. What do we do when we have to make major (or minor) life choices?

I don’t have a simple, one-size-fits-all answer for that question. But let me suggest a few questions that you can ask yourself when you face a decision; taken together, these steps have helped me tremendously in making life decisions that I believe please God.

1.  Am I trying to let God guide me in this choice? Many of us typically assume that we have to figure out God’s will, and if we’re not trying really hard then we’ll miss out on it. But the New Testament assumes that Christians are in God's will. Christians have accepted the lordship of Jesus and are guided by the Holy Spirit, so they are already doing God's will. The will of God is that we each lead lives that are faithful to him; if you're making an earnest effort to live the Christian life as best you can, then the scriptures assume that you're doing God's will. Isn’t that liberating? Just prayerfully examine your life, and ask God to help you determine if you’re being deliberately sinful or obstinate toward God. If you’re not, you probably don’t need to worry about missing God's will; I don't think anyone innocently misses the will of God.

2. Does the decision that I am considering lead me toward greater maturity in Christ? If God's will is for you to be a healthy and growing Christian, as the New Testament says, then make life decisions that achieve that. Consciously seek out situations that allow you a greater and greater possibility to act like Jesus would act. For example, you might move back to your hometown because it allows you to lovingly care for your aging parents; you know that this caregiving process will be long and taxing, but you believe it is an opportunity for you to both show love and grow in your compassion. Or you might choose to go to a social event because you know that you’ll be able to spend time with a number of non-Christians that you’re building a relationship with—sounds like something Jesus would do to me!

3. Is the decision that I am considering responsible? You'll find that many of life's decisions aren't directly related to being a good Christian. You’ll face choices where there doesn’t seem to be a “right” path, or where the right choice isn’t clear. In this case, I would suggest that either path can be the right one. In fact, when teaching about how to make right choices Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that there are an infinite number of responsible decisions in our lives. As long as a choice does not take us away from Christ, Bonhoeffer thought it was a great choice.

If there are lots of right choices, what we’re left with, then, is using our brains to make a smart choice. For example, imagine that you have two job offers, one in Georgia and one in South Carolina. You could live a holy life in Georgia or South Carolina. Which one is God’s will? Does it really matter which job you take? Make the decision that you think is most responsible and most appropriate for you. If the Georgia job offers better health insurance and better pay, you should probably take that one. If you know that there's a church in South Carolina that you would really like to be a part of, then maybe you should take that job. The point is that either is probably a fine decision and in line with God’s will for you. I would suggest that God has left it up to you to make the most responsible decision for yourself and your family. God intends for you to use the intelligence and wisdom that he gave you to make the best decision that you can.

4. Am I willing to seriously consider all the choices before me, even the ones that are difficult? When facing decisions, it’s easy to use the “smart decision” or the “responsible decision” to dodge courses of action that may be difficult. But sometimes, the difficult choice might be the right choice. The Apostle Paul encountered tremendous hardship in his ministry (2 Cor 11:23-28), and even though it might have seemed “smart” and “responsible” for him to quit he never did so. So we, too, must be willing to choose the difficult path if it allows us to become a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Doing what's responsible doesn't always mean doing what is easy.

For example, suppose you have a job offer that does not pay as much as you would like, but you can still survive on the salary; but at this job, you have a greater opportunity to make a difference and be a positive influence. You might decide that accepting this position is the best choice, because it gives you a greater opportunity toward greater unity with Christ in your professional career. That's not an easy choice, but it may be the most faithful and responsible choice.


That’s it—those are the four questions that I ask myself when I face life decisions. They may seem a little scary to you, and they’re much less clear-cut than some of the ways of "finding God's will" that we examined in part 1. The purpose of these four questions is NOT to lead us to make decisions on our own without God's guidance, but neither do they deny the responsibility that we each have for our own choices. The four questions ask us to become partners with God in the decision-making process; if we cultivate a lifestyle that looks to God and is dependent on God—if we don't make decisions by leaning on our own understanding—then we can use our minds and our experience with God to make the decision that we believe that God wants. We aren't just waiting on God to come down from on high and tell us what to do—we are actively trying to make a decision that we believe God would be pleased with.

Those questions are ambiguous, but I would suggest that this very ambiguity is the final reason that we should be making our decisions in this way. It’s very easy to assume that “a door was closed” and so that was not God’s will for us; it’s easy to avoid a decision because we haven’t seen a clear sign from God yet. It takes much more maturity to try to follow Christ even when the path isn’t clear—to step out on faith, when we aren’t entirely sure where we are going—because we are trying to grow into people who know what it means to follow God. I believe that God wants us to be people of maturity who know for ourselves what it means to follow Christ, not spiritual infants who have to wait for God to tell us what to do.

Though it may be scary to think of God’s will like this, I’m convinced that making our life choices in this way is God’s will for us—it’s one way that Christ builds us up, so that we one day develop the full measure and maturity of Christ himself (Eph 4:13).

What do you think? Is this a helpful way for you to make decisions that please God, or do you see things differently? Let me know in the comments below, or let's talk about it in person sometime! Whether we agree or disagree, blessings on you as you seek to fully and faithfully follow God's will.

—Andrew Garnett