Thank you, Bill…

‘Tis the season.  The Christmas season.  The season when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The season of giving. 

In our work it is also the season of filling and distributing Christmas backpacks for children, which began in 2001 when a group of GA’s (Girls in Action) in Georgia wanted to bless less-fortunate children in Appalachia who might not get a lot for Christmas.  The backpacks are filled with toys, clothes, hygiene items, food, a Bible, and a copy of “The Christmas Story.”  (In the early years gifts were placed in shoeboxes but transitioned to backpacks in 2012.) 

Bill Barker, then Appalachian Regional Ministry Director, started promoting this project and, eighteen years later, the Christmas Backpack Project is still going strong.  As a result of Bill’s efforts thousands of children have a better Christmas.  This year an estimated 75,000 backpacks will be filled by Southern Baptists, with a total estimated 390,000 shoeboxes and backpacks filled during the eighteen years. 

Bill Barker served as Director of Appalachian Regional Ministry (ARM) from the Spring of 2001 until December 2017 when he “retired” from that position.  In 2018 Georgia Baptist Convention launched Appalachian Mountain Ministry (AMM) with a similar purpose as ARM and covered the same geographical area.  So, the work continued. 

I was introduced to Bill on a July evening in 2001 during the Mountain Missions Conference at Oneida Baptist Institute and have worked closely with him since that time.  The Christmas Backpack Project is just one of many ways Bill has served in Appalachia. 

Well over a million mission volunteers have been mobilized through Bill’s efforts, partnerships between churches and associations have been developed, long-term missionaries have been called to the mission field, church buildings and homes have been built and repaired, resources of all kinds have been shared with ministries, tens of thousands of children have been fed and clothed, churches have been strengthened, and the list could go on and on.  But, the most important statistic, and the reason Bill spent the long hours doing what he loved, is that over 83,000 have prayed to receive Christ. 

As we come to the close of 2019 Bill will “retire” once again from AMM and is now back in the pastorate in Georgia.  The Lord has used him in mighty ways across Appalachia. 

Thank you, Bill, for your ministry.  Many men, women, boys and girls have been blessed because of it.  We will never know, this side of eternity, the huge impact you have made in eastern Kentucky and all of the Appalachian region. 

May the Lord continue to bless and use you and Arlene in His Kingdom work.  We love and appreciate you!!

What’s in Your Wallet?

Jesus commanded each of us as His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Our mandate as followers of Jesus Christ is to take the Gospel into all the world and to make the name of Christ known among all peoples. We are compelled to proclaim the Gospel, the only hope for billions who have not yet heard about the good news of Christ.

This mandate requires a sacrificial commitment. A sacrifice to go, and a sacrifice to send. Sacrificial giving by Southern Baptists enables us to place thousands of missionaries across the globe. The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions remain the lifeline for countless missionary families, who have sacrificed to go to the farthest corners of our world.

As we enter this season that highlights the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it should make each of as believers ask prayerfully, “What is in my wallet?”

Simply put, your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions enables missionaries to be sent to share the Gospel, disciple those who come to Christ, and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Southern Baptists realized when they began this special offering in 1888 that we can do more when we cooperate together for the sake of Christ than any of us can do alone.

When you give to Lottie Moon:

  • 100% of your gifts directly support missionaries serving the unreached.
  • You are making a way for the 2.8 billion people who have little access to the Gospel to hear of Jesus.
  • You are helping to transform lives around the world.
  • You are part of reaching the nations for Christ.
  • You are playing a role in the Bible being translated into every tongue and language.
  • You are providing hot meals, blankets, and clean water for refugee families.
  • You are enabling us to be God’s hands of compassion following disasters across the globe.
  • You are providing medical leaders in hospitals in broken places.
  • You are providing training for church leaders and pastors.
  • You are fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.

Why give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering?

Maybe, it would be better to ask, how as a follower of Christ, could I not give to this offering that is making the name of Christ known in every corner of our globe?

As Lottie Moon, missionary in China in 1887, said, “Why should we not…do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”

A Cultural Change May Be Needed

Last week, at our annual state convention, we recognized churches that had shown marked improvement in their missions participation. Those churches understood the commandment we’ve been given to go and make disciples of all people and had intentionally sent their members out on mission. 

It was so interesting to learn of things the churches had done to encourage their members to be on mission.  One pastor even commented that the increased attention on the various aspects of missions praying, giving and going contributed to a cultural shift within the congregation that led to the increased missions participation. They recognized that their church had a responsibility to send members out on mission trips, church planting efforts, disaster relief responses and local community ministry projects.  Living as sent people had brought intentionality to their going that God desires for His church.  They didn’t just go on mission, but were sent on mission by their church. 

The culture of a church will greatly influence whether or not it becomes a sending church. Culture is the personality of the church. Culture, more that vision or strategy – is a powerful factor in the church. Therefore, it’s possible that the personality or culture of a church will need an adjustment so that it can become a sending church.  Here are some steps toward development of a missions culture, that in turn, will produce a sending church.

  1. Preach sermons about missions – tell them of the church’s responsibility to send and our responsibility to go.
  2. Expect it.  Share with leaders, members and visitors that everyone is commanded to go and we’ll help you to be obedient.
  3. Repent of your failure to send and go as the Bible commands, if you’ve not been doing so. 
  4. Communicate impact – share and celebrate missionary achievements, spiritual decisions and answers to prayer.
  5. Skype with a missionary, or invite them to come and speak during the service.
  6. Pray for missionaries and ministry needs – share specific needs.
  7. Offer many different kinds of opportunities for people to use their gifts, talents and skills in missions and ministry (mission trips, local projects, long term service, etc). 
  8. Give scholarships to financially enable people to go.
  9. Provide missions education opportunities for children and adults – small groups, Sunday School, online, etc.
  10. Plan and implement a missions fair to introduce members to missionaries and missions opportunities. 
  11. Encourage giving to missions and share how the offerings are used. 
  12. Commission individuals and groups going out on mission.
  13. Adopt a missionary – develop relationship, provide support, give updates on their work, invite them to come, partner with them in the work, send teams.

So, what is the culture within your congregation?  What steps will you take to influence your church’s culture that will result in more people being sent out on mission?

4 Realities Regarding The Mission of God

Oftentimes, the mission of God doesn’t seem to match our conveniently constructed models. In Acts 8:26-40, we catch a glimpse of how God brings about what He has promised is going to happen in Revelation 5:9-10. God orchestrated circumstances in such a way that Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch met on a desert road to bring about His will, and He continues to do so today for the same purposes. But we also see some things about this mission that are often missed, or even rejected, in the West. In this passage we see four realities regarding the mission of God that must be embraced in order to stay faithful to the mission.

  1. The mission of God is inconvenient
    Think about how inconvenient the Lord’s assignment for Phillip was. Phillip had just been scattered from Jerusalem, goes to Samaria and “revival” breaks out, then God ask him to leave and go south to Gaza. Not very convenient to go to a place that is known for robbers, in the middle of the desert in order to talk to a wealthy, Ethiopian eunuch. For someone limited on time, surely there were better assignments. In the West, our culture is built on convenience, constantly attempting to make life more comfortable. While some conveniences may have their place, the mission of God is never convenient, at least not the way our culture thinks about convenience. Church, we will never have mission without sacrifice.
  • The mission of God appears inefficient
    Phillip is praying and is directed to go to a desert place. Once there, he is directed by the Spirit to run alongside of a chariot of foreigners. The eunuch’s journey to Jerusalem was conceivably five months long, one way. Once there, he is doubly denied entrance into the assembly at the temple for being a Gentile and a eunuch. While efficiency has its place, the mission of God is hardly efficient and the details surrounding Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch underscore this point. In the West, as one of the holdovers from the Industrial Revolution, our culture loves efficiency. We value seeking the greatest output for the least input. Church, we must obey God’s call, share Christ without fear, and trust the Lord with the results.
  • The mission of God is ingenious
    God combats the core human instinct to “go our own way,” even attempting to earn His favor by our convenient, efficient means. The gospel is a gift, and the only way to be made right in God’s eyes is to admit you need it and simply receive it. Nothing is more convenient than that! But the genius of God is that to grow in this grace is to receive His mission — “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Grace writes a blank check for the obedience of the recipient. Church, we must spend time in prayer, hear from God, and obey him at all cost.
  • The mission of God is indisputable
    God has given us the end of the story. Either it is true, or it isn’t. And if this story is the true story of what He is doing in the world, then the reason His mission seems inconvenient and inefficient to many is perhaps because we’re living for a different story. Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have command you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Church, the great commission is not an option clause, it is a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we take the Lord at His Word and act on it, we will discover that the Lord is faithful, and He will never leave us or forsake us. Church, the Lord sent Phillip to share with a man on a runaway chariot in middle of desert, so the question is: Where are the runaway Chariots in your life?

The Mission Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to faithfully fulfill the Great Commission. Email John Barnett, KBC mission Strategist, at [email protected] to discover new great commission opportunities for you and your church. We are stronger together!

For I was hungry…

Tanya Parker is a new North American Mission Board Missionary serving as a Missions & Ministries Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell (Floyd County), KY.  However, she and her family are not new to GAP.  In 2001 Tanya and her husband Joe were living and working in Lexington, when they both lost their jobs within three months of each other.  Tanya was pregnant and did not go back to work.  The employment her husband was able to find was not the equivalent of what he previously had so they were struggling financially.  They moved back home to McDowell, KY and, during that time, turned to GAP for help.  “They helped us with food, clothing and encouragement in the name of Christ,” Tanya says.  “Every time I hear the scripture ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me…’ I think of GAP.”

Once back in McDowell Tanya and Joe both found employment and, with the help of family, friends, GAP and Dave Ramsey classes they took through their church, they gradually got “back on their feet.”  Tanya would volunteer at GAP every chance she got and prayed for God to guide and bless the ministry so they could continue to share Christ and meet the needs of the people. 

Around a year ago, when GAP was in need of staff, Tanya began praying for God to send missionaries to come alongside Directors John & Shaughanessy Morris and help carry out all that God had planned for the ministry.  In March 2019 she volunteered at the annual Easter Egg Hunt and says she remembers exactly where she was standing when she felt the Lord tell her, “this is it, this is where I want you.”  Tanya says she didn’t immediately obey, started second guessing herself and was becoming miserable.  She met with John and started asking questions about the missionary life.  “After a time of fasting and prayer,” Tanya says, “I confirmed that God truly was calling me to serve at GAP.

This was not an easy decision for Tanya.  She served as administrative assistant at Fitzpatrick Baptist Church and truly loved her ministry there, but GAP seemed to be just where the Lord was leading. 

Tanya’s pastor, Bro. Tommy Reed, was sad to see her leave, but had this to say: “If I were picking a team she’d be on it.  She is mature.  She loves Jesus.  She loves her family.  She loves her church.  I love her and will miss her immensely.”

GAP Director John Morris said, “For over two years my wife Shaughanessy and I have been praying that the Lord would send someone like Tanya Parker to GAP.  Who knew that He would send the one and only Tanya Parker.  Praise be to God!  We are so excited to welcome her to the Lords’ team here at GAP.  She brings a wealth of gifts, talents and experience to the staff.  She was raised here in the McDowell area so many already know her and/or her family, which makes building relationships for Christ easier.”

Tanya has come full-circle with GAP and God is using her in tremendous ways.  Just a few days ago she posted on her Facebook page (Tanya Parker – GAP MSC Life for me!):  “Today was a great day. I shared the Gospel today with a young lady and she made a decision to follow Jesus! Praise the LORD!”

Tanya has been married to Joseph (Joe) Parker for 21 years.  They have three daughters, Makayla (20), Grace (18) and Allison (16).  Joe is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at their church and the Lord has blessed him with a full time job at Prestonsburg City Utilities. 

You can follow Tanya’s ministry at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2757262984283862/.  Please pray for her as she serves at God’s Appalachian Partnership.

You are meant for so much more!

We have all asked the question, “Why did this tragic or hurtful situation occur?”  We have all experienced pain in life and have wondered why us.  But have we ever asked the question, “Why do blessings come our way?”  To ask it more personally, why am I blessed with what I have in life?  Psalm 67 is a prayer of blessing adapted from Numbers 6, where Old Testament priests would speak a word of blessing on the people of Israel. 

Psalm 67:1 prays, “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—Selah” (all references NASB).  The Psalmist is praying for the grace, blessing, and favor of God.  But why is God gracious, and why does He bless and show us favor?  Verse 2 gives us the reason— “that your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.”   

God’s good gifts to His people are not meant to be horded by us, but to be heralded for Him.  We have what we have, and we are where we are in order that we might make God known among the nations.  In fact, Paul told the leading men of Athens, “And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).  When we live and where we live are all determined by God’s good design—a design meant to be used to make Him famous around the world.    

Currently, there are 7,103 unreached people groups or 4.5 billion people unreached with the gospel of Jesus.  Unreached means that of the these 7,103 people groups less than 2 percent of the people follow Jesus.  According to the International Mission Board, a people group is the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance (www.peoplegroups.org). 

God’s desire, according to Psalm 67, is that the grace, blessing, and favor He gives us (v 1) is to be used to point all peoples to the salvation of our God (v 2).  How might each of us leverage our lives—the good gifts He has given us—to make much of Jesus where He is not known?  The goal God’s blessing to us and our proclamation of Him is so that “the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You” (v 3).      

God’s praise is meant to be global and He desires to use us for that aim.  Life is meant for more than daily schedules of work, school, running errands, and going to ball practice.  We have received educations, homes, cars, salaries, and retirements for more than our comforts.  “God, our God, blesses us.  God blesses us that all the ends of the earth may fear Him” (v 6b-7). You are meant for so much more.  How, then, will you use the blesses from God to impact the nations for His glory?     

Chosen to Go

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

As those redeemed by Christ, we have been chosen and called to proclaim the praises of our Savior into all the world.

So how can the church be a royal priesthood and fulfill the Great Commission given to us by God?

Six strategic principles can help the church to ensure that we do not turn from our primary calling to live on mission for Christ and to take the Gospel to every person across our globe:

  • Value the mission over methods. The Gospel and the Great Commission of our Lord are unchanging, but the methods utilized to reach our world can and often must change for us to be effective in our mission. It is always better to be missional than traditional.
  • Value people over programs. It is much more important to build relationships with people than it is fill calendars with programs. The church is not to just take up time in people’s lives, it is to disciple them to take the Gospel into the world.
  • Value risk over safety. To reach our world for Christ will involve risks. It may even mean at times that we suffer failures and setbacks and go to places that are less than safe. But great tasks and great missions are never accomplished by those who fear failure and who are unwilling to ever venture into the hard places. The Great Commission will always require steps of great faith.
  • Value super-teams over superstars. We are always stronger together than we are alone. The genius of the Cooperative Program is that it unites Southern Baptists to be more effective and efficient in reaching the world for Christ and in building His Kingdom not our own little sandcastles.
  • Value sending over maintaining. The church was not formed to gather us in. It was formed to empower us to go out. God is worthy of our worship, but real worship will always compel us to go forth from the walls of our church.
  • Value action over meetings. We can spend so much time trying to develop strategies and the perfect plan that we never actually accomplish the mission. Developing strategy and doing analysis has an important role in ministry, but we must always be careful that it does not paralyze us from action. Sometimes we just need to make a leap of faith and try something. If it does not work, stop it and try something else. Fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord will require us to get up from the pew and to go out for the sake of Christ.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

The Lord Will Provide

In the book of Genesis, God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering.  So, in obedience, Abraham binds Isaac and places him on the altar.  At that time, God provided a ram to sacrifice in place of Isaac and Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh, meaning the Lord will provide, or the Lord will see to it.   

A little over a year ago, God told Kevin Cornette, pastor of Mays Lick Baptist Church, that they should start a feeding ministry to address the hunger needs of those living in the area. Believing that God would provide, Kevin led the church to begin Jehovah Jireh’s House, a food ministry that now serves over 500 homes in 4 counties. What began with a couple of chest freezers and a few boxes of food has grown to many pallets of food that require 14 chest freezers, a large walk-in freezer, a box truck, flat-bed trailer, and a forklift. And the Lord provided it all!  The ministry has grown to the point that Jehovah Jireh’s House has become a cooperative effort of multiple churches requiring an average of 100 volunteers on each distribution day.

Poverty in Mason and surrounding counties is higher than the state’s average of 17%.  One-third of those coming through Jehovah Jireh’s House live in neighboring Lewis County, which has a 26% poverty rate. Kevin shared that 58% of those coming through Jehovah Jireh’s House were grandparents raising their grandchildren. 

The church sees Jehovah Jireh’s House as a reservoir. The Lord provides the food, they distribute all that they have and the Lord fills it back up again.  Pastor Kevin shared that “we serve everyone, no matter where they live, because the Lord has brought them to us for a reason.  One of the primary reasons is because people are spiritually hungry too!”  The church has baptized six people as a result of the ministry and one family reached through Jehovah Jireh’s House now volunteers on distribution days.   

I visited Mays Lick on one of the recent distribution days and was amazed to see how smoothly the entire operation went.  Hundreds of people registered and heard the gospel clearly presented before walking through the distribution “store” to fill up their grocery carts with food, personal hygiene items, fresh vegetables and paper products.  Each person walking through Jehovah Jireh’s House is accompanied by a church member who shepherds them through the process, talking with them and helping them to load their cart.  

Then, additional volunteers help each family to load their vehicle with the items in their grocery cart.  While the value of the items in the grocery cart are approximately $125, the cost to the ministry is only pennies on the dollar because again, the Lord provides.  They procure the items distributed from two major sources and many individuals and churches. 

God was faithful to provide what Abraham needed and He has been faithful to Mays Lick to provide everything they need as well. But before God provided for Abraham, he had to hear God and respond obediently.  The same was true for Mays Lick and is true for us. If we want to witness God’s provision, we must first hear from Him and respond obediently to what He says.   

Join Kentucky’s “Adopt-a-Missionary” Program

Do you want an exciting and meaningful boost for your church?  Do you want your church or small group to be more involved in missions?  Do you want to “get to know” a missionary?  Then join Kentucky’s “Adopt-a-Missionary” program.

No, missionaries are not orphans, but adoption is a beautiful word that helps describe the strong relationship between missionaries and the churches and friends who pray and encourage them in their ministries. The church at Antioch, in a sense, adopted Paul and Barnabas as special messengers of the gospel to Asia and Europe (Acts 13:1-3).

The North American Mission Board and Kentucky Baptist Convention have assigned missionaries to specific ministries across our state.  These KY-MSC missionaries are adults, called by God and connected to a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, who commit to serve from nine months to two years (renewable), and are self-funded. The positions engage in or directly support missions, church planting, collegiate ministry or evangelism, in cooperative partnership with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, association, or organization.

These missionaries are making a difference in the Kingdom, one individual at a time and, this past year alone, reported 4,442 professions as a direct result of their ministry and/or their personal witnessing.    

God calls some to go.  Others He calls to support those who go.  Support may be financial as we normally think, but there are many other ways to support our Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries.  We would like to connect churches, Sunday School classes, WMU groups, or small groups to one of our 106 KY-MSC missionaries. 

By adopting a missionary, you commit to:

  • Pray for the missionary.
  • Communicate and encourage the missionary by telephone, letter, email or card.
  • Send a birthday or holiday care package to let them know you are remembering them.
  • Visit the missionary’s ministry and assist with the work.
  • Invite the missionary to share in your church or small group.
  • Meet a need the missionary may have.

In turn, the adopting church or group will experience:

  • A personal relationship with an active missionary.
  • A strengthened commitment to missions.
  • A heightened awareness of missions opportunities.
  • A fresh, outwardly focused ministry perspective.
  • Group building and bonding through service to others.
  • An opportunity to see God at work and an invitation to join Him in it.

Since relationships do not generally happen overnight, and because it takes time for a church or group to organize and plan a strategy, a two-year adoption period is encouraged. At the end of the two years, the church or group can extend the length of the existing adoption relationship or request another missionary to adopt.

Can the missionaries count on you?  Would you commit to care for and support a Kentucky Mission Service Corps (KY-MSC) missionary?

Contact [email protected] to get connected with “your” adoptive missionary.

Four Steps to Embrace Your Community

During the process of reaching the diverse community around us, we must each move from thinking like a missionary to engaging like one. While it can be intimidating to make the transition from theory and strategy to entering and embracing the lives of people, it is well worth it. To make this transition, there are four characteristics we must embrace.

Local Church.Global Vision

1. Be a person of prayer
Simply getting to know a person or plugging into a community is crucial, but it’s not the only goal. We must engage with people and communities in such a way that our hearts become connected — we must pour ourselves out before the Lord in prayer on their behalf. To do so, we need to plead with the Lord to draw our hearts to them in love.

2. Be a learner
A key aspect of thinking like a missionary is humility. We must be aware that we have much to learn about the beautifully diverse cultures and communities that God has created. If we are not careful, we can subconsciously impose our desires, ideas, preferences and systems onto the people we are hoping to engage. As humble learners, we can look for opportunities to meaningfully and lovingly serve the people or communities we are seeking to engage. Here is a helpful list of categories for potential pathways of engagement:

  • Seasonal – Are there certain times of the year that present unique opportunities for engagement in contextually appropriate ways?
  • Social – Are there opportunities to provide or enhance experiences to build meaningful relationships and community?
  • Sports – Are there sports or athletic opportunities that resonate meaningfully that could be offered or enhanced?
  • Study – Do you have the skillset to provide support or share a desired knowledge to the person or community? Be careful not to assume that the desire to learn is there.
  • Spiritual – Are there cultural expressions of worship that could foster discussion where you can learn as well as provide a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus?
  • Service – Are there needs that you have the capacity and skills to meet?
  • Situational – Are there certain needs based on a crisis or situational occurrence that you can step into?

Answering these questions thoughtfully and humbly will provide countless ideas for us as missionaries to die to ourselves for the sake of the gospel. After all, this is how they will know what love is (John 3:16).

3. Be a seeker
One of the key purposes of intentional engagement should be to identify a “person(s) of peace.” This was a vital component to Jesus’ missional strategy in Luke 10. A person of peace in a community is a gift from God and an open channel for living water to saturate a community. This person can offer credibility within the community, as well as offer insight into how the community operates.

4. Be a friend
One of the most profound ways to reach those in your community is to be a true and courteous friend. When we speak to people, we should ask their names and pronounce them correctly. We should do whatever is necessary to remember them. Ask meaningful questions and listen intently to the answers. Allow people to share their stories as they are willing.

Inhabit these characteristics and embrace those in your community with boldness and humility knowing that the risen Jesus is with you always. For more tools, techniques, or training on how to understand and impact you community for Christ, please email [email protected]. We are here to serve you.