Conflict Settlement

Teenagers hands playing tug-of-war with used ropeReligion has always been a touchy subject.  Discussions about God, faith, and the church can spark lively and refreshing dialogue; it can also unleash anger and bitter disputes.  As long as there is more than one human present in a place, conflict is possible and likely.

The early church was no exception.  In Acts 15, a dispute arose from among the body of faith, on whether or not circumcision was necessary for salvation.  This was a heated dispute with a great deal of passion and debate.

But, it is worth noting that it never got ugly.  We do not read about folks spreading gossip and slander in the community.  No one questioned anyone’s motives.  They did not attack each other personally.  Instead, they chose to honor one another, listen respectfully, engage with dignity, and maintain fellowship.  They demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, as they resolved the issue and settled the conflict within their family of faith.  Above all, they fervently sought the will of God, in this matter.

Yet, they did not seek to appease everyone.  They did not take a majority vote.  It appears that everyone was given a voice, but the most mature among them made the final decision.  They put God’s desire before their own desires and traditions.  In the end, the church stayed together and continued to grow,

As the family of faith, we can learn a great deal about handling conflict from this passage.  Believers met.  They talked.  They listened to one another.  They shared their respective positions.  They deferred to the most wise and mature believers.  They allowed their leaders to lead.  They realized that God’s work was far more important than any of their personal wants.  They made a decision that would enable them to be about the mission that they had received from their Lord.  They stuck together and moved forward.  That is what family does.

Conflicts will arise, but they should never define us.  Christ, Scripture, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment should always be the hinges upon which the unity of our family of faith rests.

Construction Teams Needed

Construction

There are many ways to be on mission in Kentucky.  Opportunities are available to serve through Vacation Bible Schools, Backyard Bible Clubs, block parties, work in food and clothing ministries, prayer walking, sports camps, door-to-door evangelism, serve in free medical and dental clinics, equestrian ministry, prison ministry, racetrack and resort ministry, and outreach with all ages from preschoolers to senior adults, just to name a few.  Appalachian Regional Ministry has a brochure that shows 102+ ways to serve in missions.

One great way to serve is through construction.  Many times a person feels he or she cannot participate in missions because they are not good at teaching, preaching, or sharing their faith.  I recall a story told about a man who came up to a missionary following the missionary’s sharing about ways to serve.  The man had tears in his eyes and said that before that time he did not think he could do missions.  That night he came to realize that he could use his skill of painting in ministry.

Lots of projects are posted on the Kentucky Baptist Convention website and construction teams are needed across the state.  Teams are needed for church repairs and/or renovations, new church construction, home repairs, and work on associational and ministry buildings.  There are opportunities for those with skills in carpentry, painting, electrical, plumbing, laying tile, putting up handicap ramps, and the needs just go on and on.  These “support” type roles are important so that the churches, associations, and ministries can do their job of reaching people with the gospel.

Many of these projects can be done in one or two days and many are in areas near where you live.  Others may be week-long projects or projects that one team can follow another until the work is complete.

If you have skills in construction consider using them in service for our Lord.  Go to the Kentucky Baptist Convention website (http://old.kybaptist.org/mission-opportunities/project-type/construction-maintenance/) to see opportunities available.  The projects have now been updated for 2017 and are just waiting for teams to respond.

For more information contact us at missions@kybaptist.org.  We will be happy to help connect you to a construction opportunity in 2017.

Preparing Ahead is Half the Battle

Ethiopia picLike anything else in life that is done well, preparation for short-term missions is key. Leading a short-term mission team, particularly overseas, is an enormous challenge. There are many factors to consider when short-term teams plan international missions. Those assigned to lead such teams must consider these factors. Wisdom says planning ahead is always best. However, as with any mission effort, flexibility is key. Flexibility does not negate preparation; it demands it. Therefore, when leading short-term missions go with a plan and then go with the flow.

What are some critical factors when leading short-term missions? First, spiritual preparation is essential. Not only must the leader prepare himself/herself well when leading the team, he/she must help the team prepare as well. As mission teams are sent to push back darkness, Satan wants nothing more than to disrupt this assault on darkness. Paul reminds us that the battle we face is spiritual in nature (Eph 6:10-12). Walking closely with the Lord is vital for mission preparation.

Second, team leaders should never underestimate the importance of team strategy. Critical questions to ask are: Why are we doing this mission? How can we best support the work of the missionaries who are on the field? Strategy involves an overall understanding of why and what. In other words, why are we doing this and what exactly are we planning to do? Churches serve the mission field well when they allow the missionaries who are on the field to set the strategy for their team. People who know the language, culture and needs of the area are best suited to determine the strategy of a given place. Contextualizing missions occurs most effectively when those immersed in the culture set the strategy for the field work.

Third, related to the second factor is the importance of servant leadership. Short-term mission team leaders that model servant leadership will breed teams that follow that same pattern. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28). While what Jesus did is more than an example; nevertheless, it is still an example for us. His life of servant leadership beacons us to live for the service of others rather than for their service to us. Short-term mission leaders have the responsibility to help their team understand this crucial principle in missions. We go over there to serve; not to be served.

Fourth, short-term mission team leaders lead gospel-centered missions. Sometimes what we assume to be the obvious is not always obvious. While there are several good things that we can do while on mission overseas (build, feed, clothe, etc.), as long as it assists the strategy of those on the field, the gospel must be central in whatever we do. I am not opposed to works of mercy, but mercy without gospel witness is not really mercy. Let us be careful that in whatever our strategy the gospel is central in it. I am not suggesting being artificial or “canned” in our gospel witness. But let us, as my friend Coy Webb reminds us, love in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).

These four factors are essential for leading short-term mission teams. There are other factors to consider. On March 10-11 we are offering a training for leading short-term international mission teams. Please be our guest as we explore ways to most effectively and faithfully lead short-term teams for the sake of the gospel. For more information, visit: www.kybaptist.org/tlt.

Reaching the Nations

Iraq-9It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees.  These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.

No longer safe to live in the place that they have called home, refugees are often forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

The flight usually brings more trauma.  Many do not survive the journey.  If they survive, they often are not welcomed in the place where they seek refuge.  Life in a refugee camp can be difficult, unstable, and a daily battle to survive.  The vulnerability of depending on total strangers for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter can be humiliating and defeating.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes.  These are people just like you and me.  These are people loved by God.  The Bible commands us to treat strangers and sojourners that come our way with love and grace:

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.  You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

What can we do as followers of Jesus Christ for the displaced?

One significant way is to partner with Refuge Louisville in life-changing ministry.  Refuge works alongside area churches to encourage and equip them to engage the refugees and immigrants in our communities.  They offer avenues through which the church can meet the various needs of our international population as they offer the help, healing, and hope of Christ.

Refuge continues to seek churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, and volunteers, who would serve on welcome teams.  These teams would commit to creating a positive welcoming space for the displaced families upon arrival, and they would be a helpful resource and loving influence for the first three months.  This allows Christians to be the first contacts for a refugee family as they come to America.  This is significant in helping a stranger to experience the real touch of God’s grace and saving Gospel message.

Team Expectations are as follows:

  1. Six to ten adults on a welcome team.
  2. Before arrival, set up the apartment for the incoming family using supporting agency donations.  Usually, this will not include transporting furniture to the apartment.
  3. Before arrival, purchase groceries and a welcome basket for the family.
  4. Before arrival, place a photo of the team in the apartment, so the family will know these are people who have committed to help them.
  5. Welcome the family at the airport and assist them with transportation to their new home.
  6. Provide as much transportation as possible the first few weeks.
  7. Share time with the family at least once a week for the first three months.
  8. At the end of three months, throw a milestone party to celebrate reaching this point.
  9. Teams are encouraged to stay connected with families, after the three months, as friends and continued support.

If your church is interested in making a difference in the life of a refugee family, contact Refuge Louisville to find out more information, to schedule them to share at your church, or to become part of God’s hands in reaching the nations.

Refuge Louisville, Inc
5007 Southside Drive
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 785-9577

Kentucky Baptists have a missions heritage that has demonstrated itself in going to the airport to travel to distant lands for the sake of the Gospel.  The question facing us today as Kentucky Baptists is:  Will we journey to the airport in obedience to the Great Commission to welcome the nations to our homeland?

You may also contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527 for information.

The Mission Field Down the Street

One of the most fertile and unreached mission fields in any community sits very close to, or just down the street from, the local church. It is the public school.  Public schools are filled with children, teachers and staff members who live, work and play in the shadow of our steeples.

There are 655,642 students and 50,148 teachers/staff members in 1,177 elementary, middle and high schools in Kentucky. These children, teachers and staff members need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and yet, 87% (2010 Glenmary report) don’t attend a worship service, as close as it may be. 

adopt_a_schoolThe local school represents a God-given opportunity for evangelism and missions if relationships are built upon trust and the meeting of needs. The local church is poised by its proximity to produce the greatest possible Kingdom results and community impact in the most efficient, effective and expedient way.

Depending upon the community, there are approximately 5 churches for every public school in the state. Imagine the Kingdom impact and community transformation that would happen if churches adopted schools. Things the church can do in and for the school include:

  • mentoring students
  • after school tutoring
  • assist with festivals, carnivals and parties
  • minister to teachers (provide breakfast, prayer partners, gifts, etc)
  • supply school supplies or educational resources
  • clean or paint classrooms
  • landscape around the building
  • volunteer to serve as teacher’s aids

If there’s uncertainty on the part of the school, suggest that you begin with a “semester of service” as a way of introducing the concept.  This allows the school to experience how beneficial the church’s involvement can be to the students and their families, teachers and staff.

I saw firsthand the impact that an adoption can make when Christ Community Church reached out and adopted Southside Elementary School.  After a couple of years into the adoption, the school’s academic growth surpassed 90% of the elementary schools in the state.  They earned a special distinction as a “High Progressing” school, finishing in the 71st percentile, up from the previous 14th percentile rating. Southside’s principal contributed the amazing turn-around to a team effort involving teachers, the church and the local community.  The church’s involvement presented opportunity for sharing the gospel, gave them credibility with teachers, and opened doors with the community and the school system for future ministry.  It’s now common for school administrators to call upon the church about needs and ministry opportunities relating to students and staff.

When God says that He is a “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), He is not speaking about some intangible heavenly spirit. God is a “father to the fatherless” through His church – as they become surrogate parents to students in need.  Staggering negative statistics change to successes when Christ followers become mentors and tutors in the local school, providing guidance, instruction and commitment that is missing in a child’s life. Will your church overlook the mission field down the street or will they dive in and serve where others dare to go?

 

 

Much to be Done in the New Year

 

2017

Welcome 2017. The year 2016 is now history. This past year ended with lots of church and ministry outreach events. Hot meals were served. Warm blankets, coats, scarfs, and gloves were given out for the upcoming cold winter months. Christmas was made brighter for many children as they received a special toy. Thanks to Appalachian Regional Ministry’s Christmas Backpack Program thousands of children also received a backpack filled with school supplies, hygiene items, clothing, candy, toys, and a Bible. The Gospel message was presented.

As reports come in we are hearing of hundreds that invited Christ into their lives during these events and received the greatest Gift during this season of gift-giving. But, where are they in January 2017?

We must not stop by simply presenting the Gospel message and decisions being made. There is much work to do as we now help them to grow in their new-found relationship with Christ. We must invite them into our churches and walk alongside to disciple and mentor them. We must not leave them as babes in Christ.

This past Sunday a lady and her daughter visited our church as a result of a Christmas outreach event. She wanted to start the new year in church and really seemed to enjoy the service and fellowship. The young daughter was excited to learn of a Sunday School class and Children’s Church that she could be a part of. I too am excited for the mom to join my Sunday School class as each week we learn, grow, and fellowship together.

May 2017 be a year when those lives that we impacted in 2016 come to a saving relationship with Christ, and those who do know Him as Savior draw nearer in their walk with Him and their service to Him. May our Christmas outreach events not be in vain.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Lessons From My Daughter’s Adoption

holly-cryingMy wife and I recently returned from adopting our two year old daughter in Ethiopia.  We began this journey nearly four and a half years ago.  We spent just under three weeks in Ethiopia finalizing the adoption and returned the week before Christmas.  While I still have much to process about this experience, here are some lessons I have learned thus far about our adoption journey.

  1. Adoption is hard.  Many may see adoption as a glamorous picture, but the reality is that adoption is hard on everyone involved.  The family adopting as well as the child being adopted all experience the challenges of this journey.  There are many highs and lows throughout the process.  Good news is often accompanied by not so good news.  Learning to trust in God’s timing and plan is necessary.
  2. Adoption is a picture of the gospel.  Paul says we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father'” (Rom 8:15)!  Abba Father is a personal and intimate term only those who belong to God can use.  We are able to call God our Father because we have received the Spirit through faith in Jesus.  We once were not children of God, but now we have been brought into His family through Jesus.  Our daughter, too, once had no family of her own, but now belongs to our family and calls me “daddy.”
  3. Adoption is a relentless pursuit.  When my wife and I began this journey four and a half years ago, we did not realize how relentless we must be.  We said we would pursue our daughter no matter the cost or challenge, but we had no idea what that would entail.  On the day that we met our daughter for the first time, she ran away from us crying.  She wanted nothing to do with us…at first.  We were not deterred by her resistance.  In fact, we were determined all the more to pursue her.  Oh, how this pursuit reminds me of God’s pursuit of us.  Though we wanted nothing to do with God, He pursued us at all cost (Titus 3:3-7).
  4. Adoption is permanent.  On the day of our court appointment with the judge, he asked us if we realized that this adoption is permanent. “Absolutely!” we replied.  Our daughter, on that day, became a permanent part of our family.  While in God’s plan this was certain before time, on that court date it became a realized reality.  She is now part of her forever family.  Again, what a reminder of God’s permanent adoption of us into His family.  Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:31-39).

family-picWhile I will continue to learn lessons from my daughter, I am grateful for these past few weeks with her.  Adoption is not easy, but neither was the cross.  In order to bring us into His family, God gave everything (John 3:16).  He relentlessly pursued us in order bring us into His forever family.

What Stirs Your Heart?

I have an inflammation of the heart.  I have discovered that my condition can be contagious. It all started 32 years ago, when I led a team to central Mexico, as a young youth minister.  Don’t worry, my heart condition is not fatal.  My heart was set aflame in Mexico for “Missions”, and my life has never been quite the same.

Young girl from South Sudan who came to Christ through a disaster relief response, IMB partners, and medical missions.

Young girl from South Sudan who came to Christ through a disaster relief response, IMB partners, and medical missions.

Jesus instructed every one of His followers to, “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 everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  As followers of Jesus Christ, this is our Great Commission.  This, above all else, should burn in our hearts.

Today, my heart is inflamed by these facts:

  1. There are approximately 7.4 billion people in our world.
  2. About 54% of the world lives in urban areas.  By the year 2050, this may increase to 66%.
  3. The 5 largest cities in the world are Tokyo, New York City, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Mexico City.
  4. Around 60% of the world lives in Asia.
  5. More than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty.  These people live on less than a $1.25 per day.
  6. Every 20 seconds a child dies from issues related to unclean water.
  7. There are approximately 210 million orphans across the globe.  Of the 17 million children, who have lost one or both of their parents to HIV-AIDS, 90% live in Sub-Sahara Africa.
  8. There are 795 million people chronically malnourished around the world.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 4 people go to bed hungry every night.
  9. Close to 3 billion people are unreached in our world with no or very little access to the Gospel.
  10. Over 5 Billion people live today without a relationship to Jesus Christ and with no hope for eternity.
  11. The average Southern Baptist gives less than $10 to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.  Many churches give far less than a tithe to the Cooperative Program, which is still the lifeblood of our mission program.

What stirs your heart today?

May our hearts be set aflame by God to:

Go on Mission for Christ.

Give generously to the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions.

Pray that every person be given the opportunity to hear the Good News of a Savior.

“But when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Christmas Memories

gifts-of-christmas

I love Christmas.  As the song says, it is truly “the most wonderful time of the year.”  There is just a special spirit at this season that in unlike any other.  The sights and sounds of Christmas seem to bring out the child in all of us.

Our trees are put up, nativity and carolers in place, advent candles on the table, and Christmas music playing.   Christmas parades, complete with marching bands and Santa Claus, are in almost every town.  There are Christmas parties and church programs to attend, Christmas cards, shopping, and gifts wrapped in pretty paper and bows.

Christmas to me is family.  It was always a special time at our house as we planned our family gathering, the food we would eat, baking and candy making, giving and receiving gifts, and just being together.

One of the most memorable gifts I received as a young toddler was a baby doll.  I do not remember the doll as much as the homemade cradle that my dad made, and the quilt and pillow that my mother made for my doll.  These were special gifts because of the extra love my parents had for me as they “made” these gifts.

Another memorable gift was the bicycle I received from an older sister when I was six years old.  It was my first year of school and her first year to teach school.  This was a gift that I enjoyed for many, many years.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the music.  I recall Christmas band concerts and parades, and the church Christmas programs that I was a part of.  As a college student at Eastern Kentucky University I looked so forward each year to attending the performance of the “Messiah.”

And the memories go on and on.  We all have our Christmas memories and traditions.  But, with everything we do, let’s never forget that we have Christmas because of Jesus.  I never remember a Christmas in our house that the true meaning of Christmas was not at the forefront.

With all we do this Christmas let’s be sure to include Him in our celebrations.  Include Him in our decorations, in the cards we send, and in the music we sing. Let’s include Him in our greetings to people as we smile and say “Merry Christmas.”

Christmas is a time when more people seem to be open to hearing the true story of Christmas, so let us be ready to share that message.  It may just cause someone to receive the special Gift of Christmas.

Gift Idea for the Person Who Has Everything

Christmas is a very special time of the year.  I love the music, lights and decorations, time with family, baked goodies and gift giving.  I really enjoy giving special gifts to those I love.  But not just any gift, the perfect one.  The one that is just what they needed or really wanted.   But what do you give to the person who has everything?Christmas Shopping stress pic

Several years ago, my parents announced that they would no longer receive gifts from us at Christmas because they “had everything they needed”.  Rather than give them a Christmas gift, they requested that we give to a ministry or charity in their honor.   A meaningful tradition was begun that continues today.  We have given animals for farmers in Haiti, transportation for pastors in Africa, shelter for the homeless in the US, and job training for the poor in eastern KY.  Although these are good gifts that bless others and honor my parents, we consider the most important gift each year to be the one we give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  If you’re not familiar with this offering, it is collected by the SBC International Mission Board in December for the support of more than 3,651 missionaries sharing the Gospel in countries all over the world.  Every single penny given goes directly toward the support and equipping of the missionaries because necessary administrative costs are covered by other means.

The missionaries supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are committed to giving themselves totally and selflessly toward reaching unengaged and unreached people groups who have nothing, because they don’t have Jesus, who is “everything”.  So, if you’re struggling with what to get the person who has everything, why not give a gift in their honor to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  That way, instead of giving an unneeded gift to someone who has everything, you’re giving the gift of “everything” to someone who has nothing.   For more information, visit  www.imb.org/offering.