Faithful Servants

God is “no respector of persons” when it comes to calling out people to serve Him.  In the Bible we see Him calling Moses at age 80, and Samuel and David as young boys.

Currently there are 98 missionaries serving in various ministries across Kentucky.  In looking over this list of missionaries, it was interesting to note that they range in age from 23 to 90.  Four of them are in their 80s and, yes, one is still serving in his 90s.

Jack Simmons, along with wife Wilma (who is in her 80s), heard God’s call to missions more than 26 years ago when they met a Director of Missions who told them about needs in Indiana.  After looking over the area and trying to get something started, they just could not seem to get anything done.  Eventually they realized that God was calling them back to Wilma’s home of West Point, Kentucky, where they began meeting with children in one of the trailer parks each week.

Today, Jack and Wilma minister in two trailer parks.  The children’s program includes Bible stories, crafts, play time, and refreshments.  This ministry has also opened the door to minister by providing food, performing weddings and funerals, and making hospital visits and, at Christmas, they distribute gifts to the children.

In addition to the trailer park ministry, Jack pastors a small rural church and Wilma serves as secretary for the Salem Baptist Association.

Other Kentucky missionaries serving into their 80s are Pauline White, Shirley Barlow, and Pat Howard.

Pauline White heard God’s call to leave her home in Florida and move to eastern Kentucky nearly 15 year ago.  She served people in Harlan County as director of Shepherd’s Food Pantry, faithfully giving out boxes of food, and always sharing the Gospel message with them.  Many were fed both physically and spiritually by her service.  Pauline concluded her ministry with Shepherd’s Pantry at the end of 2017.

Shirley Barlow felt God’s call in the early 50s to be more involved in missions.  Today she directs River City Mission, a homeless shelter in Paducah.  The shelter works with individuals to overcome addictions, secure work, get back on their feet so they can go back into society and resurrect their family situation, and commit or recommit their lives to Christ.  Shirley works in all aspects of the ministry and her love for those she serves shines so brightly.

Pat Howard has followed God’s call into a number of ministries during her lifetime.  Pat’s heart has been in ethnic work for many, many years, and she has shared the hope of Christ with many through this work.  Currently Pat serves as a regional mobilization consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, where she helps to enlist and encourage missionaries in her region around Bowling Green, KY.

It has been such a privilege to know and work alongside these missionaries.  They have been, and continue to be, such a blessing me and those they serve.  Thank you, Jack, Wilma, Pauline, Shirley, and Pat, for giving to the Lord.  Many lives have been changed s a result of your dedication to His work.

Disciple-Making in 2018

As 2018 is here, let me encourage us to think about how we might use our lives for impacting others with the gospel.  As I look at churches in general, I am encouraged that many have seen the paramount necessity to take a bold stand upon biblical truth.  We stand upon the Word of God (the B-I-B-L-E, I know you remember that song!) as our sole source of authority for belief and practice.  For this bold stand and action, those churches are to be commended. Yet, there remains an urgent need.

One area of our Lord’s Church still seems to be deficient—disciple-making. The command of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 is a call to action. It is a command to “make disciples of all nations.” The issue at hand, then, is what is a disciple? Disciple means a learner or follower. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” According to this passage, a disciple is a self-denying, daily cross-carrying, follower of Jesus Christ. We could say, therefore, that a disciple is a life-long, radical, reproducing follower of Jesus.

The question now arises as to how Jesus made disciples and whether He passed on a particular pattern for disciple-making? Jesus taught the masses, but He invested in just a few. Jesus ultimately passed on the enormous responsibility of global impact to eleven men. How were eleven men to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ? The answer is one person at a time. Jesus discipled twelve men (one was not a true disciple) and within the twelve he had three and even within the three he had one.

We can see three aspects of Jesus’ disciple-making process: mentor, model and multiply. Jesus would mentor or teach the disciples about Himself and God’s Word. Jesus would also model what He taught. In other words, He showed the disciples how to live what He taught. This is much like Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” After teaching and showing, Jesus would multiply Himself by sending His disciples to put into practice the things that they had heard and seen from Him. For example, in Matthew 5- 7, Jesus spent much time teaching the disciples. In chapters 8-9, He showed them how to minister.  In chapter 10, He sends them out to do what they have heard and seen. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus mentor, model and multiply.

As we think about making disciples in 2018, who might the Lord place in your path that you can point to Jesus and help them grow in Him?  The pattern for Jesus’s disciple-making is reproducible.  In fact, it’s simple.  It’s relationships.  Mentor, model, and multiply.  In doing so, we reach Louisville and the world one person at a time.

 

 

Why Get Trained?

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief offers several training opportunities every year for volunteers to become trained in disaster response and get connected with this Christ-centered ministry.

Why get trained?  Let me give you several reasons, why it is important to be trained if you want to respond in a positive and effective way in times of disaster:

  • People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
  • Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
  • Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to provide appropriate assistance and correct information to those affected.
  • Untrained volunteers lack expertise to genuinely help those who have suffered loss, and are unprepared to handle the emotional trauma of victims.
  • Untrained volunteers are unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.  
  • Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management. Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  • Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get access into disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  • The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!  A little training goes a long way in making us more effective and prepared to serve with excellence for the glory of our Lord.

Check out these opportunities for training in 2017 and 2018:

January 13, 2018 – First Baptist Church of Grayson

February 10, 2018 – Mexico Baptist Church in Marion

March 10, 2018 – Shelbyville First Baptist Church

April 14, 2018 – Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green

September 15, 2018 – Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin

For more information, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office by phone at (502) 489-3527 or (866) 489-3527, by email at [email protected], or register for training at www.kybaptist.org/dr/.

 

Christmas – A Time of Giving

Christmas is a time of giving.  We are careful to select just the right gift for our family and friends.  They may or may not be expensive gifts, for giving is a means of showing our love, our thoughtfulness, and that we care for the other person.

At church we prepare food boxes for those less fortunate.  We may give poinsettias, fruit baskets, and/or gift cards to widows and widowers, and shop for clothes and toys for children.

At Christmas time we want to celebrate together.  We give of ourselves as we open our homes and hearts to those we love.   It is only December 12th and I have already been a part of 6 Christmas parties.  It was a time of food, fellowship, and sharing with one another, that may or may not have included Christmas gifts.

For Kentucky Baptists this Christmas included the giving of Christmas Backpacks filled with food, toys, clothing items, school supplies, hygiene items, and possibly a Bible or Bible story book.  Partnering with Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union and Appalachian Regional Ministry, Kentucky Baptist Churches exceeded their goal of 5000, by filling nearly 8000 backpacks.  Southern Baptists as a whole filled nearly 72,000 backpacks, with an estimated 20,000 of those given to children in Kentucky.  Along with each backpack, a gospel presentation was shared.

I had the privilege of participating in the distribution of these backpacks in at least three locations.  What a joy to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they were given a Christmas backpack.  A BIG thank you to all who filled these backpacks.

Today I felt a lot like Santa as I picked up and delivered large black plastic bags filled with stuffed animals from the Richmond LifeWay Store, that were donated by the customers that shop there.  Thanks to Store Manager J.B. Hall for his partnership in eastern Kentucky ministries year-round.

Homemade quilts, throws, witnessing dolls, winter coats, shoes, scarves and gloves, are just a few of the items that came from individuals and churches to share with families at this special time of year.

Yes, Christmas is a time of giving, and I have been blessed to see the generosity of people these past few weeks.  But, let’s not forget that we give because He gave.  God gave us the special gift of His Son that first Christmas.  Along with our giving, let’s not forget to give the message of Hope that He came to bring.  Won’t you share that message this Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!!

A Year Later

What a ride the last year has been for my family.  After nearly 4 ½ years of waiting for our daughter from Ethiopia, my wife and I brought her home this time last year to be with her forever family.  By God’s grace the transition has gone very well.  In fact, her personality has blossomed over the last year, as she has become a very outgoing three-year-old.  Let’s just say, she knows how to work the camera!

As I look back over the year, God has taught me much about Himself through our adoption journey.  I am amazed by God’s love for us.  The first night that my daughter was with my wife and me in Ethiopia, my wife sang “Jesus Loves Me” to her as a way to sooth her to sleep.  Every night since then, my wife or I have sung this same song to her at bedtime.  She now won’t let us lay her down for bed without singing it!  We want her to know that God’s love for her is so deep and wide and high (Eph 3:17-18) that there is no place she can go where His love is not there.  We want her to know that God loves her so much that He sent Jesus to die in her place, if she will simply believe (John 3:16).  We want her to know that the love of God is not something she earns or even deserves; it is a gift from Him (Eph 2:8-9).

Closely related to God’s love for us is His (relentless) pursuit of us.  Because Jesus loves us, this I know, He takes great pains to pursue us and bring us to Himself.  As I reflect on the long journey of bringing our daughter home to her forever family, I remember days when it seemed like there was no end in sight.  No communication.  No updates. No pictures. No progress in the process.  Just when my wife and I would feel completely defeated, God would often send us a ray of sunshine in the form of a conversation, update, picture, or word of encouragement.  All we knew was that God had called us to be her parents and we would do whatever it took to bring her home.  Oh, how much more does God do this for us!  At any and all costs Jesus relentless pursues us in order to bring us into His forever family (1 John 4:10).

While I have learned more about God’s love and His pursuit of us during this journey, I have also been encouraged that He is at work for our good and His glory.  During those dark days of doubt and frustration, I can look back and see that God was working “all things for good” (Romans 8:28).  We reminded ourselves often of God’s intentional care for our lives and that He was working behind the scenes, especially when we could not see it.  All of this waiting and hoping is meant to produce trust in God, to cause us to run to God.  Much like the father asking Jesus to heal his son, we reply to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

God has been so good to our family, but what’s even more amazing is God is good even if the past year did not go as it has.  Yet, in His kindness He has been gracious to allow this past year to be one filled with joy (yes, challenges too).  I don’t know what the next year holds, but I am grateful I know who holds the next year!

Tearing Down the Walls

In November of 1989, the East German government announced it would allow limited travel across the West German border.  within hours of this news, hundreds of thousands of East and West Germans gathered around the Berlin wall.  A massive celebration erupted and people began spontaneously tearing down the wall with hammers and chisels.  The rest is history, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.  The wall that had divided the people was brought down.

May I ask, are there any walls in your life that divide you from others?  Walls that place you on one side and separate you from those other folks?  Perhaps the young adult with more tattoos and piercings than you find comfortable?  Maybe that Syrian family that just arrived at the airport?  Could it be the Latino family who moved to your neighborhood?  Or that homeless person standing on the street corner near your workplace?  And if you really want to get personal, how about those Samaritans?

In Jesus day, there was a huge invisible wall that stood between Samaritans and Jews.  The two cultures had hated each other for over a thousand years or so.  Jews believed that Samaritans were half-breeds, and those who had rejected the true faith by marrying pagans.  A Jew counted a Samaritan as a little less than a stray dog.

Jesus, however, broke all the rules.  Jesus had reached out to a Samaritan woman at a well and shared that God was more concerned with worshipping in spirit and in truth than whose family you were born in.  Jesus showed us that God loves the world…every person in the world.

That is why we read in Acts 8 that God sent Philip to preach Christ in the city of Samaria, and revival broke out.  God’s hammer was tearing down walls.

But God was not through.  He sent Philip on a second cross-cultural mission, and as he journeyed, his path intersected with an Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip shared with him the truth of the Gospel, and the Ethiopian became a baptized follower of Christ.  The walls of race were hammered to the ground, and the two became brothers in Christ.

Walls always divide us.  God desires to bring down the walls and to unite us as family in Christ.

We cannot experience the life that God wants to give us unless we are willing to lay aside our bias and prejudice. Who is the Samaritan in your world?  Who is the Ethiopian eunuch that God has brought across your path?   Will you take God’s hammer and help Him bring down the walls?

Kentucky Baptists have always been willing to go to the airport and travel to the farthest corners of the world for the sake of the Gospel.  God is asking us today; will we be just as willing to go to the airport to meet a refugee family for Christ’s sake?  Would we be willing to go down the street and offer a little hospitality to the family that looks a little different from us for Jesus?

Will we be those who tear down the walls?

Interested in becoming involved with a refugee family, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office to learn more at (502) 489-3527 or by ewmail at [email protected]

 

 

Missions Participation Involves Sending, Going and Making

The idea of Christ followers being involved in missions is supported throughout scripture. Two very familiar passages are Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Both record the words of Christ, telling His followers to go and make disciples of all people by being His witness in all places.

The church is not supposed to only study or learn about missions. The Bible is clear about our responsibility and uses action words like “send”, “go” and “make” disciples to emphasize the church’s role.  A church that is sending, going and making will experience a high level of missions participation by its members. Participation in missions is critical to healthy church development, individual spiritual growth and advancement of the gospel.  How exciting it is to learn of churches that are missions active, rather than simply missions minded.

Below is a list of Kentucky’s top ten churches, in terms of missions participation. Missions participation refers to mission trips, church planting efforts, local ministry projects and disaster relief responses.  Each of the churches has earned recognition because they had a greater percentage of their worship attendance participating in missions this year than they did the previous.

  1. Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, Lewisport, Jerry Dalton, pastor.
  2. Charleston First Baptist Church, Dawson Springs, Patrick Yates, pastor.
  3. East Hickman Baptist Church, Lexington, Kevin Davidson, pastor
  4. Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, Catlettsburg, Mike Blankenship, pastor.
  5. Tiny Town Baptist Church, Guthrie, James “Buck” Tidwell, pastor.
  6. Williamstown Baptist Church, Williamstown, Terry Leap, pastor.
  7. Little Flock Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Rodney Alexander, pastor.
  8. Salem Baptist Church, Irvine, Jerry Smith, pastor.
  9. Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Nancy, Patrick Patterson, pastor.
  10. Gamaliel Baptist Church, Gamaliel, Danny Pace, pastor.

Pastor “Buck” Tidwell shared that Tiny Town Baptist Church experienced an increase in missions participation because of their initial involvement in Operation Inasmuch a year ago.  Not only did that single day of community engagement through missions projects involve a large percentage of their Sunday morning attendance, but a weekly backpack ministry to needy children was birthed as a result. Now, every week members are participating in missions because they were first encouraged to participate in a one-day mission event.

I don’t know how or why all of the churches saw increased missions participation, but I do know that the more seeds that are sown, the greater the Kingdom harvest. Pastors should lead their people to participate in missions because we’re commanded to do so and we have a gospel to proclaim.  However, there are benefits to churches that are sending, going and making disciples through missions participation.

Benefits to the missions participating church include: 

  1. Improves health and vitality.
  2. Generates passionate and exciting worship.
  3. Stimulates revitalization and growth.
  4. Develops disciples.
  5. Puts emphasis on people, not buildings or budgets.
  6. Turns focus outward, rather than inward.
  7. A greater Kingdom harvest because more seeds are sown.

My prayer is that more churches will experience an increase in the number of people participating in missions, but it won’t happen accidentally.  It demands an intentional effort by the pastor and church leadership.  What will you do in your church to encourage greater missions participation that calls people to send, go and make?

Thankful for Kentucky Missions

It’s November and Fall is in the air.  The days are getting shorter.  The crisp, cooler temperatures are here, and the hills are filled with the beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors of the season.  Soon we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and reflect on the many ways God has blessed us this past year.

What has your year been like?   What do you have to be thankful for?  How has God blessed you?  And, how have you been a blessing to other people?

As I look back over the past 12 months, I want to thank God for His calling on my life and for allowing me to have a part in His great work in Kentucky.  It is a blessing to serve across the state with churches, associations, KBC staff, Kentucky WMU, and most of all, our Kentucky missionaries.  Below are some highlights of year for which I am thankful:

  • for the 93 Kentucky Missionaries that serve across our state.
  • for 17 new missionaries that joined our Kentucky Missionary Family.
  • for the 3217 professions of faith reported by the missionaries.
  • for over 20,000 volunteers that served with the missionaries, and many others that served churches and associations.
  • for thousands of dollars of resources that were donated to Kentucky ministries.
  • for the more than 15,000 Christmas Backpacks that blessed the children of Kentucky last Christmas, and for over 7000 Christmas Backpacks that were filled by Kentucky Baptists for needy children in Kentucky and the Send Cincinnati area this Christmas.
  • for Kentucky Missionary of the Year Amy Wilhelmus, Director of the Moore Activity Center in Covington.
  • for George & Cathy Chinn, Ryan Horrell, Pat Howard, Arlene Miller, John Morris, and Twyla Sheffield – the 7 mobilization consultants that serve assist me across the state.
  • for Cooperative Program and Eliza Broadus Offering that helps to fund the ministries in Kentucky.

Many lives have been touched this year by Kentucky Baptists, and the year is not over.  There are still nearly two months to serve.  Who can you bless during this time?  Look for ways that you can share God’s love during these last 2 months of 2017.

For information on serving with a Kentucky ministry during the holiday season contact the KBC Missions Mobilization office at 502-489-3530 or email [email protected].  You will be blessed, as well as be a blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Going to Zimbabwe


Recently, I had the privilege to lead my second short-term mission team to Zimbabwe, Africa.  The purpose of the mission was twofold: train pastors and church leaders in theological education and model racial reconciliation.  The team consisted of 8 African-American pastors and 5 Anglo pastors.  The team was not only diverse ethnically, but also demographically.  We had team members serving in the inner city, suburbs and rural areas of KY.  We had the privilege to partner with Nick and Kyndra Moore, IMB missionaries serving in Zimbabwe.

No one on the team knew every team member of the team (well).  In fact, the day we left for Zimbabwe was the day some of our team met each other for the first time.  We arrived in Zimbabwe and hit the ground running.  Spending the first night in a central location, the next day (Sunday) after the team split up for worship in two local churches, we grabbed our bags and loaded our vehicles and ventured out into twelve different locations throughout the country.  Some of our team members stayed in larger cities and enjoyed more modern accommodations (such as warm bread pudding and ice-cream), while others stayed in huts with hammocks and dodged giant moths, just being grateful they were not bats!  Regardless of where our team members stayed, they loved on the people of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe loved on them.

Each team member was responsible for teaching a set curriculum in partnership with World Hope Bible Institute.  The material consisted of courses ranging from hermeneutics to expository preaching to soteriology to New Testament to Systematic Theology to Ecclesiology.  Each location received teaching in three courses.

Relationships were built and churches were strengthened through the teaching ministry of our team.  Even more impactful were the lessons learned by our team as they observed the hunger and passion by the Zimbabweans to the learn the Word of God.  As always, our team received more than they gave.

 

While the whole mission was designed to intentionally create an environment for multi-ethnic cooperative missions, our team spent intentional time at the end of our week discussing what that looks like for churches today.  We used the new book Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention as a springboard for our discussion.  Kevin Jones, one of the book’s editors, who also was on our mission team, facilitated our discussion.  While much was said during our time of dialogue that was extremely beneficial, what stood out to me the most was that relationships are key to racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention.  We must live life together and do ministry together before the ills of racism will truly crumble.  So, let’s not just talk about racial reconciliation, let’s live it out together for the cause of the gospel and the glory of God to all nations.

Will Your Life Count?

Where does time go?  It seems only yesterday that I was playing right tackle for the Greenback Cherokees.  Just minutes ago, I was looking into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world as I said, “I Do.”  And our children, how could they all have grown up so fast?

Somewhere it hits us all.  Maybe it is at your grandmother’s funeral.  Perhaps it is when your older brother left for the Marines.  For some of us, it is when we make our first house payment, or at our daughter’s wedding.  But there comes a time when we realize that life is more than ballgames, pizza, and homework.  Time is marching on. The days of our life pass quickly.

The Bible tells us that God has ordained the days of every person’s life.  In Psalm 139:16, we read, “All the days ordained for me were recorded in Your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

Our life is a gift from God and a seed of our parents.  Every life is unique.  There is no one exactly like you in the universe.  No other person can live your life.  When your days are done, there is no recycling bin to recreate you for another round of use.  We only have one chance to make our life count.  So can I ask you, what are you doing with your one-and-only life?

When all is said and done, will your life have counted for something?   Will it have mattered for eternity’s sake?

Can I ask you a couple of questions?

  1. If you had lived in Nazi Germany as a believer in Christ, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?
  2.  If you had lived in Alabama in the 1960’s, would you have spoken out against racism?
  3. When your grandchildren discover that you lived among the wealthiest generation in the history during a time when someone dies of starvation every 2.5 seconds, and a child dies from unclean water every 20 seconds, how will they judge how you chose to live and what you did with the blessings that God has given you?
  4. In a time when 2/3 of our world still needs the Gospel, can you name one thing last year that identified you as being on mission for Jesus?
  5. At your funeral would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you as a Follower of Christ?

These first two questions are easier, aren’t they?  They are just hypothetical.  I want to believe that I would have had the courage to stand against evil and racism.

It is those last three questions that trouble me at times.  For they are not hypothetical.  These are about the choices that I am making today with my life.  We choose each day what we will invest our life.

You and I were created by God to make a difference for His sake in our allotted time.  To make our life count now and beyond the grave.  To do our part to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.  In the end, nothing else will really matter.

Are you on mission for the sake of Christ?

Will your life count?  

Want to learn more about how to make your life count?  Contact the Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at (502) 489-3530 or [email protected]