Building the Kingdom, One Kid At a Time

Kingdom Kids

As we celebrate Baptist Association Emphasis Week, I would like to spotlight a ministry of the Pulaski Baptist Association.

Kingdom Kids is an associational children’s ministry.  The ministry was founded in 2006 by Stacey Burton, Evangelism Catalyst with the North American Mission Board and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, with three primary objectives.  First, they are building the Kingdom reaching one child at a time with the Gospel by offering community children’s evernts such as day camps, an associational choir, and mission action projects throughout the year. Second, they are building the local church one family at a time by connecting those who attend the events but claim no church home with the churches that support the ministy by sending volunteers or financial support. Third, they are spreading Christ’s love throughout the community through large outreach events such as Easter Bash, Family Movie Night, etc.  Stacey is also available as a consultant to association and regional churches helping them to build, strengthen, and maintain healthy church & family ministries.

Last year three children came to know Christ as their personal Savior through the outreach of Kingdom Kids.  The ministry crossed county lines as they lead Vacation Bible School for Polly Ann Baptist Church in Lincoln County.

Although Kingdom Kids provides outreach events throughout the year, summer is their busiest season.  Beginning May 22 with a movie night at the Shopville Park and ending August 7 with a movie night at Cole Park, every week but one there is some type of outreach scheduled.  The 2015 Schedule includes seven movie nights, a block party, VBS at five locations (including one in Lincoln County and one in Russell County), a creative ministries workshop, sports camp, boys day camp, girls day camp, and a mission day trip.

A new aspect of the ministry is a local mission team for middle school, high school, and college students to serve alongside Ms. Stacey.  A middle school/high school community choir called “A Joyful Noise” has also been added to the ministry.  This choir was created as several children in the elementary choir moved to middle school but didn’t want to leave Kingdom Kids.

Mission teams from Brodhead Baptist Church (Rockcastle County), from a church in Alabama, and a church in Georgia are scheduled to serve with Kingdom Kids this summer.

This is a great ministry that impacts many children each year with the love of Christ.  To learn more about Kingdom Kids, or to request help from Ms. Stacey, go to the Kingdom Kids Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/kingdomkids11/.

 

 

 

It’s a Matter of the Heart

heart_rate_monitorThe heart is an incredible organ created by an even more incredible God.  A healthy heart is vital for life.  When one’s heart is unhealthy, life is at risk.  The Bible understands the importance of the heart.  The Bible speaks of the necessity of a healthy heart.  In fact, the Bible emphatically speaks of humans needing new hearts (Ezek 36:26).  The universal problem of sin kills every human heart (Rom 3:23; 6:23).  Only by God’s divine grace can our hearts be made new.  Only a sovereign God can perform spiritual heart surgery on stony hearts.  Only God can remove an old callused heart and replace it with a heart of flesh.

The great first century missionary Paul realized the need for new hearts.  As Paul made his way to Europe with the gospel, he came to Philippi.  Instead of finding a synagogue of Jewish people, Paul met a lady by the river named Lydia, a business woman and worshiper of God.  This religious lady had never heard the good news of Jesus.  As Paul shared the message of Jesus with her, the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

In other words, as Ezekiel had prophesied centuries prior, God used the message of Jesus as the instrument to remove Lydia’s stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh.  The message went out and by God’s grace it also went in.  Only upon receiving a new heart did Lydia respond appropriately to this new message from Paul’s mouth—a message that would change her and her family (Acts 16:15).

Nearly two thousand years later the need is the same.  The universal problem of sin still kills.  However, the remedy is also the same.  Jesus still saves by making hearts new.  Lydia’s exist everywhere.  The only hope for the Lydia’s and Larry’s of the world is a new heart that comes through Jesus alone.

Missions is about the one answer to the universal problem of sin—new hearts come through Jesus.  Yet, only as the message of Jesus is shared will hearts be changed in order for people to respond to the good news of Jesus.  After all, how can hearts be made new to respond to Jesus in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher (Rom 10:14)?  The message goes out and changes hearts only as we go out with the message.

It really is a matter of the heart.

The Rise of the Nones

Rise-of-the-NonesThe single fastest-growing religious group in Western culture is those who check the box next to the word “None on national surveys.  This group represents almost 20 percent of the population in America.  Sadly, most churches are reaching few of this group for Christ.

We are living in a post-Christian world, andNones are declaring to us, “God, maybe, but Christianity, Christians, and Church, no.”  The changing culture is revealing to us that this is a growing belief among those of the next generation.  God has placed us here, as followers of Christ, for such a time as this.

If we are to reach this generation and the ”Nones,” it will require us to have a missional strategy and approach.  To reach this generation, we will have to:

  1. Learn the “heart” language of this generation.
  2. Become a student of our present culture.
  3. Share the Gospel in a way that can be understood.  Please note that I did not say change the Gospel.  The Gospel message is unchanging, but how we share that message sometimes must adapt in order to reach people groups.

In this era of declining church membership and growing apathy to matters of faith, let me suggest a book that is worth reading and that provides tremendous insight into the Nones.”  James Emory White, a pastor of one of the fastest growing church plants in America, has written a challenging, informative, and strategic book entitled: The Rise of the Nones.  This is a must read for anyone who has a heart for sharing the Gospel and impacting our culture for Christ.  This work can be found at Lifeway bookstores and is published by BakerBooks Publishing Group.   I highly recommend this book to church leaders and those in ministry who want to reach the next generation.

Does the Future of the Association Depend Upon the DOM?

There’s a lot of discussion taking place today about the value of Baptist associations. Arguments can be made for their benefit and importance as well as against their outdated methodologies and ineffectiveness. Having witnessed both effective and ineffective associations first hand, I am convinced the difference is primarily due to leadership, or the absence of. Effective associations where churches partner together for maximum Kingdom impact don’t just happen on their own. There must be someone who serves in a catalytic role, pulling together the churches to initiate, plan and implement strategic partnerships. In Baptist associations, that someone should be the Director of Missions (DOM). I’m hopeful that this blog post will help associations identify the kind of DOM they should be seeking God for. So, what are some of the characteristics of a catalytic DOM?    churches
1. Respected – it takes trust and respect over a period of years in order to pull together influential pastors and leaders in local churches. This doesn’t mean the DOM must be old and gray. Young men are capable of earning respect if they’re willing to make the investment and prove themselves among the community and churches in the association.
2. Dependent on God – there will always be many things going on within an association that a DOM could worry about. The temptation is to assess the situation and come up with a strategy that maximizes potential for impact, without seeking God. But sometimes those situations that a DOM fears the most might be what God wants to use to make the association rely on Him and not themselves.
3. Act as Role Model – DOMs must boldly and unashamedly model the priorities and values they proclaim. They can’t lead from behind. DOMs can’t just put an inspiring vision statement on the association and put together ministry teams, expecting others to carry out the mission. They must lead strongly from the front – setting the example.
4. Humble – one of the most important characteristics for a leader, especially a catalytic DOM, is humility. They can’t be concerned about building their own influence and power or making a name for themselves. Humble DOMs will be more involved in the long hard work of patiently developing relationships and building leaders than volunteering for highly visible board positions and speaking engagements.
5. Hard Worker – DOMs won’t see success in reaching ministry goals just because of their position, charismatic personality or charm. Making a Kingdom impact requires hard work, and sometimes that involves giving up “me” time. A catalytic DOM must allow God to determine the pace since He’s the One who has laid out the race for each of us. God’s pace will not involve aimless wondering, drifting comfortably toward retirement or laziness.
6. Committed to People – there are few leaders today who are selflessly generous toward and committed to those God has called them to serve. A DOM who is catalytic will not see people as tools to grow his ministry, but ministry as a way to grow the people and churches God has entrusted to his leadership.
If you’re a DOM, which of these characteristics best describes you? And which one do you need to work on? If you’re a pastor or church leader, how can you help your DOM to be a more effective catalytic leader for the association? The future of Baptist associations is at stake. Those that survive, will do so because they are valued by the churches for their strategic leadership and led by a catalytic DOM.

Missions Strategy: Equip Leaders

Everyone remembers the last words of a loved one.  In 2 Timothy, Paul gives his last words concerning the gospel to young pastor Timothy.  No doubt that these words were lodged in Timothy’s mind.  As Paul nears the end of his life, chained as a common criminal in a Roman dungeon, he pens his final instructions for this pastor to carry on the legacy of gospel advancement.  How would this gospel message advance beyond Asia and Europe?  How would Paul ensure that the message not be broken?  Really it’s quite simple.  Timothy was charged with multiplying himself in others. Multiplication symbol

Over the last several months, I have discussed key components to Great Commission faithfulness.  In short, these components are: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the unreached, establishing churches, and encouraging leaders and congregations.  The last aspect for gospel faithfulness is equipping leaders.  While Paul traveled across Asia and Europe spreading the gospel, he understood the importance of multiplication for this message to continue long after his death.

Paul, therefore, said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  Paul poured his life into the lives of others (like Timothy) in order that they would pour their lives into the lives of others.  This understanding comes from Jesus’ own pattern for disciple-making.  Yes, Jesus taught the masses, but he poured his life into a few.  Paul did the same.

In fact, Acts describes for us how Paul would plant churches and equip leaders everywhere he went (Acts 14).  Equipping leaders in the word is foundational for the message of Christ to be multiplied.  However, essential in this equipping is the understanding that “teaching others to observe all that Christ commanded” is not simply for leaders.  Leaders are equipped to equip, so that the equipped might also become equippers.  This is multiplication, not addition.  Addition is leaving all the equipping up to the leaders, but multiplication is equipping every Jesus follower to be an equipper.  This understanding is the heart of 2 Timothy 2:2 and the impetus of Paul’s ministry.

Each church must wrestle with the call to equip leaders for Great Commission impact.  We are called to make disciples of all nations.  Yes, equip our own church members, but also be part of making disciples in places where disciples are needed.  Part of each church’s strategy for Great Commission impact should be a plan to equip leaders who can then equip members for gospel impact.  The Great Commission will continue to multiply as we equip others to be equippers, both at home and abroad.

2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year

Whitetrees

Thirty-two years ago, after serving in Hawaii, Iowa, and Louisville Greg & Alice Whitetree came to the Lookout Community of Pike County, KY to become the Directors of the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  They planted themselves deeply in the community and today call that place “home.”  Greg & Alice not only minister to children, but the entire family through the various ministries of the Center.  It is estimated from their monthly reports that over 1,200 professions of faith have been made as a direct result of their ministry.  Of the forty-eight years they have been married, forty-five of those have been spent in ministry.

Last week, during the KY-WMU Annual Meeting at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawenceburg, Greg and Alice were presented with the 2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year award.  This award is given each year to a missionary or missionary couple that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Greg and Alice meet all of these requirements and more.  In 2011 the Whitetrees retired but agreed to remain as volunteer directors so that this ministry would continue in the place they love and serve.

Alice shared a story about Debbie, a lady she has been friends with and has witnessed to for the thirty-two years they have been at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  Time after time she had asked Debbie to give her heart to the Lord and Debbie kept saying no.  Just a few weeks ago, when a new volunteer was sharing with her, Debbie asked Christ into her heart.  “Thirty-two years,” Alice said.  “It was worth it all.”  Then, to the new missionaries being commissioned, Alice said, “Don’t give up,”

Thank you Greg and Alice for your love for the Lord and for your faithfulness in service.  CONGRATULATIONS on being chosen as the 2015 Missionary of the Year.

 

Why?

Nellie was laid to rest one, October afternoon.  She was eight years of age when complications from HIV/AIDS robbed her life.

Nelly on Left

Nellie on Left

Nellie contracted HIV/AIDS from her mother’s breast-milk.  When her mother died of this terrible disease, someone left her in a box outside an orphanage.  She was a beautiful, vibrant, active little girl.  She loved to hear Bible stories at bedtime.  While serving with a team assisting in AIDS/orphans ministry, she sat on my lap as I told her stories from the Bible.  When the email informed me of her passing, it stabbed my heart and caused me to implore “why?”

Why does God allow such suffering?

I witnessed first-hand the devastation of the Haiti earthquake that rocked thousands of lives. Last March, I walked among tens of thousands displaced by tribal war in South Sudan. Perhaps one man summed up the despair best when he told me, “The only thing that is trampled when two bull elephants fight is the grass between them.”  I can picture today the face of the woman in New York after Hurricane Sandy, who screamed at me, “Have they forgotten us?”  I am still haunted by a question asked of me by a survivor of the Japan tsunami that swept countless victims out to sea.  And, I confess that each of these drove me to look upwards as I cried for God to give me answers.

Why does a good God allow such suffering?

I confess to you today that I have no answer to this deep question.  The Bible dares to be honest, as it teaches us that life is not always easy and painless.  God chooses not to give a definitive answer for the question of suffering.  Rather than answer the question of “Why,” the Bible chooses to focus on the “Where.”

Where is God in the suffering?

God is on the side of those who suffer.  We live in a fallen, sin-plagued world where disasters strike and evil lurks, but God has not abandoned us.  God sent Jesus Christ into the muck of this world and declared Him to be, “Immanuel, which is translated God is with us”(Matthew 1:23).  Scripture further declares of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).  God demonstrated His love and compassion for us by sending Jesus Christ, who declares, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  God has not promised a world without hardship and trials, but He has promised to be with us.

Secondly, I would encourage you that God comes to those who suffer through His church.  Perhaps, our light of the church never shines brighter than when we come to those who suffer or minister to the “least of these.”  If the church does its job, then people do not wonder where God is.  They see him in the hands of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers.  They see him in the feet of those who go to care for widows and orphans.  They hear His voice as we offer compassion to the broken and discouraged.  Demonstrating a Christ-like presence brings relief to broken hearts, healing for open wounds, and resurrected hope to those wrapped in despair.

Finally, I would encourage you that God is preparing a new home for those who are His.  The suffering and evil of this world may wound us, but they do not have the final word.  Someday, our great God will usher us into a home that He is preparing  that will be safe from the enemy’s terrible hand.  The Bible offers the only real hope for our suffering when it declares emphatically about a coming day when:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Meet Our Newest Kentucky Missionaries

MSC logo
Each year we learn of individuals and couples that sense God’s call and leading to serve in ministries across Kentucky.  On Friday, April 10
th, twelve of these new missionaries will be commissioned by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, in conjunction with Kentucky WMU, during the WMU annual meeting at the Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg.  

These missionaries range in age from 20s to 70s, and serve in a variety of ministries.  Some have come to us from other states, while others are serving within their own home state or even their hometown.

Prior to the commissioning service, the missionaries will spend their morning and afternoon in orientation to learn more about the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Cooperative Program, and resources available to them.  This time of networking with each other is most valuable.

The new missionaries are:

  • Frank & Judy Caulder (from Lugoff, SC), serving as Directors of Sacks of Love Ministry in Harlan County.
  • Lillian Cottingham (from Jackson, GA), serving as an Evangelism Catalyst with Crossroads Community Baptist Church & Learning Center in Whitley City.
  • Holly Decker (from Barbourville), serving as a Mission Support Catalyst with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.
  • Joyce Flaugher (from Falmouth), serving as Mobilization Consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • David & Susan Hampton (from Corbin), serving as Disaster Relief Childcare Specialists with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • Jonathan Herald (from Manchester), serving as Missionary to Vulnerable Children & Families with Manchester Baptist Church and God’s Closet in Manchester.
  • Katheryn Pope (from Mt. Vernon), serving as Director of the Rockcastle Baptist Association’s Community Mission Team.
  • Paul & Mary Jo Radosevich (from Decatur, AL), serving as Directors of Calvary Campus in Blackey.
  • Madison Sawyers (from Corbin), serving as Disaster Relief Childcare Specialist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • Lorie Wells (from Corbin), serving as a Mission Support Catalyst with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.

You will not want to miss this special service and meet our newest Kentucky missionaries.  Perhaps you can connect with them and learn of ways to be a support to them in these ministries.

The 2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year will also be recognized during this service.

For more information on the activities of the WMU meeting go to www.kywmu.org/annualmeeting.

Hope to see you there.

Missions Strategy: Encourage Leaders

The call of the Great Commission (GC) is tremendous indeed.  It is a privilege to be an ambassador of our King, and yet it is a daunting responsibility.  The Lord never promised that making disciples of all nations would be easy; He did promise, however, that He would be with us.  Yet, the nature of such a task can become rather overwhelming without proper encouragement.

In recent months, I have discussed three components of GC faithfulness: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the unreached, and establishing churches.  A fourth necessary component of GC faithfulness is encouraging leaders.  Let’s face it.  Gospel work is people work and when working with people we can easily become weary.  We weary for lack of conversions or spiritual growth.  We grow weary from internal conflict or even outside conflict.  The number of reasons for our weariness is vast.

EncouragementEvery minister of the gospel, every church of the Lord Jesus, every follower of Christ needs to be encouraged that the race they are running is worth the struggle.  Paul understood the need to encourage believers in the gospel.  We are told in Acts 14 that Paul, upon planting churches, went back to those churches in order to “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).

I find it fascinating and also encouraging that these fledging churches needed encouragement so quickly.  I find it fascinating and encouraging because I know the same is true in my own life.  Life is hard.  Trials of life related specifically to the gospel and related generally to a fallen world mean that we are prone to become weary.

In fact, Paul says in Acts 14:22 that we will enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.  We fight until the very end.  Now, Paul is not saying that we fight our way to heaven in the sense that we earn it.  Rather, he is saying that life is filled with fighting the good fight of faith—taking hold of the eternal life to which we are called (1 Tim 6:12).  We continual pursue after Jesus; we persevere (by His grace).

In order to continually pursue after Jesus, we need people in our lives to help us in this pursuit.  This is why Paul made an intentional effort to travel back to the churches he had already planted to strengthen them in the faith.  They needed it then; we need it now.

Churches seeking to be faithful and effective in the Great Commission will intentionally strategize about ways to not only strengthen and encourage their own people in the faith, but other churches and leaders as well.  If these early believers needed it then, surely we need it now.  May we pray for power, evangelize the lost, plant churches, but not neglect to continually build up one another to fight the good fight until the end.

A Coming Disaster

New york ChaplaincyThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a disaster as, “a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction.”  As these events come raging into our lives, people need someone to come alongside them, if they are to survive and recover.

What comes to mind when you hear:

Katrina
West Liberty Tornado

Moore, Oklahoma Tornadoes

Colorado Wildfires

Hurricane Sandy

9-11

All of these provoke pictures in our minds of damage, destruction, loss, and tragedy.  The images of these events moved our hearts to reach out and respond as the people of God. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief rightly responded to the adversity caused by these calamitous events, and made a difference for the sake of Christ.

Let the warning sirens sound, as a greater disaster looms on the horizon.  According to the North American Mission Board, the church-to-population ratio in the United States peaked during the first World War with one church for every 430 people.  Today in the U.S., the ratio is one church for every 6,194 people, and some areas of our nation have as few as one church for every 60,000 people.  Even though Kentucky ranks much higher with one church for every 1,708 people, the somber reality is that barely 2 out of 10 individuals, who live in our state, choose to attend any of our existing churches on a given Sunday.  This is a looming spiritual disaster as many areas of our nation are living with little to no Gospel presence.  Nowadays, even areas of the Bible Belt are experiencing a rapid decline in church attendance.

Fortunately, Southern Baptists have developed a disaster strategy for recovery, as our nation suffers the loss created by this immense spiritual void.  Southern Baptists are engaging in a disaster relief program called “Send North America” that is seeking to plant churches across our nation.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention is also responding to this looming crisis by seeking to plant fifty new churches a year to reach our state with the Gospel.

You and your church could be part of the relief team by helping to start a new church in your community, or by seeking to join strategic partnerships to plant churches in another area of our nation.  Will you be part of a recovery strategy in Kentucky, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Utah, New York, or another area of of our nation?

I would further encourage us to not miss the strategic opportunities that natural or man-made disasters give us to share the help, healing, and hope of Christ.  The tragedy and loss of those affected often opens doors and hearts to the hope of Christ.  But, it is critical that we step through these doors while they remain open.  Churches often miss the momentum provided by disaster relief by not connecting with disaster relief ministry, and by not utilizing the opportunities for outreach and church planting provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  As God’s people, we must seek to capture this momentum for the sake of the Kingdom.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief would love to assist you in establishing a response strategy and have developed an initiative called “Ready Church” to assist you. Please contact our office for more information about “Ready Church” or go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr  to learn more about disaster relief ministries.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 9:36-38:

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

God has only one recovery plan for our nation and the world.  This looming disaster will not be abated without the followers of Christ stepping into the fray.  Would you join me in becoming part of one of the most critical disaster response teams in history?