How Will You Be A Voice For Life?

These Syrian children were forcibly displaced and now live as refugees with their mother in Athens, Greece. Over half of the world’s refugees are children. In this family’s case, their father had been killed. These children live with their mother in an apartment building that had been converted into a makeshift urban “camp.”

Near the conclusion of the creation account found in Genesis 1, God’s Word makes a profound statement that highlights the significance and value of all human life.  Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

While there are many rich truths that could be gleaned from this single verse of Scripture, the fact that we are created by God in His image is what gives all men and women a deep sense of worth and value. Mankind is the crowning jewel or the zenith of God’s creation, and the Bible underscores this truth throughout the pages of Scripture. For example, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Throughout this month, many followers of Christ will set aside a time to remember and reflect upon the sanctity of human life and holiness of God.  Churches will celebrate the fact that life is a gift from God, and they will also grieve the numerous lives that have been lost prematurely due to abortion, abandonment, abuse, violence, persecution, or some other means. As believers, we are called to be a voice for the powerless and to serve and support those in need by sharing the grace, love, compassion, and good news of Christ with others. There are several ways that individuals and Kentucky Baptist churches can be a voice for life. Consider how God may be calling you to be involved.

  • We can pray for those whose lives are the most vulnerable, particularly the unborn, the disabled and the elderly.
  • We can stand ready to come alongside and minister to those who find themselves in the midst of a crisis pregnancy or the loneliness that often comes in the late stages of one’s life.
  • Maybe God is calling you to adopt a child, serve as a foster family, or minister to refugees. 
  • Perhaps God is asking you to play a part in the restoration and healing process with someone who experienced the emotional and physical pain of an abortion months or even years ago, but they still long for forgiveness and spiritual healing. Will you help that individual to know that God loves them and offers a new start in life?

In whatever way God leads you to be an outspoken voice for life, remember the truth that we are all made in the image of God. An individual’s worth and dignity is not based upon that person’s culture, their class, country of origin or the color of their skin. Every single person has value to God because they are made in His image, and each individual is precious to Him. Remember, whoever is precious and valuable to God should be precious and valuable to us.

For further questions or comments, please contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] The missions mobilization team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission both locally and globally.

A Soft Place to Land in a Hard, Hard World

Lee, Erica & Cheri

For the past 20 years women inmates across Kentucky have been shown the love of Jesus Christ through worship services and the Christ-centered teachings of Freedom Forever Ministries.  KY-MSC Missionary Lee Rust says they minister inside, behind the bars.  In addition to the worship services Lee and her volunteer team provides a 10-week Good Grief program and are reaching women who are often forgotten, with the Word of God.

“We see God transform lives right before our eyes,” Lee says.  “We get to know the women, share their heart and pain, and see God work through them.  We are His voice.  We are rewarded by seeing what He does, by seeing changed lives.”  Lee says it is not unusual to have women come up to her years later, ask if she remembers them and tell her how well they are now doing thanks to Freedom Forever Ministries.

Cheri, a former inmate who was incarcerated at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex for three years, is more than happy to sing the praises of Freedom Forever Ministries.  She was very broken and really struggling while in prison, but said this ministry was “such a bright spot for the ladies in a really dark world we were living in.  They were such wonderful people, so loving and kind,” Cheri said.  “It encouraged my faith, kept me from lagging and from falling into the ways of prison life.  Once you came in, if you weren’t a believer I don’t know how you could go out and not be a believer, because you heard the Word in the message given by Lee each Wednesday, you heard the Word in the music and the seed was planted.  They were a soft place to land in a hard, hard world.  It was so nice to see a smiling face each week, to have somebody ask how you were doing, how your week was going.  They did their very best to take that extra minute here and there to be personal, interested and compassionate.  They were truly the hands and feet of Christ.”

Lee’s husband Eric and daughter Erica are also a part of the ministry.  Erica was not allowed to go into the prison until she turned 18.  Once she turned 18 however, Erica too joined in the ministry.  Cheri recalls Erica singing at the services, saying “she followed her parents’ servant hearts.”

Erica just recently married and, when choosing food for the wedding reception, reconnected with Cheri, who is now released from prison, has her life back together, and has her own business of making beer cheese.  Cheri said it was the first time she had seen this family since being released from prison and it was such an honor to meet on the “other side” and to “give back” to a family that had meant so much to her. 

Pray for Lee and Freedom Forever Ministries as they make a difference in the lives of many women when they are at their lowest.  To learn more about Freedom Forever Ministries go to https://freedomforeverministries.com/ or connect with them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FreedomForeverMinistries/), where you will find a video of Cheri’s testimonial. 



The Power of Missions

If you or I were to write the script for the advancement of the gospel after Jesus’s death and resurrection, I dare say it would not unfold quite the same as it did in the book of Acts.  Perhaps we would have sent the disciples out on mission immediately after the resurrection or at least after Jesus’s ascension.  Jesus did not lay out a military strategy that called his early followers to “strike while the iron was hot.”  Rather, Jesus commanded them to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8).  The advancement of the gospel would not rely upon the ingenuity of man, but upon the power of God.  In fact, Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit to carry the call of God to the world. 

As Bob Burton notes, “The book of Acts . . . begins with waiting and preparation.  For the first-century church, the measure of the effectiveness on the mission field was directly related to the measure of spiritual preparation—praying, waiting, and expecting” (The Spiritual DNA of a Church on Mission, 10).  He goes on to explain that the church does indeed explode with growth, but only after a time of preparation (10 days of prayer and fasting).  The urgency of the gospel moving mightily through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the nations begins by preparation through prayer. By waiting and praying. 

Prayer is always instrumental in the expansion of the gospel in Acts.  Burton is correct that “there is always a direct connection between prayer and missions (The Spiritual DNA, 11).  For example, in Acts 3 Peter and John enter the temple area at the time of prayer and heal a man who is born lame.  As this event creates no small commotion, Peter uses it to preach the gospel to the gathered crowd.  This gathering then gains the attention of the religious leaders who arrest Peter and John for preaching Jesus.  In Acts 4 the apostles are threatened with death and then released with the understanding that they have been warned.  They immediately return to the church knowing what is at stake.

They report to the church what had happened and then begin to pray.  They pray not for deliverance from this threat or that Jesus would somehow ease their burden or change their calling.  No, they pray for God-given boldness (Acts 4:29).  As they pray, God physically shakes the room where they have gathered and fills them with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they continue speaking with boldness about the gospel of Jesus (Acts 4:31; 33). 

As we see, “preparation was the foundational missional principle for the church. It all began with a lifestyle of prayer, waiting, and expectation” (The Spiritual DNA, 11).  Oh, that the church would rediscover this principle.  What might God do with the church today that waits and prays?  What might He do with the church that pleads with God to move mightily in and through them by the filling of His Spirit?  He did it then; He can do it again.  If we can help your church in developing intentional prayer for the Great Commission, then please call on us at [email protected].     

Wise Instruction for a Leader

Good leaders are deciders. Leaders make decisions and move forward. They may not always be right, but they do not allow themselves to be paralyzed by indecision.

Great spiritual leadership recognizes the need for God to be integral in the process of decision-making. In Exodus 18: 19-21 Moses was given great leadership advice by his father-in-law Jethro, “Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”

This passage teaches us three great pastoral leadership principles:

  1. Bathe decisions in prayer. We should begin decision-making in prayer. If we are to lead God’s people effectively, we need to be a person of prayer. Our calling is to lead people to the place that God desires them to be, and to do that effectively we must stay close to God. Great leaders lead the people as they draw close to God and remain close to Him during the journey. Talk more to God about the church’s issues than you proclaim them from the pulpit.
  2. Base all you do on God’s truth. Godly leadership bases decisions on the truth, not personal opinions. We are called as spiritual leaders to teach the truth of God that He has revealed to us in His Holy Word. All we do should be based on the teachings of Scripture and our lives ought to seek to model these teachings. Any decision made that cannot find foundation in God’s Word will not stand the test of time and ultimately will fail.
  3. Share leadership with others whom God has gifted. Moses could not possibly do everything himself as he led the people of Israel, and neither can we. God does not call us to be Lone Ranger followers. Good leaders empower others to use their gifts and share leadership responsibilities with others. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone. Pastoral authority is not lessened in shared leadership, it is enhanced as we maximize the giftedness of the church and allow the followers of Christ opportunity to be used and to grow in their faith. Good leaders do not fear other mature believers having a voice in the decision-making process, and in wisdom welcome the input of others.

The called of God are to stand and lead. But that privilege only comes to those who have first followed. Therefore, speak after you have first sought a word from Him. Lead as you pursue His direction. Stand after spending time before His throne of grace. Be wise by seeking the input of other gifted followers of our God. And then issue the call to go boldly forward not by barking commands but by rallying the faithful to follow Our Commander and Lord.

Choose Obedience Over Safety

I talked with a pastor last week who was discouraged and hurting.  The reason he was discouraged might surprise you, because worship attendance wasn’t down and the church wasn’t behind in the budget.  It wasn’t because of internal fighting or dissatisfaction with his sermons.  Instead, this pastor was discouraged because members felt like conducting ministry in near-by apartments was too dangerous for the church. They didn’t want to go to that hard place because it could be un-safe for them. 

I remember a similar situation many years ago when I was serving as a student minister.  I had planned a mission trip to inner-city Chicago and some were questioning whether or not they should allow the trip to take place because it could be un-safe. We did go, and God blessed. 

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is our foundation for going and making disciples everywhere.  Everywhere, sometimes include unsafe or hard places.  I’m not suggesting that we face all danger with no regard for the safety of ourselves or others.  But, like Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts, we are called to “risk” our lives for the cause of Christ (Acts 15:26).  Do we really want to remove our gospel witness from the hard places in the world where it is most needed?   Jesus doesn’t call us to safety, He calls us to GO!  If we always choose safety over obedience, we’ll never make disciples of all the world.    

The Great Commission commands us to go.  Here are three reminders found within The Great Commission that will help us as we seek to be true to the calling. 

1. The Great Commission reminds us of Jesus’ power over all things.  These are the words of the risen Christ, who had overcome death on the cross.  He claimed all authority and gave us the authority to represent Him in the world that we live in.    

2. The Great Commission reminds us of Jesus’ purpose for our ministries. Our mission is, that we are to make disciples of all the world as we go.  This mission is a call to reach all people groups.  We are called to share the gospel in our neighborhoods (even the un-safe ones) and in all the nations (even the hard ones). 

3. The Great Commission reminds us of Jesus’ promise to be with us always.  The promise that Jesus made should be meaningful and encouraging.  We live in a dangerous world, but His promise should bring us enormous comfort because He will always be with us. 

There are many Christians throughout history who have faithfully served the Lord at tremendous cost to their safety and security.  Our calling is to be found faithful with the gospel today, even in the unsafe and hard places.  Lord, may we choose obedience to you over our safety and security. 

WHY YOU SHOULD OPEN YOUR HOME THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

The end of the year is often marked by a seemingly endless barrage of family gatherings, cookie swaps, white elephant gift exchanges, office parties and more.

The holidays cause some to stress out and wonder if they can fit everything in. Others experience profound sadness as they reflect on the loss of a loved one or other disappointments in life.

The holiday season can be a welcome time of intentional hospitality. When Jesus shared meals with people, it gave him the opportunity to enter the lives of the people with whom he was eating. In fact, eating together is one of the most important and practical means for overcoming any barriers that separates us.

When considering how to love our neighbors and family this season, Jesus offers a way for us to use the gift of hospitality as means to share his grace. Here are three ways to enter the holidays with gospel intentionality:

1. Broaden your reflection.

As you begin to shift your thoughts toward the birth of Jesus, add this verse to your reflection: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus said he will come to the table if you will let him. Incarnation was always about recapturing simple, intimate communion.

2. Open your table.

There is a familiar saying around our house when it comes to supper: “There’s always room for one more.” And there is. But what takes that from a stated fact to a shared reality is an intentional invitation. When we open our tables to our neighbors, we are offering more than a meal. We are offering an invitation into communion.

3. Ask good questions.

Around a table, the art of conversation is fostered. Try to avoid questions that lead to one-word answers. Instead ask open-ended questions like, “What are some of your greatest memories of the holidays growing up?” or “What is most difficult for you during the holidays?” These questions, when engaged honestly, can connect people at a deep level. Take time to listen. Really listen.

Focusing on these three things this holiday season can create space for intimate communion with family members, co-workers, neighbors, international students, or refugees. And who knows, because they are at your table, you might find yourself in a conversation with someone wondering how they can find a seat at Jesus’ table.

As Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Lord, help us to open our homes this holiday season for glory of your name, and we pray that many will come to know you! 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 or resources for you and your church. Merry Christmas. We are stronger together!

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!