Tornado Preparedness

West Liberty - 3Tornadoes are the most violent storms in nature.  Almost 1200 tornadoes strike every year across the United States.  Winds can reach more than 200 miles per hour, and they can destroy a neighborhood in seconds, leaving behind loss and chaos.  Every year, thousands hold their breath as they watch 15 to 20 of these deadly rotating clouds of fury pass through the Commonwealth.

The destruction and injury depends upon the size, intensity, path, time of day, and length of time the tornado stays on the ground.  They can occur in any season but are most likely in the spring and summer.  Tornadoes frequently occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The 2012 tornado that struck West Liberty tracked across Eastern Kentucky for more than 85 miles.  A survivor of this tornado reminds us of the violent nature of these storms and the need to be prepared, “If it weren’t for God, we’d all be dead.”

Most injuries and fatalities from tornadoes are caused by flying debris.  When a tornado strikes, it is vital to go to the safest place for protection and to seek personal cover.

Here are some tips for tornado preparedness:

  1. Know the difference in a tornado watch and a tornado warning.  A tornado watch means that the weather conditions are possible to produce a tornado.  A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.  Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger and those in the warning area should go to a safe place of cover immediately.
  2. The best protection in a tornado is underground in a basement, cellar, a storm shelter, or in a safe room built to FEMA standards.  These shelters greatly increase survival chances.
  3. If an underground shelter is not available, it is recommended that you seek protection in a small windowless room in a sturdy building, such as a bathroom, interior hallway, or closet. It is strongly recommended that these be on the first floor.  One should use additional personal cover as you gather in this interior space.  Use what is available to cover yourself, such as a mattress, blanket, or coat.  Cover your head and neck with your arms.
  4. Mobile homes, malls, gyms, warehouses, vehicles, and the outdoors do not provide safe protection against tornadoes.
  5. Families should have a plan that includes a first aid kit, emergency supplies, and a place for all family members to meet following a disaster.  It is recommended that families have two pre-determined meeting places.

As always, being prepared greatly increases you and your family’s ability to survive when a disaster strikes.

10 Things Missionaries Won’t Tell You

I recently read a blog post introduced to me by one of our Kentucky missionaries that was written in July of 2014 by Adam Mosley. After working with missionaries for most of my ministry, I know that what Adam has written is so true. If you’ve not served as a missionary, you might not know these things. So, I’m going to share his blog posting with you right here. I pray it will open your eyes to more effective ways to minister to and support missionaries whom God has called to serve.    KBCL1091 - copy

Being a missionary is hard work. Everybody knows that. But the things we think of as the hard parts – lack of modern amenities, exposure to disease, and the like – only begin to scratch the surface of the difficulties of real missionary life. Often, it is the things left unsaid that really begin to erode the passion and soul of a missionary. Here are just a few of those things…

1. THEY DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR ENERGY TO WRITE…BUT THEY DO IT FOR YOU.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Have you read my latest newsletter?
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Newsletters, blog posts, website updates – all the “experts” tell me that I need to be sending you fresh content on a regular basis so you won’t forget about me. But here’s the thing…writing is hard, especially for those who aren’t natural writers. You know what else is hard? HTML, CSS, PHP, and a bunch of other tech-geek stuff that you have to learn about just to make a decent-looking website or email. I really want to tell you what’s going on, but it’s hard to turn out gripping narratives while I have a sick child asleep in my lap. And if I have to look up how to code a “mailto” link one more time, I’m going to scream!

2. FACEBOOK “LIKES” DON’T PAY THE BILLS.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Thank you so much for the encouragement!
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• I’m glad that you liked my Facebook status. I really am. The thing is, when I say we need $1,200 by the end of the week to pay the school fees for orphaned children, I’m talking about actual dollars and actual need. Contrary to the rumors, Bill Gates doesn’t donate a dollar for every Like. That part is up to you. So, the next time you Like my status, consider sending a few bucks my way too.

3. THEY ASK FOR MONEY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m trusting God to provide, and I’m so thankful for our donors.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Lest you think #2 sounded a little whiny and money-hungry, you should know that I truly despise asking for money. I always have. And now I have to ask for it almost all the time. Even when I’m not asking for it, I’m thinking about asking for it. There are never enough funds to do all the good I’m trying to do, and I live with a nagging feeling that the one person I don’t ask is the one who would have written the big check. So, when I ask for money, know that I do so with fear and trembling.

4. YOU’LL NEVER HEAR ABOUT THEIR WORST DAYS.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Please pray for me. It has been a challenging week.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Things are pretty bad here. If I told you what’s really going on, you would either come rescue me, or think I was exaggerating. If you heard some of the things I’ve said out loud, you might question my salvation. If you knew some of the thoughts I’ve had rattling around in my head, you might question my sanity. Sometimes good days are hard to come by, but I don’t dare tell you the worst. If I did, you would probably tell me to throw in the towel.

5. THEY NEED A VACATION…BUT WON’T TELL YOU IF THEY TAKE ONE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I just need a time of refreshing.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• After 2 or 3 years of hard work, most people feel like they deserve a little break. Take the family to the beach. Visit a theme park, a national park, or Park City. I would love a vacation, but honestly, I feel guilty “pampering” myself, rather than putting all my time and resources into the ministry. On top of that, I know some people will judge me if my vacation is “too nice.” If I scrape and save pennies for 5 years so I can spend a week on an exotic island, you’ll never hear about it, because I can’t handle the snarky, “It must be nice” comments (the ones you’ll say to my face), or, “My donations paid for your vacation” (which you’ll think, but not say out lout – at least not to me). So, I keep some great stuff to myself for fear of being judged.

6. HOSTING TEAMS IS A NIGHTMARE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m so excited about your team coming!
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Bless your heart. You think you’re doing me a favor. Thirty people show up at my door and expect me to provide transportation, food, lodging, sight-seeing, and a list of service projects a mile long. You’re here to “help.” The thing is, the other 51 weeks out of the year, we manage to do what needs to be done here just fine. That is, except for the time we spend working on the logistics for your team. You come over and want to help build a fence, when I can hire local workers to build a fence for a tiny fraction of what you spent to come here. I appreciate your desire to help, and I even love having visitors, but consider the size and expectations of your group before you plan your trip. A team of 3 or 4 highly skilled people is much more valuable to our ministry than a gaggle of mission tourists.

7. “GOING HOME” IS A LOT OF WORK.
WHAT THEY SAY
• It’s great to be back home.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Please understand, I now have two homes. When I’m at one, I’m away from the other, and there is a lot of emotion involved in that. On top of that, my life is absolutely crazy when I go “home.” I have to see relatives and friends, visit with partner churches, and take care of any number of issues that have arisen with my health, my electronic devices, and my government paperwork. Whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, I spend my time living out of suitcases and hustling from one appointment to the next. Is it good to be home? Sure. But when I get on that plane to go to my other home, I breathe a sigh of relief that life is almost back to “normal.”

8. IT’S EASY FOR GOD TO TAKE A BACK SEAT IN THEIR LIFE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m not very good at self-care.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Let’s face it, I’m no saint. I’m not any more spiritual than you are. I don’t start my day with three hours of devotional reading and prayer. I typically just get up and get to work. And there is a lot of work to be done. In fact, there is so much need here that it’s really easy to become so focused on doing things for God that I lose sight of God himself. In pursuing my calling, I’ve somehow forgotten about the caller. My spiritual life is almost nonexistent, other than the occasional desperate cry of “Why God?”

9. IT’S HARD TO TRUST PEOPLE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m just looking for some good strategic partners.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• There are good people here, there really are. But I have seen the worst of humanity in my work here – much of it from people I worked with and trusted. Other missionaries and pastors can be the worst. Just when you think you know someone, they stab you in the back, the front, and both sides. I’ve gotten to where I simply don’t trust anyone. My guard is up, and it’s not coming down. I refuse to get burned again. If that means I have to do everything myself, then so be it.

10. THEY ARE LONELY.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m OK – just really busy with the ministry.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Having neglected my relationship with God, and given up on people entirely, I’m left with just me. I hate it. I want to quit. I have dreams about what my life would be like if I went back to my old home town, to my old church, and my old friends. I could get a normal job earning a salary – with healthcare and paid vacation. I could shop and eat at normal places. Most of all, I could have normal relationships. But here? I’m all alone. I don’t know if there’s anyone like me here, and I know no one back home understands. I want to feel wanted, invited, and loved. I want someone to pour into me the way I’m pouring into others.

Kentucky Missionary Honored

A. MillerArlene Miller, one of our Kentucky missionaries, was honored this week at the National WMU Annual Meeting in Columbus, OH.  During the Sunday evening session Arlene was presented with the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.

Arlene has served as a Mission Service Corps funded (self-funded) missionary through the North American Mission Board and the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 2001 in her work as Director of Impact Ministry and Christian Women’s Job Corps.  Impact, a food and clothing ministry, and Christian Women’s Job Corps are ministries of the Christian County Baptist Association in Hopkinsville, KY.

Arlene is a strong leader and her work has impacted many, especially needy families, women, and volunteers serving alongside her.  She helps to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of those she serves and is quick to share their need of a relationship with Christ.  Arlene is active in her local church, association, and state WMU where she had held many leadership roles.

In addition to Arlene’s service at Impact and Christian Women’s Job Corps, she also serves as the West Region Mobilization Consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, where she recruits and enlists other KY-MSC and NAMB MSC-funded missionaries, and provides much needed encouragement for the missionaries in her region.

Arlene has been active in international missions, having taken numerous mission trips.  You can see her light up as she shows pictures and speaks of the children at the orphanage in Haiti.

Many times, Arlene says, she has told the Lord “no, I can’t, I am not qualified, but will pray for You to get somebody else,” only to hear His voice say, “I want you!!”

Arlene is very conscientious, is an encourager, and such a humble, giving person.

CONGRATULATIONS, Arlene!!  You are most deserving of this award.

If you are looking for a good Kentucky mission opportunity, consider a trip to Hopkinsville to work with Arlene and her volunteers at Impact Ministry and CWJC.  Click on the following link to view their needs – http://www.kybaptist.org/missionopportunities/impact-ministries-christian-womens-job-corps-hopkinsville-ky/

You are meant for so much more!

All of us have had adversity in our lives.  All of us have likely asked why such adversity comes our way, but have you ever asked why blessings come your way.  It is one thing to ask “why” when bad things happen, but it is another thing to ask “why” when good things happen.  The Psalmist in Psalm 67 offers us the answer as to why good things come our way. He says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Ps 67:1-2). blessing

This song of blessing mirrors the priestly blessing offered to the people of Israel in Numbers 6:22-27.  Asking for the blessing of God is meant for the praise of God.  The Psalmist goes on to say, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you” (v 3).  God blesses His people, so that His people might make His salvation known to the ends of the earth.  Yet, the spreading of God’s name is ultimately for God’s fame.  God’s desire is the praise of all peoples, regardless of ethnicity, language, or culture.

God doesn’t simply save because people need saving, but because He is worthy of praising.  Yes, people need saving, but more than that God is worthy of the devotion of all peoples.  God blesses us, so that His fame might spread to the ends of the earth for His glory and praise.

If this is true, and I believe it is, then we must reevaluate the use of our lives and our churches for this end.  In other words, how am I as a husband, father, neighbor, and coach living for the spread of God’s fame and the glory of His name?  How am I making Him know through the many blessings that He has lavished on me?  Am I more prone to hoard God’s blessings in my life or herald God’s name through these blessings?

What about in our churches?  Are we more inward focused on ourselves—our wounds, our needs, our wants, etc., then we are on making Jesus famous across the street and across the sea?  What if our churches focused their budgets and their ministries around using the blessings of God as the means of proclaiming God?  What if our mission, vision, and strategy revolved around the sole purpose of using our blessings as the means of investing in the lives of others for the spread of God’s fame and the glory of His name?  What if we were less concerned, as one friend puts it, about potholes in our parking lot, mildew on our steeples, and shag carpet in our buildings?

What might God do in us and through us if we viewed and used our blessings as the means of advancing Jesus’ name for the praise of all peoples?  After all, this is why we were made and saved.  We are meant for so much more than buildings, budgets, and business meetings (not that these are unimportant).  We are meant to proclaim His name for the praise of His name.

Iraqi believers: ‘Do churches in America know what is being done to us?’






Iraq Team - 2 In the spring of 2014, an organized militia set out to create a form of Islamic government known as a caliphate in the Middle East.  As spring turned to summer, this Islamic State (ISIS) destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Christians, Iraqi believers, Yazidis, and various sects of Shia Muslims.  Over a million were driven from their homes, and thousands of others were slaughtered or enslaved as this ruthless caliphate swept across Syria and Iraq.

Thousands upon thousands fled into the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq to places called Erbil and Dohuk.  They took refuge in parks, stadiums, abandoned buildings, parking garages, shelters, and tents.  Months later, many of them continue to live in camps and refugee centers with little hope of ever returning home.

I have just returned from Northern Iraq where I served with a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Medical and Children’s Trauma team.  The team was comprised of Dr. Tom Ashburn of Barbourville, Glenn Hickey of Monticello, Stacy Nall of Shelbyville, Pat Callan of Sparta, Debra Kramer of Henderson, Karen Smith of Shepherdsville, and myself, Coy Webb, Kentucky Baptist DR Director.  We spent nine days in Northern Iraq seeking to bring help, healing, and hope to those displaced by war and violence.  As we ministered among the refugees, they only asked one thing of us, “Will you please tell our story to the world?

Iraq Team

Life as a refugee is difficult.  In the winter, they endured snowstorms and cold temperatures. 
Now, in the summer, the heat can soar above 130 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is scorching.  Multiple families are forced to share very limited water sources, bathrooms, and kitchen areas.  Every day is a battle to feed your family and to survive.

The people that we met were normal businessmen, professionals, and middle class folks in villages and towns.  But, when ISIS came, they literally had to run for their lives.  The choice was convert to Islam, run, or die.  Most had to flee in the middle of the night, many with only an hour or so notice.  They had to grab what they could and flee, only to be stopped at ISIS checkpoints where they were forced to abandon their cars and personal belongings.  Many were betrayed by Muslim neighbors, whom they had lived beside all their lives.  Others watched as young daughters were taken from them to be sold as brides or slaves to ISIS fighters.  The life they knew was jerked from them in a moment. Most families arrived in places like Erbil or Dohuk with nothing but their lives.

One woman with two very small children shared this with me as we sat in her refugee tent, “What did we do that we were driven from our homes?  Our only offense is that we would not denounce Christ.  How could we deny the One who is Lord?  We now know that the plan of ISIS is to wipe the earth clean of Christians.  Their goal is genocide…to eradicate every follower of Christ.  We have lost everything: our homes, our land, our possessions, and our trust of our neighbor.  They have stolen our dignity.  When you lose your home…your land, you have no identity.  All that we have left is our faith.  Do churches in America know what is being done to us?  Do they care?”

The Scripture on the wall, where our team set up to provide medical care, perhaps best shared their plight, “Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father or Me” (John 16:2-3).

This is the reality of our brothers and sisters scattered across Northern Iraq by persecution.

Our Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief team served among these refugees for almost two weeks providing medical care and compassionate ministry.  We were able to assist 944 patients in multiple clinics and provide the love of Christ to 1055 hurting children.  We were able to pray and share the love of Christ with them.  We were often humbled by the hospitality, grace, and faith of these left with so little.  We promised that we would not forget them, and that we would seek to give a voice to their plight.Iraq -10

Our persecuted brothers and sisters are crying out to God and to the church.  How can we remain silent?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”

What can Kentucky Baptists do in such a time as this?  Let me offer five practical ways that we can help our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

First, we can contact our representatives in the U.S. government and be advocates for the persecuted church.  ISIS is a threat to the stability of the Middle East, but they are a threat to our nation as well.  They are a threat to humanity.  We must be a voice for the voiceless.  We must be outspoken in our cry for justice and in shining the light of Christ on evil.  Not to speak is to speak.

Second, we can provide tangible assistance to the over one million refugees living in exile in Kurdistan.  Financial gifts can be designated to Baptist Global Relief, the International Mission Board and to the World Hunger Fund.  Among the current needs that were requested of our team was funding to establish a mobile medical clinic and rent assistance that would enable families to move from camps into apartments ($600 a month will put three families into an apartment). Not to act is to act.

Third, we can advocate for Iraqi Christians by asking that our government allow them to immigrate to the United States, and be willing as churches to sponsor refugees.  Countless Iraqi believers would love to come to our nation, and would be resources to our churches that would strengthen our ability to reach others from the Middle East in our state.  Would your church consider sponsoring an Iraqi Christian family to find refuge in America?

Fourth, Kentucky Baptists can “Go.”  Iraqi churches and other strategic partners are seeking churches and teams that will join them in this critical hour of ministry.  Thousands of nominal Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have been displaced from their homes and have come together across Northern Iraq.  ISIS has caused many Muslims to begin to question their beliefs, and forced nominal Christians to realize faith must be more than empty rituals.  This has created a door of opportunity for the Gospel.  Believers in Kurdistan are crying out for partner churches to join them in this critical hour.  There are current needs for medical teams, children’s teams, discipleship workers, evangelism training and pastoral training, women’s ministry, church construction, and strategic long-term church partners.  They are crying out for Kentucky Baptists to join them as they seek to minister to a vast sea of refugees.  God has cracked open a door that has been previously closed, so now is the time.  Will we have the courage to step through the door for Christ?

By going, Kentucky Baptists can proclaim to the displaced:

You are not alone.

You are not forgotten.

You are loved by God and the church of our Lord.

You have brothers and sisters who will come alongside you and stand with you for the sake of Christ.

Not to act is to act.

Iraq Team - 3 Finally, the most important thing that we can do is pray.  Pray for the thousands of refugees who have fled to Northern Iraq and surrounding countries.  Pray for Christians who have been left homeless and without jobs.  Pray that the Islamic State will be awakened to the truth of the cross.  Pray for God to push back the darkness and evil.  Pray that God will use persecution to expand His church and to open new doors for the Gospel. Pray for God to be magnified among the nations.

Silence is not an optionHow will you respond?

“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?  Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58: 6-8)

Please contact the Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention for more information on how your church can join us in this Great Commission task in Northern Iraq and the Middle East.  You may call (502) 489-3527to learn more.

 

What Should We Ask of the Association?

Kentucky just finished our annual Director of Missions Leadership Advance which is an annual retreat and continuing education experience for DOMs. It was a great experience with many wonderful presenters who stretched, challenged and equipped DOMs in their role of associational leadership.  Questions

Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research did an awesome job challenging DOMs to be “interventionists”. He talked about the interventionist as one who asks questions and chooses to intervene. An interventionist engages in the situation because he knows the association or church and how to help it. He is proactive and offers assistance before being asked to do so.

Most of our DOMS in KY were pastors prior to assuming their current role and therefore their default is to pastoral care. Pastoral care is needed, but the role of a DOM must be much more than that if the association is going to be effective and of value to member churches. Pastoral care alone doesn’t bring about the substantive change that is needed in most of our associations today.

DOMs who desire to change the trajectory of the association and point it in a healthy self-sustaining direction, must have an interventionist mentality. An interventionist will ask questions that require us to assess reality and examine the direction of the organization.

Here is a list of questions I use regularly to help associations with assessment and examination:
1. What year is it in your association?
2. The role of the association has changed over the years. What is the role of your association today? Or, for what reason(s) does the association exist?
3. What is the vision and mission of the association?
4. How effective is the association? If the effectiveness of the association is evaluated by the effectiveness of member churches – how effective is the association?
5. Is the association a good steward of God’s resources (financial, volunteers, churches, community, etc).
6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your association?
7. What associational changes must take place in order for churches to continue participating in the years to come?

I want to challenge DOMs to ask these questions of their association. Lead your association to assess current realities and examine its direction. Don’t be afraid of the answers or what you’ll learn about yourself. Lyle Schaller, in his book “The Interventionist”, states “the most effective way to influence both individual and institutional behavior is to ask questions.” Why not influence your Baptist association’s value to local churches today by asking some good questions of it? Don’t be afraid of the questions … or the answers. Allow the questions asked, and their answers, to stir you toward more effective ministry, rather than paralyze you in fear.

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.