Christmas – A Time of Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!!

A Year Later

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

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

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

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

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

Tearing Down the Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we be those who tear down the walls?

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

 

 

Missions Participation Involves Sending, Going and Making

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits to the missions participating church include: 

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

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

Thankful for Kentucky Missions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Going to Zimbabwe


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

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

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

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

 

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

Will Your Life Count?

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

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

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

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

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

Can I ask you a couple of questions?

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

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

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

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

Are you on mission for the sake of Christ?

Will your life count?  

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

NO Excuses!

It’s a pretty straight forward command, GO!  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, Matthew 28:19.

Since we’ve been commanded to go, we need permission in order to be excused from going.  Unless you’ve received special permission not to go, you better find out where God is sending you.  Jesus left the comforts of heaven and His place at the Father’s right hand to come to earth and He became our substitute on the cross at Calvary.

He told His disciples to go and acknowledged that many excuses would be given for why they couldn’t. The lame excuses that were given 2,000 years ago are the same ones we try to use today.

Here are some of the excuses given for not going –

  • Have to care for elderly parents (Luke 9:59–60).
  • Need to get everything in order first (Luke 9:61–62).
  • Must know what I’ll be doing before I commit to go (Luke 9:57–58).
  • Enjoying success where I am (Luke 5:1-11 & Acts 8:25-40).

Do any of those sound familiar to you?

It’s much easier to go when we don’t have family to take care of, I get that.  But it doesn’t excuse us from going if He has called us.

Waiting till everything is in order doesn’t excuse us from going when God calls either.  Delayed obedience is still … disobedience.

We can’t always know the details concerning the how, when and where of our call in advance. Many times those things aren’t shown to us until we’ve said yes to Him.

A successful ministry can be one of the greatest hindrances to going where Jesus wants us to go.  We may try to excuse the call to go elsewhere if we are comfortable and our current ministry is going well.

Jesus hasn’t given us permission to be excused from going where He leads.  We are to follow hard after Christ and He determines the timing and direction.  We are to adjust our lives and obediently go as He has commanded.  Have you adjusted your life to follow Him? Or would you prefer He make the adjustments?

He may lead you next door to share the gospel with your neighbor or to the other side of the world.  I’ve heard it said, “if it is important to you, you will find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse”.  Nothing is more important than taking the gospel to lost people in obedience to Christ’s command for us to go!  Will you go with NO EXCUSES whenever and wherever He sends?

by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, KBC

Mission Hope for Kids – Touching Hearts & Changing Lives

These two pictures (cardboard testimonies) tell the story.  The first one reads, “Before Mission Hope for Kids…Depressed, Worthlessness, No Friends, Thoughts of Suicide!!”  The second one, “After Mission Hope for Kids…Depression Gone, I am Worthy, Have Friends, I want to Live!!!! Thank You Jesus.”

Mission Hope for Kids is touching hearts and changing lives and the future of an entire generation of children and youth in Hardin County, KY.  They invest in the lives of at-risk students from low-income families and offer them a weekly sanctuary, a place where they can come as young as 4 years of age and continue to receive services through high school.  The students have their educational, spiritual, physical and emotional needs addressed by caring mentors.

Directed by KY-MSC Missionary Nelle Thomas and a large group of dedicated volunteers, this ministry has been serving the children of Hardin County since 2007.  The ministry began as an outreach of a local church, when a handful of church members volunteered to transport the children to the church facility to reach and care for them in a weekly Bible study.  Immediately after the program began, volunteers realized that the children were hungry and started a local chapter of Kid’s Café, to provide for both the physical and spiritual needs of these children living in poverty.  They were soon providing a meal, Bible study, and activities for 150 children in Elizabethtown.  With such a large growth, and a desire to do more for the kids, Kid’s Café dissolved, and Mission Hope for Kids was officially established in May 2012.

On a recent visit to Mission Hope for Kids, I learned that they currently serve over 250 students from pre-school through high school and offer food, access to clothes and hygiene items, support, care and mentoring by engaged adults, and continue to give hope to kids in Hardin County, so they can experience a better day and the brighter tomorrow that they deserve.

They serve alongside the schools and other county entities to develop a comprehensive program with a vision to make a positive impact by giving the students opportunities to become Godly, responsible and community-minded citizens with a bright future.

Students enrolled in the Mission Hope for Kids program are provided with tools, skills and year-round support to help them overcome the many challenges they face at home, school, and in life.  Every student qualifies to attend the program once a week, year-round, and to attend special events like a Back-to-School Bash and Christmas Party.

Mission Hope for Kids is truly making a difference.  Would you like to get involved?  MHFK can continually use volunteers and resources.  Some of their current needs are:

  • Someone to assist with computer skills
  • Computer updating
  • 50 plastic chairs
  • Dave Ramsey material for youth
  • Volunteers to help the students as they shop, to build relationships, and pray with the students.

For more information about Mission Hope for Kids, to see a video of the ministry, or to volunteer to serve, go to http://www.missionhopeforkids.org/media/.

Cooperative Missions and Racial Reconciliation

I can’t remember a time in my life when the tensions between “races” has been so high.  The hatred at times seems like it is swelling to the point of bursting.  From politicians to athletes, everyone seems to have an opinion and a response to the injustices and protests against inequality.  The church of our Lord must not remain silent on this issue.  More so, the church of our Lord must not remain passive on this issue.

 

In 2015 the Kentucky Baptist Convention passed a resolution on cooperative missions and racial reconciliation.  In essence, the resolution affirmed our creation by God from one bloodline and our command to make disciples of all nations.  The resolution further confessed our misappropriation of “race” as sinful against black, brown, and yellow image-bearers throughout our nation’s and state’s early history.  In fact, we erroneously “defended the right to enslave African peoples, treating them as chattel, stifling their ability to pursue life, liberty, and economic autonomy.”  Because of our racialized thinking, we hindered multi-ethnic cooperative missions for the first one-hundred years of Kentucky Baptist existence.

 

Therefore, as a convention, we are resolved to unite together for the advancement of the gospel as a “symphony of multiracial voices who glorify the slain and risen Lamb (Rev 5:9-10).  In acknowledging our past sins of racism, we further resolve to live out the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit “in relationship with black, brown, and yellow brothers and sisters in our great Convention.”  Furthermore, we commit to “intentionally pursue at least one ethnic minority congregation in mutual friendship and love in order to reach our world for the glory of God.”

 

Resolutions are good insomuch as they have feet.  The gospel of Jesus compels us not simply to place ink on paper for resolutions, but to link arms and to serve together for God’s glory among the nations.  It’s one thing for us to vote on resolutions or even to “amen” the truth that Jesus breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that exists among differing groups of people (Eph 2:11-22).  Yes, the world needs to hear our denials of racism (all forms of racism) and our affirmations that all people are created equal and are thus image-bearers of God.  But it is altogether different for them to see us live these denials and affirmations out to a watching world.

 

Our brother James was pretty plain about truth without any action.  He said the two are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, they go hand in hand.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  In other words, it’s one thing for us to pass a resolution; it’s another thing to live it out.

 

I am encouraged by what I see among Kentucky Baptists seeking to live out not only a resolution, but what gets at the core of the gospel.  Jesus “reconciles us both (all groups of people) to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:16).  What the world needs to see in the midst of continued hatred across differing ethnic groups is the change that the gospel brings.  The world needs to witness the joining of arms and the serving of feet that are red, yellow, black, brown, and white.  For indeed, each of these are precious in His sight.  Kentucky Baptists, let’s live out the gospel by serving together as one new body in Christ, and demonstrate to a watching world that Jesus restores what was once broken.

Written by Doug Williams,  Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Strategist.