Mister Rogers and the Syrian Crisis

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,                                                                          A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you please, won’t you please,

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

These lyrics are from the song “Won’t You be my1amisterrogers2 Neighbor?” that was sung at the beginning of every episode of the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While singing this song, host Fred Rogers would enter his make-believe neighborhood house, hang up his coat, put on a cardigan zipper sweater, remove his dress shoes, and put on a pair of blue sneakers. The showed debuted as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1966.

For decades Rogers influenced children to be neighborly, to be kind and loving toward others no matter who they are or where they are from. Rogers’ idea of neighborliness is not new. In fact, it is rather ancient.

Long before Rogers adorned the cardigan zipper sweater and blue sneakers, Jesus walked the dusty roads of Israel calling the people of his day to show the same kind of kindness and love no matter who the individual is or where they are from. On one particular day when a religious leader was trying to make himself look good in front of others, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies, not with a song like Rogers, but with a story much more jolting, the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). As the story is told by our Lord, a man is robbed and left for dead. First, on two different occasions two religious leaders see the wounded man, ignore his needs and avoid him altogether. A third man, as Jesus describes, a Samaritan, sees the injured man and has compassion for him, a compassion that leads to action. He cares for the man by providing for his needs.

Jesus, then, sets the trap by asking the religious man which individual was a neighbor to the wounded man. He is forced to answer, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Why is this story such a shock to all that may have heard it and even us today?

Love of neighbor as Jesus followers is not restricted to ethnicity or geography or even religion. The most unlikely person to show love and mercy in Jesus’ story is the Samaritan. To the Jew, the Samaritan was the enemy, the one hated and despised. Yet, regardless of his ethnicity, homeland, or religion, the Samaritan is the one who showed mercy and love to the man in need.  Jesus closes his encounter with this self-righteous leader by telling him, “Go and do the same.”

Iraq -25In recent days there has been a flood of responses related to the Syrian crisis. Fear and cruelty mark many of the responses. Yet, let us remember, for those who follow Jesus, we can’t check our “love and mercy card” at the door for the sake of national security. While securing our borders is an important issue (and one that needs our attention), the gospel trumps all issues and calls us to be a people that love the vulnerable and hurting regardless of ethnicity, geography, or religion. The gospel of Jesus is for people from every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev 5:9). The gospel is for Americans and Syrians, for Iranians and Nigerians, for all peoples of the world.

While Jesus followers are not commanded to wear cardigan zipper sweaters (thank goodness) or blue sneakers, we are commanded to wear kindness, compassion, and love. For the sake of gospel impact, Jesus followers must sing,

“Won’t you please, won’t you please,                                                                        Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

Let us go and do the same.



A sign leading into Yankton, South Dakota reads, “Yankton, S. D. The Home of 30,000 Friendly People and a Few Sore-heads.”  We understand the sign, because we all know a few soreheads.

Grumbling and complaining are rarely labeled as being a problem.  Grumbling is not one of grumpy-manthe seven deadly sins.  To my knowledge, there are no Grumbler’s Anonymous Groups.  For most of us, grumbling comes rather naturally.  We complain about traffic and lines at Wal-Mart.  We moan about politicians and telemarketers.  We gripe about church and our spiritual leaders.  It almost seems to be a natural part of our genetic wiring, and, for this reason, many view it as being rather harmless.

However, our natural pastime of grumbling is far from harmless.  Read the book of Numbers.  One of the problems that plagued God’s people, in the wilderness, was their tendency to be consumed by complaints.  Numbers 11:1 says clearly, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”  In this passage, Scripture teaches us that grumbling flows from a sinful nature.

Grumbling is a deadly disease within the family of faith.  It is contagious and spreads easily.  It will steal our spiritual health and defile our unity.  It cheapens the blessings of God.  It distorts your vision.  It entices you to live in a distorted past.  It ignores God’s promises for the future. Complaining discourages God’s leaders.  It consumes our time and energy.  It steals our peace in Christ and the joy of our salvation.  Grumbling always hurts the body of Christ, and our ability to fulfill God’s calling on our lives.


Grumbling always flows from a self-focus.  It is about what I want, and puts the emphasis on “Me.”  Faith puts the spotlight on God and His will.

Through Jesus Christ, we have been set free from the power of sin, including the sin of grumbling.  Many of our churches would be far healthier, if you and I were known as those who encourage rather than those who complain.

How can we be set free from this destructive, critical spirit that divides and wounds?  Here is some wisdom from the book of Numbers that guards us from succumbing to grumbling:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Move ahead in faith.
  • Celebrate the lessons learned from the past, but do not desire to return to the past.
  • Enjoy the blessings of today.
  • Be thankful for His gracious gifts in your life.
  • Rest in His promises for tomorrow.
  • Remember that we will soon be home in the land that God has promised us.

I have learned that if I look up and keep in step with the One who goes before me, it is amazing that I do not have time to waste my days in grumbling and in longing for what has been left behind.

interSEED for our Kentucky Missionaries

interSEED BookmarkDuring this month of November people all over Facebook are sharing their “30 Days of Thankfulness.”  One thing I thank God for is the nearly 100 missionaries that serve in various roles across Kentucky.  Many have left their homes and moved to new locations, while others are serving right in their home communities.  All have a heart for the people of Kentucky and a love for the Lord.  They work tirelessly at meeting the physical needs of those they serve and share the Gospel of Christ to those who need to know His love.  Theirs is not an easy job, but is so rewarding.

As I travel around the state and meet with these missionaries I find many of them tired, some discouraged, lonely, and dealing with a variety of issues.  They are in need of someone just to talk with and love them.  They are in need of rest.  They are in need of someone to pray for and with them.  Would you commit to “interSEED” for these missionaries?

Pray for the missionaries to have strength to do the work they have been called to do.  Most all of them work long hours, days without a break, and without enough help.  Pray for co-laborers to come alongside and share in the work.

Pray for the missionaries’ families, their children, their marriages to remain strong.

Pray for their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Pray for safety.  Yes, even in Kentucky, many are serving in dangerous areas.

Pray for both personal and ministry finances.  All of these missionaries are self-funded and often find support very lean.

Most of all pray for them spiritually.  Pray that the missionaries have a personal, intimate, growing relationship with the Lord.  Pray that they are bold in their witness and that they are a shining example of Christ.  Pray for mentors and support groups.  Pray that the missionaries are surrounded by other strong Christians and get connected to a strong, supporting church family.

One way to pray for the missionaries is through interSEED.  Each month download the prayer calendar (www.kybaptist.org/interseed) and pray for the missionaries on their birthdays.  To pray on a more consistent basis go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries for a complete list of those serving in Kentucky.  You might also consider “adopting” a Kentucky missionary through our “adopt-a-missionary” program.

As you spend time in prayer each day don’t forget to thank God for those missionaries serving in our state and pray for them to stand strong in their service.


MapRecently, I was driving in eastern Kentucky to speak at a church about missions. I use my GPS regularly as I travel all across the state. On this particular trip in eastern Kentucky, my GPS all of a sudden went crazy. The road unexpectedly disappeared on the GPS and the car seemingly was floating on air and going in circles. Eventually, the GPS re-calculated and was back on track.

As I thought about my GPS glitch, I realized that many churches are like my GPS at times. We can easily lose track of our direction and continue driving in circles. We lose sight of our mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Sometimes we simply need to re-calculate, to re-adjust where we are going as a church.

The Missions Mobilization Team has adapted an assessment tool to help churches do just that, to re-calculate. The tool is called Missions Assessment Profile (MAP). MAP is designed to help church leaders assess their progress in mobilizing their church for missions involvement. It serves to help churches reflect on where they are in comparison to what a truly missions-mobilized church could look like. No church scores perfectly in all areas. Ideally all churches are in a growth process. This tool will help churches assess where they are strong and where they are weak, so that they can strengthen their missions effectiveness and commitment.

Four broad categories are assessed: leading, equipping, supporting, and sending. Each of these areas explores ways that churches can build upon their current missions involvement. Upon taking the assessment, church leaders are encouraged to view the process for missions growth as “baby steps.” Approaching missions with specific goals and action steps allows churches to make manageable progress without becoming overwhelmed at the prospect of making disciples of all nations (all at once).

If you feel as if your church is going in circles, maybe taking the MAP is just what you need to help re-calculate where you are going. Let me know if your church is interested in taking the MAP (doug.williams@kybaptist.org). We can meet with leadership teams and work on a plan based on the MAP that will help your church focus its sights on making disciples of all nations.

Safe Church


Once upon a time, churches were considered safe havens that were untouched by the
violence of our world.  The recent mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina has again reminded us of the need to be prepared for the unthinkable.  First Thessalonians 5:3 cautions us about the false thought that violence or hate will never come to our church, “When they say, ‘Peace and Security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”  No one can completely protect themselves from senseless violence, but the church that seeks to be proactive with preventative care can greatly reduce their risk.

While deadly shootings in churches has increased in the last decade, there are many other types of threats that are more likely and often much more preventable.  Physical or sexual abuse, theft of property, and vandalism are realities that the church cannot ignore.

Bob Perkins, a twenty-three year law enforcement veteran and disaster relief leader, identifies 10 facts every church should know:

  1. It can happen to your church or school.
  2. Crime is increasing across America.
  3. The church is no longer immune.
  4. Every church should identify their most likely risks and vulnerable points.
  5. Churches should develop good relationships with local law enforcement.
  6. Every church, regardless of size, should develop a security plan.
  7. Churches should conduct background checks on staff and volunteers, especially those working with children and youth.
  8. Churches do have increased liability when they have not conducted due diligence.
  9. Security plans should include written policies and procedures.
  10. The church must never compromise ministry with undo security measures.  We must maintain an “open door” for ministry and outreach, as we seek to lessen our vulnerability.  Security must always be carefully balanced with ministry,and should never interfere with our ability to reach people for Christ.

With these key facts in mind, let me share six vital areas of security for every church to consider:

  • Background Checks
  • Check-in System for Children
  • Friendly Awareness
  • Trained Safety and Security Team
  • Emergency Response Kit that Includes Reflective Vests, Flashlights, Emergency Radios, Building Maps, and A Good First Aid KIt
  • Facility and Ministry Risk Assessment

The Kentucky Baptist Convention stands ready to assist churches in this process.  For more information, go to:

http://www.kybaptist.org/homepage/church- revitalization/safe-church-initiative/

Go Tell it On the Mountain… and Everywhere!

DaveWe buried my father just two weeks ago after battling lung cancer, dementia, and finally, pnemonia. He had battled alcoholism in early adulthood, but experienced life transformation after accepting Christ as his Savior and Lord. Following his conversion, my father (who I affectionately called Dave) lived his life on mission, declaring to everyone he met the change Christ had made in him. He told neighbors, family members, prisoners, co-workers and people in the mall.  He was not confrontational or aggressive in his approach to telling others. He was however, conversational, unapologetic, genuine and bold when it came to telling his story and sharing scripture with those he encountered.  I don’t think there was anyone who met my father that didn’t know he was a Christian. He wanted everyone to know that without Christ, we are destined for eternity in hell.

My father use to spend his weekends leading lay revivals throughout the region, telling his story and leading others to faith in Christ. One experience he had on a lay revival explains why “Go Tell it On the Mountain” was his favorite song. Not just at Christmas, but all year long! He and a couple of others had spent Saturday morning visiting people in the mountains of east Tennessee. Upon request, Dave climbed up a holler to witness to a man who had heard the gospel many times before, but remained lost and unchanged. My father shared his story with the man and with permission, read scripture and explained the plan of salvation. It was on that day that the Lord chose to save the man my father had climbed the mountain to visit. Dave came down off the mountain that day repeating the words to the hymn, “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!” From that day forward , it became his favorite song. He wasn’t a singer and I don’t recall ever hearing him sing. But everyone knew that “Go Tell It On the Mountain” was his favorite song, and why.

Hours before his death, my father was heard singing and humming the tune to “Go Tell It On the Mountain”. Even one of his nurses asked if that was “Go Tell It On the Mountain” that he was singing. My father told everyone that Christ was born, lived, died and rose again. He lived his life on mission with a passion for telling others the good news of Jesus Christ. There will be many people in heaven because he faithfully lived his life on mission, sharing Christ with everyone.

Dave left a legacy and challenge – to tell everyone I meet what Christ has done for me … and for them. That’s what it means to live our life on mission.

A Time of Rest and Renewal

2015 Missionary Retreat PicRecently we had our annual Kentucky Missionary Retreat at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin, KY.  My, what a beautiful place to “retreat.”  It kind of reminds me of Jesus going away to the mountain to be alone with the Father.  Cumberland Falls was such a special place to walk (or sit) and pray; to spend some “alone” time with the Father.  The beauty of this place made you feel so near to God and His creation.

There were many great presenters that both equipped and challenged the missionaries in their diverse areas of service.  Each one seemed to really connect with the missionaries’ needs.  Workshops such as spiritual vitality and the missionary, strategic planning in ministry, time management, taxes and budgets for non-profits, and how missionaries can most effectively minister during crises, were offered.   Dr. Paul Chitwood brought greetings from the KBC, Joy Bolton shared about WMU partnerships and ministry grants, and Paul Badgett brought a very powerful and encouraging message.

The missionaries also enjoyed some free time, a riverboat cruise on Lake Cumberland, and an evening of entertainment by motivational speaker and mentalist Keith Matheny of Huntington, WV.

After a hard summer of ministry, hosting mission teams and outreach events, the missionaries need a time to get away and relax for a few days before the busy holiday activities begin.  For many of them this is their vacation.  They look forward to the retreat and many only see each other this one time a year.  There were hugs and smiles, stories to share, and questions about how each other’s ministries were going.  After being at the retreat for only a few minutes, one of the new missionaries said, “This is like a reunion, isn’t it?  She quickly realized how the missionaries from all parts of Kentucky feel like family.

Thank you for your support to the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus State Missions Offering, which help to make this time of rest and renewal for the missionaries possible.

For information on how to adopt a Kentucky missionary contact us at missions@kybaptist.org or go to http://www.kybaptist.org/homepage/missions-mobilization/missions-kentucky/adopt-a-missionary/.

World Hunger Sunday October 11


Global Hunger Fund


When Southern Baptists observe World Hunger Sunday on October 11, they will be called to act on the commands of Scripture.  The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw the hungry and hurting multitude in Matthew 14, “He had compassion on them…”  He healed and fed those who flocked to Him.

Scripture is filled with God’s compassion for the afflicted, broken, and hungry.  Isaiah 58:20 teaches, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”

Compassion is more than a warm, fuzzy thought.  Compassion is a movement and desire in your gut that compels you to act.  The Global Hunger Fund gives us a way to act on the gut-wrenching scenes of need that are painted across the landscape of our world.  The Global Hunger Fund presents us opportunities, as God’s people, to make a difference for the sake of Christ among earthquake survivors in Nepal, persecuted Christians displaced from their homes in northern Iraq, Aids orphans in South Africa, those lacking clean water in Uganda, and the multitudes who are weary and hurting in forgotten corners around the world.

Since its inception in 1974, Southern Baptists have given more than 235 million dollars through the Global Hunger Fund to meet needs both at home and abroad.  Tragically, in recent years, the amount given to the Global Hunger fund has been decreasing.

However, hunger needs have not diminished, nor has God’s love for those who are hungry, sick, and thirsty.  This God-driven fund helps families survive disaster and famine, provides clean water and medical care, improves health and nutrition, and most importantly helps countless people to hear of the hope and Good News of Jesus Christ.

On October 11, will you do your part in helping Southern Baptists respond to a hungry world? Would you consider giving the cost of a meal out to help provide food for a hungry family? Would you consider giving a gift of $25 to provide clean water in a forgotten village?  Would you consider giving $125 to provide a hospice kit for a dying woman?  Would you give a gift of compassion that someone may know the hope of Christ?

Give to the Global Hunger Fund on World Hunger Sunday, October 11!

Backpacks, Hotdogs, Peanut Butter, and a Ford F-150

As I wrote my August blog, school had just begun.  Now, with schools being in session for a month, we find one missionary couple, Frank and Judy Caulder, hard at work delivering food orders so they can begin sending weekend food backpacks home with students.

During the spring of 2006 Frank and Judy came with their local South Carolina Baptist Association to Harlan County, Kentucky on a short-term mission trip.  On that trip they learned of children who did not have enough food to eat on the weekends.  After going back home to South Carolina God would not let them forget these children.  They themselves had never been without food and could not imagine that there were hungry children in the United States of America.  They prayed for God to show them what He would have them do and soon began Sacks of Love Ministry, helping supply food to one of the local schools.  Eventually more schools requested assistance and now they are working to provide weekend food backpacks to students in seven schools.  Once a month the Caulders try to give each child a jar of peanut butter, especially during the winter months when the children may be out of school for several days or even weeks at a time.

In 2008 Frank and Judy purchased a home in Benham so they could spend more time in Kentucky.  Frank uses his truck on a regular basis to not only deliver food to the schools but also to transport donations to Kentucky as they travel back and forth between their South Carolina home and their Kentucky home.

While working through the School Resource Centers they learned of more needs than just the weekend food.  Just like the prayer of Jabez, God began to expand their ministry, which now includes school supplies, clothing, shoes, hygiene items, and other needs the children have.

During the summer the Caulders host mission teams which help to lead Family Fun Days and Back-to-School events at some of the schools and parks in the community.  A team from Woodland Park Baptist Church in Hammond, LA comes several times a year, even though it is a twelve hour ride.  Teams have also come from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and other parts of Kentucky.

Frank hauls a big grill on the back of his Ford F-150 and cooks hotdogs for these outreach events.  Judy said they had probably cooked at least a thousand hotdogs this summer.

At each event the Gospel is presented, and a Gospel tract or other Christian literature is inserted into each food backpack that is given out.

Last month they helped a family that had recently moved to Harlan County to get an apartment, furniture, household items, clothing, bedding, and mattresses for them to set up housekeeping.

The Caulders work closely with local Director of Missions Bill Wallace and served two weeks this past summer at the association’s Camp Howard.

They work with the “Empty Stocking Fund,” a 30+ year old ministry directed by a retired Cumberland coal miner.  This ministry works year round to collect items for the approximately 600 food boxes and toys they distribute each year.

Frank and Judy, thanks for your service.  You have certainly found your place, and God is using you to reach many families and children, in your “new” Kentucky home.

For more information on Sacks of Love go to www.sackoflove.com or Facebook at Sacks of Love.

Cincinnati Needs the Gospel

Cincinnati is in need of the gospel and Kentucky Baptists can help spread the message of Jesus in this river city.

Over 1.6 million people live in metro Cincinnati, but only 43.6% are affiliated with any religious group. Still yet, only 13.9% are connected with an evangelical church. NAMB tells us that there is only one SBC church for every 10,587 Cincinnatians in the five counties around the city.

The Send City Strategy through NAMB hopes to see 77 churches started throughout the city. Here’s the catch: this goal will not be accomplished without churches. Churches need churches to plant churches for gospel impact. Churches are needed from all over the SBC to help with this strategy in Cincinnati. However, with Cincinnati as our KY neighbor, Kentucky Baptists have a tremendous opportunity for frontline gospel advancement in this near-by river city. As an added incentive for KBC involvement, the Cincinnati Send City strategy now includes Northern Kentucky.

On September 28-29, in conjunction with NAMB, the Missions Strategies and Partnerships office will host a vision tour of Cincinnati. Participants will hear from church planters, see areas of lostness in the city, and discover how their church or association can develop meaningful gospel partnerships.

Those interested in participating can register at www.kybaptist.org/cincy. These vision tours are designed to raise our awareness of the needs in key gospel partnership places. When we are unaware of the needs, we will never seek to meet those needs. Further, these vision tours aim to move our affections. Head knowledge accompanied with emotional motivation more often leads to action. When we see it, hear it, smell it, touch it and taste it, we are more likely to do something about it. Lastly, these vision tours intend to equip us for action. Upon knowing the needs and being stirred, we want to help KY churches act in obedience.

Will you help plant churches and spread the gospel of Jesus in a city that needs gospel partnerships? Join us on September 28-29 and be part of God’s plan to advance the gospel in Cincinnati.