Growing Churches Engage Their Communities

In Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer explores consistent themes among churches that have died. Then, in response to those themes, and most importantly, he walks the reader through the “radical paths necessary to keep the church alive to the glory of God.” One of the consistent themes he discovered was that dying churches refused to look like or minister to their community. He found that people in the pew were more concerned about protecting the way they did church than reaching residents of their community.

KY InAsMuch LogoChuck Lawless reports from his findings that one common denominator among “healthy growing churches in America” was that they were externally focused on the needs of others rather than themselves. If churches are going to grow and their message be heard by the community – most are going to have to re-establish trust. They are going to have to first show their ability to love their community and meet them at their point of need.

I’ve consulted with churches that were dying – and stubbornly, many have refused to be involved in their community and were only concerned about maintaining their “fort”. In these situations, it’s only a matter of time before death comes because the church no longer has a heart for ministry in their own community. It’s not enough that the church building sits in the community. Buildings and property don’t change lives, restore families and transform communities – Jesus does. And He is present in the church body which is supposed to be present and active in the community! Vibrant and growing churches are interested in their communities and consider the needs of others above their own (Phil 2:1-4).

Churches that wish to be growing and healthy will discover ways to reach outward into their communities. One effective way to do this is through an “Operation Inasmuch Day”. Inasmuch Kentucky is a one day mission blitz by the church in their local community. It is an inter-generational event mobilizing Christians to heal some of the hurts of a neighborhood or an entire community.

Churches can choose to do an Operation Inasmuch day at any time. However, as part of a statewide initiative, Kentucky Baptist Convention churches are challenged to choose a day in September of 2015 to participate.  Training opportunities are being provided throughout the state during March and April to equip churches for Inasmuch Kentucky.

How exciting it would be if churches across the Commonwealth decided to show their faith by their works. Imagine what an impact it would make for the Kingdom if the community saw the church leaving the seats and going to the streets to serve “the least of these”.

Not only is Inasmuch Kentucky a day of helping people at their need, it also…
• encourages sharing the love of Christ with the community
• strengthens fellowship and builds relationships in the church
• gives believers an opportunity to use one’s personal gifts in missions

For more information, training opportunities or resources on Inasmuch Kentucky, visit www.kybaptist.org/inasmuch    www.operationinasmuch.org

Remembering Harold

Harold Scroggs Photo

In 2003 a special missionary couple came to serve in Kentucky.  Harold & Joyce Scroggs attended an Appalachian Regional Ministry Summit at Berea Baptist Church in search of an assignment where God might be leading them.  The rest is history.  For the past 11 ½ years, other than a brief stint back to their home state, this South Carolina couple has served the people of eastern Kentucky through 3 different ministries, Meridzo and United for Jesus Ministries in Harlan County, and Haven of Rest Family Ministries in Inez.  In August 2012 they became the new Directors of Haven of Rest, when founder Eileen Mullins stepped down for health reasons.  Haven of Rest is a ministry to families of federal prisoners at the Big Sandy penitentiary in Inez.

Harold & Joyce became true Kentuckians and special friends to our Kentucky missionary family.  We were all shocked and saddened to learn of Harold’s massive heart attack and his passing on February 16th.  Fellow missionary Jamie Reynolds shared, “Harold was a wonderful friend and a great example of trusting in the Lord and walking with Him in ministry. I appreciate his sense of humor and wit, his good nature and the perseverance he displayed while walking (literally) through great physical, spiritual and emotional difficulties. He always just “kept going”. You cannot hardly say Harold without saying “Harold and Joyce”, because they are such a wonderful pair. They experienced the joy of serving the Lord and His kingdom together 24/7, and JOY is the operative word. So many, like us, will miss Harold’s physical presence with us, but we shall certainly see him again on that great Day. Until then our thoughts and prayers are with Joyce and the family, and we look forward to joining him at the throne of God forever. May all who come behind us find us as faithful as Harold was.”

Thank you, Harold, for your service in eastern Kentucky. We loved you and will miss you.

A “celebration of life” service will be held at a later time in Kentucky.

“…to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ”

What is our mission?  In short, it’s to make disciples of Jesus in all nations (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8).  The call to make Jesus known among the nations is a call for the church.  The Great Commission was not given to a national or state denomination; it was given to the church.  The church of our Lord is called to multiply herself to the far corners of the world.  As a state convention, the KBC was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.  Plain and simple.  All we do as a state convention is meant to strengthen the church and equip her to reach others for Christ.

In order to help your church reach KY and the world for Christ several opportunities are available to be equipped for Great Commission impact this Spring.  Each opportunity is designed to help you think biblically, strategically and practically about missions in your neighborhoods and nations.

ITLT1)      International Team Leader Training- March 13-14.  Leading an international mission team can be quite intimidating and overwhelming.  We want to help prepare you to lead others who will take the gospel across the globe.  From team preparation to logistics, come learn how to lead your next overseas mission team.  To learn more or register for this free training, visit www.kybaptist.org/tlt.

EngageKY_600_3002)      Engage KY Vision Tours- March 20-21 (Northern KY) and May 18-19 (Lexington).  Two Spring tours are planned to awaken KY Baptists to the multiple opportunities to engage your own Judea with the gospel. Find out how your church can partner for gospel impact with existing churches and ministries in these two areas.  To learn more or register for this free vision tour, visit www.kybaptist.org/engage.

one-day-600_3003)      Mission: One Day- April 16 (Elkton, KY) and April 17 (Berea, KY).  This one event, two location training is designed to equip pastors, mission leaders, and DOMs to think biblically, strategically, and practically about mobilizing the church for Great Commission impact.  Learn from experienced pastors, IMB missionaries, and NAMB church planters.  You may attend the location nearest to you.  For more information or registration for this free training, visit www.kybaptist.org/missiononeday.

Because of the generosity of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program we are able to offer these Great Commission equipping opportunities.  Please take advantage of these trainings to further equip your church to make a global impact for the sake of God’s glory.  After all, the KBC was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ.  So, what are we waiting for?  Let’s reach our state and world for Christ together!

Hope for the Brokenhearted

When disasters come roaring into our lives, loss follows.  The loss can be material possessions: our home, vehicles, household belongings, income, photos, and keepsakes.  Even more devastating, the loss can involve loved ones.  West Liberty -6

Those who have been affected by these disasters are left to cope with feelings of:

  • Loss
  • Intrusion
  • Vulnerability
  • Escape

We must have an understanding of these inner responses, if we are to minister to those seeking to recover from the devastation of disasters.

Loss:  It is vital that the relief volunteer understands that the sense of hurt won’t be magically wiped away.  A spiritual experience will not take away the loss that victims have experienced.

Intrusion:  Devastated by disasters, victims are often forced to trust strangers for the most basic of necessities such as food, water, shelter, and medical care.  It is important to offer love and support that enables the person to feel valued and respected as a person.

Vulnerability:  Often victims of disaster feel abandoned, forgotten, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, and hopeless.  Survivors feel extremely vulnerable, and it is important for a volunteer to avoid any behavior that even hints at manipulation.

Escape:  Recovery after disasters can take months and years.  The pain of survivors is very real and should not be glossed over.  We must always avoid offering the Gospel as a magic cure for the loss suffered by victims, or as a panacea that overlooks the real concerns that they are facing.

Here are some bits of wisdom in sharing the hope of Christ with those devastated by crisis events:

• Listen to their story.
• Assist them in any capacity that you are competent in or that you have been trained to respond.
• Assure the victims that you are there to help without any expectation of compensation.
• Demonstrate genuine concern for the person.
• Be cautious in promises and be sure to fulfill all promises made.
• Avoid using manipulative actions or words.
• Realize that unbelievers may not act or behave like followers of Christ.  Our witness needs to be positive and avoid actions or words that seem judgmental or condemning.
• Share openly the reason why you seek to help.
• Be prepared to share your faith story.
• Be ready to walk them through plan of salvation, if God’s Holy Spirit opens the opportunity.
• Allow time for questions, conversation, and the possibility of follow-up by you or someone else in your church.
• Pray with them.  This is always appropriate!
May we always remember that often the greatest source of strength and healing that enables people to recover is hope; and the greatest source of hope is found in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  As the prophet reminds:
“But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

 

Mercy Will Expect Change

ReThink Postcard FrontWe’re all familiar with churches that minister to the hungry by providing a bag of groceries, hot meal or sack lunch. Some churches provide financial assistance to individuals and families needing help with their rent or utilities. Others provide clothing, household items,  job training, pregnancy resources or shelter to those in need. Each of these acts of mercy are good and the church should be involved in many different forms of ministry to those in need.

Scriptures instruct us to care for those who are orphaned, widowed, naked, homeless, hungry and imprisoned (James 1:27, Matt 25). But what does that look like and should the church just give without any expectation of the recipient? Some people deserve mercy because they are working and show gratefulness for what they receive from the church. But do the wicked and ungrateful deserve mercy as well? The answer is yes … initially.

We can only understand our responsibility to others by looking at the grace and mercy God shows to us. His mercy is unconditional and He loved us while we were still in our sin (Romans 3:9-18). God’s mercy comes to us without any conditions, but it demands a response from us. God loves us so much that He can’t leave us in the same condition He finds us. We must actively pursue Christlikeness through prayer, worship, Bible study and service to others. Otherwise, our condition will not change.

In this same way, we should show mercy to those in need just as Christ did to us. The church shouldn’t judge those needing mercy as underserving, even if they are in this condition because of their own sin. We should give a witness to the free grace and mercy of God. But mercy doesn’t stop there. It isn’t only about meeting a felt need or stopping the current suffering. Our goal in showing mercy is to see those we help come to know God as their Lord. Total restoration and self-sufficiency of the person in need requires active pursuit and cooperation on their part. So, while we show mercy and offer help to all regardless of their condition, we won’t be satisfied to only band aid the situation. Eventually, Mercy will expect change of the individual or we’re not really showing the love of Christ. We offer mercy so that people will grow in Christ, not so that they will continue to rebel against Him.

So, if your church has a mercy ministry of some kind, how effective is it in total restoration of the individual in need? Is it very intentional and gospel-centered? Mercy ministries must do more than just meet a felt need. They must lead to total restoration of the individual in need. Perhaps your church is considering starting a mercy ministry in order to engage the lost. Whether you’re starting a new ministry or refining an existing one, the Missions Mobilization Team is ready to assist you. Contact our office for help with your mercy ministry.

Ministry training is provided through ReThink Mercy workshops scheduled for next week, February 12 or 13, in Louisville or Bowling Green. For more information or to register: www.kybaptist.org/rethink.

iGO 2015

iGO logo2

The holiday season is behind us and we have entered into a new year.  The cold weather and snow are here, but people are already turning their thoughts toward Spring Break, Summer Vacations, and where they can go on mission in 2015.  Since the 2nd of January the phone calls and emails have abounded with team leaders looking for places to do missions.  Building teams looking for new building projects.  Other construction teams looking for remodeling projects of churches, ministry centers, and/or houses.  Backyard Bible Club and Vacation Bible School teams looking for opportunities to share God’s message with girls and boys.  All types of teams looking for places to serve.  Every year teams look forward to fulfilling the Great Commission at home and abroad.

There are lots of opportunities to serve.  If you are looking for a 2015 project go to www.kybaptist.org/go and check out our many posts.  There you will find projects in Kentucky, the US, and even internationally.

For those of you who have never been a part of a mission trip, let me encourage you and your church to let 2015 be your year to go on mission.  We will be happy to answer any questions and help you to choose a project that fits your gifts, skills, and abilities.  Whether for one day, a few days, a whole week, or maybe a longer term, there are opportunities just waiting for you that will change your life forever.

Perhaps God is calling you not only to serve short-term but you feel His leading to something more permanent.  Only a month into the New Year we have had one new missionary approved, four beginning the application process to serve, and a list of five who are prospective long-term missionaries.

God is calling.  Will you respond?  Contact us at missions@kybaptist.org and let us help you enter into the joy of missions!!

A Dead End in Southeast Asia

The quote from the banner hanging in the stairwell said it best:

“My purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God which I believe comes through knowing Christ.”

As I climbed the stairs toward our meeting room in Southeast Asia, I saw this banner for the first time.  The picture on the banner was of a young Billy Graham.  At some point in the past, Graham had said those words, no doubt with his usual fervor.  I am convinced that he believed those words and lived by those words.

I recently returned from a two week mission in Southeast Asia.  As mission strategist for thesouth-east-asia-map KBC, my purpose in going was to help KY churches reach Southeast Asia for Christ.  The lostness of this region in our world is staggering.  Religion abounds.  Yet, millions follow down a path of religion that leads to a dead end.  Like driving down an unfamiliar road that ends abruptly, scores of people are following after a religion that in the end will not lead them to God.

As one Muslim we encountered testified, “I am not like other Muslims!  I pray five times a day!”  Part of his passionate plea to us was an indictment on the other 20 or so Muslim men standing around as we talked.  He, in effect, was scolding the other Muslim men for being…well, nominal Muslims.  This young Muslim man does not realize that the path that he believes will lead him to God is actually a dead end.

Graham was right.  A personal relationship with God comes only through Jesus.  The Psalmist understood this truth as he called the earth to rejoice and the many islands to be glad (Ps 97:1).  He would go on to tell us that God alone is far above all gods (Ps 97:9).  We certainly know because of the New Testament that Jesus is the source of our true happiness and satisfaction.  We know God through His Son, not through our attempts at religion.

Whether one is a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist or Secularist, the man-made road always leads to a dead end.  Only in Jesus do we find the path of life and pleasures for evermore (Ps 16:11).  So, what has Southeast Asia taught me?  It’s simple.  All attempts to travel the pathway to God result in dead ends.  Only the path to God through His Son leads to life (Matt 7:13-14; John 14:6).

So, where does this leave us as a convention of Baptist churches?  Well, if the many islands are called to be glad in God (through His Son, Jesus), then we must send our troops to the islands.  We must march to these lands (or in many cases fly or sail) and take the only good news that countless people need to hear desperately—our God saves all who will call upon Him through His Son, Jesus (Rom 10:9-10, 13).  Right now, untold numbers are heading down a path that leads nowhere.  Actually, it is a path that leads to death and hell (Matt 7:13)—a dead end, if you will.

As Kentucky Baptists, let’s think creatively and intentionally about ways to reach the many islands and inlands with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Let’s do this before the dead end ends.  May your church’s purpose be to help people find a relationship with God through Christ regardless if it’s across the street, throughout the country or around the world.

I’m Not Trained, but I Did Stay at a Holiday Inn Express Last Night

State leadership MeetingBelievers often ask in Disaster Relief, “Why do I have to go through training to serve as a volunteer?  Why can’t I just go help people?”

Preparation is important in any area of ministry, because it enables us to be more effective in ministry.  The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success.” Sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more efficient, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters.  Through your gifts to the Cooperative Program, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is able to provide training in disaster relief that prepares Kentucky Baptists to be ready to serve in positive ways during times of disaster.

Top ten reasons to be trained:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a team.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas.
  6. Training prepares us to understand, in a deeper way, some of the trauma that victims face, so that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the heart for ministry by increasing awareness of the need and different opportunities to minister.
  8. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively.
  9. Training prepares the head by gaining knowledge.
  10. The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Several years ago, there was a popular commercial that showed a man preparing to do surgery when everyone began to realize that perhaps he was not up to the task.  The man’s response to their concern was “I may not be a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”  I cannot answer for you, but I really do not want that man doing surgery on me.  And yet, sometimes we are that way when it comes to ministry.  ”Hey, I am not really prepared to minister to you, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!

Check out these opportunities for training in 2015:

For more information or to register go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr.

 

Is Your Association Missional?

Baptist associations have been around since 1707, and there were already 125 local associations of Baptist churches established by 1814.  Over the years, associations have served a variety of purposes and still do today because each association operates autonomously from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) or state convention.  churches  The direction and mission of each Baptist association is determined by messengers from churches that are members of the local association.  Most associations have a Director of Missions who is responsible for leading the mission and ministry of the association as determined by messengers from the churches in regular meetings.  Although associations function in many different ways as determined by the churches, there is one primary purpose that should not be overlooked– and that is, that they function missionally or as a catalyst for missions.    When you consider all that your local association does, would you call it missional?    I hope so, but I suspect that in some cases, that is not the word that comes to mind.  What does it mean for an association of churches to function as a missions organization with a leader they refer to as a Director of Missions (or DOM)?

Johnny Rumbaugh, who is a well-respected and excellent DOM in South Carolina, recently shared what he thought were the Four Functions of a Missional Baptist Association.  I want to share them with you for your consideration as you think about the association that your church is part of.    If you’d like to see your association more missional, get busy.   Churches that participate in the association are positioned to create change and give new direction to the association.  Get involved and serve as a catalyst for the kind of change needed to make your association function in a more missional way.

1.    Plant (Start) - “Start something new”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for planting something new:

  • Identify communities where your churches can be on mission
  • Offer training for churches to start missional community groups
  • Lead churches to participate in planting a new church(es)

 2.   Strengthen (Nourish) - “Strengthen something old”

Here are few basic starter ideas for strengthening churches:

  • Coach churches in developing a plan for leading toward spiritual health
  • Introduce struggling churches to the missional concept of merging or restarting
  • Lead in developing a plan for connecting healthy churches with unhealthy ones

3.    Partner (Collaborate) -  “Partner with someone somewhere”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for missional collaboration:

  • Enlist churches to collaborate to meet significant local mission needs
  • Encourage churches to partner with a plant/planter somewhere
  • Lead churches to connect to national and international mission opportunities

4.   Multiply (Produce) - “Produce disciples somehow”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for a greater harvest:

  • Continuously cast a vision for churches to make disciples who make disciples who plant churches
  • Equip churches to have a disciple-making-disciple plan
  • Lead in creating a culture conducive for churches to embrace a disciple-making and church planting multiplication movement.

 

Christmas Day!

As a kid I remember the dilemma.  I was always way too excited to go to sleep, but I knew that if I could fall asleep Christmas morning would come quicker.  Eventually I would fall fast asleep only to wake the next morning rather early—usually around 5 am.  I would run down the hallway toward my parents’ room and past the living room door (peeking in to see silhouettes of gifts on the floor).  The anticipation of Christmas morning was almost too much to bare!

ChristmasWith a whisper, I would say, “Mom, Dad, it’s time to get up!”  They would tell me to wake my older siblings and off I’d go to let them know it’s time to get up.  Eventually everyone would crawl out of the bed and head down the hall toward the living room.  The excitement was overwhelming!  The lights would flip on and I’d think, “No way!”  Presents were scattered throughout the living room.  I remember those days like they were yesterday.

Today, as a husband and father, I have enjoyed watching my three children with similar reactions to Christmas morning over the years.  There is something about the sheer excitement of Christmas day that transcends generations (and even cultures).  But why?

If we think about it, the first Christmas morning was filled with the same kind of wonder and excitement.  Luke tells us in his gospel that the announcement of Jesus’ birth came to the most unlikely—shepherds (Luke 2)!  Yet, His birth, as the angel told them, was for them.  In other words, the shepherds were the first to receive the greatest gift of all, the reason we celebrate this season today.  The angel’s words still bring child-like excitement: “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“For me?” thought the shepherds. “Yes, for you!”  And for you, too!  The shepherds ran to see the baby Jesus and they leave with great excitement telling everyone around—“A Savior has been born for you!”  “For me?”  “Yes, for you!”

While we give and receive gifts this Christmas, it’s a reminder of the greatest gift ever given, a gift first given to the most unlikely.  A gift that changed their world.  A gift that they were not content to keep to themselves, but were willing to tell everyone around.

Let us do the same this Christmas.  “For unto us a Savior has been born!”  May the excitement and wonder of Christmas day compel us to share this great gift of Jesus with all those around us and beyond us.