New Building for Mill Creek Baptist Church

Mill Creek BC Building Project

Tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy earlier this month for one Bell County congregation.  Mill Creek Baptist Church was destroyed by fire on a snowy February 16, 2015 morning but, thanks to the Mobile (AL) Baptist Builders, a new building is now under construction.

On June 4 a team of 120+ volunteers, all unpaid, rolled into the Stoney Fork community of Bell County to begin work on the new church building.  The volunteers were from 14 states across the U.S., some as far away as Maine and Colorado and some from within the state of Kentucky.

In just 4 days the building was up and the roof and steeple were on.  An outline of a cross behind where the pulpit will eventually stand, overlooked the blue sky, green trees, and the beautiful Bell County mountains.  From now until September other volunteer teams will follow and do finish work, until the new church building is completed.  Mill Creek BC Building Project 2

In addition to the construction work there was also a lot of ministry going on.  Each day throughout the week the volunteers fed 80 – 90 children in the area, played games, and shared the Gospel message with them.  They also held classes for the ladies of the community.

Every evening after dinner the team had a worship and testimony service.  As of Wednesday one person had professed faith in Christ and the Gospel message was continuing to be shared, even among their fellow team members, as some of them were not believers.

We like to “go where God’s people are and we want to go help God’s people,” says Burben Sullins, coordinator for Mobile Baptist Builders.  “This is my 34th year in volunteer missions and this is my 70th project,” he went on to say.

When asked about the work of the team, Mill Creek Pastor Larry Sowders said, “it was unreal.  These were amazing people that were led and called by God, and Burben Sullins was an amazing leader.”

Cooperation.  That is a key word for Southern Baptists.  And, this project was just one way the family of Southern Baptists serve one another.

Each year several teams such as the Mobile Baptist Builders serve in Kentucky.  These teams like to come and work on new construction projects, building from the slab up.  Hundreds of volunteers, both men and women, take a week of their vacation, and pay their own way, to participate in volunteer missions.

If your church is planning to build and is interested in a Baptist Builder team, please contact the Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention at missions@kybaptist.org.  We can help you to connect.

Why I am Encouraged (afresh) to be a Southern Baptist

SBC-LogoI was born into a Southern Baptist home.  While I did not fully realize what that meant until much later in life, I am grateful for the legacy of being a Southern Baptist.  Though not a perfect denomination in the past or even the present, I excited about the current and future state of our denomination.  I believe the days to come are some of the brightest for Southern Baptists.  Not in any particular order, here some reasons why I am excited about being a Southern Baptist.

  1. The gospel is central to all that we do. Whether in providing disaster relief, planting churches, reaching the unreached, engaging the culture, or training disciples to make disciples, the SBC is uncompromising in its focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  1. Reconciliation of all peoples is a priority. Though our past is marked by the darkness of slavery, we recognize that all people are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity and respect.  Even though we still have a long way to go in regards to racial reconciliation, we are moving forward, by God’s grace, in tearing down the wall of hostility (Eph 2).
  1. We still stand upon the inerrancy of Scripture. We believe in an ancient book that brings about new change.  As Southern Baptists, we affirm that the Scriptures are completely true from Genesis to Revelation.  If we can’t trust all of the Bible, then we can’t trust any of the Bible.
  1. We are a big tent convention. As our KBC state executive director, Dr. Paul Chitwood says, “Every tent is held down by (four) pegs.”  As we affirm together the BF&M 2000, inerrancy of Scripture, Cooperative Program, and the Great Commission, there is room for our diversity.  Some would bemoan the largeness of our tent, but there is beauty in our diversity, particularly for a watching world.  As long as we all can embrace these tent pegs, there is room under the tent.
  1. We have the greatest means of global impact—the Cooperative Program. No other denomination has such a mechanism in place to cooperate together for gospel impact among the nations.  The driving force for such gospel advancement is not found on the national nor state level, but the local church.  Regardless of the size, every church matters in this collective aim to make much of Jesus across the street, throughout the country, and around the world.  Pulling our resources together to extend the gospel through the Cooperative Program has no equal.
  1. Our dollars are not the only means of gospel advancement. While our collective giving makes a world of difference, Southern Baptists, by and large, realize that we need “boots on the ground.”  As I heard one state executive director say a couple of years ago, “Money alone is not the answer.  We need boots on the ground.”  Perhaps like never before, Southern Baptists recognize the dire need for more boots on the ground in our neighborhoods and among the nations.  There is no substitution for incarnational ministry.
  1. We are a sending people. Yes, we brought home 1,100 from the IMB, but not because we wanted to.  Sometimes hard decisions must be made in order to have long-term impact.  Overall, Southern Baptists are distinguished as a people who send their people not away from the fire or devastation, but into it.  Our churches are sending their people into the streets and across the seas in order to engage people with the gospel of Jesus.

These are but a few reasons why I am encouraged to be a Southern Baptist.  What reasons would you add to this list?

When a Change of Course is Necessary

Change AheadNot long ago, I was invited to preach at a church in a metropolitan area.  I arrived on a Sunday morning to a large church facility that was showing some signs of some needed maintenance and renovation.  I estimated that the auditorium would seat 700-800 people.  They had an abundance of Bible study classrooms and a family life center.  The carpet was a bit worn and the church did have a bit of dated look, but it was still an impressive building in the community.

I had the blessing of preaching God’s Word that morning, in this massive structure, to a crowd of 26 people.  The only people in the congregation under 70 were myself and a visiting family. (By the way, they informed me that they probably would not be back, as they were looking for a church with a youth program).  After the worship time, the congregation invited me join them for a potluck meal.  The people were friendly and very gracious to me on this Sunday, but I will never forget what one older man told me as we shared a meal.

He described how they had once been a thriving, growing church with multiple services.  He went on to share that they had a young pastor come to their church.  He began to make some changes and, because of this, the church was growing.  The older gentleman shared that some of us did not like the shifts to “our” church, and we put our foot down and stopped the changes.  The pastor left, after a bit, when he got weary of the battles, and we got our desire.  Now, we just wonder who will be the one of us who has to lock the door for the last time.

The man wept that morning, as he told me this story.  I wonder how often this is repeated in other churches.

Our God is an unchanging God and we preach an unchanging Word of truth.  But, change is necessary if a church or ministry is to continue to grow and be relevant in a changing world.

When should the church or a ministry change?

  1. When change will move us from traditions to Biblical principles.
  2. When change will empower us to be more missional and increase our ability to reach people with the Gospel of Christ.
  3. When change will enable us to be more vibrant and active in our faith.
  4. When change will move us from the pews to engaging our world for the sake of Christ.
  5. When change will open our doors and encourage more people to connect with us.
  6. When change will enable us to move beyond the walls of our church to demonstrate the love of Christ to our community.
  7. When change will empower us to fulfill Christ’s command to fulfill the Great Commission.
  8. When needed change is revealed to us by the Spirit of God.

God brings change in order to continue to draw people into a relationship with Him.  Our God delights in newness; this is why the Scriptures speak of a new creation, new mercies, new self, new birth, new heart, new spirit, new wine-skins, new heaven, new earth, and a new song.  Change is necessary for any entity to continue to grow, including the church.

Truth be told, it was never my church or ministry anyway.  It is His church and His ministry and so it is really not about me.  It is all about Him!

A “Beautiful” Mission Experience

 

Prom Picture

As the school year comes to a close, there are many “end of the year” activities.  One that juniors and seniors always look forward to is their Junior/Senior prom.  For twenty-nine ladies in the Albany, Kentucky area, prom was made a little sweeter this year (not to mention less expensive on the parents), thanks to Albany First Baptist Church and their “A Beautiful You” event.

The church, working through the High School’s Family Resource Center and announcements in the newspaper and on the radio, identified ladies that could use a little “special touch.”  Prior to the prom, the church provided a nice sit-down dinner, complete with cloth table coverings and napkins, formal place setting with china and stemmed glasses, and flowers.  A couple of speakers shared with the ladies how God had made each of them unique and how to accept themselves as God had made them.  They shared about how to have a positive self-image and how to have a God-confidence in their lives.

After dinner, students from the Somerset Community College cosmetology program did the ladies’ hair, nails, and make-up and gave them tips, techniques, and trends in each of these areas.  Three Mary Kay Dealers provided make-up and gave out samples.  Each lady also received a door prize.

This is the third year that Albany FBC has hosted “A Beautiful You,” but this year it included another element.  During the past year, a lady from Florida closed her consignment shop for formal wear and moved to Kentucky.  She donated approximately 65 formal dresses and another 20 were donated from other sources for the event.

Following the hair, nails, make-up, and door prizes, each young lady got to try on, model, and choose a prom dress.  Dresses were available in sizes 0 to 28, short dresses and long dresses, dresses in all styles and colors.  Someone said it was kind of like the show “Say Yes to the Dress.” Shoes and jewelry were also available from which they could choose.

Each lady left looking gorgeous and ready for her prom.  Pray, however, that the “outward beauty” is not all that she left with.  Pray that each lady will come to know the “inward beauty” that God has created her for.

According to Kathy Conner, from Albany FBC, the church hopes to make this an on-going event.  Already they are planning for next year’s “A Beautiful You” event and have collected 60 dresses to date.  May this unique mission opportunity be a way to reach many young ladies for Christ.

Global Conquest…Now

God is a conquering God.  Last month I explored God’s conquest in the OT by looking at Joshua’s leadership among the people of Israel and their campaign to take the land of promise.  We see glimpses of God’s conquest strategy in the OT.  Ultimately, God will use His people to conquer lives, not lands.  He will conquer these lives not by force, but by transformation.  As the prophet Ezekiel foretold, there is a day when God will conquer by removing hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh.  In that day, God will put His Spirit within His people to transform their lives (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Brazil crowdAmazingly, God uses people whose hearts have been changed to bring about change in others.  Like those trumpeters in Joshua’s day, we need trumpeters today.  Now these trumpeters are not blasting their horns, but proclaiming the Word of the Lord.  The apostle Paul makes it clear, “How then will they call on Him 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)?

Paul continues saying, “How will they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom 10:15)!  God’s strategy for global conquest is through foot soldiers—boots on the ground.  The logic is simple. In order for lives to be changed by the good news of Jesus, people must believe on the Lord.  But one cannot call on the One in whom they have not believed.  Still yet, how could one possibly believe in One whom they have never heard?   Further, how could one feasibly hear unless someone preaches/proclaims the news of Jesus?  So, trumpeters are needed.  In fact, they are vital.

In order to trumpet, trumpeters must be sent (Rom 10:15).  They must be sent to march around/in their city, their schools, places of work, neighborhoods, and ends of the earth.  Global conquest happens through incarnation, through personal presence.  God conquers by sending.  Ultimately, He sent His Son (John 3:16).  In Joshua He sent an army of foot soldiers to march around Jericho (Joshua 6).  Today, He sends an army of foot soldiers to march around the world.  God’s conquest is not of a particular land today, but of people.  In fact, God’s conquest is global because people are global.  In the end, God conquers people from every tribe, tongue, and nation through the blood of the Lamb (Rev 5:9).  Yet, in order for these people to believe on this slain and resurrected Lamb, trumpeters are needed to trumpet.

So grab your horn and let’s go conquer for the glory of God and the spread of His fame!

Good Fishing

Matthew FishingJesus said to His first disciples, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Matthew 4:19.) 

I had a good friend who was an excellent fisherman, and made a decent living as a fishing guide.  If there was one fish in a lake, my friend would catch it.  Why was he such a good fisherman?  He understood fish.  He knew the time of day that fish were most active.  He knew the best bait or lure to attract the fish that he was seeking.  He knew how deep to drop the line.  He knew the habitat of fish.  He had an effective fishing strategy.  Because he knew fish so well, they were attracted to his hook.  My friend rarely came home empty handed.

In order to catch fish, it helps to understand their habitat, preferences, routines, and most likely times to feed.  In order to reach people, we need to share during times when they are most receptive to the Gospel.  We need to share strategically.

Studies demonstrate that people are most receptive to life-changing truth during times of major change and extreme stress.  People are more receptive during transitions like having a new baby, moving to a new home, or starting a new job.  They are also more receptive during stressful periods such as divorce, financial problems, or loss in a disaster.

As a disaster relief leader, let me share 10 strategic tips in reaching people during times of crisis:

  1. Listen to their story before seeking to share your story.
  2. Demonstrate genuine concern.
  3. Offer real help in any capacity that you are capable of.
  4. Be cautious in making promises and fulfill promises made.
  5. Avoid using manipulative actions and words.  We are not salesmen, but we are trusting in
    God’s Holy Spirit to open and change hearts.
  6. Realize that unbelievers may not act or behave like followers of Christ.  Avoid seeming judgmental and condemning.  If they enter a relationship with Christ, He will change them into a new creation and help them to make needed changes by His power.
  7. Be prepared to share your faith story.  Your story in Christ is a powerful tool in God’s hands.
  8. Be prepared to help them understand how they can experience salvation.  Share what it means to accept Christ, repent of sin, believe in Christ, and confess Him as Savior and Lord.
  9. Allow time for questions, conversation, and the possibility of follow-up.
  10. Pray with them.  This is appropriate even if they are not ready to make a life-changing decision.

What’s the Fuss?

I recently led a workshop in which I shared how many churches today were actively engaging their communities by being the hands and feet of Jesus through acts of service. I suggested that by doing so, the church would be more relevant to the community and doors for spiritual influence would be opened.  One of the workshop attendees commented following the workshop about all the “fuss being made” by people today concerning the importance of the church engaging their community.  He shared how things had changed in the church throughout the years and wasn’t quite certain that community ministry was really going to make the difference that I suggested. I challenged him, as I do you, to think about all the ways that engaging in community ministry could impact your church and why it’s important.  Let me suggest the following ideas for us to consider.  If you have more to add, please comment and share with readers.     What's the Fuss

  1. It’s Biblical – Jesus communicated His message through word & deed (Luke 4:18-19). We are to meet the physical needs of people when we are aware of them (Matthew 25:34-40).  Christ sent out the disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to meet personal needs (Luke 9:1-6).  Jesus had a special place in His heart for those shunned and rejected by society regardless of their socioeconomic level (Luke 14:12-14).
  2. Helps identify prospects – ministering church will never run out of prospects. De-churched believers as well as the lost – when touched by ministry evangelism may look to the church as a place where they can belong.
  3. Builds witnessing relationships with people – the relationship is the incarnation of Christ and may help them understand a verbal witness and establishes trust and respect that is sometimes necessary to gain a hearing for the gospel.
  4. Creates opportunities to share the gospel – if we’re not intentionally evangelistic, then we shouldn’t be doing community ministry because welfare and charitable agencies already exist and usually have more resources.
  5. Increases visibility and connects church with the community – even people who push away from religion are attracted to gestures of compassion and help. It will testify to the genuineness of your church’s faith and open doors that you never thought possible.
  6. Creates opportunities of service for members – joy is found in serving. Believers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if opportunities ONLY exist within the walls of the church. You’ve heard it said that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  It may be that God intended for those not included in the 20% to use their passions/gifts/talents outside the walls in ministry to the community.
  7. Allows believers to grow in discipleship – believer use his/her gifts, talents, education and experiences in service to the Lord. This forces them to learn to communicate their faith. May stir them to deeper Bible study OR serve as a catalyst for a call to ministry or missions.
  8. Enables people to catch a vision for local missions – it’s not just something done “over there”. Ministry happens anywhere there are believers sharing the gospel with the lost and hurting. Serves as a stimulus for missions in general – opening their eyes to needs they had never noticed before.

I wanted to say to the gentleman I’d been talking with – that’s what all the “fuss” is about! But that wasn’t true because to fuss, is to “show unnecessary or excessive concern about something” and we can’t show too much compassion or have too much concern for those who don’t know Christ.

2016 Kentucky Missionary of the Year

John & Teresa

On April 9, during the Kentucky WMU Annual Meeting in Madisonville, John Morris was recognized as the 2016 Kentucky Missionary of the year.  Each year this award is presented to a missionary or missionary couple that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

I have had the privilege of working with John since 1999 and he certainly meets and exceeds all of these requirements.

He was a young guy then (actually is still a young guy) but has accomplished so much.  He became pastor of the Lothair Baptist Church in Hazard where he was 20 years old, and served there for 16 years.  During that time he also served as Director of Chreia Church Resource Center and then in some part-time roles with Kentucky Baptist Convention Partnership Missions Department.

In 2013, he became Interim Director of God’s Appalachian Partnership (or GAP as we call it) in McDowell, KY (Floyd County) when the founders and directors moved back to Florida.  Then, in 2014 he was named the Executive Director.  It was in this role that he was nominated as Kentucky Missionary of the Year.

The ministry at GAP has been strengthened under his leadership and is a model ministry.  They engage the community and share Christ through food, clothing and household items distribution, home repair, children’s events, a coffee house called Beans Talk, an annual children’s event called KidStock, money management and parenting classes, The Christmas project, a community wide Easter Egg Hunt, and a mobile home renovation ministry called Dorema, to name a few.

John grew up in Hazard and became a Christian at age 12.  It wasn’t long, he says, before he knew God was calling him to be a missionary.  Because he is from the mountains, John understands the people he is ministering to and is loved and respected by them.  He has helped GAP to become more effective in reaching people and assimilating them into the local church.  In the past 2 years that he has served as Executive Director there have been 58 reported professions of faith.

Serving alongside John is his wife Shaughanessy and their 2 teenagers Jacob and Jhaughanessy.  This family truly serve as a team.

Thank you John for your love for the Lord and your faithfulness in serving Him.  Congratulations on being chosen as the 2016 Kentucky Missionary of the Year!!

To learn more about the ministry of GAP and how you can get involved in this ministry go to www.gapky.org.

Global Conquest…Then

seaThroughout the pages of the Bible, God is the God of conquest. The purpose of His conquering is the spread of His fame. God often does the unimaginable in order that He receives all of the glory and not man. For example, He delivers Israel from Egyptian slavery by conquering their enemy through a series of plagues, which culminate with the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea (Exod 7-15). In order to bring decisive victory over Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, God causes them to pursue the recently emancipated Israelites while on their way to the Red Sea. With their backs against the wall of the sea, God parts the waters so His people may cross on dry land. In hot pursuit, the Egyptian army charges after the Israelites through the newly formed walled-up sea. God causes the wall of the sea to crash down upon the army, destroying the Egyptians.

Not until under Joshua’s leadership, Moses’ successor, will the Israelites finally take the land that God promised them through Abram (Gen 12). Yet, the land promised to them by God was inhabited by other (pagan) nations who were not too keen on giving up their cities. As Joshua and the new generation of Israelites approach the land of promise, an obstacle stood, or flowed, in their way. In order to reach and conquer the first city in this new land, the Jordan River was in the way. Like Moses before him, through Joshua’s leadership God parted the Jordan so the people could cross on dry land. But why did God choose to conquer in this manner?

“So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:24). God often does the unimaginable in order that He receives all of the glory and not man.

stone wallsFirst on the list of conquest is the city of Jericho (Joshua 6). This city boasted of its impenetrable stone walls. How would the inexperienced Israelite army score their first victory with such a defense in place? The strategy that God gave Joshua will never be considered among the most elite military strategies known to man. But that’s just it. God often does the unimaginable in order that He receives all of the glory and not man. The strategy? Walk around the city one time for six days with the army, the ark, and the musicians. In fact, take the trumpet players and let them blow their trumpets (rams’ horns). Say nothing; do nothing. Just walk around the city once and blow the trumpets. Repeat this process for six days.

I don’t imagine that Joshua’s army was too thrilled with this strategy at first. After all, these soldiers were kids when their parents blew it in the wilderness a generation prior. They have been waiting for this day for some forty years. So you can imagine their initial reaction to “encircle the city once, say nothing, blow the trumpets, and go back to camp.” As if that alone was not enough to cause the soldiers to doubt Joshua’s leadership, he then tells them a whopper for day seven.

pile of stones“Alright,” says Joshua, “on day seven we are going to encircle the city seven times.” Perhaps at this point some soldiers are thinking, “Finally, we are about to do something!” Or maybe they are at a loss thinking, “This guy has lost his mind.” Joshua goes on to instruct the soldiers to say nothing, but on the seventh pass he will cue the band to blow the trumpets and the people will…SHOUT! Joshua then adds, “The walls will fall down flat.”

Are you kidding me?! That’s it? The big military strategy of the ages? You want us to what? But that’s just it. God often does the unimaginable in order that He receives all of the glory and not man. The Israelites obey and God does what He says He will do. The army encircles the city, the musicians blow their trumpets, the people shout, and the walls come tumbling down. God conquers this first city so that He receives all of the glory, not Israel.

God stills conquers nations. How He conquered then is different (in some regards) as to how He conquers today. What remains the same is that God often does the unimaginable in order that He receives all of the glory and not man. Next month we will explore how God continues to conquer peoples from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

Being Prepared for a Flood

Johnson county 2015 FloodsFlooding is the most frequent disaster that impacts Kentucky.  Kentucky averages about 56 flooding events a year with an average yearly loss of 30.4 million dollars.

Sometimes, floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs.  However, flash floods can occur within minutes and without any sign of rain.  Floods can happen anytime and anyplace.  Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

How can you be ready?

  • Talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you have proper coverage, particularly if you live in an area prone to flooding.
  • Copy important documents.  Keep a copy at home, but store additional copies in a secure place outside the home.
  • Take photos of your possessions and store them in a secure place with documents.
  • Have an emergency plan that includes best contact phone numbers and an evacuation plan.  Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, matches, batteries, candles, blankets, and a three day supply of food and water.
  • Monitor weather warnings in your area and heed official instructions.
  • Always follow evacuation orders.
  • Seek higher ground.
  • Never walk or drive through a flooded area.  Turn around; don’t drown!  Six inches of water can cause control issues and stalling.  A foot of water will cause many cars to float.
  • Stay away from downed power lines or other electrical wires.
  • After a flood, check for structural damage before entering your home.  Remove wet and damaged contents and dispose of them properly.  Sanitize affected areas to prevent mold growth and contamination.  Mud and water from flooding can contain chemicals and raw sewage.

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.” 
(Proverbs 27:12)