Celebrate Subtractions!

It’s interesting to note how often we use numbers to determine the success or effectiveness of our churches.  We talk about how many attend on Sunday, the number of small groups, how many were baptized or the annual budget.  If attendance is less this year than last, things must not be going well.  However, that’s not necessarily true if the number attending is less because they’re sending out missionaries, ministry leaders and church planters.  But how often do we describe a church by the number they’ve sent out?

Abacus & Calculator

Throughout the Word of God, it’s very clear that God’s people are to go because we are sent by Him (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).  So why not describe the success of our church by how many went on mission trips, the number of members engaged in local ministry, or how many we have sent as missionaries or church planters?   I think it would be exciting to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”

We typically celebrate additions and grieve or become bitter about subtractions.  But the sending of a church planter or mission team is reason to celebrate.  Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation that would include celebrating subtractions related to the church’s sending.  Our sending will mean a smaller number is gathering, but what a subtraction celebration it could be!  Let’s celebrate subtraction from our small groups if it’s because more Christ followers are going with the message of Christ.

The focus of the church must change from how many gathered to how many were sent.  It will be hard to talk over lunch or in meetings without asking how many attended small groups or gathered for worship this week.  But by changing the conversation and celebrating subtractions, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.

So I Sought for a Man

zim - 5Within North America, one of the greatest pockets of lostness is men.  Sixty-one percent of men across our culture do not profess a personal faith in Christ and another thirty-three percent are characterized as cultural Christians.  Recent studies identify less than six percent of American men as Biblical believers.  However, if dad is the first one to be reached for Christ, then, there is a ninety-three percent probability that his whole family will come to a saving faith.

Spiritual reformation in society hinges on the spiritual renewal of men.  The local church remains as a vital key in reaching men for Christ, but the church must be strategic in how it connects with men.

Men’s Ministry will:

  • Require a missional approach.  Determine who you are seeking to reach and what strategies would be most effective on your mission field.
  • Need a planned direction.  The plan should fit your unique ministry setting.
  • Demand strong leadership.  Good leaders are the foundation for an effective ministry that reaches and develops men into disciples.
  • Include a “doing” aspect.  Men like hands-on ministries.
  • Offer multiple connecting points and not be limited in scope.
  • Utilize Affinity Evangelism strategies.  Find areas where men have an interest and use them as tools for the Gospel.
  • Always include a next step in every men’s event.  The intent should always be to help men make a further commitment.  Do not waste the momentum of a successful event.
  • Seek to always have the Pastor on board.
  • Pursue God’s direction in prayer.

Effective men’s ministry should strive to capture the heart, head, and hands of men.  God desires every man to be a disciple.  As Ezekiel 22:30 reminds us, our future as a culture may rest on our ability to reach the next generation of men:

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”  

 

VBS – A Great Opportunity to Serve in Your Home Church

I_Heart_VBS

This week I had the privilege of working in Vacation Bible School at my home church.  What a joy it was each evening to see the smiling faces as the children marched into the sanctuary, to hear them pledge allegiance to the flags and Bible, and to hear them sing to the top of their lungs “I hope you see that my hope is only in Jesus.” These little minds seemed to soak in the stories of Jesus as they learned that Jesus is really God’s Son, that He is more than just a good man, that He died for their sins, that He is alive, and then learned how to respond to the message.

Practically the whole church body was involved.  Each person knew his/her role and used the gifts, skills, and talents God had given him/her to serve the children.  Whether it was the van drivers, kitchen crew, the craft and recreation leaders, mission leaders, Bible study teachers, directors, or the pastor, all were ready to greet and serve the children.  Especially exciting was to see two adults, both young Christians, attending and working in Bible School for the very first time.

Missionaries representing the county, state, nation, and the world shared with the children about their ministries and/or mission trips.  Each night a mission offering was taken and the children learned about the Cooperative Program and how we partner with other churches to take the Gospel to those at home and around the world.  The children were introduced to the Gideons’ ministry and 4th and 5th graders received a Gideons’ New Testament.

Missions right in your own church.  There is no better way than to serve through Vacation Bible School.  What an opportunity.  What a privilege.  What a learning experience.  It is not an easy task but it is so rewarding.  You ought to get involved.  You will certainly be blessed!!

Missions Strategy: Where to Begin?

There are 7 billion people on plant earth.  Approxiately 3.9 billion have never been reached with the gospel!  It’s easy to become numb by numbers.  But each number, whether it be 1 or 1 billion, represents people in need of the gospel of Jesus.  If people are really lost without Christ and face an eternity in hell separated from Him, then statistically these numbers should alarm us.  Billions upon billions face the prospect of an eternity separated from God.

Sun (glory)Yet, the urgency of world lostness is not utimately about lostness.  It’s about the glory of God and His fame among the nations.  God’s greatest desire is for His greatest glory.  Whether the call comes from the Psalmist or the prophets, for example, the Word of God is clear.  God is worthy of the praise of every tongue from every tribe and people on the earth (Ps 67:3-4, Isa 48:9-11).  After all, who is like the Lord our God (Isa 40:25-26)?  In fact, one day every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:9-11).  Some will bow in great adoration  and love, while others will bow in great fear and dread.  Either way, all will bow!

Therefore, the Great Commission is first about the glory of God and second about the lostness of the world.  The two are not in opposition; rather, they work together.  God gets the glory as His fame is spread among the nations and mankind receives the good from a gracious Savior and Lord.

You see, God is so glorious and great that He deserves the praise of countless billions.  Further, mankind is so lost that only a glorious and sovereign God could redeem a fallen  and rebellious people from this perilous state.  What’s incredible about these twin truths of God’s glory and man’s lostness is the plan by which He chose to spread His fame and save sinners.  Jesus, God’s own Son, willingly became man in order to pay the penalty for sinners through His death and resurrection (Col 2:9-15).  But how would this good news of great joy spread, so that men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and people and nation might hear, repent, and believe?

This is where the church comes in.  The church is the means by which both God’s greatness and mankind’s salvation is spread.  The last words of Jesus are given to the apostles in Acts 1, words that call them, upon receiving power from the Holy Spirit, to be worldwide witnesses (v 8).  Since the apostles are gone, the church is bequeathed with this responsiblilty of global impact for both God’s glory and man’s good.  So, what is involved in being faithful to this Great Commission from our Lord?  Over the coming months, I will discuss five components of Great Commission faithfulness.  In short, I believe it invovles: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the lost, establishing churches, encouraging churches, and equipping leaders.  All of these components are for the twin aim of God’s great glory and mankind’s everlasting good.

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do

our leader with our security team smA mission conference several years ago greatly impacted my life.  The key speaker made a passionate appeal, by calling for a commitment to missions.  This plea moved me to lead our church, in answering the call to partner in Tanzania.  On that day, I was reminded how awesome it is for believers to hear and respond to God’s call, by taking the Gospel into all the world.

Christ continues to call front-line warriors of our faith to mission fields across the globe.  Yet, I agree with Bob Briner in his book, “Roaring Lambs,” when he says that the same spirit should propel us to send our children into culture-shaping professions, such as entertainment, journalism, education, and politics.

Too often today, our culture views the church as negative and condemning, rather than positive and life-changing.  Believers need to stop criticizing the lifestyles of our neighbors, and, instead, push back the darkness by sharing the light.

We will not impact Kentucky, for Christ, by hurling stones or by gathering with other Christians to march with picket signs held high.  But, to impact Kentucky, for the Gospel, we need to be courageous enough, to enter the market places and public arenas of our culture.

This is not for the faint of heart, and it will not come without risk.  But, why does this surprise us?  Faith has always required risk; God continually demands His followers to venture out by faith, trusting that He who is with us, is stronger than, he who is in the world.  Abraham set out for an unknown land.  The Hebrew priests stepped into the Jordan to lead God’s people into the land of promise.  David marched onto the battlefield to face the giant Goliath.  Peter climbed out of the boat when Jesus called in the storm.  These men of faith did not know what was before them, but they answered the call to boldly go forth for His glory

We desperately need the church to rise up and be the church in our culture.  We need the people of God to step out with courageous conviction.  We need the people of God to be ignited again by the Great Commission of our Lord, “Go therefore…”  We need the best of God’s people to be willing to go into the public arenas and compete for the Kingdom.

There is an obscure passage in 1 Chronicles 12:32 that offers wisdom to us today:

“From Issachar, there were 200 leaders and all their relatives at their command—they understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”

A lost culture desperately awaits those who understand the times in which we live, and who know what to do for the sake of our Lord.

 

You Can’t Be One and Not the Other

I gave my life to Christ at the age of nine.  I understood then, as much as young boy can, that I was making a commitment to become a Christ follower.  That meant allowing Christ to control every aspect of my life.  I knew that my life was no longer mine.  I was to model my life, attitude and actions after Him.  Whatever Christ did, I was supposed to do.

Follow Jesus

Scripture tells us to imitate Christ, walk as He did and follow His steps.  (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21).   I didn’t know that I would one day serve as a missionary or go on a mission trip.  But as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve come to understand that if I’m going to be a Christ follower, I must be a missionary because that’s what He was.

A missionary is defined by the North American Mission Board of the SBC as a person who, in response to God’s call and gifting, leaves his or her comfort zone and crosses cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission.

Jesus became the first missionary when He left heaven and came down to earth.  God called His son to leave the comfort of heaven and go to earth.  Now that’s a change of geography and culture for sure!  His mission was to seek and save the lost who needed to be rescued.  He engaged the indigenous people of the earth while proclaiming the Gospel.  He lived His life as a witness to the Father’s love.  What a missionary He was!

I want my life to reflect Christ and pray that people see Him in me.  If I want to be like Christ in every way, it will mean going as a missionary because that’s what He did.  I might not cross an ocean, but I will need to cross the street or grocery isle.  I might not go to a foreign land, but I will need to engage the internationals in my community.  I might not be sent by a mission agency, but I have been sent by Christ Himself (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20).  I am thankful to be a follower of Christ AND missionary – you can’t be one and not the other.

 

Missions is in Full Swing across Kentucky

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June is here and so are many, many mission volunteers who have come from far and near to serve in Kentucky.  Whether it be a preaching, teaching, prayer walking, working with children, painting, carpentry, or other, all use their gifts to show and tell the love of Christ.

I was privileged to see some of the teams in action last week and heard about many others.  Since we have just launched our “iGo…do You?” initiative, I would like to share a few recent Kentucky mission experiences.

  • A Carpenters for Christ team from Mississippi, brought 100+ men and women to Hickman, KY last week to erect a new building for West Hickman Baptist Church, whose old building was destroyed by fire in 2013.  Volunteers from 13 different states were a part of this team.
  • Another Carpenters for Christ team based out of Auburn, AL brought 90 men from 23 churches in 8 states to Paducah to build an education wing for Friendship Baptist.
  • A team from Valley View Baptist in Louisville is in Booneville this week doing a cookout for the local residents, having a free yard sale, and hosting numerous outreach events.
  • Seven teams from various states (GA, TN, NC) are at Cedaridge Ministry in Williamsburg this week working in food ministry, one-on-one evangelism, ministry to mothers and children, putting up a new building for a church whose building burned, home repairs, and work at the Cedaridge building, including mowing and cleaning.
  • A team from Falmouth, KY will be at Cayce Baptist Church in Fulton next week to assist with Vacation Bible School.
  • In July Pulaski Baptist Association’s Kingdom Kids leaders will be going across the county line to lead Vacation Bible School at Polly Ann Baptist Church in Lincoln County.
  • I, too, am “on mission” this week assisting a neighboring church with Vacation Bible School.

Not only is Kentucky receiving but many in Kentucky are “going”.  Have you been, or are you going, “on mission” this summer?  Whether locally or abroad, please share your experience on the “iGo…do You” Facebook page.  We love to hear the stories of what God is doing through you.

The Great Commission and the SBC

São Paulo BrazilFrom our beginning in 1845, Southern Baptists have been known for our commitment to the Great Commission.  The gospel is meant to be global and Southern Baptists have believed that truth from our beginnings.  As I have sat under preaching and listened to presentations from both the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB) the past two days in Baltimore for the Southern Baptist Convention, I am struck by at least two common themes.

First, the lostness of our world is still vast after two thousand years of Christianity.  The major cities of our country are increasingly diverse and desperately lost.  Added to our own cities in the US is the reality of the world’s lostness.  With about 7 billion people in our world, many missiologists believe that at least 1 billion will never have the opportunity to hear of the life changing message of Jesus.  Over 6,000 people groups are unreached by the gospel, which amounts to billions of people who do not know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Second, as our world’s population and lostness increases greatly, the answer to reaching the world is not found in money (alone).  While our dollars do make a difference as we pool our resources together for gospel advancement, money alone will not reach the billions of lost people in our world.  As one state convention executive director said recently, “We will never buy our way out of lostness.”  We must mobilize every Jesus follower for gospel advancement.  Yes, let’s give more for the sake of gospel impact, but let’s mobilize even more in order to gain ground on the swelling number of lost people in our world.

Pauls’ word to a young pastor is still the answer for the 21st century church:  “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  What our churches must understand is that the Great Commission is not for a select few, but for every Jesus follower.  Jesus calls every would-be follower to follow Him and then He will make us fishers of men (Matt 4:19).  So, let us as Southern Baptists follow and then fish. May we run hard after Jesus, and in so doing, fish for men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Rev 5:9).

Pastors, preach the reality of the world’s lostness, but don’t stop there.  Preach the call for every Jesus follower to become a fisher of men.  Preach the necessity of every believer to take the gospel to a world in desperate need of the Savior.  Mobilize every congregation to go across the street, throughout the country, and around the world with the gospel.  Only until we mobilize everyone will gospel impact indeed be among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

Finishing Strong

I penned these words as I sat in a rest area on my way home from a hard trip to Michigan.

Bob Turley pictured with a disaster relief team serving in Oklahoma in  tornado response

Butch Turley (center in white) pictured with a disaster relief team serving in Oklahoma in tornado response

This was a weekend of storm for our Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief family.  The whirlwind came without warning on a dark, Friday afternoon.  A tragic vehicle accident occurred for two disaster relief volunteers, who were serving our Lord in response to Michigan floods.  Bob Waldron did not survive the accident, and the other volunteer, Buford “Butch” Turley, was rushed to a hospital in very serious condition.

As we try to recover in the aftermath of this tempest, I am reminded that there are times in life when we need to trust in the character and promises of God.  I share these words to encourage all of us today:

  • God is good every day!
  • Our Lord is always faithful!
  • Belonging to a community of faith, a local church family, makes a huge difference when trials come.
  • The hope that we have in Jesus Christ cannot be robbed from us, even by death and tragedy.

I ask that you keep the family of Bob Waldron in your prayers, as they walk through the valley of grief; and continue to pray for Butch Turley and his family, as he seeks to recover from this tragic accident.

I also dare to speak a word of testimony on behalf of these two faithful servants of our Lord.  If Bob and Butch had known what they faced on this fateful day, would they have chosen differently?

I do not believe that they would have chosen to be in an accident, but I do believe that it would not have changed where this day found them.  I feel as if these two men would have still been obedient to God’s call of serving in disaster relief ministry.  These men were not ones to just talk about faith, but, instead, they were busy living out their faith.  They would have chosen to offer compassion to hurting people.  They would have elected to talk with a homeowner about a saving faith in Christ.  They would have wanted, by their faithfulness, to challenge some of us to get in the race…to rise up from where we sit…to step off the sidelines and to go for Christ’s sake.

The testimony of these two very fine men and faithful disaster relief volunteers declares:

Run the race!

Keep the faith!

Finish Strong!

“I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not only me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”  

( 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

iGO do You?

If you’re going on a mission trip this summer, I’d love for you to share your experiences with the world!

The “iGO do You?” initiative is an awesome way to tell others your mission story.   It’s easy and only takes a minute to tell where you went, what you witnessed God do, and what you personally experienced.   Telling others about your “iGO” experience is a way to be His witness following your return from the mission trip.

iGO logo shaded

We created “iGo do You?” a special Facebook group where you can post pictures, videos and more about your mission trip experience.*  You can also check out other group members’ posts and iGO videos.

You’ll find lots of encouragement, prayer support and more.  It’s fun to see where others are going and what God is doing through people just like you.  And who knows… maybe you’ll find inspiration for your next mission adventure!

Find the group at  https://www.facebook.com/groups/iGOdoYou/.

You can also tweet your experiences on Twitter using the hashtag  #iGOdoYou.

*Please be careful not to include personal names or places that may be sensitive or create security issues.

Should you go?

Going as a witness to our community, state, nation and world, is not an option, it is a mandate given to us by Christ himself.

Matthew 28:19-20 says that we should go into all the world and make disciples. Acts 1:8 tells us that after receiving power, we will be His witnesses everywhere we go. Given these and other scriptures that tell us to proclaim His name among the nations, going as a witness is something expected of Christ followers. It is not an option.

We don’t need to wonder IF we should go because the Great Commission is very clear that we are to GO. The only question we should ask is where. God has gifted and equipped every follower to serve as His witness and opportunities are everywhere.

Telling your “go story” will encourage others to go and the witness of Christ will be magnified.