Mo / bi / lize

Brazil slumMobilization is a process. The simple definition of mobilize (mo / bi / lize) from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary states, “to bring (people) together for action, to come together for action, or to make (soldiers, an army, etc.) ready for war.”  According to this definition the point of mobilization is action. We do not simply want to talk about missions; we want to bring people together and make them ready to do missions. However, missions is not done just any way we choose. We mobilize people for action in missions in order to be biblically faithful and effective.

Biblically faithful missions is not missions, regardless of the good we may do, if the gospel is not central in what we do. Essential to biblically faithful missions is a clear presentation of the person and work of Jesus. People must know who He is and what He did for sinners.

Being biblically effective in missions is closely tied to being faithful in missions. If the gospel is unclear in our attempt at missions, then we can be sure our effectiveness in missions will be no greater than the work of the Salvation Army. While we are called to acts of mercy, we are no different than any other humanitarian organization if all we do is clothe, feed, shelter, or medicate. Effectiveness in missions is inseparable from faithfulness in missions—faithfulness to the gospel message.

Effectiveness is also closely connected to contextualization. A. Scott Moreau is helpful in his discussion on contextualization. Without desiring to oversimplify it, he states that contextualization “is to plant the universal gospel in local soil. It is not to change the gospel, but to plant it in such a way that what grows in local soil can be seen as a local plant. . . . Contextualization is what it takes to plant the gospel message and the life of the church into a particular setting (or context), whether it is in Barcelona or Beijing” (“Comprehensive Contextualization,” in Discovering the Mission of God, 406). Being effective in missions requires a careful understanding of the local context in order to reach the local people with the universal gospel. Learning culturally appropriate ways to engage people with the gospel is crucial for biblically effective missions to occur.

Mobilizing believers to be faithful and effective in missions is ultimately the responsibility of the local church. Whether sending long-term, mid-term, or short-term personnel on mission, churches must equip their people to be faithful and effective in the Great Commission. We can boil the Great Commission down to making disciples locally and globally for the glory of God. Each church is called to make disciples in their neighborhoods and in the nations (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8). In other words, churches are tasked with mobilizing their people for global gospel impact.

 

A Simple Phone Call

Hardinsburg Bldg

Often I have said, “When I get up in the morning and start my work day, I never know what a phone call or email may bring.”  On June 7, while not in my office, but at a Lexington hospital with my sister, I received one of those calls.  Missionary Keith Decker, with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg, called with one of his “unusual” questions.  “Do we have any ministries in Hardinsburg that could use a building?” he asked.  He went on to share with me that he had been approached by a pastor now living in Williamsburg, that had a building in Hardinsburg that he would like to donate for ministry.

My reply was, “I don’t know of anything off the top of my head but let me make a phone call or two.”   Not knowing of any particular ministry in that area, I looked up the phone number for the Blackford/Breckinridge Baptist Association and called new Director of Mission Brent Thornton.  “Are you the lady I met at the DOM Retreat?” he asked.  I said that I was and told him why I was calling.  I didn’t know if he was going to shout, cry, pass out, or have a heart attack.  He could not believe his ears.  Then he went on to tell me his story.

Brent had only been in the DOM position for four months when, near the end of April, a gentleman had walked into his office and asked if they would be interested in selling the building that had housed their office for the past 35 years.  The man made them an offer and the association voted, just a few days before I called, to sell their current building.  They were going to have to find temporary office space almost immediately.  He had been so concerned about where they were going to move.  Now, he gets a call, totally out of the blue, about a building and 1 ½ acres being offered to them…for free.

On July 5, almost one month from that initial call, the property was deeded to the Blackford/Breckinridge Association.  The facility, once used as a church building, has pews, furniture, a keyboard, and office space.  And, while it is far from move-in ready, it offers incredible potential for ministry.

The facility may never be used as the association office but it is definitely in their long-range strategy for ministry.  It is in a great location, is structurally sound, and has a building with over 3000 square feet of ministry space to be used for the Kingdom.  “It is not hard to see God’s hand I the timing of this,” Brent said.

God has blessed me to share in just a small way in many stories such as this.  How exciting to see Him at work.  I am just waiting for that next phone call.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Responds to Flood Ravaged West Virginia

WV Response - 2On June 23, torrential rains struck West Virginia, which caused severe floods that took 23 lives, destroyed or severely damaged over 500 homes, and left over 60,000 without power.  A federal disaster declaration was issued for the counties of Fayette, Clay, Roane, Summers, Monroe, Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were among the first to respond and have been joined by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.  It is likely that other states will soon join this massive relief effort.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are on the ground providing cooked meals, hot showers, laundry assistance, damage assessment, chainsaw work, and flood clean-up.  The Kentucky Baptist feeding team and mobile kitchen has provided over 22,000 meals, to date, in hard hit Greenbriar County, and is still serving at Fairlea Baptist Church in Ronceverte, West Virginia.  Other Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are assessing damage and providing flood clean-up for homes in Kanawha County.  The response is likely to continue for weeks.

West Virginia Disaster Relief Director Danny Rumple shared, “West Virginians are grateful for the support that has been given to them by Kentucky Baptists, and this disaster presents an incredible opportunity for Southern Baptists to be a witness of the love and grace of Jesus Christ to the people of West Virginia.”

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is bringing practical help, genuine healing, and the hope of Christ to the weary and hurting across West Virginia.  The presence of these faithful volunteers reminds our neighbors that God cares about them.

To learn more about how to help or to discover how to become a disaster relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr.  You can also donate for disaster response by mailing donations to “Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, 13420 Eastpoint Centre Drive, Louisville, KY 40223-4160.”  Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

 (1 John 3:18)

Bringing Help, Healing, and Hope

 

WV Response

The Future of Associations

If associations are going to exist in the future we must ask the hard questions now and that is why I’ve chosen to share the following article with you.  It is from a June 21, 2016 blog post by Ed Stetzer.  It addresses the importance of associations demonstrating their value to local churches and was part of a series on the “future of the SBC”:    http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/june/future-of-sbc-local-associations.html.

churchesEd Stetzer –  As geographic concerns lessen through the use of technology, churches are forming networking partnerships that unite churches around theological and missiological concerns.  That’s generally called associationalism.

These networks did not, and could not, exist 20 years ago—due to technological limitations—have exploded now. This generates questions for denominations whose structural model has remained the same since pastors traveled by horses to meetings.

We have to ask exactly how effective we have been over the last 100 years when many horse riding pastors would recognize today’s structures.

Currently, in Southern Baptist life, there is a direct link between the state conventions and the national convention through the funding mechanism of the SBC. It’s called the Cooperative Program (or “CP” for my non-SBC readers).

Baptist associations have been historically left out of that by their request, actually.

This causes them to function as free agents of sorts—each is autonomous. While the state and national conventions desperately need each other, they drawn from the same CP dollars. Strategies like the Great Commission Resurgence called for tightening of state belts to fund the national body ever more fully. This, for some states, has been a challenge, but has had little impact on associations.

 Local associations predate the larger organizational structures, but pastors in the next 20 years are not going to continue using a methodology simply because “it has always been that way.” Because of this, a squeeze is coming that will cause the local church to evaluate the partnerships they are engaged in to determine the ones that are the most beneficial to their stated goals.

 Clarification of roles

Churches that have multiple layers of partnerships will often choose between them—and they will do that based on their stewardship focus.  If a church is financially partnering with a theological network, a local area association, a state and a national organization, it is investing a significant amount of its resources in these groups.

The question then becomes: “Who does what?” If the local church has multiple overlap between all of their partnerships, why should they continue to keep them all?

Each partnership should have a clear and established role that benefits the local church. Most denominations do not have a long successful track record of accomplishing this. Often there is duplication key roles. Many church leaders, especially those with business or leadership training, become frustrated by the perceived (or actual) waste of resources.

This is where networks have frequently stepped in and provided a much more flexible solution for the churches. Not having decades or even centuries of bureaucratic weight, networks have organized themselves to be as lean as possible to meet the needs of churches in the current context.  

So, in some ways, networks are replacing associations.  But, it does not have to be that way.

Future of local associations

I’m in favor of the new networks that have developed. Any network that pushes people to greater mission and partnership is a great thing. But local churches need to decide how best to connect with them—when to partner and when not to partner.

There can be a place for these smaller geographic connections for churches to continue, like associations. A far spread network may share your passion for church planting, but they don’t share your zip code. There are roles local leaders can provide that a national organization will not be able to mimic.

Also, you can meet and connect with local pastors who are, yes, different than you. That’s good for you, your church, and the kingdom.

Local associations need to look at the involvement of their churches. In my non-scientific observation, the majority of local associations have well-connected relationships with churches that are 75 years and older, moderate connection to those around 50 years old, but minimal connection to churches less than 20 years old. If that is the case, the future does not look bright for those associations. They, like many of the older churches that comprise them, will die from attrition.

 The key to sustained ministry in associations is discovering the needs of the churches local to your area and meeting them. Theological networks, along with state and national organizations cannot possible know all of the ministry needs of the people on your street. But your association may.   Those closest to the ground can have the strongest partnership if they involve more churches, engage faithfully, and connect pastors.

 Different tools to reach the same goal

Central to the purpose for every church should be the Great Commission.

We exist to making disciples. For the different levels of connectivity to remain, they need to demonstrate to the local church how they can help them further that goal in unique ways.

When resources are wasted through various partnerships all offering the same thing, churches become discouraged and the goal is hindered. However, when each partnership of the church meets a need and provides a service the others cannot, the church is encouraged to do more and the Gospel is advanced.

 Associations can most definitely be one of those beneficial partnerships.

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.