Missions Strategy: Evangelize the Unreached

When Great Commission faithfulness begins with fervent prayer, as I wrote about last month, it leads to bold gospel proclamation (e.g., Acts 4).  The second component of Great Commission faithfulness is evangelizing the unreached.  Peter preaches his second sermon at the temple area in Acts 3.  Chapter 4 describes Peter and John being arrested for preaching the gospel.  Peter and John make it clear to the religious leaders who had arrested them that there is salvation in no one else but Jesus (Acts 4:12).  In the midst of hostility, Peter and John demonstrate gospel boldness.

The religious leaders are surprised by the confidence of Peter and John because they were uneducated men.  They further recognize that these two men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).  In order to squelch the boldness of Peter and John, the religious leaders threaten them to speak no more about Jesus (Acts 4:17).  You can imagine them being told that if they continue with their message, then they will do to them what was done to Jesus.

Instead of cowering to the threat, Peter and John reply that they cannot help but speak about what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).  In other words, we cannot keep silent; we must not keep silent.  They are threatened again and released.

Peter and John gather back with the church and report all that had happened (Acts 4:23).  Peter’s and John’s gospel boldness comes through their confidence in a sovereign God (Acts 4:27-28).  Just as God was in sovereign control over the death of Jesus, He is also in charge of their lives.  Thus, gospel boldness is rooted not in ourselves, but in someone else.

They pray, not for deliverance per say, but for boldness to proclaim the gospel more (Acts 4:29).  While we might think that their prayer would revolve around asking for a way out, they actually pray for boldness in the midst of hostility.  The gospel spreads from Jerusalem and beyond as the church prays, the Spirit fills, and the believers are emboldened.

photoWhy such a change from chapter 1 where the disciples are locked up in an upper room?  Well, it’s really quite simple.  Jesus was dead, but now He is alive . . . and they knew it.  Jesus left them in order that He might send another comforter who would fill them with power (John 14; Acts 1:8).  Still yet, the disciples really believed that Jesus is the only way to be saved.  That means any other way besides through Jesus alone is no way at all.  They were gripped by this truth!  They lived, breathed, slept and ate this truth.  Men and women, boys and girls are eternally lost without Jesus.  Whether as an individual in a remote tribe in Indonesia who mixes animism with Islam or a cultural Christian in suburban Kentucky, all are lost who do not forsake their sin and trust in Jesus alone for salvation.

Ultimately, to be unreached is to not know Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Peter and John were gripped by the truth that Jesus alone saves.  They lived their lives seeking to make Him know, even if it cost them theirs.  May we, too, be gripped by the truth that Jesus alone saves and pray for gospel boldness to reach the unreached.

Well-Meaning?

While serving with a mission construction team, a friend of mine volunteered to install light switches.  I was not sure that my friend had experience in electrical work, and so, in a few minutes, I went to check on him.  I found him standing in a puddle of water, as he was working with the electricity.  When I asked if this was safe, his response was, “I did notice that I wasWest Liberty -6 feeling a bit of a bite.” (Translation – I am being jolted by electricity.)

My friend was well-meaning, really wanted to help, and was even doing the best he could; but, honestly, he had no business attempting this type of work.  Because he was not properly trained, he was putting himself at risk, and potentially doing more harm than good to the people that we were trying to serve.

This story is very similar to what I see in many disaster settings, as scores of untrained volunteers converge on the site of a disaster.  It is not uncommon for people to show up on site with the best of intentions, but with no real knowledge or training in disaster work.

Consider this:

  • In most disaster sites, there is no food, water, shelter, or fuel to spare for volunteers. People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
  • Just because you mean well or own some equipment does not mean that you are ready to be serving in a disaster area.  Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
  • In disaster settings, volunteers will encounter victims, who are often stressed, overwhelmed, desperate, and even angry.  Untrained volunteers are often clueless in how to provide appropriate assistance and correct information that can genuinely help those who have suffered loss.
  • Volunteers in disasters work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.  Showing up unprepared is a good way to create more problems for yourself and others.
  • Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management; and, because of this, usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  • Scam artists, who are there to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, often show up in disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.  To ensure the safety of victims, most disaster groups need volunteers who have been previously trained and who have been screened properly.

Disasters are complicated and intense situations that require people with some basic training and real commitment.  The priority in times of disaster is providing genuine help to those affected by disaster, not giving spontaneous, untrained volunteers a feel-good moment.  

For the sake of the hurting, get trained.  

For Jesus’ sake, get trained.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is offering training for volunteers at the following locations and dates:

  • September 20, 2014 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow
  • January 17, 2015 at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah
  • February 7, 2015 at Second Baptist Church in Russellville
  • March 7, 2015 at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort
  • April 11, 2015 at Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster
  • September 19, 2014 at Rich Pond Baptist Church in Bowling Green

 

For more information, please click here.

It’s Back-to-School Time

 

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It is back to school this week for students, faculty, and staff all across the Bluegrass even though it seems they just got out for the summer break.  With the beginning of school many Kentucky churches, associations, and ministries held Back-to-School events to provide some fun activities, food, help with much needed school supplies, and to share the Gospel message.  Thousands of students were served through these events.  

One Back-to-School Bash that I visited was at the Freedom Center Ministry in Cumberland (Harlan County), KY.  Six mission teams from South Carolina, one team from Alabama, and two teams from Frankfort, KY came to assist with the outreach where over 400 students and families were served.  The children were given one new and one used outfit, new socks and underwear, had their feet washed and were given new shoes.  They were then prayed with and given school supplies and hygiene items.  Some of the girls received manicures and pedicures, while some of the boys received free haircuts.  Games, crafts, and food were also available for the students.  It was such a blessing to hear one of the preteen volunteers share with the children that the reason they were washing their feet was because Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet.  He asked each one, “Have you heard that story?” then proceeded to tell them.  A future minister or missionary I am thinking.

Similar events were held in lots of other locations as well.  Many ministries placed a Bible in each of the backpacks.  Some of the churches gave gas cards to the college students.

A big thank you goes out to all of those who helped the students to begin the 2014-2015 school year.  And, a big thank you to those ministries that will provide food backpacks to needy children all throughout the year.

DSCN4821Please commit to pray for the students, administration, faculty, and staff.  Say special prayers for the bus drivers who, day after day, have those precious lives on such dangerous roads.  Pray for students to get involved in Christian organizations such as B.R.E.A.K., First Priority, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and others.  Especially pray for those going away to college for the first time to get connected to a good campus ministry and stay committed to their faith.

May this be a fun, safe, and EXCEPTIONAL year!!

Missions Strategy: Empower thru Prayer

When it comes to the Great Commission, the lostness of the world is second to the global glory of God.  God’s greatest concern, as I wrote last month, is He great glory among the nations.  Only when our passion for God’s glory blazes will our endeavors to make Him famous among the nations shine bright.

Ironically, instead of blazing a trail for God’s glory in Jerusalem and abroad, the early disciples were first told to wait.  Wait?  The strategy for which the Lord gave the apostles began with waiting.  That seems quite odd for a movement that was intended to take the world by storm.  But if you think about it, where does this unquenchable passion for God’s glory among the nations come from?

Jesus knew that what the early disciples needed most was power from on high, not power from within.  Furthermore, passion for God is ultimately God-given passion.  Therefore, Jesus instucts the disicples to wait in Jerusalem for what the Father had promised, namely the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  Both the power and passion for accomplishing the Great Commission comes from above; it comes from outside of ourselves.  The Holy Spirit would ignite a passion and provide the power to go into all the world preaching the gospel (Acts 1:6-8).

man_pray1Interestingly, after Jesus’ departure, we find the disciples locked up in an upper room . . . waiting.  That is, waiting and praying (Acts 1:12-14).  Great Commission advancement always invovles waiting and praying.  A survey through Acts demonstrates that gospel boldness is closely connected and often follows the fervant prayers of God’s people (e.g., Acts 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:6-7; 10:9; 13:1-3).

As we examine the book of Acts it’s no wonder why we see such incredible gospel advancement.  The early church bathed the advancement of the gospel in prayer.  Yet, prayer seems to be an afterthought in so many churches today when it comes to Great Commission faithfulness.  “The gospel must be on the go,” we say.  “We don’t have time to pray when lostness is all around us,” we chide.  Yet, the underlying truth that the early church understood, that we would do well to understand, is that the gospel advances supernaturally through the prayers of the people of God.  In other words, the battle against lostness is first fought on our knees.

We need churches and associations entering the battlefield on their knees before going to their feet.  Yes, “beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom 10:15).  Yet, as we see from Acts, the beauty of our feet comes from calloused knees.  Great Commission faithfulness must begin with empowerment thru prayer.  Strategies void of prayer will be strategies void of power.  Only when God’s people cry out to Him who alone can take a message offensive and foolish to the world and turn into a beautiful embrace of Jesus Christ and Him crucified will that message advance powerfully.  Let us be faithful to advance the Great Commission, but let us wait upon calloused knees for God to give us His power and passion.

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.