Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

West Liberty -7 Louisiana Floods: Worst U. S. Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

West Virginia Floods Devastate 1200 Homes, Many Lives

EF-3 Tornado Leaves Damage in Mayfield, Kentucky

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods certainly reek havoc on individuals, but house fires, vehicle accidents, and community violence can be equally devastating to families.

Disasters are always about loss.   Calamities can rob people of homes, material possessions, income, personal keepsakes, normalcy, emotional stability, and loved ones.  The loss is real.  It can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually overwhelming.  These catastrophic events often force people to live with intrusion, vulnerability, and a longing for escape.

The trauma of a disaster throws people off balance and always produces significant change.   Survivors often experience shock, numbness, fear, frustration, confusion, guilt, grief, and anger.  They are often left to depend on strangers for the basic necessities required to get through another day.

Disaster Relief ministry reminds those affected that we care and even deeper…God cares.

Titus 3:14 urges us, “And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that they may not be unfruitful.”

Disasters create doors of opportunity for us, as followers of Christ, to offer compassion to those affected by loss and pain.  The Bible teaches us that this is just the right thing to do when our neighbor is hurting.  Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me…inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40).  When we reach with compassion to the vulnerable and displaced, we are honoring Jesus and sharing His love.

Disasters also open tremendous doors for the Gospel.  Survivors gladly welcome those responding to help them.  This creates opportunities to share the hope that is within us.  In crisis events, compassionate acts of service and empathetic listening often open gates to share the Gospel.

Tragically, most churches are unprepared with a strategy to respond effectively to events of crisis within their community.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief seeks to train volunteers and partner with churches to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected in times of disaster.

Is God calling you to get involved and to be more prepared to serve effectively for His sake among the hurting?

To find out more about training opportunities and disaster relief ministry contact us at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527,

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things!

Going Outside is NOT an Option

What do you think of when you hear the words, “go outside”?  I’m reminded of those times as a child when I was in the way and my mother would say to my brothers and I, “you all need to go outside and play”.   We knew exactly what that meant and would go outside to escape the consequences that would follow if we didn’t.   Did anyone tell you to go outside when you were a child?   Has anyone told you recently to go outside?

Go Outside logo

Church planter, entrepeneur and author Alton Lee Webb, in his book, “Go Outside”, challenges Christ followers regardless of age or experience to go outside.  But not to play, because going outside is serious business and it’s not an option.  It’s God’s urgent mandate to those of us who have chosen to follow Him.  Lee reminds us that we are challenged through Paul’s writing in Hebrews 13 to go outside the city to worship God in acceptable ways in the unholy places.  We are called to be imitators of Christ to those who’ve not yet seen Him.

Going outside involves getting out of our comfortable place and stepping into something unfamiliar in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Going outside is discovering and using our gifts and talents for God’s glory, not mine.  Going outside is seizing opportunities to do for others at my own expense.  Going outside is recognizing and addressing the needs right in front of us that God has equipped me to meet.

The world is not coming inside to us.  If we’re going to reach them, we must go outside – and that is risky and messy.   Not all of us like taking chances, but there are many out there who have.  Lee shares his story and those of others who’ve decided it was time to get off the bench and get into the game, serving those they wouldn’t normally be associated with.  The stories inspire and challenge me to serve others more than I currently am.  They stretch me to push through myself and quit looking for someone else to do what God has equipped and purposed me to do.

Jesus was the ultimate outsider when He came to earth to redeem you and me.  If I’m going to be a Christ follower, then I too, must be an outsider.  However, if I’m completely honest with myself, some days I’m much more of an insider and nothing like Jesus.  But I’m not giving up – because being outside is a lot more exciting and brings so much more meaning to life, now and eternally.

“Go Outside – get up, get out, change the world” by Alton Lee Webb is available at http://altonleewebb.com/product/go-outside/ or from Amazon.com.

A Great Mission Field

back to school

It’s “Back-To-School” time and many students are getting help from Kentucky Baptist churches and ministries all across the state through their back-to-school community missions outreach programs.

Last week I made a trip to Monticello, KY and picked up 170 pairs of athletic shoes from Evangelist Dale Rose, with E & E Warehouse, and delivered them to Amy Wilhelmus at the Moore Activity Center in Covington, KY.  The trunk and back seat of my car could hardly hold the boxes.  There were nice shoes of all colors and sizes.  These, added to shoes that Amy has collected throughout the year, will be used to serve approximately 200 students that come to the MAC on Saturday, August 13th, for help to begin the new school year.  Some of the shoes are donated and others purchased from a monetary donation designated for school shoes.  Socks, school supplies and hygiene items will also be given to each student and, along with these items, the Gospel message will be presented.

This is just one of the many similar events that are going on throughout the state.  John Morris, with God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell, shared that the students at their KidStock 2016 event were excited to receive school supplies and shoes but that most importantly they all heard the Gospel.  John told a 9-year old girl that he loved her new shoes, to which she replied, “Do you know where I got them?  The lady inside said that Jesus gave them to me because He loves me!”

But, the ministry does not stop with these one-time back-to-school events.  Many of our ministries work with schools throughout the year to meet the needs of the students.  They help to provide school supplies all year long, as well as hygiene and clothing items that the students may need.  Many ministries have ongoing food backpack programs where they send food home with the children for the weekend.

Still other ministries have after school tutoring programs for the children throughout the year.  Some ministries, such as First-Priority, FCA, and B.R.E.A.K. are privileged to teach the Bible and lead students in worship during their school day.  Missionary Beth Arnold, with Bible Released-Time Education Association of Kentucky (B.R.E.A.K.) in Corbin, says our students are “possibly one the most unreached mission fields in our country.”

Our students have many needs.  The need for food, clothing, and other material items.  The need to be cared for and loved.  And, most importantly, the need to hear the Gospel.  Jesus loved the children and we must too.  There is a great mission field among the children in our neighborhoods.  May we commit to pray and care for our children and youth.

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Mark 10:13-14

 

Where do we begin?

When it comes to mobilizing for missions, where do we begin?  I mean, what should ultimately drive us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Is it that 4.2 billion people are unreached with the gospel or that nearly 200 million have no one taking the gospel to them?  Perhaps it is the reality that more than half of the people in the world live on less than $2 each per day, and one billion people are engulfed in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 each per day (The Poverty of Nations, forward by Rick Warren).

In his book, A Vision for Missions, Tom Wells shares of hearing a missionary say, “A need will not keep you on the mission field. People will rebuke and repel you” (7).  While often times a need motivates missionaries to go, need alone will not keep them there or even keep them going back in the case of short-term missions in partnership with long-term strategy. Everywhere we look there are tremendous needs, which regularly overwhelm the missionary. Often adding to the frustration of the enormous needs is a lack of response by the people to the missionary’s work. What then, as Wells asks, is left? The answer: God.

God is and must be the ultimate reason for missions. We begin with God. Wells rightly argues that “God is worthy to be known and proclaimed for who He is, and that fact is an important part of the missionary motive and message” (A Vision for Missions, 9). For missions to be at the heart of the church, God must be at the heart of the church. Jesus followers gripped by the greatness of God cannot help but speak about the greatness of God among all nations, not simply because people need to know about Him, but because He is worthy to be known.

earth-1388003_960_720My intention is not to minimize the need for the salvation of mankind or the call to be benevolent, but to maximize the worthiness of God to be known for who He is.  If we are not careful our primary focus will be upon mankind rather than upon God. As one pastor describes it, you can magnify with a microscope or with a telescope. A microscope magnifies by making tiny things look bigger than they actually are and a telescope magnifies by making gigantic things (like stars and planets), which look tiny to the naked eye, appear more as they really are (John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, 17).  A proper starting place for missions is to function as a telescope for God.

Therefore, we must begin with God and His greatness. Wells asks passionately, “Where are the missionary candidates who are panting to make Christ known for Christ’s sake? Do they exist? They must exist, for these candidates are Christians. And surely a Christian wants his Saviour to be known” (A Vision for Missions, 110).

Is Yours an Innie or an Outie?

Most of us can answer pretty quickly about whether we have an innie or an outie, if we’re talking about belly buttons. Whether you end up with an innie or an outie is usually a matter of chance. Most people end up with innies, but some people have outies. Outies usually occur when more of the umbilical cord is left when it’s cut, leading to more skin left over once it dries out.  Inward or Outward

While it may not be as simple as lifting your shirt and looking down, can you identify whether you are part of an innie church or an outie church?

What’s the difference?  Outie churches are strong and healthy within, but focused on reaching those outside the church.  Innie churches are most concerned about keeping those already in the church engaged.

Outie churches are deliberate about engaging their community with good deeds and the good news of Christ.  Innie churches integrate activities and programs in the church, but fail to engage the community.

Outie churches emphasize their influence and impact on the community everyday of the week while innie churches emphasize how many attend on a given Sunday.

Outie churches will be greatly missed by the community if they cease to exist while most innie churches aren’t even noticed by the community.

Take a look at your church’s calendar or budget and it too, will help to determine whether you’re part of an outie or an innie. Is the biggest portion of your budget spent on missions, engaging the community and reaching the lost? Or is it allocated for maintaining buildings, church programming and keeping the already baptized believers content?  The activities and ministries on your churches calendar are just as telling.  Do they indicate that your church is an innie or an outie?

A study by Lifeway Research showed that 78% of those surveyed believed the church was more concerned about organized religion that it was engaging and caring for their local community.  Whether it’s true or not, that was their perception.  What is your church doing to disprove that belief?  Outie churches discover the needs in communities and develop ministries to address those needs and share Christ.

You can’t control whether you have an innie or an outie belly button, but you can control whether your church is an innie or outie.  Take steps to move your church from being an innie to becoming an outie.  Assess the needs of your community, move your congregation from the seats to the streets in meaningful ministry, equip members to share Christ in the course of their daily activity, develop new ministries to reach those still unreached, and partner with ministries already plugged into your local community.

The way to inwardly build a strong and healthy church is through external service and ministry.  Will you accept the challenge to become an outie?   The Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention has assessment tools, resources, training, networking and grants to assist your church in becoming more externally focused.  Call or email for assistance.

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.