Reaching the Underserved

Poverty is a real issue in our country and is getting worse every day.  As I read the reports of our missionaries who work with those in poverty I hear over and over again that they are ministering to a larger number of individuals and families each month. 

According to the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.9%, with 48.4 million people living in poverty, a number that has risen continously the past 4 years.  Those statistics are even more startling in Kentucky with 19.1% of Kentuckians living below poverty.  Many areas of the state, such as eastern and far western Kentucky have rates even greater.

Scripture has a lot to say about the poor.  Jesus said he came to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18).  And, in talking about the final judgment in Matthew 25, He said when we give food to the hungry, clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty – when we did it to one of the least of these – we did it to Him.

All of us, not just missionaries, encounter persons in our day to day lives who are living in poverty.  Not only do they need help to meet those physical needs but they also need to know the love of Christ.  We have a responsibility to care for those in need.  But how do we go about doing that?  What seems like a simple task may not be so simple after all. 

Mississippi River Ministry (MRM), a Southern Baptist ministry, is a partnership of the eight state conventions along the Mississippi (Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee), the North American Mission Board, and Woman’s Missionary Union and exists to evangelize, to strengthen existing churches and to start new churches through ministry to both the physical and spiritual needs of persons impacted by poverty. 

Next month MRM will be sponsoring “Reaching the Underserved through the Church” conference led by Brandon Hatmaker, author of “Barefoot Church.”  The conference is scheduled for Thursday, March 28th, at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, TN and is open to all.  Registration is only $25 and will include lunch.  If you are interested in knowing how to better reach out to those in poverty please plan to attend this conference.

Send registration and check to:  Mississippi River Ministry, PO Box 470, Trenton, TN  38382. 

We hope to see you there.

The Command is Greater Than the Need

I am so thankful for the literally thousands of missionaries who serve the Lord in Kentucky each year through a variety of ministries.  Whether one serves as a long term career missionary or a short term volunteer, you are considered a missionary, “if in response to God’s call and gifting, you leave your comfort zone and cross cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission” (North American Mission Board of the SBC).

Missionaries have met many of the physical, emotional and spiritual needs in Kentucky.  Through personal sacrifice and service you have fed hungry children, provided shelter for homeless families, offered accountability for a recovering addict, discipled prisoners in the jail, provided job training for the unemployed, built a wheelchair ramp for the physically handicapped, and cooked meals for the hungry following a disaster.

Why did you go on that mission trip?  What prompted you to leave your job and move your family in order to serve?  What motivates you as a missionary?  Perhaps it is your compassion for the outcast, sympathy for the poor, or simply an overwhelming desire to help those in need. Our primary motivation for serving as a missionary should be the command of Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).  Our obedience to His call should trump any and every need that exist.

We must be aware of the needs around us and always looking for ways to meet them in the name of Jesus.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling compassion for the lost and hurting.  But His command to “go” should be our driving force, not the hungry faces, homeless families or children in need.

Searching for One Man

Where is your sacred place?  According to one survey, men seek sacred places where they can get away from the ordinary grind of life.  Some sacred places that men shared were fishing boats, hunting camps, the golf course, and their workshops.  Some mentioned their recliners, television, and the morning paper as their sacred spot.  Interestingly, men did not mention the mall, restaurants, family gatherings, or the church as their place of refuge from the world.  I find it tragic that men as a whole do not seem to think of the church as a sacred place of refuge.

One recent survey identified that 61% of men have never entered a life-changing relationship with Christ and 33% are at best cultural Believers.  Thus, it should not surprise us that few men see the church as a sacred place of refuge from the world.  The greatest unreached people group in America may be the “man next door.”  So, how can we change this tragic trend with men in our culture?

If we are serious about drawing men to Christ, we must seek to develop models of ministry that connect with men in our culture.  What are men seeking today?

  1. Men need a real relationship with God, and evangelism with men is greatly impacted through friendships.
  2. Men are seeking that which is genuine.
  3. Men desire quality relationships and most often bond through shared hands-on activities.
  4. Men are looking for answers about life, family, finances, etc.
  5. Men want truth.
  6. Men are searching for purpose and vision in life.
  7. Men need a place of refuge from the grind of daily living.

For the church to reach men, we must capture their heads with truth, their hearts with genuine relationship, and their hands with authentic ministry opportunities.  It will require commitment, integrity of faith, and strategic efforts to connect with the men in our community.

I can only imagine the impact in our families, communities, state, and nation, if churches across Kentucky began to radically reach the men around us for Christ.  According to statistics, when the man of the family comes into a personal relationship with our Lord, then the chances of the entire family coming to Christ is elevated to a 93% likelihood.

So, what happens if we do not reach the men around us?  Then, tragically the words of Ezekiel might someday come to pass in our land:

“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.”  Ezekiel 22:30