Missions Strategy: Equip Leaders

Everyone remembers the last words of a loved one.  In 2 Timothy, Paul gives his last words concerning the gospel to young pastor Timothy.  No doubt that these words were lodged in Timothy’s mind.  As Paul nears the end of his life, chained as a common criminal in a Roman dungeon, he pens his final instructions for this pastor to carry on the legacy of gospel advancement.  How would this gospel message advance beyond Asia and Europe?  How would Paul ensure that the message not be broken?  Really it’s quite simple.  Timothy was charged with multiplying himself in others. Multiplication symbol

Over the last several months, I have discussed key components to Great Commission faithfulness.  In short, these components are: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the unreached, establishing churches, and encouraging leaders and congregations.  The last aspect for gospel faithfulness is equipping leaders.  While Paul traveled across Asia and Europe spreading the gospel, he understood the importance of multiplication for this message to continue long after his death.

Paul, therefore, said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  Paul poured his life into the lives of others (like Timothy) in order that they would pour their lives into the lives of others.  This understanding comes from Jesus’ own pattern for disciple-making.  Yes, Jesus taught the masses, but he poured his life into a few.  Paul did the same.

In fact, Acts describes for us how Paul would plant churches and equip leaders everywhere he went (Acts 14).  Equipping leaders in the word is foundational for the message of Christ to be multiplied.  However, essential in this equipping is the understanding that “teaching others to observe all that Christ commanded” is not simply for leaders.  Leaders are equipped to equip, so that the equipped might also become equippers.  This is multiplication, not addition.  Addition is leaving all the equipping up to the leaders, but multiplication is equipping every Jesus follower to be an equipper.  This understanding is the heart of 2 Timothy 2:2 and the impetus of Paul’s ministry.

Each church must wrestle with the call to equip leaders for Great Commission impact.  We are called to make disciples of all nations.  Yes, equip our own church members, but also be part of making disciples in places where disciples are needed.  Part of each church’s strategy for Great Commission impact should be a plan to equip leaders who can then equip members for gospel impact.  The Great Commission will continue to multiply as we equip others to be equippers, both at home and abroad.

2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year


Thirty-two years ago, after serving in Hawaii, Iowa, and Louisville Greg & Alice Whitetree came to the Lookout Community of Pike County, KY to become the Directors of the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  They planted themselves deeply in the community and today call that place “home.”  Greg & Alice not only minister to children, but the entire family through the various ministries of the Center.  It is estimated from their monthly reports that over 1,200 professions of faith have been made as a direct result of their ministry.  Of the forty-eight years they have been married, forty-five of those have been spent in ministry.

Last week, during the KY-WMU Annual Meeting at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawenceburg, Greg and Alice were presented with the 2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year award.  This award is given each year to a missionary or missionary couple that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Greg and Alice meet all of these requirements and more.  In 2011 the Whitetrees retired but agreed to remain as volunteer directors so that this ministry would continue in the place they love and serve.

Alice shared a story about Debbie, a lady she has been friends with and has witnessed to for the thirty-two years they have been at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  Time after time she had asked Debbie to give her heart to the Lord and Debbie kept saying no.  Just a few weeks ago, when a new volunteer was sharing with her, Debbie asked Christ into her heart.  “Thirty-two years,” Alice said.  “It was worth it all.”  Then, to the new missionaries being commissioned, Alice said, “Don’t give up,”

Thank you Greg and Alice for your love for the Lord and for your faithfulness in service.  CONGRATULATIONS on being chosen as the 2015 Missionary of the Year.



Nellie was laid to rest one, October afternoon.  She was eight years of age when complications from HIV/AIDS robbed her life.

Nelly on Left

Nellie on Left

Nellie contracted HIV/AIDS from her mother’s breast-milk.  When her mother died of this terrible disease, someone left her in a box outside an orphanage.  She was a beautiful, vibrant, active little girl.  She loved to hear Bible stories at bedtime.  While serving with a team assisting in AIDS/orphans ministry, she sat on my lap as I told her stories from the Bible.  When the email informed me of her passing, it stabbed my heart and caused me to implore “why?”

Why does God allow such suffering?

I witnessed first-hand the devastation of the Haiti earthquake that rocked thousands of lives. Last March, I walked among tens of thousands displaced by tribal war in South Sudan. Perhaps one man summed up the despair best when he told me, “The only thing that is trampled when two bull elephants fight is the grass between them.”  I can picture today the face of the woman in New York after Hurricane Sandy, who screamed at me, “Have they forgotten us?”  I am still haunted by a question asked of me by a survivor of the Japan tsunami that swept countless victims out to sea.  And, I confess that each of these drove me to look upwards as I cried for God to give me answers.

Why does a good God allow such suffering?

I confess to you today that I have no answer to this deep question.  The Bible dares to be honest, as it teaches us that life is not always easy and painless.  God chooses not to give a definitive answer for the question of suffering.  Rather than answer the question of “Why,” the Bible chooses to focus on the “Where.”

Where is God in the suffering?

God is on the side of those who suffer.  We live in a fallen, sin-plagued world where disasters strike and evil lurks, but God has not abandoned us.  God sent Jesus Christ into the muck of this world and declared Him to be, “Immanuel, which is translated God is with us”(Matthew 1:23).  Scripture further declares of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).  God demonstrated His love and compassion for us by sending Jesus Christ, who declares, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  God has not promised a world without hardship and trials, but He has promised to be with us.

Secondly, I would encourage you that God comes to those who suffer through His church.  Perhaps, our light of the church never shines brighter than when we come to those who suffer or minister to the “least of these.”  If the church does its job, then people do not wonder where God is.  They see him in the hands of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers.  They see him in the feet of those who go to care for widows and orphans.  They hear His voice as we offer compassion to the broken and discouraged.  Demonstrating a Christ-like presence brings relief to broken hearts, healing for open wounds, and resurrected hope to those wrapped in despair.

Finally, I would encourage you that God is preparing a new home for those who are His.  The suffering and evil of this world may wound us, but they do not have the final word.  Someday, our great God will usher us into a home that He is preparing  that will be safe from the enemy’s terrible hand.  The Bible offers the only real hope for our suffering when it declares emphatically about a coming day when:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)