First Responders with Gospel Urgency

A tsunami of debris engulfed the city blocks surrounding the World Trade Center.  Just prior to this wave of debris, smoke rose in the New York City skyline as both towers were struck by hijacked commercial airliners on September 11, 2001.  Thousands attempted to escape the chaos of the enflamed buildings and surrounding area.  While hordes of people were panicking as they ran away from the direction of the twin towers, heroically others ran to the site as the towers eventually collapsed in a massive ruble.

People were right to run away from the danger, but who would run to it and why?  First responders, that’s who.  Thank God for first responders who train and prepare for times such as September 11.  Instead of running away from danger and distress, first responders run to it.    

The Great Commission is about followers of Jesus running to the needs of the world.  We lay down our lives (both figuratively and sometimes literally) for the hordes of people running to escape the chaos of life.  I was recently reminded of this gospel call when a pastor in a large Midwest city told our vision trip team of a shooting in his neighborhood.  Instead of avoiding the location where the incident occurred, his church went and set up on the corner of the street to engage with family members and neighbors.  They were there to proclaim that hope is found in Jesus alone.  This church functioned like first responders.

This same church, on a weekly basis, has “night church” in a section of town that is known as a hot spot for trouble late at night.  They gather near the street and play Christian music, share testimonies of God’s transforming power, and talk with neighbors about the good news of Jesus.   The church is running to the needs in their community.  They are, in fact, first responders bringing hope in the name of Jesus.

Churches across our nation and state can learn much from this Midwest large city new church.  Here are some takeaways that will help us all in our Great Commission work:

  1. Be a church that runs to the needs in your community with gospel hope.
  2. To run to the needs, we need to know our communities. 
  3. To know our communities, we must immerse our lives in the community.
  4. Immersing our lives in our communities requires a continual presence in the community.

The chaos of sin is sweeping across the communities of our state and nation like a tsunami.  It would be easy for the church to simply quarantine itself from the debris and mess.  However, this is not the Jesus way.  He calls us to run to the need, not away from the need.  How will your church respond to the chaos of sin in your community?  Will you be a first responder with gospel urgency?   

Ministry Involvement Doesn’t Always Equal Missions Engagement

A comment I hear often from church leaders is “we are really involved in missions”.  As leader of the KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team, this is an exciting and encouraging phrase to hear.  It is music to my ears, at least initially. I say initially, because as the discussion progresses, I sometimes discover that while the church may be involved in some wonderful ministry activities, they are not necessarily engaged in missions.   

A 2018 Barna report (Translating the Great Commission) shared that 27% of churchgoers say they have participated in missions in the past year and 62% say they have donated financially to missions.  But how do they define missions?  

The word missions comes from the Latin word, “missio”, which means “to send”.  But as my conversations with church leaders reveals, missions doesn’t mean the same thing to all and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with sending members to share the gospel with those who are unreached.  

Since “missions” is defined in different ways, let me share with you a definition that the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missions Mobilization Team has agreed upon.  Missions is “advancement of the gospel by those who are reached among those who are unreached, often involving the crossing of cultural, geographic or language boundaries.” 

We may be giving resources to meet human needs or involved in community ministry, but those things may or may not be missions.  So, how does a church determine if what they’re investing in is really missions?  Here are some questions to ask to determine if what we’re doing or giving to is really missions. 

1. Are those doing the work or participating in the experience Christ followers?

2. Is there intentional gospel sharing in the activity or experience?

3. What boundaries are being crossed in-order to share the gospel?

4. Who are the lost that the gospel is being shared with?

Feeding the hungry is a good thing and meets a real need, but is there gospel intentionality?  Helping to paint a widow’s home or building a ramp for the disabled is a selfless act of service and appreciated, but are boundaries being crossing and the gospel being shared? Yes, it’s okay to plan and implement a sports camp this summer and it is missions when we use it as a tool to reach an identified lost people group. 

While the methods and resources used in missions engagement may have changed, what missions is, hasn’t. Ministry involvement doesn’t always equal missions engagement. Is your church missions engaged or simply ministry involved?

Is Your Church READY?

My wife and I are quite different when it comes to packing for a trip. She will spend days making her list so she does not forget anything. She will begin to lay out her clothes in various piles in the bedroom. She does not pack them in the suitcase until the last minute as she may change her mind. She will spend several days getting everything ready, then pack her suitcase.

I, on the other hand, will wait until the last minute, count how many days we will be gone and throw what I need in the suitcase, zip it up and I am ready to go. The reality is she will always have what she needs, but I run the risk of missing something.

And she loves post-it-notes. They keep her plan in place, keep her focused, and all she has to do is work her plan. Of course, it helps keep me on track too.

The reality is the time to get ready is before it is time to go.

Now I understand we cannot always be ready and prepared for everything that will happen in our lives. But when it comes to disasters, there are some steps your church can take to be a READY Church to minister to your community during those difficult times.

I looked up the definition of the word “ready” and found this definition: “in a suitable state for an activity, action, or situation; fully prepared.”

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief ministry can help you become a READY Church in your community. With a three-step process, you can lead your church to have a strategic focus to minister to your community in times of crisis or disaster.

First, PREPARE. The time to prepare is now. Bejamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.” READY Church enables the church to prepare for times of disaster. It is not a matter if the disaster or crisis will come to a community, but when. Churches need to be ready to respond promptly and properly. We can help you prepare.

Second, CONNECT. To maximize your effectiveness to your community, preparation is a must but also the connections in the community are critical. Those connections need to be made long before any crisis or disaster happens. We can help you connect.

Third, RESPOND. Once a crisis or disaster strikes, it is time to respond. Your planning, preparation and hard work is now ready to be put into action. By having a well thought out plan, making key connections in your community, you now can respond well as you minister effectively to your community.

You can learn more at Through your giving to the Cooperative Program, this training can be available to your church or association at no cost by calling the Disaster Relief office at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at 502-489-3401.

Remembering Bro. Keith

This is a blog I did not want to write.  This year (2023) has been a very difficult one for our Kentucky Mission Service Corps Family.  Since January 29 three of our KY-MSC Missionaries have passed into eternity. 

When I began serving with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1999, one of the first persons I met was Keith Decker, President of Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.  I made a dear friend that day, a friend I came to love like a brother, and one I will never forget.  Last week Keith Decker, who had served as an MSC Missionary since 1997, went home to be with the Lord.

Keith Decker was a gentle giant.  He loved the Lord and wanted to make sure all he met knew Him as well.  He was such an encourager and made you feel special just being in his presence.   

Keith was such a humble man, and appreciated anything you did for him, no matter how large or small.  He could not do enough to help others, which is evident through the thousands of families he served through Cedaridge, a non-profit Christian ministry that provides food, clothing, shelter, furniture, and spiritual guidance to the poor and homeless in the Southeastern Kentucky area. 

For his faithful service, Keith was chosen as the 2014 Kentucky Missionary of the Year.  He was so overwhelmed with such recognition that he could not talk for crying. 

Janus Jones, former Director of Missions for the South Union Mount Zion Baptist Association, has been with Keith from the very beginning of his ministry and shared the following tribute: “I watched the Lord use this man to build a ministry that reached out to the world.  He never intended to start a ministry. He started having yard sales to raise money for his youth group that lasted 31 years. I am not sure when the ministry became ministry. He did not find ministry, ministry found him. From simple beginning God was always one step ahead. Another soldier has gone home.”

Bro. Keith, thank you for committing your life to the Lord and for sharing Him with all of us.  May we follow the example you set for us to love Him, serve Him, and share Him with others.  We loved you and are sure gonna miss you, buddy.

Please pray for Keith’s wife Joyce, his family, Cedaridge Ministries, and Black Oak Baptist Church, where he served as pastor.    

No Superheroes Needed

    As a kid I waffled back and forth between wanting to be Superman or Spiderman.  Often my childhood home was bombarded by notorious villains that could only be defeated by either my man-of-steel strength or my spider-like agility and web-slinging ability.  After all, who does not want to be strong like steel, fast like lightning, and fly like a fighter jet?  Or who would not want to scale the tallest buildings using your hands and feet and sling webs across the sky?  Let’s face it, every little kid desires to have extraordinary powers and do remarkable feats.  For that matter, so does every adult.  But most of us feel as if that’s just out of our range.    

    Perhaps this mindset is why we often view the Christian life as the haves and have-nots—those who are extraordinary and those who are, well . . . not.  Most Christians see themselves with the have-nots—those who do not have superhero Christian abilities.  But what if I were to say that living the Christian life is not about having extraordinary superhero abilities, but simply living faithful to the Lord and his mission?

    Christians are not called to be superheroes, but they are called to be faithful disciple-makers. Before Jesus’s death, he shares with his disciples the parable of the talents which is a story not about how much you have, but about what you do with what you have (Matt 25:14-30).  God’s concern for each believer is that they are faithful to live God’s purpose with the one life they have been given.  The last words Jesus delivers to his disciples before he ascends to heaven is his marching orders for every believer.  Make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20).  The rest of the New Testament reveals how Jesus’s disciples faithfully live out this command.

    While not every Christian will carry out this directive in the same way, every Christian is given this same task—make disciples.  Each believer and each local church have a role in Jesus’s overall mission of making disciples of all nations, and no superheroes are needed.  Being sent by Jesus on mission for him means that each believer through their local church lives to make Jesus known locally and globally.  How this looks from person to person and church to church will vary, but the mission is the same.  

    Jesus is not looking for extraordinary people for his mission.  Just faithful people.  To help Kentucky Baptists faithfully make disciples of Jesus a new 6-week study entitled Great Commission Pipeline is designed for small groups within the church. The aim of this study is to explore and discover how each church member has a unique role to play in fulfilling the Great Commission.  The great news is Jesus does not look for superheroes for his mission. He calls people like you and me—ordinary people seeking to live faithful lives by making disciples of Jesus.  For more information about the Great Commission Pipeline study, visit