A Lesson Learned Long Ago About Encouragement

Our team packed into a couple of small vehicles and made our way down the pothole filled streets where we would then turn off the paved roads and down the bumpy one-way dirt roads. We traveled these dusty roads until we came to a clearing, where mud huts and grass roofs were scattered around the villages in this West African country.  As the people came out to see who was arriving in their village, they quickly began gathering members from the local Baptist church.  Word had reached them that we were coming. 

Once gathered, we would share Scripture with the church members, offer a word of greeting from the church in the US, and pray for the believers.  We did this same routine repeatedly, spending only a short amount of time at each village.  After many stops, I pulled Stevens aside.  Stevens was a local pastor who worked with our team.  Missionaries came to his village the day he was born, and his witchdoctor father named him after the missionaries that day.    

“Stevens,” I wondered, “are we doing any good by traveling from village to village and staying only a short amount of time?”  His slender 6’6” frame leaned down to me as he insisted with his English accent, “Oh, never underestimate what your encouragement does for our people! It’s huge!”

Light bulb moment!  That’s exactly what Paul is getting at in Acts 14 and 15.  Toward the end of his first missionary journey and the beginning of his second, Paul made it a practice to travel back to the churches previously planted and “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22; 15:41).  Why?  Because we all need encouragement. Perhaps like never in recent years has the church needed encouragement in the faith. 

Paul tells these early churches, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  Today is no different.  Life is hard. The fight against sin is hard.  Living for Jesus is hard.  Now throw in the mix challenges like viruses, political turmoil, escalated racial tensions, financial strains, mandated and self-regulated quarantines, and the tragedy of death.  No wonder even the church is weary.    

During it all, the church is still called to the Great Commission. The gospel moves forward even when the world is in a pandemic.  Preachers still preach. Evangelists still share. Missionaries still cross cultures.  The church continues to make disciples.  But in times like this, it’s easy to become discouraged and weary.

Like Paul before us, what pastor might you encourage this week?  What missionary can you contact and pray for that he or she might be “strengthened and encouraged”?  What church can you lift in prayer and then make aware that you did just that?  You and I might be surprised at what a simple word of encouragement and prayer will do for other believers seeking to make disciples of Jesus.  As my friend Stevens says, “Oh, never underestimate what your encouragement does for our people!  It’s huge!”  Go and do likewise.    

Within the Family

One of the largest and strongest horses in the world is the Belgian draft horse.  These horses are so strong that one Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds.  What an incredible feat.  Apparently, if two stranger Belgian draft horses are harnessed, they can pull 22,000 pounds.  Notice that their combined strength more than doubles their ability.  However, when they train and pull together, these two Belgian draft horses can pull up to 32,000 pounds—four times the amount that they can pull alone.

I recently shared about a mission survey that the Missions Mobilization Team (MMT) of the Kentucky Baptist Convention sent out to our churches.  Our desire was to learn how our KBC churches are engaged in missions and how we can better help them reach KY and the world for Christ.  In my first article detailing the survey results (“We Are Stronger Together”), we focused on two areas: praying and giving.  This last article, I want to share about the results as they pertain to mission engagement locally, nationally, and internationally.

Two-hundred and forty-six churches participated in the survey.  When asked how many churches are engaged in missions locally, 75% said that they are.  Indeed, it is encouraging that KBC churches are beginning in their own Jerusalem as Jesus instructed (Luke 24:48).  As a follow up question, participants were then asked how many partnered or worked locally with a KBC or SBC connection.  Of responses, only 20% of the churches engage locally with KBC or SBC partners. 

Moving our attention to national mission engagement, 46% of participating churches said that they are engaging somewhere missionally nationally.  When asked how many of the churches are partnering with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) for their national mission engagement, only 22% said that they are.    

As we think on a global scale, participants were asked about their mission involvement internationally.  Of responding churches, 57% affirmed that their church is engaging internationally.  However, only 30% of those churches are partnering with the International Mission Board (IMB) or Baptist Global Response (BGR), the Disaster Relief arm of the IMB. 

So, what did we find out from this survey?  For one, our churches are much more engaged locally (75%) than nationally (46%) or even internationally (57%).  However, in their local engagement, they often partner outside of the KBC and SBC family.  Another lesson learned is that our national and international engagement, while closely averaging a combined 50% of churches, is relatively low when it comes to partnering with NAMB or IMB/BGR (only 22% and 30%, respectively).

As I noted in my first article, these churches support the Cooperative Program overwhelmingly at 96%.  Perhaps at that rate we can pull 8,000 pounds for gospel advancement.  However, what if in our partnering we meant not only giving, but our going too?  Maybe instead of pulling 8,000 pounds, we can pull 22,000 or even 32,000 pounds.  When we stay within the family and “pull together” in our praying, giving and going, we can accomplish much more, even in some instances four times as much.  As the Missions Mobilization Team of the KBC, we would love to help your church engage your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world as we “pull together”.     

We Are Stronger Together

If COVID-19 has taught us anything as Southern Baptists, it has taught us that we are stronger together than on our own.  This truth is not new to us, but it has been an unexpected reminder in an otherwise challenging time.  How has COVID-19 taught us that we are stronger together?  Simply put, the Great Commission (GC) continues to move forward despite the crippling effects of a pandemic. 

A couple of months ago the Missions Mobilization Team (MMT) of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) sent out a survey to churches. The survey’s purpose was to help the MMT learn about the missions involvement of KBC churches and how to better help them reach KY and the world for Christ.  The survey was developed and sent out pre-COVID, but the results only confirm what COVID has reminded us of as Southern Baptists—we are stronger together. 

Two-hundred and forty-six churches participated in the survey.  The first question dealt with what is foundational to the Great Commission—prayer.  Without prayer, the GC falters.  Of survey responses, 51% of the churches said that they have an intentional prayer strategy for the GC.  We know from Acts that the gospel goes out in power as the people of God cry out for the Lord to work mightily through them with the message of Jesus (e.g., Acts 4:23-31).  If we desire GC impact through our churches, prayer is our starting place.

Does your church have an intentional prayer strategy for missions?

As Southern Baptists, along with prayer, the fuel for our GC drive is the Cooperative Program (CP).  Of participating churches, 96% give through CP Missions advancement takes resources; therefore, Southern Baptists in 1925 created the most effective way to pool our resources together through what we call the Cooperative Program. In these uncertain days of a pandemic, SBC leaders have reminded us of the urgency and value of CP giving for ongoing mission advancement. 

Does your church currently support the Cooperative Program?

Celebrating @SBCCP Sunday just a couple of days ago on April 26, IMB President, Paul Chitwood, thanked Southern Baptists on behalf of 3,670 missionaries and their 2,880 children and 300+ stateside staff and families (@DrPaulChitwood).  While we continue to refine our systems and entities from our 175-year existence (12 national entities, 41 state conventions, 1,100 local associations), the driving force behind our cooperation is the Cooperative Program (C. Ashley Clayton, bpnews.net).  

At the forefront of our GC expansion lies our two mission agencies—the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.  Even in a pandemic, our missionaries remain on the field and continue to serve faithfully.  How can this be so?  The Cooperative Program. 

As a Kentucky Baptist and Southern Baptist family, all we do in missions is fueled by praying and giving.  Because we pray and give cooperatively, thousands of missionaries are all over the globe sharing the good news of Jesus in a time of fear and uncertainty.  The message is simple—Jesus is our only hope in life and death.  Thank you, Kentucky Baptists, for praying and giving, particularly in a time when the world has been brought to a halt.  When all around us is uncertain, we are most certainly stronger together. 

We Can Trust God Too Little…

While the days may be uncertain for us, they are not uncertain for God.  In fact, as the Psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1).  Because God is our very present help in trouble, “we will not fear, though the earth should change” (Ps 46:2), or even if a virus sweeps across the globe with jet-like speed.  As always, but particularly these days, believers are called to demonstrate that their trust is in an all-wise, all-good, all-sovereign God.  Whether the earth changes or the unexpectant engulfs us, God is with us as the Psalmist promises. 

We can trust God with our very lives even when all around us is apparent chaos.  The Psalmist tells us that even if the waters roar and foam and if the mountains quake, God is with us (Ps 46:3).  As the hymn writers so eloquently remind us, “when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay (On Christ the Solid Rock).”   

Hudson Taylor knew of God’s great presence with us in times of trouble.  Taylor, a British missionary to China in the late 1800s, served there for 51 years.  He is the founder of the China Inland Mission.  As a young twenty-one-year-old, he first went to China with the desire to reach the nation with the gospel.  When others were saying it can’t be done, Hudson said it can and will be done by God’s grace.

After spending years there he realized that he needed to recruit others to join him on this task of the evangelization of China.  He went back to his homeland of England in order to find more laborers.  While there he became troubled knowing that the dangers in China were many.  He had almost concluded to not recruit help for fear of sending missionaries to China who might be killed.  However, the Lord pressed upon his heart that it is better to go to China and die as a Christian than for millions of Chinese to die without hearing of Christ.

So, Hudson recruited several to join him in China. Years later when he was older and feebler, he traveled back to England and received word of his greatest fear—many missionaries were being killed for the gospel.  His only option was to trust his life and theirs in the hands of God.  He concluded that whether as a young twenty-one-year-old just heading out to China or a seventy-year-old nearing the end of his life, it is possible to trust God too little, but never possible to trust Him too much (Danny Akin, 10 Who Changed the World).

God is more than enough in your time of trouble.  Indeed, He is a very present help in your trouble.  You can trust Him too little, but you can never trust him too much.  In these uncertain days, let’s trust in our certain God and make sure that we point people to the only secure hope in times of hopelessness—Jesus.   

Churches and the Missionary Task

The Great Commission was not given to a denomination or mission agency.  It was given to the local church.  Thus, churches send their own missionaries (Acts 13).  I am not saying that denominations and mission agencies have no role to play in the Great Commission. They play a vital role if our understanding is that of partnering for greater gospel impact.  After all, as Southern Baptists, we believe we can do more together.  Therefore, we champion cooperative missions. 

So, while we work with sending agencies such as the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB), our churches send missionaries in partnership with these organizations.  If churches are the senders, what exactly are we sending missionaries to do?  In recent years the IMB has helped us better crystallize the task of the missionary.

Many needs often compete for our attention when it comes to missions.  IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis recognizes, “Let’s be honest, there are a lot of overwhelming needs around the world, and it’s easy to allow needs to dictate and define the work we do” (“Churches: Essential Partners in the Missionary Task”).  

To keep us focused on our God-given responsibility to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20), six components detail the missionary task. Whether through the missionary on the field or the partnering church, the mission should focus along these lines (Davis, “Churches”).  So, if you are the missionary on the field or the church partnering with the missionary, the mission is the same.  These six components of the missionary task include: entry, evangelism, discipleship, church formation, leadership development, and exit. I want to look at the first component in this blog.

  1. Entry:  Finding and engaging a particular people group is the first component.  In short, as the IMB has described it, entry involves finding them, getting to them, and developing an ability to communicate with them

First, finding them involves researching the people group in order to learn culture, levels of evangelization among them, whether any translation of the Bible exists, and if other Great Commission Christians are present.

Second, getting to them requires exploring the political, economic, and religious environment.  Further, exploring access options is critical as most places with unreached people are unreached because they are hard to get to.  Most hard to reach places are hard to reach because missionaries are not welcome.  Thus, missionaries must acquire the necessary skills and resources to enter among a people group. 

Third, developing an ability to communicate with them involves skills that no doubt requires language and cultural learning.   Most hard to reach places will mean missionaries must learn another language besides English!

Churches can play a vital role in the entry level.  They assist by praying that missionaries gain legitimate ways to enter.  Churches can also be a means of providing legitimacy for the missionary’s presence among that people group.  To that aim, churches may partner in this phase through specific mercy needs or platforms, such as businesses or services provided.  

In order to reach the unreached, missionaries are sent by churches to enter among peoples and places that are unreached. Being intentional about entry and partnering carefully together, we can ensure that the gospel not only enters among the unreached but that it remains there.   

The Power of Missions

If you or I were to write the script for the advancement of the gospel after Jesus’s death and resurrection, I dare say it would not unfold quite the same as it did in the book of Acts.  Perhaps we would have sent the disciples out on mission immediately after the resurrection or at least after Jesus’s ascension.  Jesus did not lay out a military strategy that called his early followers to “strike while the iron was hot.”  Rather, Jesus commanded them to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8).  The advancement of the gospel would not rely upon the ingenuity of man, but upon the power of God.  In fact, Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit to carry the call of God to the world. 

As Bob Burton notes, “The book of Acts . . . begins with waiting and preparation.  For the first-century church, the measure of the effectiveness on the mission field was directly related to the measure of spiritual preparation—praying, waiting, and expecting” (The Spiritual DNA of a Church on Mission, 10).  He goes on to explain that the church does indeed explode with growth, but only after a time of preparation (10 days of prayer and fasting).  The urgency of the gospel moving mightily through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the nations begins by preparation through prayer. By waiting and praying. 

Prayer is always instrumental in the expansion of the gospel in Acts.  Burton is correct that “there is always a direct connection between prayer and missions (The Spiritual DNA, 11).  For example, in Acts 3 Peter and John enter the temple area at the time of prayer and heal a man who is born lame.  As this event creates no small commotion, Peter uses it to preach the gospel to the gathered crowd.  This gathering then gains the attention of the religious leaders who arrest Peter and John for preaching Jesus.  In Acts 4 the apostles are threatened with death and then released with the understanding that they have been warned.  They immediately return to the church knowing what is at stake.

They report to the church what had happened and then begin to pray.  They pray not for deliverance from this threat or that Jesus would somehow ease their burden or change their calling.  No, they pray for God-given boldness (Acts 4:29).  As they pray, God physically shakes the room where they have gathered and fills them with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they continue speaking with boldness about the gospel of Jesus (Acts 4:31; 33). 

As we see, “preparation was the foundational missional principle for the church. It all began with a lifestyle of prayer, waiting, and expectation” (The Spiritual DNA, 11).  Oh, that the church would rediscover this principle.  What might God do with the church today that waits and prays?  What might He do with the church that pleads with God to move mightily in and through them by the filling of His Spirit?  He did it then; He can do it again.  If we can help your church in developing intentional prayer for the Great Commission, then please call on us at [email protected].     

You are meant for so much more!

We have all asked the question, “Why did this tragic or hurtful situation occur?”  We have all experienced pain in life and have wondered why us.  But have we ever asked the question, “Why do blessings come our way?”  To ask it more personally, why am I blessed with what I have in life?  Psalm 67 is a prayer of blessing adapted from Numbers 6, where Old Testament priests would speak a word of blessing on the people of Israel. 

Psalm 67:1 prays, “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—Selah” (all references NASB).  The Psalmist is praying for the grace, blessing, and favor of God.  But why is God gracious, and why does He bless and show us favor?  Verse 2 gives us the reason— “that your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.”   

God’s good gifts to His people are not meant to be horded by us, but to be heralded for Him.  We have what we have, and we are where we are in order that we might make God known among the nations.  In fact, Paul told the leading men of Athens, “And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).  When we live and where we live are all determined by God’s good design—a design meant to be used to make Him famous around the world.    

Currently, there are 7,103 unreached people groups or 4.5 billion people unreached with the gospel of Jesus.  Unreached means that of the these 7,103 people groups less than 2 percent of the people follow Jesus.  According to the International Mission Board, a people group is the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance (www.peoplegroups.org). 

God’s desire, according to Psalm 67, is that the grace, blessing, and favor He gives us (v 1) is to be used to point all peoples to the salvation of our God (v 2).  How might each of us leverage our lives—the good gifts He has given us—to make much of Jesus where He is not known?  The goal God’s blessing to us and our proclamation of Him is so that “the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You” (v 3).      

God’s praise is meant to be global and He desires to use us for that aim.  Life is meant for more than daily schedules of work, school, running errands, and going to ball practice.  We have received educations, homes, cars, salaries, and retirements for more than our comforts.  “God, our God, blesses us.  God blesses us that all the ends of the earth may fear Him” (v 6b-7). You are meant for so much more.  How, then, will you use the blesses from God to impact the nations for His glory?     

KBC: Helping Churches

Our mission as a convention is simple: created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.  The KBC staff aims to live out this mission of helping churches fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus.  But what exactly does this mission statement mean for the KBC? 

Created by churches

We exist as the Kentucky Baptist Convention because Baptist churches throughout Kentucky in 1837 desired to cooperate for the furthering of the gospel.  The KBC owes its existence to Baptist churches. 

For churches

Baptist churches created the KBC for churches.  In other words, the KBC was created not to be served by the churches, but to serve the churches.

To help churches

Thus, the KBC exists to help churches do what God has called the church to do—the Great Commission.  Because the KBC was created by churches, for churches, the convention exists to help churches.  Helping mobilize churches for the Great Commission is the mission of the KBC. 

Reach Kentucky and the world for Christ

God did not give the Great Commission to denominations or mission boards; He gave it to the church.  Denominations and mission boards are helpful insomuch as they help churches reach those across the street and across the sea with the gospel.

If your church needs help with carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus, please call on us.  If your church desires training or resources or ideas for Great Commission work, we are happy to help.  After all, we were created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ.  Contact [email protected] to begin the discussion on how we can best help you.    

Cooperative Missions Matters in Cincinnati

The muddy and winding Ohio River flows through or borders six states, two of which are KY and OH.  Along the Ohio River’s path sits America’s original Boomtown—Cincinnati, also called the Queen City.  Cincinnati is most notably known as the home of Reds baseball where the Great American Ballpark rests on the bank of the river. 

Metro Cincinnati boasts of 2.1 million people, which is nearly half of the population of the whole state of KY.  Sadly, only 13.7 percent of Cincinnati’s metro residents are affiliated with any evangelical church.  Not surprisingly, in the five counties around the city, there is only 1 SBC church for every 10,298 people.

How does that compare with the whole state of KY?  There is 1 SBC church for every 1,724 people in the state.  This is why the KBC is partnering with NAMB and Send Cincinnati to connect our churches with church planters that are investing their lives in the Queen City for maximum gospel impact.

Just this week, KBC partnered with Send Cincinnati to lead a vision tour in order that KBC church leaders might meet church planters, see the city, and hear the vision for multiplying disciples there. 

As one planter noted, “KBC churches have made it possible for us to do more through their partnerships with us than we could on our own.”

Cooperative mission is what we are about as Southern Baptists.  We really believe we can do more together than we can by ourselves.  The 31 active church planters in Cincinnati believe that as well.  In step with a baseball town, our planters need gospel partners in order to move the runner around the bases.  We need KBC churches stepping up to the plate to advance these planters and their work for the gospel.  

Your church can assist in praying for, providing for, and/or participating in the work of the gospel being accomplished in Cincinnati.  For more information about Cincinnati or our other KBC partnerships, email us at [email protected] or visit www.kybaptist.org/vision.        

Preparing for Short-term Missions

Have you ever felt strongly compelled be part of something great only later to realize you were extremely unprepared for it?  The call of missions is indeed a great calling.  God certainly calls some to spend long-term amounts of time on mission away from their home.  He also calls others to join His mission through short-term capacities.  Both calls require preparation. 

Short-term missions—individuals and teams joining a long-term missionary’s vision and strategy for advancing the gospel among particular places and peoples—requires much preparation in order to be most effective.   

While there may be times when a mission effort can be pulled together quickly, most often the preparation requires many months.[1]  No rigid timeline exists for short-term missions, but there are some general steps that allow a team to prepare well in advance in order to maximize the impact of the team with the strategy of the host missionary.  Here is a suggested timeline that can be used as a guide:

  • 10 to 12 months prior–determine assignment
  • 9 months prior—determine team leader(s)
  • 9 months prior—publicize mission effort
  • 6 to 9 months prior—recruit team/receive volunteers, deposit due
  • 6 to 9 months prior—contact travel agent to begin searching ticket prices
  • 6 to 9 months prior—schedule initial info meeting, collect bi-monthly or quarterly payments
  • 6 months prior—apply for passport and check requirement for visas
  • 6 months prior—plan team meetings and meet monthly to discuss general mission prep
  • 3 to 4 months prior—purchase plane tickets
  • 3 to 4 months prior—get immunizations (shots!) if necessary
  • 3 to 4 months prior—team meetings should become more specialized according to what the team will be doing on the field
  • 2 months prior—develop prayer team
  • 4 weeks prior—plan commissioning service for team
  • 1 week prior—hold commission service
  • 1 week or month after—plan celebration time with team and/or church

May the Lord use our preparation in short-term missions to have lasting impact among places and peoples in need of knowing Jesus. 


[1] Disaster Relief is an example of mission efforts that take place quickly, but even then, preparation and training have occurred months and even years prior.