Should We Plant or Revitalize Churches?

As I have the privilege to meet with Kentucky Baptist Churches and their leaders about the Great Commission, we regularly discuss matters of church planting and church revitalization.  When it comes to the Great Commission, a primary part of the church’s faithfulness to that call involves healthy church formation.  As Jesus instructs His disciples before He ascends back to heaven, He commands them to make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). 

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IMB Photo- A church meets in a small building in South Asia.

While we love to tell people that we are all about making disciples, what does that actually mean?  The best way to know what that means is to examine what Jesus’ early disciples did to make disciples.  In short, the book of Acts demonstrates their understanding of Jesus’ command as that of birthing or planting churches and strengthening existing churches (Acts 14:19-23).  Great Commission obedience is done in the context of forming healthy churches.    

So, as I meet with churches across the Commonwealth of Kentucky to discuss the Great Commission and a strategy for obeying Jesus’ command, we inevitably discuss church planting and church revitalization. Here is the question I most often ask: Are we called in the Great Commission to plant new churches or help existing churches become healthier?  The answer is clear—Yes!

Great Commission work involves the planting of new churches and the revitalization of existing churches.  The Great Commission expands as churches are planted and strengthened.  Why?  Because more churches are needed to reach an ever-increasing population.  Yet, churches that are not healthy will never focus outward, but only inward.  For example, one NAMB stat reveals that there is only 1 SBC church for every 6,505 people.

Intertwined in Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts is the planting of new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Scripture never puts church planting and church strengthening at odds. We could say that they are two sides of the same coin.  Paul’s concern in Acts is for the spread of the gospel through planting new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Thus, in Acts 14 Paul plants new churches and then circles back around to these same churches to ensure that these churches are in fact healthy. 

While healthy churches seek to build disciples within their own congregation, they also look outward to reach other peoples and places through the planting of new churches.  This Great Commission focus requires a Kingdom mindset that says it’s not simply about our own local congregation, but about the spread of the gospel through many congregations. 

So should churches be about planting new churches or strengthening existing churches.  Yes!  Great Commission work is the making of disciples through the context of local churches planting new churches and strengthening existing churches.

Partners in the Mission

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Every church and follower of Jesus has one and the same mission in life—makes disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  That is, every believer through his or her local church is called to both grow as a disciple of Jesus and help make disciples for Jesus.  Each church must think carefully about how best to make disciples of their own members as well as how to make disciples elsewhere. 

Discipling believers in each local church is no easy task.  However, even more difficult is being part of disciple-making beyond one’s own location and church.  After all, how can you make disciples where you have no on-going presence?  Yet, let’s not forget that the call of the Great Commission is one of disciple-making “of all nations” and throughout “Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Matt 28:19 and Acts 1:8).

For local churches to make disciples beyond their own locale, there must be intentional effort.  Disciple-making requires time and relationship.  Churches seeking to follow Jesus’s call to make disciples “of all nations” will do well to partner with trusted missionaries and churches to accomplish that end. 

But what should such a partnership entail?   As Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists, we call ourselves a Great Commission people, a people who cooperate in the mission.  While our partnership in the mission certainly involves our dollars as we give through Cooperative Program, it must be more than that as well. 

As a denomination with thousands of missionaries in our states, nation, and world, linking arm and arm with them is vital for Great Commission impact.  Let me suggest five practical ways for churches to partner with our missionaries in the mission of making disciples locally and globally:

1. Develop long-term partnerships (3-5 years minimum).  Relationships take time to build.  We want to invest in peoples and places for ongoing gospel work. The greatest impact comes over time.  These partnerships involve such things as: prayer, encouragement, finances, short-term teams, resources, etc.

2. Let the missionary determine the strategy.  Those who live in certain locations among certain peoples know best the needs and how to engage them with the gospel.  Working alongside of our missionaries to help with their strategy rather than against their strategy is crucial for long-term impact.   

3. Multiple teams per year (if needed). As partnership is about relationship, relationships occur over time and through interaction.  Rather than sending a team of 10, perhaps a church can send two teams of 5 at different times in the year.  Smaller teams allow for easier logistics.  More teams allow for deepening of relationships more than once a year.  However, as with suggestion #2, let the missionary ultimately determine the size and frequency of teams.

4. Be gospel-centered.  This may seem like a no-brainer.  However, we have all heard of short-term teams that paint, clean, build, play, and the like.  While all these elements and more can be valuable to short-term missions, we do all that we do for gospel advancement.  At the end of the day, the number one issue is whether we clearly explained the gospel and called people to follow Jesus.  Even our gospel-centeredness must be sensitive to the strategy of our host missionaries.  We know that the gospel is offensive to some (2 Cor 2:14-17), but we ourselves in our mannerisms and tactics don’t want to be.  Be gospel-centered as we rely on the guidance of our host missionaries and their strategy.   

5. Be a servant. Just as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), short-term mission teams partner well by going to serve and not be served.  Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is thrilling but doing so to the detriment of the mission is costly.  This is not to say we should never see new sights or experience new cultures. Rather, set aside time to do just that, but give priority to serving both the missionaries you partner with and those who need the gospel. 

We all have the same mission—make disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  To do so well requires intentionality both here and there. As we partner for the sake of the gospel “over there,” let these five guiding principles direct you to partner well in the mission.

Churches and the Missionary Task–Exit (and Partner)

The work of the gospel does not end until Jesus comes again.  As churches partner with missionaries across the globe to advance the Kingdom of God, the goal is to complete the missionary task among each people group and place. 

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Why Exit?

Missionaries sent out by local churches enter unreached and underserved places for gospel impact.  These missionaries evangelize unbelievers and then disciple those who come to faith in Jesus.  From these new believers, healthy church formation occurs along with leadership development.  Lastly, in the missionary task, the missionary exists that people group and place as partners with the new healthy church to repeat this process elsewhere.   

In fact, “an IMB missionary team’s goal is to carry out the missionary task among each people group or place and then hand off the job of leading the churches to those national leaders they have trained. . . . Following the example of the apostles, we continue to watch and advise after we have physically moved on to another work.  Yet, from the very beginning of our work, our aim is to work ourselves out of a job.  We begin the missionary task with exit in mind” (D. Ray Davis, “The Missionary Task: Working Yourself out of a Job”).

When to Exit

The decision to exit is no small matter.  The criteria for exiting the work among a people group and place corresponds with the missionary task (IMB Foundations):

  1. Evangelism—Are indigenous believers and churches carrying out faithfully and effectively the work of sharing the gospel within this people group or place?
  2. Discipleship—Are the churches within this place or people group faithfully and effectively discipling the believers whom God has entrusted to them?
  3. Church Planting—Are the churches within this people group or place displaying the twelve characteristics of a healthy church? Are these churches faithfully planting other healthy churches?  Are they able to sustain church planting on their own?
  4. Leadership training—Do these churches have trained leaders, and do they have systems in place to continue to train leaders in an effective and biblically faithful way?
  5. Missionary involvement—Is the church effectively training and sending cross-cultural missionaries to other people groups and places?

For further consideration on exiting, missionaries must ask the dependency question: “Would our continued presence foster dependency on the part of local churches who are capable of fulfilling all of the tasks of a healthy church movement but who are reluctant to do so out of habit or out of deference to us” (IMB Foundations)? 

Leaving one location in order to repeat the missionary task in another location boils down to healthy local churches being self-led and self-financed in order to evangelize the lost, disciple new believers, plant new churches, develop their own leaders and send out missionaries cross-culturally. 

Until He Comes Again

Just as the Apostle Paul exited certain peoples and places to carry the gospel to new peoples and places, missionaries do the same today.  Like Paul, they do so not to abandon those prior peoples and places but to continue a new phase of partnership with them in order for the Great Commission to be completed.  After all, the work is not done until Jesus comes again. 

Churches and the Missionary Task–Leadership Development

Importance of Leadership

Influential speaker John Maxwell says that everything rises and falls on leadership. Whether one agrees with Maxwell or not, no leader would deny the importance of leadership.  The Bible speaks about the importance of leadership through many examples.  However, what is most striking about biblical leadership is not competence, but character.  Much of what is discussed concerning leadership these days seems to revolve around one’s competence or ability.  While ability is not unimportant, it is certainly not most important.  The character of a leader, especially one leading the Lord’s church, is of first importance. 

As I have discussed the missionary task over the last four months, I come to the fifth task of a missionary—leadership development.  As missionaries enter a new location in need of the gospel, they evangelize unbelievers.  When unbelievers become believers, the missionary is tasked with discipling those believers and then forming new believers into healthy churches.  From those healthy churches, leadership development becomes necessary for that local church to thrive. 

“Biblical leadership is essential to the well-being of every local church, and God calls different people to lead in different ways” (IMB Foundations).  As missiologist D. Ray Davis explains, “In the experience of IMB missionaries, leadership development has proven to be a pivotal element in the survival of new churches.  Churches simply need faithful, well-trained pastors in order to thrive and advance Great Commission work” (Davis, “The Missionary Task: Training Faithful Leaders”).

The qualifications of biblical leadership for pastors/elders/overseers (as these words are used interchangeably in the New Testament) are most clearly seen in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  Of these verses only one qualification speaks of ability—able to teach (1 Tim 3:2) and able to exhort and refute with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).  The rest of these qualities highlight the character of the pastor.  Thus, character matters. 

IMB Foundations helpfully breaks down pastoral qualifications into three categories: what the leader must be, what the leader must know, and what the leader must do.

Be

Aptly summarized from both passages, Paul says that the pastor must be “above reproach” as God’s leader in the church (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6).  Education makes not a pastor.  Position in the community makes not a pastor.  Popularity makes not a pastor.  First and foremost, the requirement for pastoral leadership is character.  Pastors must be men of God who walk daily with Jesus.  His life must exemplify an unwavering commitment to God and His Word.  Before he can serve as a pastor, he must be a pastor in his character. 

Know

Paul tells Titus that a pastor must hold “fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).  In order for pastors to fulfill Paul’s words here, knowing the Word is essential.  Pastors are to have a “high level of biblical and theological knowledge.  Theological training of church leaders should be geared to the educational levels of those being trained” (IMB Foundations).  Whether formal or informal, theological training of church leaders helps ensure right doctrine is being taught and wrong doctrine is being refuted. 

Do

The task of the pastor can be summarized as feed, lead, and protect.  The term “pastor” simply means shepherd.  Interestingly, Peter exhorts the elders to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2).  Shepherds have many tasks, not least of which is to feed the flock.  Pastors do this through the solid exposition of God’s Word week in and week out. 

Pastors are also to lead.  As Paul explains to young pastor Timothy, just as a pastor must manage his own house well, he must also manage (lead) the church entrusted to his care (1 Tim 3:4-5).  Leadership in the home and in the church is one of example through humility.  As the ultimate example of humble leadership, Jesus demonstrated this by serving his disciples (washing their dirty feet) rather than by domineering over them (John 13:1-20).  Pastors were never meant to be superstars, but super servants.

Pastors, lastly, protect.  Paul’s words to the elders of the church of Ephesus provide clarity on the role of pastors protecting the church (Acts 20:28-31).  In a similar way that a father is tasked with protecting his family from danger, pastors protect the flock entrusted to their care.  They protect the teaching of the church, the morale of the church, and the unity of the church. 

The Missionary Task Continues

As missionaries reach new peoples and places with the gospel and churches are planted, biblical leaders are necessary for those churches to thrive.  For the missionary task to progress, developing leaders is critical for the multiplying of churches and reaching of unreached peoples. 

Churches and the Missionary Task–Healthy Church Formation

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I remember when my first child was born over 21 years ago.  It seems like only yesterday.  She stole my heart in that sterile delivery room with her red hair and chubby cheeks.  As I write this blog, my baby is in labor to give birth to our first grandbaby.  The birth of a child is unlike any other experience.  Giving birth to a child is only the beginning.  There is so much we want of our children. So much that we want them to be.  Ultimately, the goal is to nurture and raise our kids to live for Jesus. 

Church planting in the New Testament is like giving birth.  As we look at the book of Acts, the gospel spreads as churches are birthed—that is, planted in new locations. Paul, the main church planter in Acts, enters a location without the gospel, evangelizes unbelievers, disciples those who come to faith in Jesus, gathers those believers into congregations, raises up leaders, and then exits that place to repeat the process all over again.        

The strategy for gospel advancement in the book of Acts is church planting.  In other words, God uses the formation and multiplication of the local church to spread the gospel of Jesus locally and globally.  While the aim of the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations, how this is accomplished is through the formation of healthy churches.  Where churches do not exist, missionaries must enter those locations, share Jesus, and begin making disciples in order to form healthy churches.  The task of the missionary is summarized as entry, evangelism, discipleship, healthy church formation, leadership development, and exit. 

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“A church is a group of baptized believers in Jesus Christ who are committed to each other to be the body of Christ to one another and who meet together regularly to carry out the functions of a biblical church” (IMB Foundations). What is it that we want of our churches? What do we want them to be?  Though not exhaustive, IMB Foundations offers 12 characteristics that describe what a sustainable church should be.  Whether the church is new or established, these characteristics are guides for what every church should strive to be.

  1. Biblical evangelism—people come into the church because they have heard and responded to the full gospel message.
  2. Biblical discipleship—members of the church intentionally invest in one another’s lives to grow to maturity in Jesus.
  3. Biblical membership—members are only those who give credible evidence of repentance and faith in Jesus, and who have been baptized as believers.
  4. Biblical leadership—God gives two offices of the church: pastors/elders/overseers and deacons.
  5. Biblical preaching and teaching—weekly teaching of the Word is essential for the church and consists of the exposition and application of Scripture.
  6. Biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper—believers are baptized by immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Lord’s Supper is observed regularly by the church to remember and celebrate Jesus’s death, resurrection and promised return.
  7. Biblical worship—a healthy church offers to God worship as prescribed in His word so that the church sings, prays, reads, and hears the word.
  8. Biblical fellowship—members of the church love each other, encourage one another, and build each other up.
  9. Biblical prayer—the church prays both privately and corporately.
  10. Biblical accountability and discipline—members hold one another accountable to the word and leaders of the church watch over the flock entrusted to their care.
  11. Biblical giving—members give freely of their resources for the support of the church in the making of disciples.
  12. Biblical mission—the church is organized to make disciples locally, but also to do so among the nations.

The birth of a child is unlike any other experience.  New parents look forward to the beginning of their child’s life, but the goal is not to stay in the hospital after birth or even for one’s child to remain an infant.  The goal of any parent is to nurture and raise their child to maturity.  The New Testament church has the same goal.  These 12 characteristics are like a guidebook for new parents on what a church is called to be.  May the Lord send out and use your church to multiply many more churches with these characteristics. 

Churches and the Missionary Task: Discipleship

The aim

Missiologists often say, “God’s church doesn’t have a mission. Rather, God’s mission has a church.”  The aim of the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20).  This Great Commission aim is the reason every church exists.  Discipleship is third in the missionary task (entry, evangelism, discipleship, healthy church formation, leadership development, and exit).  While entry and evangelism are essential components of the missionary mandate, the goal is not simply to be present or even to share Jesus only.  The objective is to help believers mature in the faith. 

“A disciple is more than a person who has mastered a set of information, or practices a set of spiritual disciplines and shares the gospel.  Discipleship involves the intentional transformation of heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose. . . .  The essential tools for discipleship are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God” (IMB Foundations). 

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The plan

Churches who make long-term commitments to partner with missionaries in the missionary task can play a vital role in the process of disciple-making through these essential tools.   But like anything in life, a goal without a plan to achieve it results in an unrealized goal.  IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis shares the importance of a healthy plan for these essential tools of discipleship (“The Missionary Task: Making Disciples Who Make Disciples”). 

When it comes to the Word of God, IMB has found that new believers need to grasp three aspects of the Bible—the big picture of the Bible (creation, fall, redemption, consummation); effective Bible study (method); and major themes (e.g., nature of God, sin, holiness, judgment, salvation, etc.). 

As for the Spirit of God, new believers need to know that God’s Spirit alone brings transformation in the believer’s life through the Word of God. Walking in the Spirit is a life-long endeavor for all believers.  “Discipleship must be done in conscious dependence on the power and work of the Holy Spirit” (IMB Foundations). 

Lastly, God uses the people of God collectively through the church to help mature believers.  “Scripture makes it clear that discipleship ordinarily happens in the context of the local church” (IMB Foundations). 

As Davis explains,

“All missionary teams—and church partners—should have a robust, healthy discipleship plan for new believers that includes elements such as baptism, local church membership, and basic spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, and sharing the gospel. Furthermore, new believers need ongoing training in areas like biblical marriage, parenting, family life, a biblical understanding of work, the church, suffering and persecution, integrity, and a new identity in Christ that supersedes any earthly identity” (Davis, “Making Disciples”).

The end

Every church and every church member is to be engaged in this global disciple-making plan.  While not every member will carry out this plan in the same way, every member has a part to play through means such as praying, going, encouraging, giving, and sending.  Churches working intentionally with long-term missionaries by following their strategy for disciple-making provide great encouragement and movement in fulfilling the Great Commission.  In doing so, the church will be marked not simply by mission activity, but mission identity—disciples who make disciples.

How is your church making disciples both locally and globally so that missions is not an activity of your church but its identity?  I am more than happy to help you in this cause. You can reach me at [email protected]

Churches and the Missionary Task: Evangelism

In the world of missions people rightly ask, “What really does a missionary do?”  In turn, many rightly ask, “What, then, does a short-term mission team do?”  Back in February, I began a series discussing the missionary task which is explained helpfully by the International Mission Board (IMB) through their IMB Foundations Magazine.   

IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis states, “I’ve noticed a tendency among Christians to think the work of professional missionaries is somehow different from that of churches and their short-term teams. But it’s important to understand that the missionary task is the same for everyone” (“Churches: Essential Partners in the Missionary Task”).  The task of missions is the same for the individual answering the call to the mission field or the local church sending the called to the field. 

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In February, I explained the first component in the missionary task—entry.  To make disciples where disciples do not exist, missionaries must enter among peoples and places.  “Entry is important, but simply being there is not enough,” Davis explains (“Churches”).  This reality leads us to the second component in the missionary task—evangelism. 

Every believer is tasked with sharing his or her faith in Jesus.  Some are more particularly gifted than others, but all are to share.  Missionaries, regardless of their specific jobs, are expected to share Jesus with unbelievers.  There is no Great Commission if evangelism is not part of the task.  While the end goal of disciple-making is not evangelism, it does begin there. 

Davis reminds us that “following the missionary’s evangelism strategy, well-prepared church partners can help spread the gospel in ways that are both winsome and appropriate to the context” (“Churches”).  Sharing the full content of the gospel message appropriate to the language and culture of the unbeliever is essential. Churches partnering with missionaries to evangelize should follow the strategy of the missionary, as they have immersed themselves in the language and culture of their host country and people. 

In all, missionaries and churches must trust that only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart (Foundations).  The Spirit of God empowers the people of God to bring witness to those who need God.  Regardless of the strategy of evangelism, only God can open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears to embrace the gospel message.  Thus, missionaries and partnering churches can share Jesus with confidence, knowing that He alone has the ability to bring the dead to life.   

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.