Unpacking Your Short-Term Mission Experience

After you’ve planned, prepared, implemented and returned from your mission trip, it’s time to unpack. Not just your suitcase, but the mission experience itself.  Follow-up is an important part of going on mission because it helps the participant to understand what they learned and how God can use it in their everyday life.   There are people needing a witness in our own neighborhood and unreached people in our local community.  Taking a mission trip to another state or even a foreign country should help us to be more comfortable sharing our faith and encourage us to be a Christian witness in our hometown. There are so many ways to impact our community and the area around our church using the same skills and resources we take overseas.  So, help your church members returning from their mission trip to unpack their experience and awaken within them the realization that the mission isn’t over.

Here are some suggestions for unpacking the mission experience that provide continued growth:     

  1. Talk about the ministry experience and ask how what they did there can be used here at home.
  2. Share journal entries, pictures and videos with the church.
  3. Have a time of testimony and “sharing” during a public worship service.
  4. Provide a safe environment for discussing what they learned about themselves (weaknesses, failures, disappointments) and what God is teaching them.
  5. Ask them what they learned about God?
  6. Share about the experience on social media with pictures and testimony of God’s activity.
  7. Challenge them to consider how the mission experience may be the beginning of a journey God has planned for them, leading to vocational ministry, missionary service, or involvement in local ministry.
  8. Help them to plan service initiatives at home that draw connections between their missions experience away and service at home.
  9. Encourage them to continue the spiritual disciplines practiced on the trip like prayer, devotions, Bible study and worship.
  10. Send letters or emails of thanks and encouragement to the host missionary. Share with them how God used the mission experience.
  11. Discuss what “next steps” they will take on their spiritual journey.
  12. Send a reminder email or letter to every participant 1 month after returning with a picture of the group on the mission trip with the words… “Don’t forget! God did great things and He isn’t finished with you.”

Unpacking the experience can be a tremendous blessing and serve as a reminder to what God did … and is still doing.

 

What’s a Lollapalooza?

I recently had the privilege of attending a lollapalooza put on by Dexter Baptist Church in western Kentucky.  Pastor David Little led his church to plan and implement the lollapalooza event as an effort to reach out to their community. I had never attended a lollapalooza and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In fact, I’m not sure I could’ve spelled lollapalooza without googling it on my computer.   

So where did this word come from?  Legend and Encyclopedia Britannica have it that musician Perry Farrell claims to have named a large international music festival Lollapalooza back in 1991 after hearing the word.  The popularity and use of the word grew.

People have developed this positive association with ‘-palooza’ and it’s become kind of shorthand.  People have hosted a saleapalooza, gameapalooza, kidzapalooza, doggiepalooza and a variety of others you’ve no doubt come across.

Webster’s dictionary defines a lollapalooza as one that is extraordinarily impressive; alsoan outstanding example”.

What Dexter Baptist did was indeed, “extraordinarily impressive”.  This church that normally averages around 60 in Sunday morning worship had 89 people attend their lollapalooza that included music by a Christian band, free food (and lots of it), door prizes and giveaways, bouncy houses and games, and a presentation of the gospel.  The most exciting thing about their lollapalooza was that four individuals committed their lives to following Christ and another person recommitted his life to Christ.

Dexter Baptist also set “an outstanding example” of how a church can reach out and touch more people through a community event like a lollapalooza than they do on any given Sunday morning.  Yes, it took lots of planning, work, promoting and inviting.  But it was worth it to see so many spiritual decisions made.

The church went outside, the community was engaged and it was a great evening together.  But nothing was more “extraordinarily impressive” than the life transformation I witnessed as people experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Let me challenge you to follow the example of the Dexter church and plan something extraordinarily impressive to reach your community for Christ.

How to Uniquely Involve the Uninvolved

Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work?  It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry.  When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist,  states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes.  What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches because we don’t provide opportunities for the uninvolved 80% to be involved in ministry that utilizes their gifting, skills and experience?  Ephesians 4 teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So, what if we’re not seeing more believers involved in ministry and missions because we’ve limited the ministry opportunities made available to them?

An example of this was recently seen when one of the international missionaries with whom we partner needed someone to come alongside them to help with the artificial insemination of dairy cattle on a Muslim island where a plaque had killed most all of the cattle population.   Several Kentucky farmers with the experience and knowledge stepped up to meet the need, and provided a Christian witness too! These farmers may not have volunteered to lead a VBS class or sing in the choir, but God had gifted them uniquely for “such a time as this”.

There are many unique missions opportunities that allow believers to find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with.  Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within a very narrow window of mission experiences.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Christ followers can use their passion, skills, talents and experience to be uniquely on mission.

  1. Athletes are needed to help with sports camps (football, basketball, archery, etc). 
  2. Help is needed with literacy classes or after school tutoring
  3. Farmers are needed to help with artificial insemination of cattle & crop production
  4. Business and leadership classes for professionals in other countries
  5. Cooking and food service help is needed in disaster relief work
  6. Business owners can help with the development of micro-businesses that provide income for indigenous church planters and missionaries
  7. Volunteers can learn how to install and repair wells that provide remote villages with fresh water
  8. Those with construction experience are needed to provide ramps or make repairs for the handicapped and elderly
  9. Plumbers and electricians have skills that can be utilized internationally or here at home as a witness
  10. Skilled chainsaw and heavy equipment operators are needed in disaster relief work
  11. Car mechanics could provide assistance to single mothers and the elderly
  12. Medical professionals can serve through clinics in remote villages or in areas of poverty here in the U.S.
  13. Small motor repair courses can be used as a ministry in many cities throughout the world
  14. Woodworking, leather or metal work may provide income for church planters in many places if they are trained and provided start-up resources
  15. Retirees have years of experience to offer and should prayerfully consider using their unique skills and gifts for an extended period of time
  16. Students should consider giving a month or a summer to serve in a mission opportunity related to their major or degree program

Every skill or talent can be used for God’s honor if we give it to Him through missions opportunities.  The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how a unique missions opportunity would involve that unengaged believer to use his passion, gifts and talents.

To BE or Not to Be

BEing a witness to our community, state, nation and world is something we are, not something we do.  Being a witness is a mandate given to us by Christ himself.  Acts 1:8 tells us that after receiving power, we will BE His witnesses.  Yes, we do things to witness, but most importantly, we are to BE a witness.  You don’t have to be creative, educated, innovative or make it up as you go.  You simply tell what Christ has done for you, what you know of Him and what you have learned from Him.

Opportunities to BE a witness exist everywhere.  You can BE a witness in your “Jerusalem” as you go to the grocery, bank, school, park, work or for a walk in your neighborhood.  God has gifted and equipped you to BE His witness and very close to you are pregnancy care centers, homeless shelters, clothing and hunger relief ministries, after school programs, nursing homes, hospitals and community events.

Will you BE a witness in your Judea (Kentucky) or Samaria (North America)?  Missionaries and ministry leaders need help from people like yourself who are willing to go and meet needs related to church planting, evangelism, construction, church strengthening and community outreach.  The witness of trained Disaster Relief workers are needed following a tornado, flood, hurricane, or ice storm.  For a complete list of current opportunities, visit www.kybaptist.org/GO or www.kybaptist.org/DR.

Will you BE a witness across the pond to or to the utter most part of the world?  Missionaries in Greece and Europe are needing people to come a BE a witness by prayerwalking, evangelizing boroughs, planting churches or ministering to refugees.  Villages in sub-Saharan Africa need volunteers to BE a witness by drilling wells for drinking water, delivering hospice buckets for AIDS patients and caring for orphans.

These are only a few of the many opportunities to BE a witness that I’m aware of.  To quote William Shakespeare, “to BE or not to be”, that is the question.  If His power is upon you, it’s not a choice you make.  The command is to BE.  If we’re not BEing a witness, one must ask, “is His power upon me?”

“Pulling Teeth” at Show and Tell

Perhaps you remember as I do, participating in “show and tell” as a child in elementary school. In case you’re not familiar with show and tell, it’s an informative presentation involving the demonstration of an object.  While the class may not always need the demonstration of the object to understand the information presented, together, they communicate much more effectively.

Jesus used show and tell as a means of sharing the gospel with those He encountered.  He demonstrated the Father’s love and preached the message of salvation.  He was always showing and telling, healing and preaching.   

1 John 3:18-19 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;”

The Scriptures emphasize the importance of using actions and deeds when sharing the gospel.  It doesn’t say stop using words altogether when sharing the gospel.  But it does say stop “just” using words.  In other words, show and tell the love of God.  One of God’s frustrations with His people is that we sometimes honor Him with our lips, but our hearts are often far from Him.

I witnessed a show and tell of the gospel in an effective way on a recent Saturday in Bowling Green when Rich Pond Baptist Church assisted Christ Fellowship Church in conducting a dental clinic. The Kentucky Baptist Convention partnered to provide training, dental supplies and use of the North American Mission Board’s mobile dental unit. Brent Fields, Minister of Missions and Outreach at Rich Pond shared that “this opportunity to meet physical needs served as a bridge for sharing the gospel”.

Preparation for the clinic began months in advance with training, enlistment of professionals and canvassing of the neighborhood.  On the day of the clinic, over 35 volunteers worked together to shepherd almost 100 refugees through registration and dental screening, cleaning and pulling teeth, filling cavities and ending pain.  While waiting to be treated, patients heard volunteers share stories of salvation and life transformation.  All day long it was a show and tell of the gospel.

The churches intentionally targeted a refugee population from Africa because of their desire to develop an on-going ministry to their new to Bowling Green friends.  Brent shared that he overheard one volunteer tell a patient from the Congo, “we do this because Christ loves us … and He loves you too!”  Every person coming to the clinic was part of a show and tell as they were shown love in a practical way and told about the gospel of Christ.  Brent also commented that “the dental clinic provided professionals an opportunity to use their skills to demonstrate the love of Christ”.

Churches of any size can show and tell the gospel in their own community and a dental clinic is not the only way to do it.  Other ways to show and tell include after school ministries with children, pregnancy care, small group ministry to recovering addicts or ex-offenders, food and clothing distributing, foster parenting or adoption, rent or utility assistance, parenting courses, home repair, ESL classes, tutoring, etc.  There is no limit to the many ways we can show and tell about the love of Christ.

We must open our mouths to fully express the gospel, but using only words doesn’t fully demonstrate His love. Live the gospel and share the gospel.  Words and deeds.  Lips and life.  Walk and talk. Show and tell!

Why Should My Church Partner in the Baptist Association?

Association is a term that defines how Baptist churches work together in partnership. Churches choose to be part of the local Baptist association and each determines how much participation and financial support they will invest. Many of today’s associations have stepped up to provide value and are leading member churches in revitalization, church planting, leadership development and missions. 

Churches partnering through the local association is sometimes overlooked. Yet, we know that partnership between churches is an important aspect of New Testament Christianity.  The apostle Paul and other New Testament leaders modeled partnership between churches.  While their context may have been different from ours today, the pattern of partnership is repeatable. God still provides uniquely gifted people to lead partnerships today.

In the past, churches partnered together – helping each other with doctrine and practice (Acts 8:14-25; Gal. 3), relocating leaders to strengthen other situations (Acts 11:19-23, 25-26, 12:25, 16:1-3), sending individuals and teams on short-term visits (Acts 11:27, 19:21-22; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; Phil. 2:19-29; 2 Tim. 1:18), sending money to help each other (Acts 11:28-30), and together advancing the gospel and church plants (Rom. 15:24; 2 Cor. 10:15-16).

Here are 5 reasons why your church should partner in the local association –

 

  1. Partnership Contributes to the Mission –

Our mission from Jesus is to take the gospel to our neighborhoods and the nations, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8). How could any local church do that alone? But if we partner with the association, every church can participate in local and world missions. Every church can pray for, give to and participate through the association towards church planting and missions. Together, our mission can be healthier, stronger, longer, and more sustainable.

2. Partnership encourages Maturity

No matter how educated or experienced your church leadership is, the local church will mature and strengthen when it receives challenge and encouragement from other church leaders, like those in the association. Churches working together in an association hold each other accountable to doctrine, practices, and outreach efforts.

3.  Partnership Is an Expression of Humility –

It honors Christ when we consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3) and seek ways to work together for the sake of the gospel.  A church is sadly mistaken if they pridefully believe they don’t need to partner with other churches involved in the same mission.

4.  Partnership Provides Synergy –

An association can help strengthen member churches and prop up weaknesses that may be slowing the work. Associations help maximize a church’s potential influence, providing a network through which the churches can influence more broadly than they could individually.

5. Partnership Provides Support –

Sometimes churches go through immensely challenging seasons. If a church loses a leader to burn out, sickness, or failure, she will find support and encouragement from other member churches because of their partnership in the association.

The Command to GO “Trumps” 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.

Missions Participation Involves Sending, Going and Making

The idea of Christ followers being involved in missions is supported throughout scripture. Two very familiar passages are Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Both record the words of Christ, telling His followers to go and make disciples of all people by being His witness in all places.

The church is not supposed to only study or learn about missions. The Bible is clear about our responsibility and uses action words like “send”, “go” and “make” disciples to emphasize the church’s role.  A church that is sending, going and making will experience a high level of missions participation by its members. Participation in missions is critical to healthy church development, individual spiritual growth and advancement of the gospel.  How exciting it is to learn of churches that are missions active, rather than simply missions minded.

Below is a list of Kentucky’s top ten churches, in terms of missions participation. Missions participation refers to mission trips, church planting efforts, local ministry projects and disaster relief responses.  Each of the churches has earned recognition because they had a greater percentage of their worship attendance participating in missions this year than they did the previous.

  1. Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, Lewisport, Jerry Dalton, pastor.
  2. Charleston First Baptist Church, Dawson Springs, Patrick Yates, pastor.
  3. East Hickman Baptist Church, Lexington, Kevin Davidson, pastor
  4. Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, Catlettsburg, Mike Blankenship, pastor.
  5. Tiny Town Baptist Church, Guthrie, James “Buck” Tidwell, pastor.
  6. Williamstown Baptist Church, Williamstown, Terry Leap, pastor.
  7. Little Flock Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Rodney Alexander, pastor.
  8. Salem Baptist Church, Irvine, Jerry Smith, pastor.
  9. Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Nancy, Patrick Patterson, pastor.
  10. Gamaliel Baptist Church, Gamaliel, Danny Pace, pastor.

Pastor “Buck” Tidwell shared that Tiny Town Baptist Church experienced an increase in missions participation because of their initial involvement in Operation Inasmuch a year ago.  Not only did that single day of community engagement through missions projects involve a large percentage of their Sunday morning attendance, but a weekly backpack ministry to needy children was birthed as a result. Now, every week members are participating in missions because they were first encouraged to participate in a one-day mission event.

I don’t know how or why all of the churches saw increased missions participation, but I do know that the more seeds that are sown, the greater the Kingdom harvest. Pastors should lead their people to participate in missions because we’re commanded to do so and we have a gospel to proclaim.  However, there are benefits to churches that are sending, going and making disciples through missions participation.

Benefits to the missions participating church include: 

  1. Improves health and vitality.
  2. Generates passionate and exciting worship.
  3. Stimulates revitalization and growth.
  4. Develops disciples.
  5. Puts emphasis on people, not buildings or budgets.
  6. Turns focus outward, rather than inward.
  7. A greater Kingdom harvest because more seeds are sown.

My prayer is that more churches will experience an increase in the number of people participating in missions, but it won’t happen accidentally.  It demands an intentional effort by the pastor and church leadership.  What will you do in your church to encourage greater missions participation that calls people to send, go and make?

NO Excuses!

It’s a pretty straight forward command, GO!  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, Matthew 28:19.

Since we’ve been commanded to go, we need permission in order to be excused from going.  Unless you’ve received special permission not to go, you better find out where God is sending you.  Jesus left the comforts of heaven and His place at the Father’s right hand to come to earth and He became our substitute on the cross at Calvary.

He told His disciples to go and acknowledged that many excuses would be given for why they couldn’t. The lame excuses that were given 2,000 years ago are the same ones we try to use today.

Here are some of the excuses given for not going –

  • Have to care for elderly parents (Luke 9:59–60).
  • Need to get everything in order first (Luke 9:61–62).
  • Must know what I’ll be doing before I commit to go (Luke 9:57–58).
  • Enjoying success where I am (Luke 5:1-11 & Acts 8:25-40).

Do any of those sound familiar to you?

It’s much easier to go when we don’t have family to take care of, I get that.  But it doesn’t excuse us from going if He has called us.

Waiting till everything is in order doesn’t excuse us from going when God calls either.  Delayed obedience is still … disobedience.

We can’t always know the details concerning the how, when and where of our call in advance. Many times those things aren’t shown to us until we’ve said yes to Him.

A successful ministry can be one of the greatest hindrances to going where Jesus wants us to go.  We may try to excuse the call to go elsewhere if we are comfortable and our current ministry is going well.

Jesus hasn’t given us permission to be excused from going where He leads.  We are to follow hard after Christ and He determines the timing and direction.  We are to adjust our lives and obediently go as He has commanded.  Have you adjusted your life to follow Him? Or would you prefer He make the adjustments?

He may lead you next door to share the gospel with your neighbor or to the other side of the world.  I’ve heard it said, “if it is important to you, you will find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse”.  Nothing is more important than taking the gospel to lost people in obedience to Christ’s command for us to go!  Will you go with NO EXCUSES whenever and wherever He sends?

by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, KBC

Hunger is NOT a Game!

There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about the movie series, “the Hunger Games”. The movie takes places in a post-apocalyptic world in which poverty and starvation force teenagers in the fictitious country of Panem to compete in the hunger games where they fight to the death until only one remains.

In the real world where you and I live, hunger is NOT a game!

  • 795 million people are undernourished globally. (The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015)
  • Poor Nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – globally, 3.1 million children each year. (The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015)
  • 6% of Kentuckians are food insecure – including 222,380 children, making us the 4th hungriest state in the country (US Census Bureau)

Hunger is no respecter of geography or ethnicity.  It can be felt in an apartment in Paducah, a cardboard shack in Central America, a hut in Africa, or a house in Pikeville.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention in partnership with Global Hunger Relief is involved in relieving hunger locally, nationally and internationally in different ways, from providing meals and groceries to hungry families to participating in famine and drought relief, and from addressing chronic hunger to eliminating urban food deserts.

100% of every dollar is used for hunger relief because the Cooperative Program and partnerships with local ministries cover overhead costs.

Physical hunger is not a game and neither is spiritual starvation. The desire of KBC hunger relief ministries is to build relationships and lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. Last year, 21,770 people world-wide, including 129 Kentuckians, professed faith in Christ as a direct result of hunger relief ministries.

Sunday, October 8th is the designated day in Kentucky Baptist Churches for promotion of this offering, but feeding the hungry is a year-round need.  You’ll find a variety of resources on the web at www.kybaptist.org/hunger that will help you to promote this important offering that is meeting a critical need.  The need for hunger relief is increasing while offerings to aid in hunger relief are decreasing.

Will you encourage your church to emphasize this global crisis and give financially to meet the critical need of hunger through the KBC Global Hunger Relief offering?

Individuals or churches can give to hunger relief at:  www.kybaptist.org/hunger