Encouraging Leaders

Ministry is not for the faint of heart. One need only review the apostle Paul’s “resume” to realize such is the case. He describes his ministry experience:

“Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. . . . Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28).

Paul faced both external opposition to the gospel and internal pressure for the care of the church.

Skimming his apostolic resume in 2 Corinthians 11 reveals a man who suffered much for the gospel. If the external trials were not enough for Paul, then there was also the internal pressure of caring for the church. Bottom line: ministry is filled with both physically demanding and emotionally draining work. The stereotypical idea that ministers work only a couple of hours a week (on Sunday) could not be farther from the truth.

It is no wonder why Paul, in his prison letter to Timothy, reminds the young pastor, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Ministry can be brutal both to the body and the mind. Timothy needed to be encouraged to continue in the work that God had called him to.

Today is no different. When it comes to the Great Commission, encouragement for ministers of the gospel is as vital as evangelism and church planting. There are at least five necessary components for a Great Commission strategy (praying, evangelizing, church planting, encouraging, and equipping). The first three provide foundation; the last two provide endurance. While I deal with the importance of all five elsewhere, encouragement is a slice of the Great Commission pie that more often than not is left out.

Evangelism and church planting, both domestically and internationally, seems to be on the rise within the SBC, as rightly it should. However, one area that needs equal attention when it comes to our Great Commission faithfulness is encouragement. Our church planters and missionaries, along with pastors of established churches, grow weary (quickly). While more recent study reveals that minsters are not leaving the ministry in droves like some may say (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/that-stat-that-says-pastors-are-all-miserable-and-want-to-q.html), discouragement is all too real.

This is where the church can play a vital role. Discovering tangible ways to encourage pastors, church planters, and missionaries is an essential way to foster longevity in gospel advancement. While ministers of the gospel grow weary, churches that embrace a culture of encouragement among those on the frontlines provide real endurance for those struggling to run the race well.

As I meet with pastors, church planters, and missionaries all over North American and internationally, the common theme I hear is you have no idea what it means to us when we receive a card, message, package, phone call, or visit.

Paul knew this well.   After all, after planting churches, he would make his rounds back to those same churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22). You never know what a call, card, text, package, visit or just ongoing communication with a pastor, church planter, or missionary will do to help them “continue in the faith.”

Counsel for The Called

Lesotho-4God has called every believer to go into all the world and to make disciples.  Mission volunteers can be used by God to reach the nations, and to make tremendous impact on the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Here are my top ten tips for believers who seek to serve internationally::

  1. Do not expect other cultures to be like your own.  Everyone has a tendency to think that  our own culture is the norm.  It is not always good or bad, it may just be different from your own.  Avoid being critical of other cultures, or comparing it to America.
  2. Be a learner.  Ask questions.  Learn about local customs.  Embrace new foods and new experiences.  Show genuine interest in the people that you will meet.  Knowledge of others and culture will always strengthen your witness.
  3. Learn some language.  Not all of us are gifted in language, but most of us can learn a few words.  Learn to say ‘Hello”, Goodbye”, and “Thank you”.  Nationals appreciate our effort in even small ways, and it demonstrates that we want to build relationships.
  4. Treat others with dignity and respect.  Put others before ourselves as the Scriptures teach us, whether they be nationals or fellow team members.
  5. Have a servant spirit..  Christ demonstrated the effectiveness of a servant spirit in His ministry, and calls us to do the same.  A servant spirit opens doors for the Gospel and makes us a better team member.
  6. Welcome others into your presence.  Be open to people.  Seek to engage others in culturally appropriate ways.  Kindness, smiles, and a gracious attitude are bridges for the Gospel. 
  7. Demonstrate a spiritual depth.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship  are foundations for maturity in Christ.  You cannot share what you do not possess.
  8. Be fluid.   Things will not always go as planned.  Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the changes, and go with the flow.
  9. Demonstrate a passion for Christ.  Be ready to share your story and what He means to you.
  10. “GO”.  You will never be used by God until you say “yes” and go.  The Mission Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention has challenged every church to “Send One More” in the coming year in a missions cause.  Would you be that one or, even better, would you take someone with you?

A lost world is waiting.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are  the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

 

 

KBC Mission and Vision Tours

KBC Mission:

Our mission as a convention is simple: created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.

Created by churches

We exist as the Kentucky Baptist Convention because Baptist churches throughout Kentucky 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.

Mission Partnerships and Vision Tours:

Therefore, the KBC approaches mission partnerships with the goal of helping churches develop gospel partnerships. Partnerships, in the past, were developed between the KBC and certain organizations/denominations. For example, the KBC had a partnership with the Kenya Baptist Convention in Africa or the New England Baptist Convention in the northeast. God used those and we are grateful for them.

However, in recent years, we have shifted the focus of partnerships away from the KBC and placed the emphasis upon the partnership between the church and the missionary/church planter. The KBC exists to help churches form gospel partnerships for Great Commission impact.

Therefore, we desire to connect KBC churches to gospel partnerships in Kentucky, North America, and the nations. We want to resource, train, and introduce KBC churches to missionaries, church planters, established churches, and ministries in order to develop relationships that will further the gospel around the world.

One way to connect KBC churches to opportunities for gospel partnerships is by providing vision tours in strategic locations. The vision tour is designed so that the participant might see it, taste it, hear it, smell it, and overall experience the needs of a particular city or area in need of gospel partnerships.

Consider joining one of our upcoming vision tours in 2017 or 2018. Find out more information about KBC vision tours at www.kybaptist.org/visiontours.

The Heart of Leadership

Perhaps no Biblical leader faced the questioning of his leadership like Moses.
The Book of Numbers shares that every time Moses turned around, someone was murmuring, grumbling, and questioning his direction and judgement.  It is not easy to lead any group of people, and the family of faith is no different.

Leadership is crucial for a pastor or spiritual leader within the church.  A charismatic Refugee DR Team - Ugandapersonality, natural gifts, and a seminary education are certainly important, but they are not the key to leadership.  In challenging moments, the ability to lead hinges on trust.  Very few will follow someone that they do not trust.

As I talk to church leaders today, I am amazed at their vision, passion, and knowledge.  Most are far more gifted than me, and I am excited about the future of the church.  Yet there is one area that concerns me as I talk with the next generation of leaders.  I am concerned that many do not seem to understand the importance of developing trust as they work with people.  It is my experience, that you cannot lead and influence people for the long haul without trust.  I fear that this is one of the reasons that results in so many short pastorates and church conflicts.

Here are crucial insights that I have learned about developing trust that will strengthen your ability to lead effectively:

  1. Trust must be earned.  Trust cannot be demanded or assumed.  In fact, if you have to demand spiritual authority, then you probably have no authority or influence.
  2. Trust takes time.  A congregation may love you and have even chose you to lead them, but it takes time for them to trust you.  I have found that the ability to lead effectively develops with time and often begins to mature after 4-5 years.  It was after 10 years that I saw my ability to lead move to new heights as I served as pastor in South Central Kentucky.  Longevity increases trust.  Hanging in there with people increases their trust in you.
  3. Trust comes with consistency.  People are always watching us as leaders. If they see consistency in our message, approach, ethics, and our dealings with people, then it will develop trust.
  4. Trust will rise from integrity.  Do you follow through with commitments?  Do you honor your word?  Do you keep promises?  Broken commitments destroy trust.
  5. Trust will grow when we are willing to be transparent.  Trust grows when we let folks see who we are, and admit our shortcomings and mistakes.  People are more likely to follow a sincere leader than a phony pretender.
  6. Trust is more likely, if folks see that we lean on Jesus.  Congregations do not need us to be the savior.  They need pastors who will lead them to know and walk with our Savior Jesus Christ.   People gain confidence in us when they see  that we walk with the Lord, and are seeking His direction.

Without trust, it is difficult to lead.  Trust matters.

” Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

 

 

 

Backpacks Provide Hope for Children at Christmas

17.3 million of the children in the U.S. live in poverty, trapped by circumstances beyond their control.  Almost 1 million of them live in Kentucky, where 26% of our children under the age of 18 live in poverty.  That means that for 1 out of 4 children, Christmas doesn’t always come with the promise of gifts—or even a Christmas meal. Every day is more about survival than celebration. But we can help change that.

One very practical way that Kentucky Baptists can reach compassionately the needy children in our state is through the Christmas Backpack Project. Last year, there were over 50,000 backpacks distributed in 13 states by missionaries and church planters, and 15,000 of those went to children in KY.  Each backpack is a tangible expression of God’s love – and is filled with gifts of clothing, toys and food items. But the greatest gift in each backpack is a copy of the true Christmas story.  It may hard to believe, but many children have never heard the Biblical account of the true Christmas story.

Last year, there were over 1,500 decisions for Christ as a result of the gospel message that is shared with each backpack.  An exciting thing about those decisions is that many of them were made by parents and grandparents of the children receiving the backpacks.  The backpacks don’t just provide hope to a needy child, they impact the whole family.

A little girl named Gracie received a backpack and sent the following thank you note:  Thank you for the backpacks. I’m so thankful for all the cool stuff I got. My friend and I both got some gloves and a Holy Bible. We are reading the Bible together. Thank you!”

When the backpacks are received by children living in difficult circumstances, not only are the children and their families affected, so are those who prepare and pack the backpacks.  Many churches report that their whole congregation was involved in this ministry, young and old, including those who can’t travel on a mission trip. Some churches reported that working together on the backpacks helped them to focus outwardly on the needs of others rather than upon internal church issues.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”   How devoted are you to reaching children for God?

Let me challenge you and your church to commit to preparing and packing backpacks for children to receive this Christmas.  It all starts with you – but ends in someone coming to know Jesus Christ and the true Christmas story.

For more information, or to register your church’s participation in the Christmas Backpack Project, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks

Mission Partnerships

In 1925, Southern Baptists began the Cooperative Program to unite our resources for the furthering of the gospel. Southern Baptist churches give a portion of their offerings to the Cooperative Program to fund both state and national convention work. Over the years, thousands of missionaries have been deployed all around the world for gospel advancement; and countless churches have been strengthened as well as planted in areas in need of the gospel.

We are a cooperating denomination. We work together for the advancement of Jesus’ fame. This cooperation is meant for not only our giving, but also our serving. We do not simply give so that missions will be done for us. We give to partner more strategically and effectively that missions might be done together. Regardless of the size of the church or location of the church, each church that gives through the Cooperative Program can truly say that they help to support nearly 10,000 missionaries around the world.

Yet, we do not give simply to support missions; we give to strengthen our partnership in missions. We can do more together than we can alone. Hence, we give our dollars, but we also want to give our lives. The Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention desires to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. To this aim, we want to be a funnel for churches to partner in certain parts of Kentucky, North America, and the World.

We create relationships with missionaries in order to connect our churches to strategic opportunities for gospel partnerships. The partnership is ultimately with the local church, not the KBC. By partnership, the KBC desire’s simply to connect and allow each local church to develop partnerships for the Great Commission. While the KBC cannot connect churches everywhere, we are connecting churches to strategic places in North America and the nations.

Here are our current areas of emphases for KBC churches, both in North American and Internationally:

In partnership with NAMB, we are connecting churches to three SEND cities:

  • Cincinnati, OH: 1,639,443 people live in the metro Cincinnati area. There is one SBC church for every 10,857 metro Cincinnati residents.

  • Salt Lake City, UT: 2,743,111 people live in the Salt Lake City metro area. There is one SBC church for every 43,942 metro Salt Lake City residents.

  • Boston, MA: 5,900,000 people live in the Boston metro area. There is only one SBC church for every 39,257 people in the Boston area.

In partnership with IMB, we are connecting churches to several international areas:

  • São Paulo, Brazil: São Paulo is one of the largest metro areas in the world with a population of over 20 million people. It is estimated that between 18 and 19 million people are lost.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: With over 40 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the need for the gospel is great there. From disaster relief to theological training to evangelism to church planting, the opportunities for partnerships are numerous.

  • Europe: Nearly 800 million people live in Europe and it is estimated that 99% are lost without Christ. The region of the world that brought us the gospel needs us to go back there with the gospel. We are exploring a specific country in this region that will be revealed soon.

The KBC is here to assist churches in any of these areas for gospel partnerships. In fact, if your church is interested in other areas not mentioned in these emphases, we are more than willing to help you connect wherever the Lord may be leading you. Contact me at [email protected] for further details. I look forward to helping you reach the world for Christ.

A Deadly Temptation

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor’ (Proverbs 29:23).

Pride is a frequent topic within the Scriptures, and Proverbs 29:23 reminds us that pride will eventually lead one to fall.  Repeatedly, God warns us of the dangers of pride.  Pride breeds arrogance and self-glorification, and  blinds us to our shortcomings and sin.

Pride is deadly to spiritual leadership.  It is deadly because it deludes us into seeking after ourWest Liberty - 4 own kingdoms rather than seeking to build God’s Kingdom.  Our own little kingdoms built on charisma and our natural gifts will not last.  The Bible reminds us that God opposes the proud, but will give His grace to the humble.

As Spiritual leaders, may we learn from God’s wisdom by seeking to lead with humility as servant leaders.

Servant leaders are:

  1. Humble in Attitude..  Keep Christ first in all things.  A humble leader does not think of
    himself as lower than a worm’s belly, he just always recognizes that only Christ deserves the throne of people’s lives.  Keep the focus on Christ, not ourselves.  Seek after Christ’s way, not our own way.
  2. Humble in Actions.  We are called to serve.  Develop the Godly habit of serving others.  The best way to maintain a humble spirit is by putting others before yourself.  Be an example of Christlike service to others..
  3. Humble in Speech.  Seek to glorify God and not yourself when giving testimony.  Shift the focus to God and others when sharing.  Learn to listen to others.  Focus n praying for others rather than your own self interests.
  4. Humble in Vision.  Keeping our focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment of Christ keeps our focus on His Kingdom, rather than building our own little sand castles.  Our calling is to make His Name known among all the nations.  It will not matter if they remember our name, but it will matter if He knows our name as one of His faithful servants.

As C S Lewis once shared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

 

 

 

Conflict Settlement

Teenagers hands playing tug-of-war with used ropeReligion has always been a touchy subject.  Discussions about God, faith, and the church can spark lively and refreshing dialogue; it can also unleash anger and bitter disputes.  As long as there is more than one human present in a place, conflict is possible and likely.

The early church was no exception.  In Acts 15, a dispute arose from among the body of faith, on whether or not circumcision was necessary for salvation.  This was a heated dispute with a great deal of passion and debate.

But, it is worth noting that it never got ugly.  We do not read about folks spreading gossip and slander in the community.  No one questioned anyone’s motives.  They did not attack each other personally.  Instead, they chose to honor one another, listen respectfully, engage with dignity, and maintain fellowship.  They demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, as they resolved the issue and settled the conflict within their family of faith.  Above all, they fervently sought the will of God, in this matter.

Yet, they did not seek to appease everyone.  They did not take a majority vote.  It appears that everyone was given a voice, but the most mature among them made the final decision.  They put God’s desire before their own desires and traditions.  In the end, the church stayed together and continued to grow,

As the family of faith, we can learn a great deal about handling conflict from this passage.  Believers met.  They talked.  They listened to one another.  They shared their respective positions.  They deferred to the most wise and mature believers.  They allowed their leaders to lead.  They realized that God’s work was far more important than any of their personal wants.  They made a decision that would enable them to be about the mission that they had received from their Lord.  They stuck together and moved forward.  That is what family does.

Conflicts will arise, but they should never define us.  Christ, Scripture, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment should always be the hinges upon which the unity of our family of faith rests.

Reaching the Nations

Iraq-9It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees.  These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.

No longer safe to live in the place that they have called home, refugees are often forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

The flight usually brings more trauma.  Many do not survive the journey.  If they survive, they often are not welcomed in the place where they seek refuge.  Life in a refugee camp can be difficult, unstable, and a daily battle to survive.  The vulnerability of depending on total strangers for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter can be humiliating and defeating.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes.  These are people just like you and me.  These are people loved by God.  The Bible commands us to treat strangers and sojourners that come our way with love and grace:

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.  You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

What can we do as followers of Jesus Christ for the displaced?

One significant way is to partner with Refuge Louisville in life-changing ministry.  Refuge works alongside area churches to encourage and equip them to engage the refugees and immigrants in our communities.  They offer avenues through which the church can meet the various needs of our international population as they offer the help, healing, and hope of Christ.

Refuge continues to seek churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, and volunteers, who would serve on welcome teams.  These teams would commit to creating a positive welcoming space for the displaced families upon arrival, and they would be a helpful resource and loving influence for the first three months.  This allows Christians to be the first contacts for a refugee family as they come to America.  This is significant in helping a stranger to experience the real touch of God’s grace and saving Gospel message.

Team Expectations are as follows:

  1. Six to ten adults on a welcome team.
  2. Before arrival, set up the apartment for the incoming family using supporting agency donations.  Usually, this will not include transporting furniture to the apartment.
  3. Before arrival, purchase groceries and a welcome basket for the family.
  4. Before arrival, place a photo of the team in the apartment, so the family will know these are people who have committed to help them.
  5. Welcome the family at the airport and assist them with transportation to their new home.
  6. Provide as much transportation as possible the first few weeks.
  7. Share time with the family at least once a week for the first three months.
  8. At the end of three months, throw a milestone party to celebrate reaching this point.
  9. Teams are encouraged to stay connected with families, after the three months, as friends and continued support.

If your church is interested in making a difference in the life of a refugee family, contact Refuge Louisville to find out more information, to schedule them to share at your church, or to become part of God’s hands in reaching the nations.

Refuge Louisville, Inc
5007 Southside Drive
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 785-9577

Kentucky Baptists have a missions heritage that has demonstrated itself in going to the airport to travel to distant lands for the sake of the Gospel.  The question facing us today as Kentucky Baptists is:  Will we journey to the airport in obedience to the Great Commission to welcome the nations to our homeland?

You may also contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527 for information.

What Stirs Your Heart?

I have an inflammation of the heart.  I have discovered that my condition can be contagious. It all started 32 years ago, when I led a team to central Mexico, as a young youth minister.  Don’t worry, my heart condition is not fatal.  My heart was set aflame in Mexico for “Missions”, and my life has never been quite the same.

Young girl from South Sudan who came to Christ through a disaster relief response, IMB partners, and medical missions.

Young girl from South Sudan who came to Christ through a disaster relief response, IMB partners, and medical missions.

Jesus instructed every one of His followers to, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  As followers of Jesus Christ, this is our Great Commission.  This, above all else, should burn in our hearts.

Today, my heart is inflamed by these facts:

  1. There are approximately 7.4 billion people in our world.
  2. About 54% of the world lives in urban areas.  By the year 2050, this may increase to 66%.
  3. The 5 largest cities in the world are Tokyo, New York City, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Mexico City.
  4. Around 60% of the world lives in Asia.
  5. More than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty.  These people live on less than a $1.25 per day.
  6. Every 20 seconds a child dies from issues related to unclean water.
  7. There are approximately 210 million orphans across the globe.  Of the 17 million children, who have lost one or both of their parents to HIV-AIDS, 90% live in Sub-Sahara Africa.
  8. There are 795 million people chronically malnourished around the world.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 4 people go to bed hungry every night.
  9. Close to 3 billion people are unreached in our world with no or very little access to the Gospel.
  10. Over 5 Billion people live today without a relationship to Jesus Christ and with no hope for eternity.
  11. The average Southern Baptist gives less than $10 to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.  Many churches give far less than a tithe to the Cooperative Program, which is still the lifeblood of our mission program.

What stirs your heart today?

May our hearts be set aflame by God to:

Go on Mission for Christ.

Give generously to the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions.

Pray that every person be given the opportunity to hear the Good News of a Savior.

“But when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).