It’s interesting to note how often we use numbers to determine the success or effectiveness of our churches. We talk about how many attend on Sunday, the number of small groups, how many were baptized or the annual budget. If attendance is less this year than last, things must not be going well. However, that’s not necessarily true if the number attending is fewer because they’re sending out missionaries, ministry leaders and church planters. But how often do we describe a church by the number they’ve sent out?
Throughout the Word of God, it’s very clear that God’s people are to go because we are sent by Him (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8). So, why not describe the success of our church by how many went on mission trips, the number of members engaged in local ministry, or how many we’ve sent as missionaries or church planters. I think it would be exciting for this reason to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”
We typically celebrate growing attendance in church and grieve if the numbers are less than last year. But what if the numbers are less because we’ve sent more? The sending of missionaries, church planters and mission teams is reason to celebrate. Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation to realize less may mean more if the church is sending people out on mission. Our sending may mean a smaller number is gathering, but how exciting it would be! Let’s celebrate fewer people in our small groups and worship if it’s the result of more Christ followers going out with the message of Christ.
The focus of the church must change from how many gathered to how many were sent. It will be hard to talk over lunch or in meetings without asking how many attended small groups or gathered for worship this week. But by changing the conversation, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.
The nations are now our neighbors. Over a quarter of a million Kentuckians do not speak English at home, and nearly 180,000 citizens of the commonwealth are foreign born. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.
Population growth in cities like Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville has outpaced the growth of the church. In fact, we now have areas all over our state, both urban and rural, with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.
Our towns and communities are seeing culture shifts, as our nation continues to transition and deal with the impacts of a global pandemic. Attendance in churches continues to fluctuate, and many churches are having to learn news ways to engage their community with the gospel.
The good news is that many of our Kentucky Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance. The Gospel to Every Home and Acts 1:8 Mission Assessment Paradigm continue to help many churches and associations, as they reengage their communities with the gospel.
Is your church already playing a role in seeing our state reached with the gospel? Maybe you are strategizing to engage an unreached people group in your community, working in a partnership to revitalize a church, or preparing to launch a team to start a new church in a pocket of lostness. If so, it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy.
In Mark chapter 1, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). He calls some of his disciples, heals many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out demons. Then, in Mark 1:35-39, Jesus arises early and goes to a desolate place to pray. And when Simon and others who were searching for Jesus found him, they said, “Everyone is Looking for you.” But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” So, Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons (paraphrase vs. 35-39). Although Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he understood the purpose for which he had come, and it guided his path and influenced his decisions. Even though the Lord may not have shown us every step we should take to accomplish his mission, it should not stop us from developing an exit strategy.
Advancing with the end in mind Exit strategies have long been an important component of how missionaries engage peoples, cities and regions with the gospel. Effective exit strategies help with ministry alignment and evaluation, bring clarity in communication, establish healthy boundaries, and create a trajectory and momentum toward multiplying gospel work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky.
Developing healthy exit strategies It is one thing to have an exit strategy. It is another thing to have one that is effective. Here are a few considerations as you begin to think about developing an exit strategy to fit your context:
1. A biblical foundation: Start with a clear understanding of the mission and characteristics of a New Testament church. Then, map out clear objectives for church autonomy. A helpful question to ask is, “What biblically needs to be in place before we exit the work?” One reason churches lose strength, momentum and eventually die is that they do not have a strong biblical foundation. A great resource to consider as you think though the ecclesiological and missiological foundation in your exit strategy is 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church by the International Mission Board (IMB).
2. A vision for sustainability: A good exit strategy must address sustainability related to areas such as finances, leadership readiness, overall cohesiveness of a body and other practical issues. A key question to ask is, “What practically needs to be in place for this new work to be autonomous and sustainable long term?” With the high failure rate of new church plants in the U.S. (some suggest as high as 70-80%), we need to make sure we don’t exit before the new work is positioned well to stand on its own.
3. A commitment to ongoing relationship: Exiting does not mean abandoning. When the Apostle Paul exited his work, he maintained contact and relationship with local churches. As you think through your exit strategy, ask the question, “What will the ongoing relationship and support look like after we leave?” Think through what ways you will continue to relationally support and encourage the church. Clear expectations regarding the ongoing relationship will go a long way in the flourishing of a new work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky. As we begin to think more like missionaries, let’s consider how we can best craft and develop effective exit plans for the work to which God has called us.
We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight. In the midst of this migration, God is opening new pathways for the church to be on mission both locally and globally. Taking the gospel to the ends of earth is not only about being a sending church, but also a receiving church. It has always been God’s design for the gospel to spread to and through diaspora communities, or through those who have been displaced from their homeland.
Welcoming the nations locally
As God poured out His Spirit in Acts 2, the disciples began to fulfill the Great Commission by ministering among the diaspora in their midst. The apostles were preaching to, baptizing, and discipling the “devout men from every nation” who had come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. These men, both Jews and proselytes, had come from the Near East, Asia Minor, North Africa, Arabia, and from the known world. Under the apostle’s leadership, they formed the church, faced persecution, boldly proclaimed Christ, helped those in need, and God added to their numbers daily.
During the pandemic, God opened the door for KBC churches to embrace the displaced people across the state. One church was able to not only love, serve, and welcome a refugee family from an unreached people group to KY, but also to lead them to the Lord. Through Zoom, the team met Ibrahim’s mother, who still lived in a refugee camp in Central Asia. After hearing her son’s testimony, Ibrahim’s mom was willing to let an IMB worker visit her home. As she heard the gospel in her heart language, she not only came to know Christ, but also opened her home to host a Bible Study for women in the camp!
In partnership with World Hope Bible Institute, the Mobilization Team started a training center for international pastors in Louisville. Multiple pastors from across the state are providing theological education for 11 pastors from East Africa. Also, the Lord opened the door for KBC churches to partner and plant two new Congolese churches, and now these 11 pastors shepherd 4 different congregations.
Going to the nations globally
In Acts 8, God allowed persecution to send Philip to preach the gospel in Samaria, and God used an angel to send him to lead an Ethiopian eunuch to Christ in middle of the desert. In Acts 11, scattered believers from Cyprus and Cyrene preached about Jesus to the Greeks and many believed. They called themselves Christians and formed Antioch church. Then, in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit called out members from this church of displaced people to declare God’s glory among the nations.
In June, volunteers from 3 KBC churches went on an emergency trip to West Africa, in order to help IMB workers serve displaced people in crisis. On this trip, God used the team to not only open new pathways to love and serve those in crisis, but also to share the gospel with Muslims who have never heard. After sharing the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in one of the camps, one of the Muslim men said, “No one has ever told me that about Jesus. If Jesus can forgive sins, then that would make him God, right?” Now, local pastors are leading Bible studies in the camps.
Declaring God’s glory among the nations by ministering to and through the diaspora has always been a part of God’s global plan. The question for us is simple: Are we willing to join him? Discover the new opportunities for you and your church today. Contact John Barnett email: [email protected] phone: 502-654-3385.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” In the midst of the current tragedy, I want to recognize the beautiful, courageous, and marvelous Afghan people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Although many of their stories have yet to be told, their unwavering spirit, strength, and bravery is #notforgotten. Church, let us take time today to pray for them, and then let us take a lifetime to serve and embrace them with love of Christ.
Through our cooperative program giving (SBC), we (Kentucky Baptist) are able to have authentic impact by bringing help and hope to Afghan refugees as they resettle in communities around the world. Here is how you and your church can get involved today through SEND Relief, which is the global compassion wing of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are Stronger Together! *(Info below comes from SEND Relief):
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, storming across the nation and capturing all major cities within a matter of days.
In the aftermath of the political coup, a mass exodus is building as Afghans try to flee the country by the thousands. One group of Afghan refugees seeking escape are Christians fleeing immanent persecution, as well as other religious minorities, ethnic minorities and women and girls.
Send Relief is strategically working with World Relief and our trusted global ministry partners to minister to Afghan refugee families around the world. As refugees flee persecution and resettle in communities around the globe, Send Relief can connect you and your church with opportunities to give, pray and volunteer to support our response.
Your gifts to the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Fund will provide welcome kits, ESL classes, job interview prep and more. Give today to bring help and healing to Afghan refugees.
How You and Your Church Can Serve
There is extraordinary power in prayer. Please join us in praying over the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis using the prayer points listed below.
Pray for the Afghan people as they navigate political unrest, violence and persecution. Pray that they may find peace in Christ among overwhelming circumstances.
Pray that God would intervene and glorify His name in this tragic situation.
Pray for Afghan believers whose lives are being threatened by the new regime. Ask God to give them courage and strength.
Pray for Afghans at risk because of their service alongside the U.S. government and that they would be quickly and safely evacuated.
Pray that the millions of Afghans who have never heard the Gospel will have an opportunity to hear.
Pray for neighboring countries, as well as countries around the globe, as they attempt to host the surge of refugees coming out of Afghanistan.
Pray for Afghans who are desperately trying to leave Afghanistan.
Pray that those helping will be able to overcome obstacles as they facilitate the exits and relocations of Afghans.
Pray that the physical needs of those waiting at entrances and at the airport will be met, including protection, water and more.
Pray for favor and that pathways become available to safety and relocation.
Pray for countries to open their borders and for people to open their hearts to those being displaced from their homes.
Pray for those who will not be relocated.
Partner as a Church
In Kentucky, contact John Barnett, KBC missions strategist ([email protected]), to discover new opportunities and strategic pathways to help equip your church to love and serve refugees both locally and globally.
Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Here we are in the middle of summer, and everyone is busy going here and there. Vacations are happening. Ball games are in full force. School is out, all the while preparations are being made for the return to school. Home repairs and upgrades are in full swing. Birthday parties. Celebrations. And the list goes on and on.
We all get so busy doing what we have to do. And of course, there is a list of those things we want to do. There are even those extra things we are asked to do. And before you know it, our time is gone.
But there are always needs. There is always someone who needs help. I was so encouraged a few weeks ago when one of our Kentucky disaster relief volunteers said to me, “I had planned to go fishing all week. I had nothing planned, so was looking forward to relaxing and fishing. But then there was a call to help those who had been affected by the floods in West Virginia.” And he realized that the need for those hurting was more important than the need to go fishing. What a testimony!
And the reality is, when you help someone else, you are a blessing to them, but you also receive a blessing. Above all, Christ is honored.
You don’t always have to give up a full week to “be on mission.” It might take you only a few minutes, a few hours, a full day or even more, but the Lord is just waiting on people to say, “I can help with that!”
We should live every day on mission looking for large and small opportunities to say, “I can help with that!” From a kind word or deed that brings a smile, to helping someone one with something that they simply cannot do it without help, “I can help with that!”
I’m reminded of the words of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
So, look around. Who do you see? What do you see? And can you say, “I can help with that!”
Thinking like a missionary is a reasonable service proposition (Romans 12:1). It is not extreme in light of what Christ has done for us. Following Jesus might seem radical or extreme at the outset, but once the initial step has been made the missionary mindset follows naturally.
Following Jesus re-wires our thinking. It changes every facet of our worldview. Christ is the light of the world, and His light enlightens us (John 1:4; 8:12). Far too often as Christians, we exaggerate the difficultly of choices that are normalized in the Scripture, i.e., sharing the gospel as a regular part of our daily walk with the Lord.
Life as kingdom citizens is joyfully different than the status quo. We get to live with a perspective focused on “things above.” For example, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As our Lord and Savior, Jesus modeled this kind of mindset for every believer. As born-again believers, God has filled us with the Holy Spirit, so that we might walk in His ways. Remember, it is Christ in us and not Christ and us!
We could try to identify the bottom-line indicators of the missionary mindset in a number of ways, but perhaps the simplest way is to look at a missionary’s priorities.
Missionaries are mission-oriented Jesus followers. They find joy in prioritizing gospel-mission over their own comfort. A believer with a missionary mindset makes decisions based on gospel-mission objectives.
Mission-oriented Jesus followers will answer life questions like “where should I live?” or “how should I spend my income?” in radically different ways than those living out the status quo for American citizens. However, these decisions will not seem radical to them. Far too often, a Jesus follower living in light of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will hear “I could never do that” from other believers as they observe their mission-oriented decision-making process. For the missionary, the life choices they have made seem joyful, fulfilling, and reasonable.
A natural and vital reprioritization is especially important if we are to fulfill our calling to make disciples who make disciples. If we are going to disciple others to lead, we must become leaders who intentionally live open and accessible lives. We must ask ourselves, am I willing to live a life that follows Christ at all costs? Is my identity in Christ and Christ alone? Do others see Christ in me?
Leaders must bring their disciples into their lives in a way that allows them to observe, learn and practice the same decision-making process that they live by. The new disciple must learn to see the world from a kingdom perspective. They must be led to apply the example of Christ’s life to every aspect of their own. If we are living for Christ and sensing the joy of a life lived on mission, we will invite other disciples into our lives and teach them to do the same. This will become the DNA that is passed on to second, third and fourth-generation believers. This does not mean that we will never face challenges, but that we will model, teach, and learn how to keep our identity in Christ in the midst of our sufferings.
Prayerfully, many of our kids and the next generation will not think that the missionary mindset is so “radical.” After all, it is a reasonable service in light of the good news. It is our joy to follow Jesus!
Here are some questions/thoughts to explore:
Would choosing to live in a specific neighborhood because of their need for the gospel seem like a strange choice to you?
Would accepting a particular work assignment because of the way it would position you strategically for gospel mission seem weird to you?
Would inviting someone to live with you or have free access to “private areas” of your life with the objective of discipling a new leader seem odd to you?
Add-on: Read the June 15 Blog Post below, “Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary”, for some practical first steps to take as you seek to live on mission for Christ.
I gave my life to Christ at the age of nine. I understood then, as much as young boy can, that I was making a commitment to become a Christ follower. That meant allowing Christ to control every aspect of my life. I knew that my life was no longer mine. I was to model my life, attitude and actions after Him. Whatever Christ did, I was supposed to do.
Scripture tells us to imitate Christ, walk as He did and follow His steps. (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21). I didn’t know that I would one day serve as a missionary or go on a mission trip. But I have come to understand that if I’m a Christ follower, I am also a missionary, because that’s what He was.
A missionary is defined by the North American Mission Board of the SBC as a person who, in response to God’s call and gifting, leaves his or her comfort zone and crosses cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission.
Jesus became the first missionary when He left heaven and came down to earth. God called His son to leave the comfort of heaven and go to earth. Now that’s a change of geography and culture for sure! His mission was to seek and save the lost who needed to be rescued. He engaged the indigenous people of the earth while proclaiming the Gospel. He lived His life as a witness to the Father’s love. What a missionary He was!
I want my life to reflect Christ and pray that people see Him in me. If I want to be like Christ in every way, it will mean going as a missionary because that’s what He did. I might not cross an ocean, but I will need to cross the street or grocery isle. I might not go to a foreign land, but I will need to engage the internationals in my community. I might not be sent by a mission agency, but I have been sent by Christ Himself (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20). I am thankful to be a follower of Christ AND missionary – you can’t be one and not the other.
How can I think like a missionary? Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). They are driven by the fact that there are people out there who are not yet brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they have not been given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. With this great burden comes three questions that are usually on the forefront of missionaries’ minds:
1. Who lives around me? Missionaries want to discover the people who live in their city. They want to know the number of people, commonalities, diversities, languages, cultures, joys, hopes, fears and struggles.
2. Who goes to my church and the other churches around me? Missionaries want to understand who their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in their city or community. They want to know the number of believers, the health of the churches and the reach of their ministries. They understand that every believer and every church is called to fulfill the Great Commission, and that it is God’s design for churches to work together to reach their communities and the world for Christ.
3. Who is left? Missionaries want to devote their time and resources to those in their community who are unbelievers and have not yet had an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. They look for “gospel gaps”, which are opportunities to use the gifts and skills God has given them to enter into the lives of unbelievers and to meet them in the midst of their brokenness. They engage people through social, service, support, sports, seasonal or study activities. The goal is to build authentic relationships with gospel intentionality.
How can I live like a missionary? Once a missionary has asked these three questions about their community, then what would they do?
Be fervent in prayer.
Seek to enter into the lives and communities of people who are far from God and have not had opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
Be bold and frequent in the proclamation of the gospel, calling people to repent and believe.
Disciple those who come to faith, teaching them to obey all the commands of Christ.
Gather new believers together to form healthy churches, growing them up together into maturity in Christ and developing from among them those who will lead these newly formed churches.
Eventually partner with churches and leaders they formed to press into other communities where they gospel had not yet gone.
What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities? Imagine how our culture would change if we began not only to think but also to act like missionaries in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. The Mission Mobilization team exist to serve your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. To discover new opportunities to make disciples and further develop an “Act 1:8” strategy that reflects the specific gifts and personality of your church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone 502-654-3385. We are here to serve!
A word from IMB workers and The Global Refugee Network:
Time is never a guarantee when Christians meet a refugee in Greece. They may have years, months, weeks or just hours to share the hope that is found in Jesus. This is why International Mission Board missionaries and ministry partners who serve in Athens, Greece, developed an eight-hour, eight-day and eight-week ministry strategy to share the gospel and disciple refugees based on the time available.
“You never know how long you are going to have with someone,” Derrick Pennon* said. Pennon and his family formerly served with the IMB in Athens, Greece, before accepting a position at a Baptist church in Kentucky.
“You might lead somebody to faith that morning, but they’re on a train that night, leaving for Macedonia, so drop everything you’re doing. You’ve got eight hours,” Pennon added. “What are you going to give him in eight hours, or a family who might be leaving in eight days? What can you give them in eight days so that they can reproduce it whenever they land?”
Pennon says eight weeks to eight months with new Christians is ideal. They’ve found this time frame gives them opportunity to more fully share biblical truths before the refugees are relocated.
Greece is a transition country—no refugee comes with the intent to stay, Pennon explained. The Greek unemployment rate is high, making it difficult for many Greek citizens to find work.
Refugees typically first arrive on a Greek island, many of them coming by boat from Turkey. On the islands, initial checks are performed and then refugees receive approval—the timing of this varies—to be ferried to Athens. Refugees are placed in camps in the Greek capital as the asylum process continues, and while they wait to hear what country will admit them. Once refugees move to their host countries, gaining residency and citizenship is often another long journey.
It wasn’t always this way, but Pennon said refugees on the islands now might be there for years before they are ferried across to Athens. The islands are very overcrowded, and the conditions are poor. Pennon said the unfortunate reality is that many refugees stall in Greece due to a backlog of cases. The country has had difficulty managing the caseload of refugees coming through and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.
Some of the refugees that Pennon has met have been there two years. Though many refugees have long stints in Greece, Pennon and other believers will often meet refugees interested in the gospel during the tail end of those two years. Sometimes they meet refugees who use smugglers to expedite their move to other countries. Timing can be frustrating and unpredictable, making preparedness key.
“God in His sovereignty—He knows when someone is going to come to faith,” Pennon said.
Pennon said they leave the timing up to the Lord and are committed to being prepared, no matter what.
“We’ve learned that the hard way during the height of the [refugee] crisis, because, literally, people would get off the boat in the morning in Athens, and then that night they’d be leaving for Macedonia. And so, you literally had eight hours—what are you going to do in that time that you have with someone?”
The height of the refugee crisis in 2015 led to the formation and galvanization of their eight-hour, eight-week and eight-day strategy. Though the crest of the crisis has passed, the strategy’s efficacy continued and IMB missionaries currently on the field are continuing the ministry.
Pennon said those ministering to refugees operate with a movement-minded strategy with church multiplication as the end goal. Their team includes multiple nationalities working together.
When possible, they pair refugees with a Christian from the same or similar background for evangelism and discipleship. One of the strengths of the diversity of their team is having same-culture or similar-culture Christians sharing the gospel.
In this way, God makes the most of their time together—however short that time might be.
A Word of Thanks
Dear Southern Baptists,
As the facilitators of the IMB Global Refugee Network, we would like to express to you our sincere thanks for your ongoing concern, gifts and prayers for refugees and displaced peoples around the world and our workers among them. Your generosity and faithfulness help to spread God’s love and saving gospel to those who are often seen as, “the least of the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40).
Barry and Sarah Holtman*
To discover how you and your church can get involved in reaching Forcibly Displaced Peoples both locally and globally, contact John Barnett, Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone: 502-654-3385. We are here to serve you today!
God is opening gospel opportunities by bringing diaspora and displaced people to our doorstep! Church, now is the time to embrace the nations as our neighbors, and share the love of Christ with those who have never heard!
Welcome the displaced locally.
We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Technology, migration, travel, and media has made the world more globally connected, yet culturally diverse.
Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet, and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight. Most have been displaced through war, famine, persecution, racism, human trafficking, natural disaster, or forced migration. Many of them have never heard the name of Jesus and are desperately seeking help, healing, hope, purpose, and truth.
In midst of this global crisis, God is opening new pathways for the church to respond to needs, share the gospel, build community, and plant churches. Here are 3 ways the Mission Mobilization Team can serve you today:
Discover the Opportunities:
Learn about ongoing opportunities for your church to embrace displaced people both locally and globally. Mobilize your church to pray for the nations next door, by using the IMB Prayer Points calendar for April 2021. The document is attached below.
Develop a Strategy:
We want to help you develop a comprehensive strategy to reach displaced people in your area. The steps of this strategy are summarized as follows:
Step #1 – Hear & Share
Step #2 – Access & Discover
Step #3 – Develop & Implement
Step #4 – Train & Equip
Equip your Church:
Our team can provide personalized resources and trainings to your church as they prepare to minister to displaced people in your region. Read more about our resources below.
Go to the displaced globally.
For training and resources about how your church can embrace this global call, please contact John Barnett. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at (502) 654-3385. Get involved today church.
“So then you are no longer slaves and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19