A comment I hear often from church leaders is “we are really involved in missions”. As leader of the KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team, this is an exciting and encouraging phrase to hear. It is music to my ears, at least initially. I say initially, because as the discussion progresses, I sometimes discover that while the church may be involved in some wonderful ministry activities, they are not necessarily engaged in missions.
A 2018 Barna report (Translating the Great Commission) shared that 27% of churchgoers say they have participated in missions in the past year and 62% say they have donated financially to missions. But how do they define missions?
The word missions comes from the Latin word, “missio”, which means “to send”. But as my conversations with church leaders reveals, missions doesn’t mean the same thing to all and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with sending members to share the gospel with those who are unreached.
Since “missions” is defined in different ways, let me share with you a definition that the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missions Mobilization Team has agreed upon. Missions is “advancement of the gospel by those who are reached among those who are unreached, often involving the crossing of cultural, geographic or language boundaries.”
We may be giving resources to meet human needs or involved in community ministry, but those things may or may not be missions. So, how does a church determine if what they’re investing in is really missions? Here are some questions to ask to determine if what we’re doing or giving to is really missions.
1. Are those doing the work or participating in the experience Christ followers?
2. Is there intentional gospel sharing in the activity or experience?
3. What boundaries are being crossed in-order to share the gospel?
4. Who are the lost that the gospel is being shared with?
Feeding the hungry is a good thing and meets a real need, but is there gospel intentionality? Helping to paint a widow’s home or building a ramp for the disabled is a selfless act of service and appreciated, but are boundaries being crossing and the gospel being shared? Yes, it’s okay to plan and implement a sports camp this summer and it is missions when we use it as a tool to reach an identified lost people group.
While the methods and resources used in missions engagement may have changed, what missions is, hasn’t. Ministry involvement doesn’t always equal missions engagement. Is your church missions engaged or simply ministry involved?
I am a very visual person. I learn by seeing and doing more than reading and listening. It is just the way God made me. But when I read or listen, I have to visualize something that I’m reading that will allow me to fully understand.
That’s one reason I love the parables Jesus taught. Jesus would give great object lessons to teach the spiritual truths. Seeing the visual example helps me understand the spiritual truth.
I was reading Matthew 7:7-8 and I love the illustration of the asking, seeking and knocking. I can see a visual picture in my head which helps me understand the spiritual truth.
ASK…and it will be given to you helps me understand the importance of praying. The focus is not on what we are asking for, but from Whom we are asking. When we understand from Whom we’re asking, it helps us to keep in perspective of what we ask for. When we understand the “Whom,” it helps to get “me” out of the picture.
SEEK…and you will find helps me to remember to always look for opportunities to serve the Lord. To look for times God wants to use me. And seek those opportunities to have Gospel conversations. When I am seeking the things of God, I am sure to find what He has for me and what He has to teach me.
KNOCK…and the door will be opened to you reminds me of the wonderful experiences God has for me. Through saying yes to God and going through the doors He opens, I have seen the miraculous, the majesty, and I have seen the moving of God in my own and others’ lives.
I get reminded of this so many times when we are called out to respond to disasters. When I pray, I want to follow the “Whom” I am praying to, so I may receive God’s best in my life. I have settled for too many times and have learned to seek God’s best. So, my ask of God is to use me.
When we are called out to respond to disasters, I want to seek those opportunities for God to use me to encourage others, to disciple others, to allow God to teach me, and to seek opportunities to have Gospel conversations with those we meet.
When we are called out to respond to disasters, I want to knock on the door where God leads me. And when God opens the door, I know I will experience only what God can do.
If you would like to become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, please visit kybaptist.org/dr for more information.
One of the most recognized and trusted advertising slogans in the world is “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best”. This phrase is more than just a slogan for Hallmark, it was a business commitment for the distinctive card company. When Ed Goodman, a Hallmark sales and marketing executive, wrote the words on a 3×5 index card in 1944, he was trying to capture the essence of why Hallmark stood as the very best in the world. Little did Goodman know just how much pressure the slogan would put on the company to be the very best and second to no other card company.
Thinking about this slogan, I wondered, do we send our very best to show we care? I don’t mean do we send Hallmark cards. What I mean is, do we send on mission the very best from our church to show a lost world we care?
The God we serve is a sending God. Nearly every time He speaks to someone in scripture, He is sending them on a mission. From Abraham to Moses to Paul, to us, God’s people are always being sent into the world on mission. God showed He cared by sending His best and only son into the world to save us. Jesus is referred to as “sent” forty seven times in the New Testament. Clearly, God is a sender by nature and cares about us.
After His resurrection, Jesus passed on his identity to His disciples: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Like his disciples – we too, have a responsibility to send our very best.
We read in Acts 13:1-3 that after prayer and fasting, the church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul out on mission to share the Gospel. They did so in obedience to Jesus’ command to go and the Holy Spirit’s leading. Make no mistake about it, the church sent out on mission two of their best because they cared for those who had not yet heard the Gospel. They correctly believed that people who don’t know Christ as Savior and Lord will suffer God’s judgement. So why would they not seek to share the Gospel with those who need to hear it? Barnabas and Saul were strong leaders and faithful teachers, but the church didn’t try to talk them into staying. Rather, they cared enough to send out two of their best churchmen because they cared for the unreached. Our failure to send out the very best from our churches to serve on mission or start a new church speaks to our lack of care for those who have not yet heard the Gospel and experienced the grace of Christ.
In the same way the slogan put pressure on the Hallmark company, I pray the example of the church at Antioch will put pressure on our churches to send the best members out on mission. Let’s show the lost world we care by sending our very best to share the Gospel with them.
The other evening, we were home watching a movie and my wife needed to tell me something so I reached for the remote and pushed pause so I could give her my attention. If I had not, I would have continued to be distracted by the movie and missed something important I needed to hear. It is good to hear the important things!
Not only is it good to hear the important things, but it is also good to pause and remember the important things of the past. As we are coming to the end of 2022, we should hit “pause” and reflect on all God has done in our lives over the past twelve months.
There are so many things I am grateful for, and all God has taught me over the past year. He continues to mold us and make us more like Himself and show us who He truly is. There are several things which come to mind.
I am reminded of His PROVISION The past year has been a year of disasters. We began 2022 still cleaning up from the western Kentucky tornados, small disasters throughout the commonwealth all year, and then the major flooding in eastern Kentucky, with Hurricane Ian in Florida immediately followed. But God provided the volunteers, the finances, the equipment and the opportunities. He changed lives in the midst of difficult days and reminded me of His provision. He is good.
I am reminded of His PROTECTION The work of disaster relief can be dangerous. Cleaning up debris, cutting up trees, preparing hot meals and so much more present its unique dangers. Even the travel to and from on the highway can be treacherous. I am so grateful for God’s protection of His faithful servants to protects us from the dangers around us. He is good.
I am reminded of His PROVIDENCE I am constantly reminded I am not in control. Only God is but I get to be part of what He is up to. He puts us all in places or allows us to meet just the right person at the right moment which opens a door of opportunity that changes lives…and mine. I think back over the moments of what we originally thought was a disruption of our plan, actually became a teaching moment or opportunity in which we recognized only God could plan. I am grateful for His continued interest in me. He is good.
I am reminded of His PROMISES There are so many promises of God I find in the Scriptures which encourage us in our time of need. He is always with us; He will never fail us; He is our strength and hope; and the list can go on. As we search the pages of the Word of God, His promises are found throughout the pages. And He reminds of His promises just as we need them. He is good.
I remember a friend of mine from my church in Missouri who we all called “Geezer.” He and I shared a favorite verse in the Bible which simply read, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). As good ole country boys we shared our own version that read, “Shut up and listen!” We would often smile at each other and one of us would say those words to the other because we both needed to remember to pause and reflect on God and who He is.
What a good God we serve. Remember to push “pause” and be still and listen closely. Do not miss the important lessons. He is good.
The end of the year is often marked by an endless barrage of family gatherings, cookie swaps, white elephant gift exchanges, office parties and more. The holidays can be incredibly stressful for some individuals or families, and a time of profound sadness for others. However, the holiday season can be a welcome time of gospel intentional hospitality.
Since November 2021, Kentucky Baptist have welcomed and served over 900 of the nearly 1400 Afghans that resettled across the state. By using Global Hunger funds, churches were able to help more than 550 Afghans receive food for their first 3 months in Kentucky. God used the generous giving and hospitality of Kentucky Baptist to not only open homes for church members to share a meal with these beautiful people, but also to open hearts to receive the gospel. Today, there are new believers being discipled across Kentucky, families and individuals participating in bible studies, and a new church plant.
When Jesus shared meals with people, it gave him the opportunity to enter the lives of the people with whom he was eating. In fact, eating together is one of the most practical ways to overcome any relational barriers that separates us. Jesus modeled a way for us to use the gift of hospitality as a means to share his grace. Here are three ways to enter the holidays with gospel intentionality:
1. Pray for an Open Door
As Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” As you begin to shift your thoughts toward the birth of Jesus, gather your family to pray for your neighbors and the nations in your community. Ask the Lord to open a door for your family to share the love of Christ this Christmas. Then, talk about those you know who need to hear the gospel, and how you could share a meal together.
2. Plan a time to Share a Meal
There is a familiar saying around our house when it comes to dinner: “There’s always room for one more.” And there is. But what takes this from a stated fact to a shared reality is an intentional invitation. When we open our tables to our neighbors, we are offering more than a meal. We are offering an invitation into communion.
3. Prepare (Ask) Good questions.
Around a table, the art of conversation is fostered. Try to avoid questions resulting in one-word answers. Instead ask open-ended questions: “What are some of your greatest memories of the holidays growing up?” or “What is most difficult for you during the holidays?” These questions, when engaged honestly, can connect people at a deep level. Take time to really listen.
Focusing on these three things this holiday season can create space for intimate communion with family members, co-workers, neighbors, international students, or refugees. As you share a meal together and listen to their stories, take time to share your story and how you came to know the Lord. Then, just as you invited them to your table, you might find yourself in a conversation with someone who is wondering how they can find a seat at Jesus’ table.
The Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve your church. To discover how you can embrace the nations as your neighbor, email or call John Barnett at john.barnett@kybaptist or 502-654-3385.
In terms of the local church sending missionaries, one of the most overlooked areas is missionary care. Providing missionaries with a touch point of Pastoral Care is critical for them to not only maintain a healthy relationship with the church, but also sustain a healthy relationship and share Christ well among the nations. In order to plant healthy churches, we must have healthy disciples. Here is a simple outline or template of a Pastoral Care Plan with touch points:
Purpose: The goal of the Pastoral Care Plan is to have every missionary family and single adopted and advocated for by the church and the pastoral care team.
Limitations: Pastoral Care is intended to provide a base level of encouragement, care, and advocacy. Pastors need not feel the full load of care and advocacy unless desired. Each missionary has access to care through multiple channels including Sunday school classes, community groups, a care team, and missional staff (voluntary or paid).
Details: I ask that pastors consider committing to a missionary family/single and following through on basic touch points of communication and being accessible to the missionary. We want each missionary to feel like our pastors are “in their corner.”
Step 1: Know what you are committing to(suggested touchpoints):
Every Month: Provide a simple touch point. This could be a short email of encouragement, WhatsApp, a handwritten letter, or something of the like.
Every 6 months: Have one Zoom call.
Every year: Send a care package from your family to theirs. If possible, build it into the budget, and do not forget to include shipping cost.
Step 2: Commit to a missionary family/single by:
1) Signing up for available missionaries on the excel document.
2) Send an email to the missionary letting them know that you are committing to be their pastoral advocate.
3) Calendar your monthly touch point so you do not forget!
Step 3: Keep other leaders in the loop as needed. If you need help, have questions, or are concerned about your missionary; please let us know and we will be glad to help.
Adopting a missionary is a simple way you and your Missional Community can begin serving in missions. For information about adopting a Kentucky MSC missionary, visit www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary. To learn more about adoption options with national and international SBC missionaries, contact the Missions Mobilization Team ([email protected] or 502-489-3530). If you have any questions about setting up a Missionary Care Plan, please contact John Barnet ([email protected] or 502-654-3385).
Taking the gospel to the nations is not an easy task. As missionaries go out to proclaim the good news, they often become discouraged and consider quitting. Why? They feel as if they are entirely on their own, without the active support of sending brothers and sisters who can uphold, encourage, provide, and pray for them. The church’s desire should be obedience to the Scriptures as a going AND sending, supporting community. The little letter of 3 John calls the church to both send out and care for its missionaries “in a manner worthy of God.” It calls us to partnership – to “work together for the truth” with those we send to faraway lands. John commands us to love these missionaries with a hands-on kind of love, even if we do not know them personally (verse 5) precisely because we are partners in the gospel! This means that one of the best ways your Community Group can get involved in international missions is to adopt a missionary and begin caring for them.
The church’s vision may be to see each of our missionary units supported by several Community Groups who are strategically praying for, communicating with, and regularly sending packages to our member missionaries. Bottom line: We want each of our missionaries to have real and consistent care just as 3 John says they should. Would your group be willing to adopt a missionary, provide the care, and the love they need? If so, here are your next steps:
Talk it over as a group. Pray about it as a group. Discern your ability and willingness, as a group, to commit the time, energy, resources, and relational investment necessary to love and serve one of our missionaries or ministries well, “in a manner worthy of God” (v 6).
Designate a person in your group who will be the missionary care leader. This person/couple will connect with both the missionary and a Missions Mobilization Team member.
Get started. There are numerous ways you can care for your missionary unit:
Prayer– Get prayer requests from your missionary unit and pray as a group at least once a month.
Communication– Have personal conversations with your missionary unit at least once a month through email, written letters, or Zoom.
Care packages– Commit to send a care package to your missionary unit at least twice a year. Set a goal of once a quarter.
Have them Visit– When your missionary unit is in the U.S., have them come and visit your group.
Visit them– Encourage group members to visit your missionary unit on the field. People could do this individually or you could do this as a group, if possible.
Adopting a missionary is a simple way you and your Missional Community can begin serving in missions. For information about adopting a Kentucky MSC missionary, visit www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary. To learn more about adoption options with national and international SBC missionaries, contact the Missions Mobilization Team ([email protected] or 502-489-3530).
I had the opportunity last week to spend several days in eastern Kentucky alongside disaster relief volunteers who were providing help, hope and healing following historic flooding in thirteen counties. I saw families who had lost everything, literally everything except the clothes on their backs. Homes were washed down river, cars destroyed, personal possessions lost, and everything left behind covered in mud. Flood insurance is almost non-existent, and families are overwhelmed and uncertain what to do next. The question was raised in a discussion with someone who had come to help, “are we here to help them recover from the flood or share the gospel?” The answer is Yes!
Caring for the needs of others is not an option for Christ followers. Jesus demonstrated this by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons and raising the dead. If we are going to identify with Him, then we too, must love our neighbors and help those in need.
However, preaching the gospel is not an option either. Jesus said I was sent to preach the kingdom of God to others. We too, have an obligation to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). Furthermore, those who are lost can’t believe and call upon Christ to be saved unless they hear the gospel preached (Romans 10:14).
So, which was more important to Jesus, caring for the needs of others or preaching the gospel? I don’t know that he had a preference. We find that Jesus preached and cared for others everywhere he went. Every time Jesus sent out the disciples, He commanded them to take care of the needy as they preached the gospel.
We understand from scripture that after Jesus’ return to heaven, the disciples followed His example of simultaneously preaching and caring for others. We observe in the life of Jesus and the disciples, that caring for hurting people provides opportunities for preaching the gospel. Jesus didn’t send some of us to preach and others to do disaster relief or community service.
Helping mud out a flooded home is complimentary to sharing the gospel. Blending the feeding of a family in a shelter with telling them about Jesus is God-honoring. Providing a place to shower or do laundry can easily be mixed with listening to others and sharing how we’ve found hope in Christ.
A healthy balance between meeting needs and preaching the gospel can be so effective in reaching the lost. Success of this approach is evidenced in the sixty-four (64) lives that have come to faith in Christ because of the flood recovery efforts in eastern Kentucky in the last several weeks.
Remember the question that prompted this post – “are we here to help them recover from the flood or share the gospel?” I’m not saying that caring for the needy is equal to sharing the gospel. But both are important because they are expected of Christ followers. They are two sides of the same coin and there will certainly be synergy and life transformation when we do both together, just as Jesus did.
Care Teams are the most tangible expression of our church’s commitment to support our missionaries who are serving in cross-cultural environments. The team is centered around one team leader and can be made up of 3-8 individuals who provide on-going care and support. They serve as a primary link between the church as a whole and the missionary.
Simply put, a care team is a group of people who deeply love and care for their missionary unit. They communicate, pray for and stay connected to their missionary unit on a regular basis. Because of these strong personal relationships, the missionaries can be open and honest, allowing his or her team to see needs and share successes and defeats.
What Is the Vision for a Care Team?
There are two major roles of every Care Team: care and representation. The success of the care team depends on its ability to accomplish these two goals from the time that the missionary unit prepares to leave for the field until his or her return.
Many missionaries minister in physically challenging environments. Some are raising children far from extended family. Others struggle with cultural adjustments and language barriers. Most significantly, all serve on the front lines of spiritual warfare. For survival and spiritual health, every missionary unit needs the assurance that they are not alone, that there are others in the body of Christ who love them and are committed to their welfare and to the success of their work. Missionaries need empathetic listeners and caring friends who are not in a supervisory role. The Care Team can consistently provide that kind of spiritual and emotional care. Caring also involves identifying specific needs which the team can meet or organize others in the church to meet.
The Care Team also champions the missionary and his or her work to the church body and advocates for ongoing participation in their ministry even when he or she is far away. Thanks to the efforts of the Care Team, the church feels an ongoing sense of connection to our workers.
What Does a Care Team Look Like?
We have intentionally kept the structure of our Care Teams simple. The foundation of each Care Team is the team leader. He/She is the one who has the main connection with the missionary unit and leads the team in all aspects. The team leader either already knows the missionary deeply or commits to build a deep relationship. The rest of the team is built under the leadership of this committed person.
Each Care Team will look different. Some will have a team leader with 6-8 additional people on the team while others will have a leader with just one or two additional people on the team. Both types of teams can serve as great care networks for our missionaries.
Depending on the team members’ season of life, people may need to step out of their Care Team. We ask however that team leaders commit to the missionary full term (2-4 years) and/or be willing to replace themselves in this role if needed.
What Does a Care Team Do?
Teams can meet at anytime and anywhere; we just ask that each team meet once a month to fulfill their role as advocates. We suggest that you build a team around a missional group that already exist in the church. For example, Sunday School Class members, Prayer group, Life Group, Community group, etc.
The main role of a Care Team is to pray monthly as a team and on an individual basis. We also ask that you hold your missionaries accountable to regularly update their prayer requests.
Ask any missionary and they will tell you that they rarely stay connected with their friends and church family back home. Part of providing care to missionaries is the commitment to stay connected. Your missionary unit should hear from you at least once a month. This can happen through emails, Zoom, handwritten letters or any number of creative ways. Make sure this is part of your team meeting.
Send Care Packages
Nothing says I love you to a missionary quite like a box full of ranch dressing mix, chocolate and a few good books! Care Teams will send at least two care packages a year to their missionary unit. Perhaps the church can help with the cost of shipping two packages each year with hopes of your team sending a few more packages using personal funds, if possible.
Help with Departure and Arrival
Some of the hardest times for your missionary unit will be preparing to leave for the field and returning home for a stateside visit. There are a thousand things that need to be done and we ask that your team jump in and help as much as possible.
How Do We Get Started?
Here are three things to do to get your Care Team started:
Email the Team
Once the team leader is in place, he/she can email others on the team or start recruiting for the team. Get everyone on an email list and start communicating with one another.
Email your Missionary
The team leader needs to email the missionary and let them know their Care Team is forming. Ask for prayer requests and invite the missionary unit to the first meeting via Zoom.
Meet as a Team
Set a date for your first meeting. Pick a home to meet in and share a meal with one another. During this meeting make sure you get to know each other, pray for the missionaries and if possible, talk to your missionary unit on Zoom. Also make sure you set up a regular time and place to meet.
The Bible is full of illustrations of numerous people who served the Lord for the sake of the gospel. Jesus Himself came not to be served but to serve. (Luke 22:24-27). Jesus was our greatest example of servanthood, but we find many more such as: Paul, Peter, Andrew, Barnabas, Timothy, Mary, and the list goes on. Each one of these had a different personality and giftedness and expressed it in their unique way.
It reminds me of the words Peter, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
As I think about the blessing of serving, four things come to mind.
Serving Requires Sacrifice. Any time we serve others, it requires a sacrifice on our part in some way. It may be our time, our resources, our finances, our talents, our abilities, or in other ways. It will always take effort and sacrifice when serving others.
Serving Removes Self. When we serve others, our attention shifts from self to others. Our focus is turned to the one of whom we are serving rather than on ourselves. It develops a completely different focus and purpose. Rather than always seeking to serve our own needs, we discover we find joy in serving and caring for others.
Serving Reveals the Savior. We are no more like Christ than when we are serving others. Isn’t that what He came to do? Wasn’t that the whole focus on His ministry? And ultimately, He served us by providing our salvation through His death on the cross. He sacrificed. He focused on others. Our sacrificial serving others models the ministry of Jesus. May we serve so others will see Jesus.
Serving Releases the Spirit. When we are willing to sacrifice in some way, focus our attention on others rather than ourselves, and truly desire to reveal the Savior, the Spirit of God is released to show us great and mighty things. How many times have we learned we are not in control, but He is? He will orchestrate things, moments, situations, conversations and more to show us more of Him. And we simply stand in awe.
As I watch the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, they model the ministry of Jesus. They so often sacrifice their time, resources, abilities, vacations, and more because they love to serve. The reason they love to serve, is they have experienced the blessing of serving.
They realize when the focus is no longer on self and now focused on the Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit is released to show us amazing things. Life changing moments. Eternal differences.
Learn how you too can become a Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteer at www.kybaptist.org/dr.