Where is God?

Natural disasters continue to strike with little warning across the globe. In the aftermath of these tragic events, people often ask, “Where is God?”

Intellectual answers even when based on fact do not take away the pain or the loss of those affected by disasters. People need hope and grace amid the darkness, and I am absolutely convinced that only God can provide this healing of the heart. Yet this still does not answer the question, “Where is God?”

The Bible teaches that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, but the existence of evil and suffering in our world makes some wonder if God is good. The atheist says God must either be weak, sadistic, or non-existent as he looks at the suffering that exists on our planet. The unbeliever defies anyone to give an answer for such suffering after a disaster. Yet, the very question coming from an atheist is illegitimate and beyond reason. If one really believes that God does not exist, then one has no ability to question the events of life. If there is no God, then the very ideas of good and evil do not exist. Apart from God life has no meaning nor moral compass.

Men point to tragedy and question God’s goodness, but God points to the Cross of Calvary and declares here is the evidence of my love and goodness. Jesus Christ is the proof of both God’s goodness and the depths of His love for His created ones.

So, the real question is not where is God, but how can we know God’s hope in the brokenness? I offer these foundations:

Choose to follow Jesus Christ in a personal relationship. The only real answer for the brokenness of this world is know Jesus in a personal relationship. The assurance of our faith hinges on the one whom we have placed our faith. The only sure hope in life is to know Christ and the life that He has given.

Trust the promises of His Word. God does not reveal to us all the mysteries of life, but He does promise that He will love and care for all that have placed their faith in Him. The Bible reminds us again and again that God loves us and will not abandon us. Hear God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10, ” Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” In the present, we live in the trust of His promises not in explanations.

Remember, God has a plan. God and his purposes are more than any of us can understand. If God could be completely understood, then He would be like us. Thankfully, God is greater than us and beyond our complete understanding. We live in a fallen world, but we are promised that God has a plan. A day is coming when God will answer every injustice, all suffering will end for those who are His, and His glory will be revealed to every person. Blessed are those that trust God’s character when they are struggling to see His hand.

Where is God? God is ever-present, and offers His strength, grace, and hope to all who will open their hearts to Him. It is not a coincidence that those with a spiritual foundations cope with the stress and trauma of disasters in ways that strengthen recovery.

Psalm 46:1-3

” God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil.”

Lessons from Crisis


Disasters are part of living in a fallen world, and Jesus taught us, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Disasters come without warning and are no respecter of position, status, age, economic status, or belief system. Disasters have an equalizing effect on those affected. Disaster survivors share the same overwhelming helplessness.

When disasters strike, we often seek to understand “why”. The Bible offers insight to these questions, but ultimately only God knows for certain why these catastrophic events occur in our world. We should always be cautious in speaking definitively on the question of “why”, but there are lessons that we can learn from disasters.

What are the lessons that God can teach each of us in the aftermath of a disaster:

  • We learn what is important. Disasters have a way to separate the trivial from the vital. No one laments the loss of a big screen TV or a missed golf outing in the aftermath of a disaster, they mourn the loss of loved ones and despair over being homeless.
  • We learn that we live in a world of both good and evil. We see the demonstration of sin and evil as looters and scam artists prey on the vulnerable. Yet we also see neighbors reaching to neighbors and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serving meals, cleaning up flooded homes, cutting trees off homes, and putting tarps on damaged roofs in the aftermath of disasters. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief exists to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ during crisis.
  • We learn about the frailty of life. Disasters reveal clearly that our time on earth is short and uncertain. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, and none of us are promised a single day on this Earth.
  • We learn that our future is not in our hands. We do not control our own destinies. All that we possess, can be gone in an instant.
  • We learn that knowing God and being prepared for eternity are the most vital concerns of life. Disasters remind us that that those who are prepared survive disasters better than those who are unprepared. And the most important preparation for life is to know the One who holds all life in His hands. It is easy to waste our one and only life in trivial pursuits and miss that which is most vital: a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Disasters remind us that death can and will come for all of us, so we had better be ready.

The only sure way to be prepared for disasters and death is to know Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, in a personal relationship. If you would like to know more about how to have a personal relationship with Christ that gives you an assurance of eternal life, or if you would like to know more about becoming a Kentucky Baptist disaster relief volunteer, contact us at [email protected] .

How Can the Church Help Disaster Survivors?

Hurricanes

Floods

Wildfires

Earthquakes

Tornadoes

The year 2018 witnessed Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael,  the California Wildfires, the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami, the Guatemala Mount Fuego Eruption,  and Super Typhoon Manghut along with countless other smaller disaster events.  Each of these events caused significant loss that left people and communities reeling in the aftermath of these natural disasters.

What can we do as the church to help those suffering in times of disaster?

Here are the ten best ways to help survivors of disasters:

  1. Do not just show up to volunteer.  Spontaneous, untrained volunteers often make response more difficult for responders.  Disaster areas are often short on housing and food.  Those who just show up often rob these resources from those affected by the disaster, and often create issues that slow down rescue and recovery efforts.
  2. Get trained as a disaster relief volunteer.  Training enables you to respond at the right time and in the right way so that you provide real and effective help to survivors of disaster.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provides effective and positive ways to connect as a volunteer to help in times of disaster.  Learn more and register for a training at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .
  3. Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor trailer with donated supplies unless you are connected with someone on the ground and meeting a specific request.  Disasters often become a receptacle for “guilt” giving or “make-myself-feel-good” giving.  It does not help communities devasted by disasters to barrage their communities with unwanted items or to ship them our junk.  Collecting stuff often causes further damage to communities by creating debris piles and the cost of disposing unwanted, unneeded truckloads of stuff.
  4. In most cases, monetary donations to reputable organizations are the best way to help those affected by disasters.  Monetary donations enable organizations to meet real needs in the best and most efficient way.  Ministering to disaster victims should be about meeting the needs of those affected, not making myself feel good.
  5. Avoid charity fraud.  Give to reputable organizations with a proven track record.  Donations through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, Baptist Global Response, and Send Relief with the North American Mission Board are some of the best ways to offer help and hope to disaster survivors.
  6. Donate blood.
  7. Pray for those affected.  Prayer is always a right thing to do for hurting people.
  8. If the disaster is in the church’s community, the church can offer compassion by just reaching out to support our neighbors.  Listening to them and being with them in their pain and confusion brings God’s healing comfort.
  9. Meet practical needs.  Offer the church as a shelter.  Prepare meals or allow a Southern Baptist mobile kitchen to be set up at your church to provide meals.  Collect and reach out to families affected with Home Depot, Lowes, or Walmart gift cards.
  10. Plan and organize a community memorial service or worship event that allows families a safe place to find healing and comfort in their loss.

“Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

(1 John 3:18).

Importance of the Pastor as a Catalyst for Missions

The Pastor is called to be a preacher/teacher within the body of faith.  This place of leadership gives him a unique authority and influence in the local church.  When the shepherd of the flock leads, the flock will follow.   This is crucial for the general health of the church but also for the missional health of the body of Christ.

The pastor is called to be God’s strategist for the local mission field but is also critical for God’s command to take the Gospel to the nations.  When the pastor has a passion for missions the church will be ignited to go into all the world for the sake of the Gospel.

The pastor is vital in:

  • Casting a missional vision. If it is not said from the pulpit most in the pews do not think it is important.
  • Helping the body of Christ understand lostness. When the pastor is consumed by the urgency of our work for Christ, it will overflow to the people in the pews.
  • Making missions a regular and important part of worship. Missions should flow from the worship of God. We were created to give God glory. When we meet God in worship, it stirs our hearts to make His name known among all peoples.  The pastor plays a key role by seeking ways to make missions a part of worship (preaching on missions, showing mission clips, praying for missions, highlighting mission offerings, using missions’ illustrations in his message, inviting missionaries to speak).
  • Preaching the Word faithfully and challenging the people to live life on mission for Christ.
  • Leading by example. The church will never be more committed than their leader.
  • Fostering the development of missionaries within the congregation by seeking to grow and encourage those in the family of faith to serve and surrender to a missions’ calling. Pastors are called to equip up the saints, so that these disciples may be sent out on mission for Christ.  The Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention can assist individuals in connecting with our Southern Baptist missionary sending organizations to begin exploring the missionary appointment process.
  • Developing a comprehensive mission strategy to move the church to reach its Jerusalem, to have impact in the church’s Judea and Samaria, and to take the Gospel to the farthest corners of the globe.
  • Being an encourager of missions and missionaries. Invite missionaries to your church and help the church to build relationships with missionaries.
  • Promoting missions giving. This is the lifeblood of missions, and when we give cooperatively, we can do more for the Kingdom than any of us can alone. The pastor plays a vital role in helping the church to understand why we give to missions and choose to work cooperatively as Southern Baptists.
  • Encouraging the church to pray for missions, unreached peoples, and missionaries.
  • Energizing the flock to “Go.”

The strength or weakness of each local church’s missionary program, its missionary support, and its missionary outreach will depend, more than any other one element, on the mission-mindedness of its pastor.   

Thank You Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers!

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief finished an active year of disaster response in 2018.  Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are often the first to arrive on the scene in times of disaster and the last to leave.

This past year saw Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers respond to flooding in Kentucky, wildfires in Colorado, tornadoes in Connecticut, and record flooding in Pennsylvania.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief played a significant role in disaster response in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.  In addition, teams brought clean water to the Central African Republic and Mozambique.

This active year had disaster relief teams serving 40 weeks in response and saw the following ministry:

Volunteer Days: 5468 Days

Ministry contacts: 5468

Chaplain contacts: 3271

Gospel Presentations:  216

Decisions for Christ: 136

Meals Served: 156,388

Damage Assessments: 678

Flood Clean-up Jobs Completed: 407

Chainsaw Jobs Completed: 411

Heavy Equipment Hours of Operation: 692

Temporary Roofing Jobs Completed (Tarping):  113

Showers Provided: 6110

Laundry Loads Provided: 894

Bibles Distributed: 1346

Bottles of Water Distributed: 66,874

Wells Established or Repaired in Mozambique and Central African Republic: 9

“Thank You” Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers for your compassionate and faithful ministry to those devastated by disasters in 2018!

“Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  (1 Corinthians 15:58)

What is Disaster Relief?

Our world continues to experience devastation and destruction annually.  Man-made events as well as natural disasters continue to challenge our minds with “why.”  Why has this happened?  Why me?  Why my community?  As Believers, we cannot answer the “why,” but we can respond with love and compassion as we help those affected know that they are not forgotten by God.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the three largest disaster response entities in the United States. Trained volunteers stand ready to respond when disaster hit across our globe.  Disaster Relief ministry provides an opportunity for believers to be the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began ministry in 1984 and is part of the larger Southern Baptist Send Relief network of 42 state conventions, the North American Mission Board, and Baptist Global Response.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is supported by gifts of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  This ministry offers opportunities for believers to be on mission for Christ during times of crisis.

The Apostle John instructed us:

“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In times of crisis, people need more than empty words.  They need someone to come alongside them with genuine help and real hope.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief brings practical help, the healing grace of Christ, and the hope of the Gospel to those devastated by disaster.  More than 4500 Kentucky Baptists are trained as disaster relief volunteers.  Volunteers can staff mobile kitchens designed to provide thousands of hot meals, move in with a chainsaw after a tornado, assist homeowners in cleaning up a flooded home, offer spiritual care as a chaplain, and provide many other disaster services.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are trained in:

    • Bulk Supply Distribution
    • Chainsaw Ministry
    • Chaplain Care
    • Emergency Childcare
    • Damage Assessment
    • Flood and Wildfire Clean up
    • Mass Feeding
    • Roof Tarping
    • Radio Operations
    • Shower and Laundry Ministry
    • Water Purification and Well Repair

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has a host of resources that can be mobilized during times of disaster.  Resources that can be deployed are:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens with the capacity to prepare 68,000 meals a day for disaster survivors
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Fire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication and Command Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower trailers
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Trailer
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Mobile Roof Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-Steer
  • 1 Mobile Lift
  • 2 Fork-lifts

You can get trained in 2019 on the following dates:

  • January 12 at Mount Washington First Baptist Church
  • February 2 at Rose Hill Baptist Church in Ashland
  • March 2 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Hopkinsville
  • April 6 at High Street Baptist Church in Somerset
  • September 14 at Lifepoint Church in Franklin

To learn how you or your church can get involved in this Kingdom ministry go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr, or call (502) 489-3527.

Serve Others Everyday – Not Just at Christmas

I love Christmas, the lights, family gatherings, decorations, music and gift giving. It’s a time of year when people show compassion to the hurts and needs of others. We see it displayed in the days leading up to Christmas by children taking gifts to the elderly in the nursing home, groups singing carols and delivering cookies in the hospitals, families adopting children in need of clothing and toys, and residents of the local community gathering to prepare and serve a meal for the homeless. It’s amazing how ministry active we can become at this season of the year as we serve others in the spirit of Christmas.

When I see these unselfish acts of Christmas, I’m thankful that this season of peace, joy and love brings out such kindness in most everyone. However, I question our motivation if we only serve and show acts of kindness during the Christmas holidays. Is showing kindness and compassion to others only a seasonal behavior?

More than likely, the needs we choose to meet during the Christmas season exist all year long.  The elderly in our nursing homes need visits and the gift of your presence all year long. There are sick people in the hospital 365 days a year that would love the prayers, songs, cookies, and visits of others. There are children in our community that need clothing, food and basic necessities during the summer, spring and fall too.  If we fail to minister to the homeless in need of shelter and food throughout the year, these members of our community may not be alive next Christmas for us to serve.

Christ spent His life showing us what it means to serve others. He took the form of a servant when he was born (Philippians 2:5-7) in the likeness of man. Jesus taught us that we serve Him by serving others (Mark 9:35). He came to serve and proved to be the ultimate servant by giving His life as a ransom for all (Mark 10:45).

It seems very appropriate that we celebrate the birthday of the greatest servant, Jesus Christ, by serving others. But let’s not limit our service to only the holiday season. Make serving others a daily behavior that flows out of your love for Christ. When we give Jesus His rightful place as Lord of our lives, we will express that devotion by serving others every day of every week, not just at Christmas.

Iconic Branding

Churches, pastors, and ministries seek to be heard in the massive expanse of one of the most competitive cultural influences in history… the influence and power of global media.  We daily compete to share the most important message of life in a culture that is bombarded with 24-hour, non-stop media clutter.

Marketers today constantly talk about the importance of branding and being relevant in the competitive arena of global media.   The fast food company McDonald’s has done this well through the years.  McDonald’s began by serving hamburgers and fries and not much else.  You can still get a hamburger at McDonald’s today, but you can also get salads, wraps, and a cappuccino.  It is a different world even for McDonald’s and they have continued to adapt their product to stay relevant and to attract customers.

As the church, we must continue to prayerfully communicate the message of Christ in a changing culture and to form mission strategies that are effective and relevant in this new day.  The Apostle Paul understood the need for cultural awareness and adaptability.  That is what he is teaching us in the 1 Corinthians 9 when he instructs us,

“I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The Apostle Paul understood the importance of sharing the Gospel in a way that communicates clearly in a sea of competing voices and that is culturally relevant to those whom you seek to reach.  As a church, it is important to develop missional strategies that are culturally relevant and that communicate clearly.  

McDonald’s has evolved from their beginnings in 1955 and continues to be relevant in a changing culture.  As a company, they have been able to adapt and make changes that help them compete in this time of huge cultural shifts.  They have remained relevant and continue to attract customers.

And yet, one thing has not changed, McDonald’s has never changed their iconic branding of the “golden arches“.  They may have changed their menu, but the company leaders have recognized that the “golden arches” sets them apart and makes them recognizable in a flooded market of competitors.  

I would encourage you to learn a second lesson from McDonald’s and the Apostle Paul.  We must continue to adapt to stay relevant but certain iconic branding that sets us apart in a sea of clamoring competitors should remain. Though we must be willing to adapt in practice to effectively reach our world for Christ, we must hang on to that which “brands” us as the church of our Lord.  As Paul shares clearly, “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).  This message must never change and must always remain as that which clearly communicates who we are in a sea of clamoring noise and media clutter.  Christ crucified and resurrected is our unchanging message.

It is the iconic branding that sets us apart.

 

 

Steps to Engaging Your Community with the Gospel

Ministry in and to the community is the most critically important, but often overlooked activity of the local church. The church gets busy doing the “inward focused” activities that serve and even appear to strengthen the church.  But somewhere along the way, they fail to turn outward and engage the local community by meeting it’s needs and sharing the gospel. This inward focused mentality is killing many churches.

Community

Tom Rainer in his book The Autopsy of a Deceased Church shares that one of the common denominators among dying churches is their failure to engage the community around them.  We see it in every city, both urban and rural.  What used to be a thriving and community-involved church is now stagnant, unengaged and quietly dying.

Lifeway research shares that 78% of non-church attenders believe that the local church is more concerned with organized religion than with making a difference in their own community. Perhaps that’s why non-attenders aren’t coming anymore.  They question what the church does and its significance in the life of the community.

Churches must start asking the question, “How can we effectively engage our community in such a way that we meet real needs and open doors for sharing Christ?”

Before a church dives into unchartered waters and begins ministry to the community, there are important steps to take that will ensure it is relevant, needed and well executed.  Just because “ABC” church in another town is doing a ministry well is not reason enough for your church to invest and engage in the same ministry, unless it’s needed by your community, and God is leading your church to implement it.

Here are some suggested steps for engaging your community through meaningful and relevant, gospel-centered ministry.   

  1. Pray Seeking God’s Leadership – for direction, open doors, resources, powerful witness, laborers for the harvest, and receptive hearers. Prayer teams, elderly widows/physically handicapped, prayer walking areas of need.  Total dependence on God.
  2. Share Vision and Involve Others – with church staff, lay persons, community leaders and people of influence; Through book study, sermon series, testimonies, newsletter/web page or blog.
  3. Assess Community Needs – assessments like Community Assessment Tool.
  4. Determine Giftedness and Available Resources – church resources, passion of members, spiritual gift inventories, surveys; Eph 4 – God has equipped each believer for “works of service”. There are several different church assessments available.
  5. Find your “sweet spot” by matching discovered community needs with the church’s gifting and resources to determine which ministry to engage in.
  6. Plan the Ministry –
    1. Enlist Passionate Person and Leadership Team
    2. Decide on Ministry
    3. Determine Mission Statement –
    4. Prepare Goals and Objectives –
    5. Prepare and Implement Action Plans –
    6. Gather Resources and Enlist Volunteers –
    7. Provide Ministry Training – including evangelism (testimony, tracts, scripture, CWT, Share Jesus Without Fear, FAITH, 3 Circles, Tell Your Story or Most Important Thing, etc.).
  7. Set the Ministry in Motion –
  8. Evaluation –

The possibilities for community engagement through meaningful ministry are endless and only limited by you!

Here are some Community Ministry Ideas:

  •  Parents & Married Couples – parenting courses, marriage enrichment classes, money management 
  •  Women – wives of deployed soldiers, Mothers of Preschoolers, pregnancy care, shelter for abused women/children,  prostitution/human trafficking,  mentoring mothers
  •  Men – literacy, job skill training, computer use, jail/prison, mentoring for ex-offenders, homeless shelters
  •  Students – tutoring/homework assistance, backpack ministry, latchkey kids, sports ministry, foster parenting/adoption, college/university campus
  •  Health Care – clinics, preventive health workshops/screenings, taxi service to doctors, prescription assistance, nursing homes
  • Special Ministry- developmentally disabled, physically handicapped, internationals, refugee resettlement, raceways, truck stops, resorts & campgrounds
  •  Community – food/clothing, benevolence, money management classes, cooking classes on limited budget, rehab house trailers, multi-housing, laundromat, adopt a public school, car repair for low income families
  •  Support Groups – gambling, sexual addiction, substance abuse, grief recovery, divorce

Why Cultural Awareness is Important in Ministry?

Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:18-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  To do this effectively requires us to have some understanding of the community and the culture that God has called us to minister within.  Race, age, religious belief, economic status, language, educational background, unique community marks of identification, major social issues all have impact on our mission field and can be bridges or barriers to the Gospel.

Every church needs a cultural awareness of their mission field.

The Apostle Paul taught us about the need for cultural awareness in ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”

We are called as believers to be Ambassadors for Christ.

A good ambassador:

  • Has knowledge of who he is and who he is representing.
  • Knows extensive knowledge of the place that he has been assigned…culturally, socially, politically, geographically, etc.
  • Shows respect for the people that he will serve among.
  • Seeks to identify and connect with the people that he will work with.

Do you know your community?

Strategic Cultural Demographics – Strategic Mapping for Ministry/Outreach

  • Ethnic Diversity/Make-up
  • Geographical Divisions
  • Income Levels – average income
  • Educational Levels
  • Employment/Unemployment – biggest employers
  • Percentage of Poverty and homelessness
  • Population Distribution by Age – fastest growing age segment
  • Languages Spoken
  • Major Social Issues that Impact community – drug usage, teenage pregnancy, etc.
  • Unique Community Markers of Identification – university, resort area, military base, etc.
  • Projected Community Growth Rate over Next Five Years – community stagnant, declining, or growing
  • Religious Beliefs in Community
  • What Percentage of Community Looks Like Your Church?

There are several ways to gather this information to help you to understand the culture of your community.  Information can be gathered from census and other community data resources on the internet.  Often real estate groups, local Chambers of Commerce, and schools will have good community information.

Church Leaders should also do personal observation in the community to verify or to discover additional community information.  Drive through the community.  Walk through neighborhoods.  Look for significant community markers or cultural markers (ethnic restaurants, non-Christian places of worship, community assistance or resource centers, colleges, military base, recreational areas). Identify local places where people congregate.  Observe and engage people in local gathering places.

The goal is to learn about people in your community and identify points where the church can build bridges to Christ.

The keys to developing a missional cross-cultural strategy in your church are:

  • Listen and observe
  • Be sensitive
  • Look to build bridges to Christ
  • Share the Gospel in the heart language of your community/target group
  • Make decisions when possible with those of your target group
  • Be inclusive when you reach people – allow them a place in the family of faith
  • Be willing to make changes that break down barriers to the Gospel
  • Do not sweat a few mistakes but seek to learn from them.