Standing Ready

Disasters come whether one is prepared or not, and tragically most churches fail to prepare for disaster events in their community.

As Stephen Cyros declared, “Remember, when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.”

Be prepared as a church by:

  1. Encouraging the need for preparation. Church leaders can lead in providing disaster preparation information that includes safety, first-aid, needed supplies, and evacuation or shelter instructions to those in our churches. People who are prepared have increased survivability in times of disaster.
  2. Assessing the greatest and most likely disaster threats for your community.
  3. Examining the church property to determine if there are ways to minimize loss and to improve the church’s ability to withstand a disaster event.
  4. Ensuring that the membership understands evacuation or sheltering plans if a disaster occurs while the church is gathered.
  5. Devising a plan to check on church members in the aftermath of disasters. Focus a priority on the most vulnerable in your family of faith such as the elderly, those with disabilities, single mothers, and those with health issues. This could be a great ministry for deacons or other church ministry groups.
  6. Developing a ministry plan for the church in the aftermath of disasters. Often churches miss opportunities to meet real needs and to have life-changing impact with families in the aftermath of disasters because they have not planned for a disaster. Crisis events open doors for the Gospel as people are seeking help and answers. God has placed the church in communities to be His hands and voice, but we need to think about how we can best help survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.
  7. Connecting with other churches in your community and other organizations to discuss how to prepare and respond to disasters. Most County Emergency Managers would welcome churches who genuinely want to help, and who have a plan to meet vital needs. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone.
  8. Being prepared to pivot the focus of the church in the aftermath of a disaster. The day after a disaster strikes your community is probably not the time to begin a new ministry, but the church demonstrates a lack of compassion and awareness if it does not pivot from the routine and put priority focus on responding to the loss that disasters bring. In the aftermath of disasters, the church needs to show the Gospel in action.

The Scripture gives a great word for the church as we seek to prepare for times of disaster in Proverbs 27:12,

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Make Sure Zoe’s Not the Last

Last fall, Rockcastle Baptist Association hosted and implemented “Give Hope”, a Christmas Backpack distribution for children in the area.  A young lady named Zoe, who was very shy and hesitant, came and selected a backpack filled with surprises to take home.  She heard the gospel shared and enjoyed the activities and events of the day.  Later that night after arriving home, she opened the backpack to discover a Bible.  Zoe had never had her own Bible and was interested and curious to explore the stories within.  Although she struggled with depression and anxiety, while reading her new Bible she experienced an overwhelming sense of trust, peace, and joy. Zoe was so excited to learn that God could love someone like her and that He died to give her life!  Full of joy, she came out of her room crying and hugging her mom.  I don’t know the individual or church that packed and prepared the backpack for Zoe, but God does, and He worked through them to reveal Himself to a young girl in need of hope.  

Not many months from now, backpacks full of clothes, toys and food items will be distributed and the gospel shared by missionaries and church planters with other children like Zoe. I anticipate the number of families needing help at Christmas this year to be even greater because of high unemployment due to COVID-19.  Business is returning slowly in the Commonwealth, but the future remains uncertain for so many who are still out of work, or only allowed to return part-time. 

The increased need for backpacks and the hope they provide is challenged by the fact that many churches are just now returning to in-person gatherings because of coronavirus restrictions.  That challenge is exacerbated because most small groups and mission organizations who normally assume the responsibility for leading the initiative are still not meeting. 

For this reason, your help is needed so that other children can experience at Christmas this year, the joy and hope that Zoe discovered.   Prayerfully consider the following:

  • Use your social media network to promote the effort and encourage others to participate in preparing and packing a backpack.
  • Some small groups and mission organization are using Zoom, MicroSoft Teams, or Google Groups to stay connected during this time.  Use these platforms to tell about the need and share how your group can get involved. 
  • Lead your family to shop for and pack a backpack, praying together for the child that will receive it.  This is a great way for children to join mom and dad in showing the love of Christ. 
  • Take a few minutes during Sunday worship, in-person, on the parking lot or online, to promote the Christmas backpacks and determine to be the church, not just go!
  • Let us know how many backpacks you plan to pack by registering online so that we can coordinate with the needs of missionaries and church planters.

The coronavirus is not the first challenge the church has confronted when meeting needs and sharing the gospel, and it most likely will not be the last.  Zoe wasn’t the first person to come to Christ because of Christmas backpacks, and my prayer is that she will not be the last.  Let’s work together through this crisis and creatively explore how we might most effectively prepare backpacks to be shared at Christmas, so that Christ will be made known, again and again and again!

For more information about Christmas backpacks, contents, packing, dates and delivery, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.

Do Not Be Alarmed

For most of us our world has changed in 2020.  Our world has been drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are washing our hands and using sanitizer more.  We are social distancing and wearing face masks as we try to not get too close to one another.  Many of us have stockpiled food, water, and even toilet paper.  We are weary of the nightly reports of stay-at-home extensions, new cases, death counts, and growing unemployment.  Most Americans believe that it will be a long time before things return to normal, and social media chirps constantly about the new norm.  As we begin the re-opening process, it appears the response to this deadly disease has left us with more questions than answers.

The pandemic has ground our economy to a halt, but it has not slowed the famine in Sub-Saharan Africa that has left millions starving.  It has not ended the Iranian – U.S. tensions that witnessed another close encounter in the Persian Gulf this week.  According to the United Nations Refugee Agency it has not decelerated the number of displaced people across our globe.  Nor has it curbed the active early tornado season that spawned over 100 twisters and left 73 people dead.

I do not claim to be an expert, but I think that I can accurately proclaim, life can be a dangerous venture.  The journey of life often passes through dark valleys.  Valleys that can leave us anxious, frightened, and insecure.  And many ponder “What if it all gets worse?”

As I read the Bible, I am thankful that God is honest with us.  Jesus shared with His disciples and reminds us that difficult days will come. He tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines, pandemics, and natural disasters.  He predicts His church will be persecuted, people will turn on each other and spew hatred against their neighbor, false prophets will appear, and wickedness will increase.  Jesus shares that things are going to get worse before they get better. 

Yet do not miss an important word that Jesus shares with His followers right in the middle of this calamity-filled proclamation.  Jesus shares this key directive in Matthew 24:6 as he teaches about the coming tribulation, “See that you are not alarmed.”  This word “alarm” in the ancient language means “to wail, to cry out in despair, to be hysterical.”  Jesus counsels us when bad stuff comes, do not panic, or fall apart.  And He tells us why with His next words in this passage of Scripture, “because these things must take place.”

Must is a vital word in this passage because it asserts that all events, everything that takes place in this world, from the mundane to the chaotic are part of God’s plan.  God uses all things to accomplish His purposes and plans.  When the world seems to be careening out of control, be reminded that God is still on His throne, and our Lord has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us. He declares to us that trials and tribulations will come in this world and they are very real, but do not let these present troubles blind you to the fact that a better world is coming.  Jesus has formulated the predictive model for our world’s pandemic, and He has established a treatment plan that will cure all that is wrong in our present age.

If you have placed your faith in Christ, it will all work out in the end, and by His grace, He will get you through today and tomorrow. And by the way, if this world is a chaotic mess, be assured it is not yet the end.

Will COVID-19 Distract Us from the Vision?

The world’s attention has been on COVID-19 for the last several months. We’ve seen how the virus can be passed from person to person and we’re learning daily how to protect ourselves and those we love while creatively ministering in a constantly changing world of uncertainty. I’m concerned about those who might be infected with the virus, but I’m even more concerned about those who have yet to be infected with the love of Christ.

Prior to this “new normal” surrounding COVID-19, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd announced a five-year initiative to reach every person with the Gospel in every town, every city, every state and every nation. Vision 2025 contains five major strategic actions for the SBC to accomplish by 2025.  My prayer is that COVID-19 will not be a distraction from these goals. Now, more than ever, we must work together to bring this vision to fruition because the world is looking for hope that can only be found in Christ!

One of the goals is to increase the total number of full-time, fully funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving the SBC 4,200 full-time, fully funded missionaries through the International Mission Board (IMB).

I find this goal humbling and challenging because our new normal is something many of our missionaries content with every day in their ministry settings. While we’re dealing with a contagious virus for what is probably only a brief period of time, our missionaries serve in places where things such as infectious diseases, intestinal disorders, flesh eating bacteria, and parasites that cause fatal diseases, are common daily occurrences.

So, how will we callout and enlist those God is leading to serve?  What will we do to contribute toward an increased number of missionaries?  I believe this goal is attainable, but it’s going to take every pastor and church taking hold of it and doing their part locally.   

Here are some practical steps that each local pastor and church can take toward increasing the number of missionaries serving on the field:

1. PREACH sermons that challenge people to go – 21% of missionaries were called to serve as the result of a missions sermon in their local church.

2. AFFIRM those upon whom you recognize God is leading – to the one who is questioning his or her abilities, your words may be the confirmation they need to go.

3. HOST a missions conference – 20% of missionaries felt called to serve after listening to a missionary speak. 

4. PROMOTE missions offerings – we will only realize an increase in missionaries going when churches send the necessary financial resources to sustain their ministries.

5. SHARE what God is doing through our missionaries – how exciting and stimulating it is to hear stories or see videos that help us to understand what missionaries are doing and how they’re making a difference.

6. PARTNER with missionaries – going becomes more personal when over a period of 3-5 years when a church is Skyping, sending teams, providing prayer support and sharing ministry resources with specific missionaries.

7. LEAD your church to engage in a short-term missions experience – many full-time vocational missionaries were inspired to go and serve as the result of a short-term missions trip.

8. PRAY and lead your church to do so – the fields are ripe unto harvest and the need for missionaries is great.

I suspect the fears and concerns over COVID-19 will pass, but our concern for the lost who have yet to hear the hope of the Gospel should never pass. Satan poses a much greater risk to humanity than COVID-19, so we should work together to make the kingdoms of this world the Kingdom of our Lord.  If our desire is to see people from every nation come to know Him, then we should be willing to do all that we can to accomplish the goal of more people going as missionaries. 

Teach Me to Do Your Will During COVID-19

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief remains ready to respond during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to partner with Kentucky Emergency Management and other responders. The pandemic has been unlike any previous crisis response and we have been forced to adapt and be creative in our response. For example, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief donated 12,150 N-95 masks to medical workers and facilities in Kentucky from our flood recovery inventory and prepared almost 6000 meals for children to fill a gap for a school system in Western Kentucky. This is not our typical ministry during a disaster, but it provided opportunities for us to be salt and light during this crisis.

When disasters create havoc in communities, churches along with Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief are to be faithful and to minister with Godly compassion. The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed our ability to react in the same ways that we typically respond in times of disaster. Yet the church remains called by God to minister when our neighbors are hurting and overwhelmed.

Here are some thoughts for ministry during this time:

  1. Pray for our neighbors, and for God to bring healing to our state. Pray for opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations.
  2. Be agents of peace who calm rather than encourage panic.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind.
  3. Seek to encourage others and to demonstrate the hope that we have in Christ. Many people are more open to Gospel conversations during seasons of crisis as they are awakened to the frailty of life.
  4. Develop a plan to check on the most vulnerable in your congregation and community. Those who might be ill, or who are at higher risk.  This does not have to be direct contact.  It could be by phone, text, or email.
  5. Develop a plan on how the church might deliver basic supplies to people in need.  This plan should include safety precautions so that we minister but minimize risk to those whom we are ministering.  We want to help those in need but not create risks that could further infect ourselves or others.
  6. Look for creative ways to worship, to share spiritual truths, to demonstrate compassion, and to minister in this unique time. This will require us to think out of the box, but it also creates opportunities to take the church beyond the four walls of our buildings.

Be reminded that the church has always been willing to run toward not away from times of crisis for the sake of Christ and our neighbors.  This is a difficult time that is causing many to be filled with anxiety and stress but is also a time for us as the church to demonstrate the peace, grace, and hope of Christ.

Finally, I would offer the words of the Psalmist,

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.  May Your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:10).

The psalmist confirmed obedience to God’s call but asked God to lead him in a way that his feet could be steady, and he would not fall.  This is great instruction as we plan to serve in times of crisis. As followers of Christ may we be those who demonstrate to a world shaken by this pandemic that our feet rest on the solid rock of Christ.

I’m Not Trained, But I Did Stay at a Holiday Inn Last Night

Believers often ask in Disaster Relief, “Why do I have to go through training to serve as a volunteer?  Why can’t I just go help people?”

Preparation is important in any area of ministry, because it enables us to be more effective in ministry.  The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success.” Sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more efficient, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters.  Through your gifts to the Cooperative Program, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is able to provide training in disaster relief that prepares Kentucky Baptists to be ready to serve in positive ways during times of disaster.

Top ten reasons to be trained:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a team.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas.
  6. Training prepares us to understand, in a deeper way, some of the trauma that victims face, so that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the heart for ministry by increasing awareness of the need and different opportunities to minister.
  8. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively.
  9. Training prepares the head by gaining knowledge.
  10. The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Several years ago, there was a popular commercial that showed a man preparing to do surgery when everyone began to realize that perhaps he was not up to the task.  The man’s response to their concern was, “I may not be a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”  I cannot answer for you, but I really do not want that man doing surgery on me. Yet, sometimes we are that way when it comes to ministry.  “Hey, I am not really prepared to minister to you, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!

Check out these opportunities for training in 2020:

  • February 8, 2020 at Edgewood Baptist Church in Nicholasville
  • March 7, 2020 at First Baptist Church of Paducah
  • April 4, 2020 at Hawesville Baptist Church
  • September 12, 2020 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow

For more information or to register go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr.

The Key to Success

How do you measure success?  The world looks at bank accounts, houses, prestige, degrees earned, or your position in the company.  The athletic world looks at scores, games won, and championships attained.  The church may look at membership rolls, worship attendance, the number of baptisms, or the size of buildings.  All of these things are indicators or “marks on the measuring rod”.  But true success is obedience to God.  How can you be more successful than obeying God who created and sustains us, and calls us to obediently join Him in the work?  

There are more than one hundred successful missionaries serving in Kentucky through the Mission Service Corps.   These Mission Service Corps missionaries are having an impact in all areas of ministry through local churches, institutions, associations and individual ministries.  In terms of ministry opportunities, the sky’s the limit with Mission Service Corps missionaries because each one has a special ministry that fits their giftedness and uniqueness.   Each missionary felt God’s calling on their life to do the specific ministry they’re involved in.  

Mission Service Corps missionaries are committed to long-term mission service (4 months or longer for at least 20 hours per week) and are either self-funded or supported by partners while on the mission field.   Successful Mission Service Corps applicants are carefully screened to serve in specific ministries and following approval, are commissioned and participate in an orientation prior to their placement. 

If you want to be obedient to God, and therefore successful, prayerfully consider if God wants you to be a Mission Service Corps missionary by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Have you felt an unusual moving and/or stirring of God in your heart? 
  2. Has God alerted you to see or hear of missions and/or ministries that you could perform?
  3. Has God placed in your heart a strong desire to help others?
  4. Are you available to serve, either by going someplace or by remaining at home? 
  5. Did the Lord call you previously to missions or a special service and you were not able to or did not respond?
  6. Has God assured you that He will provide enabling for all He may call you to do?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, you are aware of God working in your world and He may be calling you to serve as a Mission Service Corps missionary. 

Let me encourage you to…

  • seek guidance from God’s Word, 
  • talk to and pray with your pastor or Associational Mission Strategist, 
  • discuss your feelings with family members, and most importantly,
  • pray, asking God to show you what He is doing and how you can be a part of it.

          The genius of the Mission Service Corps missionary structure is that every Baptist can be directly involved in missions.  For some, involvement means responding to go;  for others, it is providing so that someone else may go.  For still others, being involved means praying for those who go and their partners; and for many it is a combination of these.   

          Mission Service Corps missionaries won’t climb the corporate ladder, become a celebrity, be featured on ESPN, or make as much as Bill Gates, but they will be successful if they serve the Lord with gladness by answering His call to go.  Will your response be, here am I, send me?   

Wise Instruction for a Leader

Good leaders are deciders. Leaders make decisions and move forward. They may not always be right, but they do not allow themselves to be paralyzed by indecision.

Great spiritual leadership recognizes the need for God to be integral in the process of decision-making. In Exodus 18: 19-21 Moses was given great leadership advice by his father-in-law Jethro, “Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”

This passage teaches us three great pastoral leadership principles:

  1. Bathe decisions in prayer. We should begin decision-making in prayer. If we are to lead God’s people effectively, we need to be a person of prayer. Our calling is to lead people to the place that God desires them to be, and to do that effectively we must stay close to God. Great leaders lead the people as they draw close to God and remain close to Him during the journey. Talk more to God about the church’s issues than you proclaim them from the pulpit.
  2. Base all you do on God’s truth. Godly leadership bases decisions on the truth, not personal opinions. We are called as spiritual leaders to teach the truth of God that He has revealed to us in His Holy Word. All we do should be based on the teachings of Scripture and our lives ought to seek to model these teachings. Any decision made that cannot find foundation in God’s Word will not stand the test of time and ultimately will fail.
  3. Share leadership with others whom God has gifted. Moses could not possibly do everything himself as he led the people of Israel, and neither can we. God does not call us to be Lone Ranger followers. Good leaders empower others to use their gifts and share leadership responsibilities with others. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone. Pastoral authority is not lessened in shared leadership, it is enhanced as we maximize the giftedness of the church and allow the followers of Christ opportunity to be used and to grow in their faith. Good leaders do not fear other mature believers having a voice in the decision-making process, and in wisdom welcome the input of others.

The called of God are to stand and lead. But that privilege only comes to those who have first followed. Therefore, speak after you have first sought a word from Him. Lead as you pursue His direction. Stand after spending time before His throne of grace. Be wise by seeking the input of other gifted followers of our God. And then issue the call to go boldly forward not by barking commands but by rallying the faithful to follow Our Commander and Lord.

What’s in Your Wallet?

Jesus commanded each of us as His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Our mandate as followers of Jesus Christ is to take the Gospel into all the world and to make the name of Christ known among all peoples. We are compelled to proclaim the Gospel, the only hope for billions who have not yet heard about the good news of Christ.

This mandate requires a sacrificial commitment. A sacrifice to go, and a sacrifice to send. Sacrificial giving by Southern Baptists enables us to place thousands of missionaries across the globe. The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions remain the lifeline for countless missionary families, who have sacrificed to go to the farthest corners of our world.

As we enter this season that highlights the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it should make each of as believers ask prayerfully, “What is in my wallet?”

Simply put, your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions enables missionaries to be sent to share the Gospel, disciple those who come to Christ, and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Southern Baptists realized when they began this special offering in 1888 that we can do more when we cooperate together for the sake of Christ than any of us can do alone.

When you give to Lottie Moon:

  • 100% of your gifts directly support missionaries serving the unreached.
  • You are making a way for the 2.8 billion people who have little access to the Gospel to hear of Jesus.
  • You are helping to transform lives around the world.
  • You are part of reaching the nations for Christ.
  • You are playing a role in the Bible being translated into every tongue and language.
  • You are providing hot meals, blankets, and clean water for refugee families.
  • You are enabling us to be God’s hands of compassion following disasters across the globe.
  • You are providing medical leaders in hospitals in broken places.
  • You are providing training for church leaders and pastors.
  • You are fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.

Why give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering?

Maybe, it would be better to ask, how as a follower of Christ, could I not give to this offering that is making the name of Christ known in every corner of our globe?

As Lottie Moon, missionary in China in 1887, said, “Why should we not…do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”

A Cultural Change May Be Needed

Last week, at our annual state convention, we recognized churches that had shown marked improvement in their missions participation. Those churches understood the commandment we’ve been given to go and make disciples of all people and had intentionally sent their members out on mission. 

It was so interesting to learn of things the churches had done to encourage their members to be on mission.  One pastor even commented that the increased attention on the various aspects of missions praying, giving and going contributed to a cultural shift within the congregation that led to the increased missions participation. They recognized that their church had a responsibility to send members out on mission trips, church planting efforts, disaster relief responses and local community ministry projects.  Living as sent people had brought intentionality to their going that God desires for His church.  They didn’t just go on mission, but were sent on mission by their church. 

The culture of a church will greatly influence whether or not it becomes a sending church. Culture is the personality of the church. Culture, more that vision or strategy – is a powerful factor in the church. Therefore, it’s possible that the personality or culture of a church will need an adjustment so that it can become a sending church.  Here are some steps toward development of a missions culture, that in turn, will produce a sending church.

  1. Preach sermons about missions – tell them of the church’s responsibility to send and our responsibility to go.
  2. Expect it.  Share with leaders, members and visitors that everyone is commanded to go and we’ll help you to be obedient.
  3. Repent of your failure to send and go as the Bible commands, if you’ve not been doing so. 
  4. Communicate impact – share and celebrate missionary achievements, spiritual decisions and answers to prayer.
  5. Skype with a missionary, or invite them to come and speak during the service.
  6. Pray for missionaries and ministry needs – share specific needs.
  7. Offer many different kinds of opportunities for people to use their gifts, talents and skills in missions and ministry (mission trips, local projects, long term service, etc). 
  8. Give scholarships to financially enable people to go.
  9. Provide missions education opportunities for children and adults – small groups, Sunday School, online, etc.
  10. Plan and implement a missions fair to introduce members to missionaries and missions opportunities. 
  11. Encourage giving to missions and share how the offerings are used. 
  12. Commission individuals and groups going out on mission.
  13. Adopt a missionary – develop relationship, provide support, give updates on their work, invite them to come, partner with them in the work, send teams.

So, what is the culture within your congregation?  What steps will you take to influence your church’s culture that will result in more people being sent out on mission?