Hard Places, Hard Times!

SUPPORTING GOSPEL WORK IN OPPRESSED PLACES AND DURING TURBULENT TIMES!

“14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The Apostle Paul not only understood that the Great Commission belongs to the local church, but also that “sending churches” must pray, encourage, and partner with their “sent ones.” As Kentucky Baptist Churches, we have the joy of supporting and partnering with IMB missionaries around the world, through our Cooperative Program Giving and Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings. However, the Great Commission is more than simply our giving, it includes our willingness to have gospel partnerships in hard places, among hard people, and during hard times. The spread of the gospel faces challenges because people are battling their own personal sin and pride in the face of the “offense” of the gospel. In addition to the challenge of human sinfulness and depravity, sometimes the gospel runs up against challenging settings. Christians in places of religious freedom still carry the biblical burden to take the gospel into higher security or closed settings. The Great Commission is not an option clause, but a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal for these difficult settings is to see the Holy Spirit establish a long-term, doctrinally sound, multiplying church presence for the glory of God.

If we are to partner in a high security location, we must first build and maintain a relationship with a committed missionary who resides in the difficult place or among the difficult people. Workers in hostile areas live with spiritual oppression as a constant companion, much like a tumor that cannot be removed. A good partner carefully considers the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical challenges that exist in this particular setting.

God can use you and your church to not only preserve the wellbeing of your missionary partner, but also play a critical role in fulfilling the Great Commission by doing three critical things:

Pray
We must pray for our missionaries, but beyond that, they need to know we are praying for them. Ask them for specific requests and then follow up to see how the Lord worked. Find out their specific cultural challenges and commit to pray for them. Paul asked his friends to pray for him, and he gave them specific prayer requests.

Encourage
We must also encourage our missionaries. These are real people who have real interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. Do not forget that they have a favorite genre of music, a sports team they keep up with, jokes they enjoy, frustrations as a parent, concerns as a spouse, and a thousand other facets that make them human. Treat them the same way you treat other friends. Talk with them about their interests, fears, joys, and sorrows.

When neglected, the humanity of our missionaries is what often takes them off of the field. When cared for, the humanity of our missionaries is often what makes them the most effective. People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. Ask your church members, how can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel? Find ways, be practical and be consistent.

Go
The Bible is overflowing with commands, reasons, and motivations to go, serve and spread the gospel with your physical presence. It is not only important for some of us to go to difficult places long-term, but also for others to go to these places short-term in order to help our missionaries by encouraging and supporting them. Due to the travel restrictions caused by the current pandemic, you might consider “going” on virtual mission trip, which is an excellent way to pray, encourage, and connect with workers in hard places!  But as you go either physically or virtually, go for the benefit of your spiritual partners and the lost, not to fulfill your own dreams. There is a specific danger present in any type of mission trip that makes it about the individuals going instead of supporting strategy of the workers living on the field.

Also, be realistic about the results you will see during your time in a difficult area, or during your time of virtual trip. In many of these places, the work is long and often times they have yet to see the “harvest.” Radical Prayer, persistence, and patience in working the soil is required. The Lord is free to work in any way that He desires, but those who “go” must keep in mind that they might not see a massive turning to the Lord on their first trip.

As you partner with missionaries in difficult and possibly hostile locations, you are part of bringing unreached and unengaged people to the throne room of God. There are many places you could go or ways you can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, but the greatest blessing is to go and serve where the Lord calls you. The work is large, the challenges are daunting, the need is overwhelming, but the eternal value of even one soul is worth every bit of effort we can summon. Remember the words of the Lord Himself in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Even during the pandemic, we can help you Discover the Opportunities, Develop a Strategy, and Equip your Church to Pray, Encourage, Go! Whether you are just getting started or needing to start a new, our team can help you take the next step. Email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or call 502-654-3385.

Being Prepared

Hurricane Laura slammed Louisiana last Thursday as a deadly Category 4 storm. In Lake Charles, roofs were peeled off, buildings ripped apart, and lampposts scattered like twigs. This storm reminded us again that disasters come and can catch us unprepared for the devastation left behind. Being prepared increases our ability to survive and to respond effectively to help those affected.

The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength, however the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.”  Preparing the edge by sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more effective, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters. 

Top ten reasons to be trained in disaster relief:

  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 in times of disaster.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a disaster team.  Emergency Managers often list untrained volunteers as one of their greatest problems in times of disaster.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response. Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situational assessments and incident management.  Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas. Untrained volunteers are much more likely to be injured in disaster response as they are unaware of risk factors.
  6. Training prepares us to understand in a deeper way some of the trauma of disaster victims that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively. Becoming trained enables you to respond with appropriate skills and right resources.
  8. Training prepares the head by giving us needed knowledge that prepares our readiness. Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.
  9. Training and relating to a known disaster response group enables better security in disaster areas.  Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get access into disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  10. But the greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do and to achieve the best requires discipline, effort, and knowledge.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that, and even more importantly, God deserves that.

Upcoming Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief trainings are scheduled for:

September 12, 2020 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow

January 9, 2021 at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville

February 6, 2021 at Harlan Baptist Church

March 20, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Murray

April 10, 2021 at Red House Baptist Church in Richmond

You can learn how to become connected and register for training through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .

Prayer, The Church, and Christ’s Commission!

4 Reasons Why Prayer Empowers the Church on Missions!

“What we need in China is more workers. The harvest is very great, the laborers, oh! so few. Why does the Southern Baptist church lag behind in this great work?” – Lottie Moon, November 1, 1873, Tungchow

One of the greatest resources the church has for advancing the gospel is the ability to come before God in prayer and plead for what is already on His heart, the growth of His kingdom in the world. As we learn from scripture, in James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” When we wonder if prayer accomplishes anything, the book James encourages us not only is prayer powerful, but it is effective. James reminds us that prayer is not a waste of time, and that it pleases God to use the prayers of His people to accomplish his will!

Lottie Moon was not only a missionary, but also a revolutionary for global missions. As a teacher called to share the Gospel in China, Lottie Moon’s life offers believers a compelling narrative with powerful lessons. Her story of conviction, persistence, and courage to spread the Gospel throughout late nineteenth-century Northern China helped shape Southern Baptists’ global work for the Kingdom of God. Lottie understood the power and purpose of prayer, and the vital role it plays in every church’s call to fulfill the Great Commission.

Lottie Moon, November 11, 1878, Pingtu

“Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. … We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”

With that in view, here are four reasons why churches must pray for missions.

1. Jesus taught his disciples to how pray for missions and modeled it as he trained them.

Early in his training of the disciples, Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). Then, after facing the challenges of ministry, the disciples came back to Jesus and asked him to teach them how to pray. He brought them back to the same prayer in which the petitioner first cries out, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).

Later, Jesus would model how spiritual battles, to accomplish the Father’s mission, would only be won by faith through prayer as he cried out “not my will, but yours, be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

Before Jesus sent out the seventy-two, he pointed their faces toward heaven and said, “Pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send our laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Therefore, as we go to share Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, before community engagement even occurs, we must begin with prayer, and it must be an integral part of our daily lives! The church must never lose sight of the fact that training disciples to pray is the first step in bringing the gospel to the mission field. 

2. Prayer moves the heart of the church toward the heart of God for his mission.

After Jesus sent the disciples to the places he planned to visit and told them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:1-2), he said “Go! I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). They became part of the answer to their own prayer!

As IMB missionaries in Africa, my wife and I were blessed to lead a church planting team that saw the Lord do a mighty work, and prayer was an intentional part of the foundation. The Ugandan believers would gather weekly for early morning prayer and all-night prayer gatherings were not uncommon. In these times, God did something extraordinary, more powerful than any small group meeting or corporate worship experience. It was through prayer and fasting that God unified our hearts for lostness and gave us a church planting vision to reach Kampala for Christ. Out of these churches, missionaries were sent, church planters birthed, and a church’s heart was shaped for the kingdom.

During those days, God thought us how he uses prayer to shape the hearts of his people. Church, in order for us to have the boldness of Acts 4 and the clear direction of Acts 16, we must be on our knees asking God to open a door for His word! Through prayer, God reminds us of the powerful truth that He did not create us to live for Him, but instead, He created us to live with Him! Prayer requires us to totally submit to God’s sovereign plan for both the nations and our neighbors. Missions in the New Normal is Missions in the New Testament (Acts 4:12, 23-37). God will change our hearts, and he will open a door for His Word.

3. Prayer opens the doors in the world for the gospel to advance.

In Colossians 4:3-4, Paul asks the church, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ”. Prayer opens opportunities for the gospel to be shared that previously seemed closed, even in the midst of a pandemic!

In prayer, the impossible becomes practical. Like when Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church was praying and God released Peter, opening the iron gate leading into the city (Acts 12:10)In that experience, Peter realized that nothing would hold back the kingdom of God from advancing as the church prayed.

It is prayer that helps us connect with people who are open to the gospel. It is prayer that leads us to the right place at the right time to take the steps that only God could orchestrate. Prayer connects the church to the activity of God who is empowering his people to advance the message of his kingdom.

4. Prayer empowers the message of those going to share the gospel clearly and without fear.

Without prayer, fear will rule the hearts of those sharing the gospel. Paul knew his own need for courage to proclaim the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asked the church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. . .Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Paul faced his own timidity and overcame his fears through the prayers of the church. Through corporate prayer we realize no one is alone, and we strive together through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the church prays, the Holy Spirit increases the spiritual fervor of the body that affects all its parts.

It is imperative that a church prays and engages in the spiritual work of kingdom advancement. When the church prays, Christians begin to get a clearer glimpse of the mission. It is by prayer that God’s people move closer toward the heart of God for the world. It is by prayer that fears about sharing the gospel are defeated.

The mission and vision of God has not changed. It is by God’s marvelous design and for his magnificent Glory, that he calls his bride to fervently pray for missions. In these uncertain times, the church is being tempted to lose her first love, turn against one another, and vision-drift away from Christ’s Great Commission. Pastors, church leaders, missionaries, and members, we must be a people who are quick to repent and fervent in our prayers, lest the Lord may come and remove our lampstand!

The mission mobilization team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission! Please feel free to contact me, John Barnett (KBC Missions Strategist), by email [email protected] or text/call 502-654-3385. I will be happy to serve you or connect you to someone who can. The Lord is Good.

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”-Andrew Murray

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.”

On a Mission From God

Moses was chosen, called, and commissioned by the Lord to deliver and lead the people of God.  Though reluctant to lead at first, Moses demonstrated himself to be a skilled and effective leader.  His uniquely close relationship with God was the foundation of his leadership and enabled him to lead amid a diverse and often difficult group of people.  God himself spoke this validating word of Moses in Numbers 12:7, “He is faithful in all My house.” 

Throughout his journey of faith Moses demonstrated that leaders must have vision, perseverance, and the ability to endure the pain of leadership without compromising their character.  Our character as leaders is always on display to those around us and to those who follow us.  If we crumble and fall into the pit of unhealthy leadership and practices, it will have crippling and devastating consequences for the people entrusted to our care as leaders. If we are not healthy as church leaders then the family of faith will be vulnerable to the plague of disorder and dysfunction.

Humble leaders attract followers and create an environment of trust, and trust is vital to healthy relationships and healthy organizations. Arrogant, autocratic leaders may dominate for a time, but they do not build trust among those who follow them. And eventually, most see their kingdoms crumble around them in the tremors of seismic rebellion.  There is a difference in leading people and driving people. 

 Spiritual leaders have been entrusted by God to lead those whom God has placed in their care. Humble servant leadership is not weak leadership. For leaders, it is not between being strong or weak, the choice is between building God’s kingdom and helping people discover God’s purpose for their lives or building our own little earthly kingdoms and exploiting those entrusted to us.

Leaders who are strong and humble value the people entrusted to them, and when you find this kind of leader, you will find healthy and growing churches and organizations. This is the kind of leader that people will follow.  This kind of leader produces confidence in the heat of the battle.  This kind of leader inspires trust when storms arise.  This kind of leader motivates people to reach heights they never dreamed possible. Ultimately, this kind of leader enables people to reach the place promised to them by God.

It is a paradox that the one whom God entrusts in leadership can be both humble and visionary; he can be a person of grace and yet bold; he can be consumed and yet at peace; he can be filled with compassion and yet speak the truth without compromise. Moses learned the lessons of leadership as a shepherd in the desert and by answering God’s calling with trembling yet unwavering faith.  And in the end, it was said of him in Deuteronomy 34:10, “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

When leaders recognize the privilege of being chosen and called by God and give of themselves to humbly serve those entrusted to them, they are secure and can endure because they know, as Elwood Blues put it, that they “are on a mission from God.”

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. 

3 Keys for Sharing Christ with Muslims

For over two decades, the Lord has blessed me with opportunities to serve Him by sharing the gospel with Muslims around the world. As 1.8 Billion Muslims are fasting and praying during Ramadan in midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, now is the time for Christians to share Christ. Here are three keys:

1. Prayer and Fasting

Let us confess it before Christ. Christians usually fall short in this area. We profess to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, but all too easily we fall into the habit of relying on our own efforts. Among the conversions I observed, prayer and fasting were a common denominator, and God was moving. In order to reach peoples who are entrenched in other belief systems, we may very well need to engage in all-night prayer as our Lord practiced. It may mean fasting and pleading with God to break barriers and open hearts. Prayer and fasting are not man-centered ways to manipulate God or attempt to force his hand. Rather, they convey our utter helplessness to win souls. They express our total dependence upon the power of God, and the truth of the gospel (Matt 6:16-18)!

2. Real Relationships

There is no generic Muslim. There are diverse individuals who practice the same faith. When we think our calling is only to win people to Christ, it can turn the missionary task into something detached, impersonal, and faceless. Instead, we must realize and actively remind ourselves that it is our calling to win people to Jesus. We win individuals, and every person is not only an image-bearer whom God loves, but also every person needs Christ. Every Muslim I know said they knew of at least one Christian they could go to with their questions when God began to work in their lives. Maybe you can be that one. But you must be a true friend, even if they never convert.

3. Jesus Stories

Serving others is commendable, but it is not enough. The gospel is a message that must be verbally shared and carefully explained. A Muslim background believer I know once shared with me that Muslims view loving service from Christians as something that should be expected as if Christians owe them a debt. In other words, they think Christians should serve them because Muslims have the final revelation from God . . . or so they believe. It will never do to merely love and serve Muslims in the name of Christ. Humanitarian aid is wonderful, but it is not the ultimate need of Muslim people. The Word of God must be spoken to them. The gospel must be proclaimed. Muslims must be called into account before the true and living God. The Bible calls God’s Word “the sword of the Spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Acts of love and service are good, but they are not the heart of the missionary task.

It has become my practice to speak to my Muslim friends just like I would talk to a friend in church. I share what God taught me during my quiet time in his Word. I talk about stories from Scripture or Bible verses that apply to both of us. They may ask, “Are you trying to convert me?” I simply respond, “Only God can speak to our hearts and convince us of truth.” Until they walk away, I keep sharing the Word. As we pray and fast for Muslims during this Ramadan season, may we bring Jesus into every encounter with our Muslim friends, and trust him open hearts to gospel. Remember, it is never a matter of if, but it is only a matter of when the next person will believe. When the gospel is preached, the Lord changes heart for His glory.

If you or your church have any questions or want to learn more about reaching Muslims for Christ, please email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected]

Practical guide for family prayer and encouragement

Missions is a family affair. In Acts 2, the Bible records Peter’s powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost. As Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirt moved in the hearts of those who were listening. They pleaded with Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” Peter answered them and said, “Repent and be baptized!” 

As the people confessed their sins and became believers under the new covenant, Peter continued to explain that salvation was not only for them. As Peter explained in Acts 2:39, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 


WATCH A VIDEO PRESENTATION


As a parent, I am always seeking to equip and encourage my family to live a life on mission. My wife and I pray and ask the Lord to teach us new ways to be intentional in fulfilling the Great Commission at home and in our community.


One simple way to be intentional in fulfilling the Great Commission is to pray for and encourage the Body of Christ. In the book of Acts, The Bible teaches us the importance of encouragement as it relates to the fulfillment of Great Commission. In Acts 14:21-23, the Bible says that “after they (Paul and Barnabas) had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and say, “Through many tribulations we enter the Kingdom of God.” 

In the midst of this global trail and displacement from the coronavirus, here are some practical ways (or a practical way) you and your family can pray and encourage others in the Body of Christ:


Gather your family, read Acts 1:8, Acts 2:39, and Acts 14:21-23. Following the Acts 1:8 paradigm, let Jerusalem represent your local church and community, Judea (Kentucky), Samaria (North America), and Ends of the Earth (the world).

  • Jerusalem (Your Church and Community):
    1.  Pray, write a thank you card, short letter or email to your Pastor
    2. For younger kids, ask them, “Who is our pastor?” “How can we pray for him?” and have them write out or record their answers. Pray for your pastor and then let him know.
  • Judea (Your State: Kentucky):
    1. Teach your children to pray for a Kentucky Missionary.
    2. We have over 100 Kentucky Missionaries who need prayer and encouragement
    3. Go to the InterSeed website and download the monthly prayer calendar to pray for the missionaries across the state
    4. Email [email protected] to get a missionary contact info for encouragement
  • Samaria (North America):
    1. Teach your children to pray for our NAMB (North American Mission Board) missionaries.
    2. Share with them how our Baptist churches work together to fulfill the Great Commission through the cooperative program.
    3. Pray for these NAMB missionaries and Kentucky Baptist partners.
      1. Salt Lake City Bobby Wood
      2. Chicago: John Yi
      3. New York: Won Kwak (NAMB); George Russ (Metro NY Baptist Association)
      4. Cincinnati: Travis Smalley
    4. Email [email protected] to get a missionary contact for encouragement.
  • World (International Missions):
    1. Teach your children to pray for IMB Missionaries
    2. Go to the IMB website, click on one of the 9 Affinity groups around the world, watch the video, and use the pray guide as a family
    3. Pray for these IMB missionaries that the Kentucky Baptist are currently partnering with
      1. Sao Paulo: Aaron and Melissa Stormer; Scott and Joyce Pittman
      2. Zimbabwe: Nick and Kyndra Moore
      3. Central Asia: _____ (can’t give names, as you know, but the Lord knows)
    4. Email [email protected] to get a missionary contact for encouragement.


The key is to model for your children that our Faith and Hope is Christ, and that he will never live us or forsake us in the midst of trial. By taking time to pray and encourage your Pastor, Church leaders, or a missionary family today, you and your family will be participating in fulfilling the Great Commission! Perhaps, the Lord may open a new door for a Kingdom Partnership! 

You can download the Prayerwalking Guide and the Neughbor Survey from the Kentucky Baptist convention coronavirus resource page


JOHN BARNETT is a Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Strategist. Reach him at [email protected]

Baptist Leaders Call for Unified Care for Displaced People

This is a big enough issue and a big opportunity for the church to be the church in some of the most strategic areas here in the states and across the world. I think there needs to be a voice coming from our convention that would provide a structure for what we’re doing so that our efforts would be unified.” JEFF PALMER, BAPTIST GLOBAL RESPONSE

The world is on the move. Millions of people live far from their homes but are able to stay connected with their family through the use of technology. Because of this, leaders from a number of Southern Baptist agencies, state conventions, local associations and churches believe the time is right for a strategic plan to reach these people on the move.

According to Jeff Palmer, CEO of Baptist Global Response (BGR), there are about 70 million who are displaced in the world today. “This means they can’t go home for some reason. It could be because of a natural disaster, a war, terrorism or even human trafficking,” he said.

Conversations between leaders at the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and North American Mission Board along with leaders from the Woman’s Missionary Union, BGR, state conventions, local associations and churches led to a gathering on October 31, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky, for a listening session on initiatives to reach displaced people.

The conversations didn’t end there. In fact, they’re stirring a greater desire for collaboration on every level.

“There’s a growing desire among Southern Baptist Convention entities to communicate more and collaborate better when it comes to serving displaced people,” said Trent DeLoach, Send Relief coordinator and pastor at Clarkston International Bible Church in Clarkston, Georgia. “We’ve had opportunities at the SBC’s annual meeting to share the stage with other entity leaders and have this conversation,” 

“There’s no shortage of great work that’s happening on all of these levels,” said Jeremy Simmons, National Ministry Center director with the North American Mission Board. “I think we’re really working toward communicating the need between each other.”

Leaders with the IMB believe Southern Baptists must recognize they are living in a world where people are connected with people in more than one country; living in one country while maintaining their unique identity from their country of origin.

Terry Sharp, IMB conventions and network relations leader, believes this is an opportunity for a truly global strategy in reaching displaced people. “An exciting thing to me would be to see churches engage with people groups overseas through missionaries, but then also engage those same people who have been displaced and relocated in North America. They can be working with them simultaneously both globally and in North America.”

John Barnett, missions strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, says seeing this opportunity made an impact on him when his family returned to Kentucky after serving overseas with the International Mission Board. “One of the biggest impressions on me when we came back from overseas in 2015 was the internationals who were here. There were refugees in Louisville, Owensboro, Lexington and Bowling Green. We have an opportunity to build pathways here that will connect all the way back to the refugees home country.”

Building the pathway is the challenge, though. While the churches and entities are at work individually, the autonomous structure of Southern Baptist life can prove to be a challenge for collaboration.

Palmer believes, “This is a big enough issue and a big opportunity for the church to be the church in some of the most strategic areas here in the states and across the world. I think there needs to be a voice coming from our convention that would provide a structure for what we’re doing so that our efforts would be unified.”

Sharp echoes the sentiment, “We’re grateful for the Cooperative Program. We want to keep sending missionaries, but we hope Southern Baptists will realize that while we’re going to the nations, God is bringing them to us in the United States.”

Barnett recalls previous strategies to reach those in the “10/40 window. Ten years ago the International Mission Board was talking about engaging people in some of the most difficult places in the world. Now, God is spreading those people out all across the world. This is a wonderful time for the church to care for and to reach those people.”

Pray for the Lord’s wisdom and vision as leaders prepare for a second meeting in Atlanta on April 23, and get your church connected today. Here are some options to get started, you can visit our Displaced People Website http://www.kybaptist.org/stories/displaced-people,3748 and click one of the headings for next steps. Email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or call our team at 502-489-3529. The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your Church.