It’s interesting to note how often we use numbers to determine the success or effectiveness of our churches. We talk about how many attend on Sunday, the number of small groups, how many were baptized or the annual budget. If attendance is less this year than last, things must not be going well. However, that’s not necessarily true if the number attending is fewer because they’re sending out missionaries, ministry leaders and church planters. But how often do we describe a church by the number they’ve sent out?
Throughout the Word of God, it’s very clear that God’s people are to go because we are sent by Him (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8). So, why not describe the success of our church by how many went on mission trips, the number of members engaged in local ministry, or how many we’ve sent as missionaries or church planters. I think it would be exciting for this reason to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”
We typically celebrate growing attendance in church and grieve if the numbers are less than last year. But what if the numbers are less because we’ve sent more? The sending of missionaries, church planters and mission teams is reason to celebrate. Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation to realize less may mean more if the church is sending people out on mission. Our sending may mean a smaller number is gathering, but how exciting it would be! Let’s celebrate fewer people in our small groups and worship if it’s the result of more Christ followers going out with the message of Christ.
The focus of the church must change from how many gathered to how many were sent. It will be hard to talk over lunch or in meetings without asking how many attended small groups or gathered for worship this week. But by changing the conversation, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.
The nations are now our neighbors. Over a quarter of a million Kentuckians do not speak English at home, and nearly 180,000 citizens of the commonwealth are foreign born. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.
Population growth in cities like Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville has outpaced the growth of the church. In fact, we now have areas all over our state, both urban and rural, with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.
Our towns and communities are seeing culture shifts, as our nation continues to transition and deal with the impacts of a global pandemic. Attendance in churches continues to fluctuate, and many churches are having to learn news ways to engage their community with the gospel.
The good news is that many of our Kentucky Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance. The Gospel to Every Home and Acts 1:8 Mission Assessment Paradigm continue to help many churches and associations, as they reengage their communities with the gospel.
Is your church already playing a role in seeing our state reached with the gospel? Maybe you are strategizing to engage an unreached people group in your community, working in a partnership to revitalize a church, or preparing to launch a team to start a new church in a pocket of lostness. If so, it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy.
In Mark chapter 1, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). He calls some of his disciples, heals many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out demons. Then, in Mark 1:35-39, Jesus arises early and goes to a desolate place to pray. And when Simon and others who were searching for Jesus found him, they said, “Everyone is Looking for you.” But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” So, Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons (paraphrase vs. 35-39). Although Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he understood the purpose for which he had come, and it guided his path and influenced his decisions. Even though the Lord may not have shown us every step we should take to accomplish his mission, it should not stop us from developing an exit strategy.
Advancing with the end in mind Exit strategies have long been an important component of how missionaries engage peoples, cities and regions with the gospel. Effective exit strategies help with ministry alignment and evaluation, bring clarity in communication, establish healthy boundaries, and create a trajectory and momentum toward multiplying gospel work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky.
Developing healthy exit strategies It is one thing to have an exit strategy. It is another thing to have one that is effective. Here are a few considerations as you begin to think about developing an exit strategy to fit your context:
1. A biblical foundation: Start with a clear understanding of the mission and characteristics of a New Testament church. Then, map out clear objectives for church autonomy. A helpful question to ask is, “What biblically needs to be in place before we exit the work?” One reason churches lose strength, momentum and eventually die is that they do not have a strong biblical foundation. A great resource to consider as you think though the ecclesiological and missiological foundation in your exit strategy is 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church by the International Mission Board (IMB).
2. A vision for sustainability: A good exit strategy must address sustainability related to areas such as finances, leadership readiness, overall cohesiveness of a body and other practical issues. A key question to ask is, “What practically needs to be in place for this new work to be autonomous and sustainable long term?” With the high failure rate of new church plants in the U.S. (some suggest as high as 70-80%), we need to make sure we don’t exit before the new work is positioned well to stand on its own.
3. A commitment to ongoing relationship: Exiting does not mean abandoning. When the Apostle Paul exited his work, he maintained contact and relationship with local churches. As you think through your exit strategy, ask the question, “What will the ongoing relationship and support look like after we leave?” Think through what ways you will continue to relationally support and encourage the church. Clear expectations regarding the ongoing relationship will go a long way in the flourishing of a new work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky. As we begin to think more like missionaries, let’s consider how we can best craft and develop effective exit plans for the work to which God has called us.
I was reading in Acts 9 about when the Lord confronted Saul on his journey to Damascus. It is such an awesome story of a call to salvation and a call to be on mission.
In the story, the Lord confronted Saul with a bright light in a very supernatural moment. The Lord got his attention and gave Saul direct instructions. It was during that confrontation that his life was transformed, and he began proclaiming Jesus Christ, acknowledging that he is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).
Saul was called to rise and respond to the command of the Lord. And the Bible said that he did, and as we continue to read the Bible, we see how God used Saul (later changed to Paul) in some miraculous ways. In fact, Acts 19:11 says “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul.” In other words, he was put in a position to see some amazing things that God did through him because he answered the call to rise and respond.
But what if Saul had said “No!” First, he would have been in direct disobedience and even rebellion to the command of God. And we all know that God has ways of getting our attention and convincing us we need to obey. Remember Jonah? But secondly, he risked missing those moments of experiencing the amazing things that God did through him.
But what if Saul had said “Sure!” and then adjusted God’s plan? Again, he would have been acting in disobedience and not trusting God for the results. Saul would have hindered God’s best blessings for him.
But what if Saul had said “Yes!” and followed the Lord for now, but then later became complacent and allowed the excitement to wear off. Again, he would have been out of the will of God and miss out on countless blessings.
I think sometimes we all do the same things. Sometimes we react with an immediate “No!” In doing so, we miss experiencing moments of God’s amazing plan. We may even suffer his discipline until he gets our attention.
Sometimes we even adjust God’s plan because “we know better.” Or so we think. In doing so, we can miss God’s best for our lives.
And sometimes, and maybe more often, we are excited in the beginning but then become complacent once the newness wears off. It is in our constant serving our Lord when He shows us His best blessings.
God has ways of getting our attention to rise and respond to His call. He often gets our attention in several ways:
Through Suffering. When life is hard, unfair, painful, or just plain gut-wrenching, we have nowhere else to go but to the Lord. Those times opens the door for our learning, our trusting, our growing, and our preparing.
Through Supply. God at times gets our attention by giving us gifts, abilities, finances, resources, talents, positions and calls us to use those for His purposes.
Through Surprises. There are times that God gets our attention to rise and respond in unexpected ways, unexplained moments, or from unlikely people.
But I do know this, that God is calling us all to rise and respond. He has a plan for you, and He is waiting for you to say as Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:8 and Annanias said in Acts 9:10, “Here am I.”
He’s calling you to be on mission…now! Will you rise and respond?
We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight. In the midst of this migration, God is opening new pathways for the church to be on mission both locally and globally. Taking the gospel to the ends of earth is not only about being a sending church, but also a receiving church. It has always been God’s design for the gospel to spread to and through diaspora communities, or through those who have been displaced from their homeland.
Welcoming the nations locally
As God poured out His Spirit in Acts 2, the disciples began to fulfill the Great Commission by ministering among the diaspora in their midst. The apostles were preaching to, baptizing, and discipling the “devout men from every nation” who had come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. These men, both Jews and proselytes, had come from the Near East, Asia Minor, North Africa, Arabia, and from the known world. Under the apostle’s leadership, they formed the church, faced persecution, boldly proclaimed Christ, helped those in need, and God added to their numbers daily.
During the pandemic, God opened the door for KBC churches to embrace the displaced people across the state. One church was able to not only love, serve, and welcome a refugee family from an unreached people group to KY, but also to lead them to the Lord. Through Zoom, the team met Ibrahim’s mother, who still lived in a refugee camp in Central Asia. After hearing her son’s testimony, Ibrahim’s mom was willing to let an IMB worker visit her home. As she heard the gospel in her heart language, she not only came to know Christ, but also opened her home to host a Bible Study for women in the camp!
In partnership with World Hope Bible Institute, the Mobilization Team started a training center for international pastors in Louisville. Multiple pastors from across the state are providing theological education for 11 pastors from East Africa. Also, the Lord opened the door for KBC churches to partner and plant two new Congolese churches, and now these 11 pastors shepherd 4 different congregations.
Going to the nations globally
In Acts 8, God allowed persecution to send Philip to preach the gospel in Samaria, and God used an angel to send him to lead an Ethiopian eunuch to Christ in middle of the desert. In Acts 11, scattered believers from Cyprus and Cyrene preached about Jesus to the Greeks and many believed. They called themselves Christians and formed Antioch church. Then, in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit called out members from this church of displaced people to declare God’s glory among the nations.
In June, volunteers from 3 KBC churches went on an emergency trip to West Africa, in order to help IMB workers serve displaced people in crisis. On this trip, God used the team to not only open new pathways to love and serve those in crisis, but also to share the gospel with Muslims who have never heard. After sharing the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in one of the camps, one of the Muslim men said, “No one has ever told me that about Jesus. If Jesus can forgive sins, then that would make him God, right?” Now, local pastors are leading Bible studies in the camps.
Declaring God’s glory among the nations by ministering to and through the diaspora has always been a part of God’s global plan. The question for us is simple: Are we willing to join him? Discover the new opportunities for you and your church today. Contact John Barnett email: [email protected] phone: 502-654-3385.
There are several things we think about when sending a group from our church out on mission for a week or even a weekend. We expect those going on a mission trip to be people of integrity, faithful in their local church, bold in sharing their faith, and prepared for the work they’re going to do.
I’ve seen many requirements for going on a mission trip, but I don’t recall ever seeing “submissive” on the list. Our culture views submissive as a weakness so most don’t want to submit to anyone. So, should submission be a requirement for going on a mission trip?
What does submission mean? Google’s dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.”
Submitting means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. It means putting God’s desires above your desires.
Missionaries on the field with whom short-term mission teams work have prayed and sought the Lord’s direction concerning the people they’re trying to reach, strategies they use and ministry methods. Well-intentioned short-term volunteer teams generally arrive on the field, filled with excitement and zeal about the mission work they’re planning to do. They too, have prayed and prepared themselves for this experience.
However, sometimes teams believe they know better than the missionary how the work should be done and question, or even push against the methods or ministry plans. This creates tension and has the potential to minimize the effectiveness of the mission.
If there is a difference of opinions, an unwillingness by volunteer teams to submit to the missionary in authority shows spiritual immaturity. And, if the short-term team is unwilling to submit, it is the missionary who remains behind to correct things long after the volunteers leave.
The Bible has much to say about submission: to God (James 4:6-7), to political authorities (Romans 13:1-7), to church leadership (Heb 13:17), within marriage (Col 3:18), and even a general submissiveness of all Christians to one another (Eph 5:21).
We all have a lot we can learn about submission. Submission can be a very hard thing. When Jesus prayed for an alternative to the cross (Luke 22:39- 44), he wanted another way so badly that he sweat drops of blood. However, He chose to follow the Father’s plan even when it was hard. All of us should be extremely grateful that He did.
There may be times as a volunteer team member that you believe you know better than the missionary what is best and that what you’re being asked to do doesn’t even make sense to you. Like Jesus, you may find it hard to follow the plan, but exercise submission to the missionary in authority and trust our Father for the results.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” In the midst of the current tragedy, I want to recognize the beautiful, courageous, and marvelous Afghan people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Although many of their stories have yet to be told, their unwavering spirit, strength, and bravery is #notforgotten. Church, let us take time today to pray for them, and then let us take a lifetime to serve and embrace them with love of Christ.
Through our cooperative program giving (SBC), we (Kentucky Baptist) are able to have authentic impact by bringing help and hope to Afghan refugees as they resettle in communities around the world. Here is how you and your church can get involved today through SEND Relief, which is the global compassion wing of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are Stronger Together! *(Info below comes from SEND Relief):
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, storming across the nation and capturing all major cities within a matter of days.
In the aftermath of the political coup, a mass exodus is building as Afghans try to flee the country by the thousands. One group of Afghan refugees seeking escape are Christians fleeing immanent persecution, as well as other religious minorities, ethnic minorities and women and girls.
Send Relief is strategically working with World Relief and our trusted global ministry partners to minister to Afghan refugee families around the world. As refugees flee persecution and resettle in communities around the globe, Send Relief can connect you and your church with opportunities to give, pray and volunteer to support our response.
Your gifts to the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Fund will provide welcome kits, ESL classes, job interview prep and more. Give today to bring help and healing to Afghan refugees.
How You and Your Church Can Serve
There is extraordinary power in prayer. Please join us in praying over the Afghanistan Refugee Crisis using the prayer points listed below.
Pray for the Afghan people as they navigate political unrest, violence and persecution. Pray that they may find peace in Christ among overwhelming circumstances.
Pray that God would intervene and glorify His name in this tragic situation.
Pray for Afghan believers whose lives are being threatened by the new regime. Ask God to give them courage and strength.
Pray for Afghans at risk because of their service alongside the U.S. government and that they would be quickly and safely evacuated.
Pray that the millions of Afghans who have never heard the Gospel will have an opportunity to hear.
Pray for neighboring countries, as well as countries around the globe, as they attempt to host the surge of refugees coming out of Afghanistan.
Pray for Afghans who are desperately trying to leave Afghanistan.
Pray that those helping will be able to overcome obstacles as they facilitate the exits and relocations of Afghans.
Pray that the physical needs of those waiting at entrances and at the airport will be met, including protection, water and more.
Pray for favor and that pathways become available to safety and relocation.
Pray for countries to open their borders and for people to open their hearts to those being displaced from their homes.
Pray for those who will not be relocated.
Partner as a Church
In Kentucky, contact John Barnett, KBC missions strategist ([email protected]), to discover new opportunities and strategic pathways to help equip your church to love and serve refugees both locally and globally.
Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Do you have those people around you that just make you smile? There are various reasons why certain people make you smile, and those reasons can vary from person to person.
Some people make you smile because of past experiences of fun and laughter. As you reminisce about different people or events the smiles and laughter just come. Other people make you smile because of some dumb things they have done, or possibly you have done with them. I am sure that can bring back lots of memories full of smiles.
Then there are those who make you smile because of what they have accomplished. It might be the student that just graduated high school or college. A proud parent cannot help but smile at the accomplishments of their child. It could be you landed your dream job or found that “one” that you want to spend the rest of your life with. It makes your heart smile.
We smile at the funny things people say or do. I smile often at my grandsons at the things they say and the funny faces they make. Just the presence of their faces brings smiles. In fact, whether a spouse, a child, grandchild, or someone just special to you can bring a smile because they are important to you.
Then there are those who make you smile because of who they are. Because of their heart. Because of how they care, serve, and love others. They are special people who impact lives. And as you think about all they do and how they serve, you cannot help but smile with appreciation for their dedication and love for God.
I am blessed to serve Kentucky Baptists as the State Disaster Relief Director. Watching these disaster relief volunteers serve in some difficult situations, lodge in some uncomfortable places, and work in some hot and dirty conditions, yet come out with smiles on their faces eager to go again. This dedicated service is indicative of their heart. Seeing that heart to serve and love brings a huge smile to my face.
August 22 is Disaster Relief Appreciation Sunday across our churches in Kentucky. We are asking all of our DR volunteers to wear gold that Sunday. Be sure to thank them and show your appreciation to them as well. They are special people and just hearing their stories and seeing their heart, you will smile too.
Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Here we are in the middle of summer, and everyone is busy going here and there. Vacations are happening. Ball games are in full force. School is out, all the while preparations are being made for the return to school. Home repairs and upgrades are in full swing. Birthday parties. Celebrations. And the list goes on and on.
We all get so busy doing what we have to do. And of course, there is a list of those things we want to do. There are even those extra things we are asked to do. And before you know it, our time is gone.
But there are always needs. There is always someone who needs help. I was so encouraged a few weeks ago when one of our Kentucky disaster relief volunteers said to me, “I had planned to go fishing all week. I had nothing planned, so was looking forward to relaxing and fishing. But then there was a call to help those who had been affected by the floods in West Virginia.” And he realized that the need for those hurting was more important than the need to go fishing. What a testimony!
And the reality is, when you help someone else, you are a blessing to them, but you also receive a blessing. Above all, Christ is honored.
You don’t always have to give up a full week to “be on mission.” It might take you only a few minutes, a few hours, a full day or even more, but the Lord is just waiting on people to say, “I can help with that!”
We should live every day on mission looking for large and small opportunities to say, “I can help with that!” From a kind word or deed that brings a smile, to helping someone one with something that they simply cannot do it without help, “I can help with that!”
I’m reminded of the words of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
So, look around. Who do you see? What do you see? And can you say, “I can help with that!”
Thinking like a missionary is a reasonable service proposition (Romans 12:1). It is not extreme in light of what Christ has done for us. Following Jesus might seem radical or extreme at the outset, but once the initial step has been made the missionary mindset follows naturally.
Following Jesus re-wires our thinking. It changes every facet of our worldview. Christ is the light of the world, and His light enlightens us (John 1:4; 8:12). Far too often as Christians, we exaggerate the difficultly of choices that are normalized in the Scripture, i.e., sharing the gospel as a regular part of our daily walk with the Lord.
Life as kingdom citizens is joyfully different than the status quo. We get to live with a perspective focused on “things above.” For example, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As our Lord and Savior, Jesus modeled this kind of mindset for every believer. As born-again believers, God has filled us with the Holy Spirit, so that we might walk in His ways. Remember, it is Christ in us and not Christ and us!
We could try to identify the bottom-line indicators of the missionary mindset in a number of ways, but perhaps the simplest way is to look at a missionary’s priorities.
Missionaries are mission-oriented Jesus followers. They find joy in prioritizing gospel-mission over their own comfort. A believer with a missionary mindset makes decisions based on gospel-mission objectives.
Mission-oriented Jesus followers will answer life questions like “where should I live?” or “how should I spend my income?” in radically different ways than those living out the status quo for American citizens. However, these decisions will not seem radical to them. Far too often, a Jesus follower living in light of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will hear “I could never do that” from other believers as they observe their mission-oriented decision-making process. For the missionary, the life choices they have made seem joyful, fulfilling, and reasonable.
A natural and vital reprioritization is especially important if we are to fulfill our calling to make disciples who make disciples. If we are going to disciple others to lead, we must become leaders who intentionally live open and accessible lives. We must ask ourselves, am I willing to live a life that follows Christ at all costs? Is my identity in Christ and Christ alone? Do others see Christ in me?
Leaders must bring their disciples into their lives in a way that allows them to observe, learn and practice the same decision-making process that they live by. The new disciple must learn to see the world from a kingdom perspective. They must be led to apply the example of Christ’s life to every aspect of their own. If we are living for Christ and sensing the joy of a life lived on mission, we will invite other disciples into our lives and teach them to do the same. This will become the DNA that is passed on to second, third and fourth-generation believers. This does not mean that we will never face challenges, but that we will model, teach, and learn how to keep our identity in Christ in the midst of our sufferings.
Prayerfully, many of our kids and the next generation will not think that the missionary mindset is so “radical.” After all, it is a reasonable service in light of the good news. It is our joy to follow Jesus!
Here are some questions/thoughts to explore:
Would choosing to live in a specific neighborhood because of their need for the gospel seem like a strange choice to you?
Would accepting a particular work assignment because of the way it would position you strategically for gospel mission seem weird to you?
Would inviting someone to live with you or have free access to “private areas” of your life with the objective of discipling a new leader seem odd to you?
Add-on: Read the June 15 Blog Post below, “Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary”, for some practical first steps to take as you seek to live on mission for Christ.
I gave my life to Christ at the age of nine. I understood then, as much as young boy can, that I was making a commitment to become a Christ follower. That meant allowing Christ to control every aspect of my life. I knew that my life was no longer mine. I was to model my life, attitude and actions after Him. Whatever Christ did, I was supposed to do.
Scripture tells us to imitate Christ, walk as He did and follow His steps. (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21). I didn’t know that I would one day serve as a missionary or go on a mission trip. But I have come to understand that if I’m a Christ follower, I am also a missionary, because that’s what He was.
A missionary is defined by the North American Mission Board of the SBC as a person who, in response to God’s call and gifting, leaves his or her comfort zone and crosses cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission.
Jesus became the first missionary when He left heaven and came down to earth. God called His son to leave the comfort of heaven and go to earth. Now that’s a change of geography and culture for sure! His mission was to seek and save the lost who needed to be rescued. He engaged the indigenous people of the earth while proclaiming the Gospel. He lived His life as a witness to the Father’s love. What a missionary He was!
I want my life to reflect Christ and pray that people see Him in me. If I want to be like Christ in every way, it will mean going as a missionary because that’s what He did. I might not cross an ocean, but I will need to cross the street or grocery isle. I might not go to a foreign land, but I will need to engage the internationals in my community. I might not be sent by a mission agency, but I have been sent by Christ Himself (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20). I am thankful to be a follower of Christ AND missionary – you can’t be one and not the other.