Tearing Down the Walls

In November of 1989, the East German government announced it would allow limited travel across the West German border.  within hours of this news, hundreds of thousands of East and West Germans gathered around the Berlin wall.  A massive celebration erupted and people began spontaneously tearing down the wall with hammers and chisels.  The rest is history, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.  The wall that had divided the people was brought down.

May I ask, are there any walls in your life that divide you from others?  Walls that place you on one side and separate you from those other folks?  Perhaps the young adult with more tattoos and piercings than you find comfortable?  Maybe that Syrian family that just arrived at the airport?  Could it be the Latino family who moved to your neighborhood?  Or that homeless person standing on the street corner near your workplace?  And if you really want to get personal, how about those Samaritans?

In Jesus day, there was a huge invisible wall that stood between Samaritans and Jews.  The two cultures had hated each other for over a thousand years or so.  Jews believed that Samaritans were half-breeds, and those who had rejected the true faith by marrying pagans.  A Jew counted a Samaritan as a little less than a stray dog.

Jesus, however, broke all the rules.  Jesus had reached out to a Samaritan woman at a well and shared that God was more concerned with worshipping in spirit and in truth than whose family you were born in.  Jesus showed us that God loves the world…every person in the world.

That is why we read in Acts 8 that God sent Philip to preach Christ in the city of Samaria, and revival broke out.  God’s hammer was tearing down walls.

But God was not through.  He sent Philip on a second cross-cultural mission, and as he journeyed, his path intersected with an Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip shared with him the truth of the Gospel, and the Ethiopian became a baptized follower of Christ.  The walls of race were hammered to the ground, and the two became brothers in Christ.

Walls always divide us.  God desires to bring down the walls and to unite us as family in Christ.

We cannot experience the life that God wants to give us unless we are willing to lay aside our bias and prejudice. Who is the Samaritan in your world?  Who is the Ethiopian eunuch that God has brought across your path?   Will you take God’s hammer and help Him bring down the walls?

Kentucky Baptists have always been willing to go to the airport and travel to the farthest corners of the world for the sake of the Gospel.  God is asking us today; will we be just as willing to go to the airport to meet a refugee family for Christ’s sake?  Would we be willing to go down the street and offer a little hospitality to the family that looks a little different from us for Jesus?

Will we be those who tear down the walls?

Interested in becoming involved with a refugee family, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office to learn more at (502) 489-3527 or by ewmail at [email protected]

 

 

Missions Participation Involves Sending, Going and Making

The idea of Christ followers being involved in missions is supported throughout scripture. Two very familiar passages are Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Both record the words of Christ, telling His followers to go and make disciples of all people by being His witness in all places.

The church is not supposed to only study or learn about missions. The Bible is clear about our responsibility and uses action words like “send”, “go” and “make” disciples to emphasize the church’s role.  A church that is sending, going and making will experience a high level of missions participation by its members. Participation in missions is critical to healthy church development, individual spiritual growth and advancement of the gospel.  How exciting it is to learn of churches that are missions active, rather than simply missions minded.

Below is a list of Kentucky’s top ten churches, in terms of missions participation. Missions participation refers to mission trips, church planting efforts, local ministry projects and disaster relief responses.  Each of the churches has earned recognition because they had a greater percentage of their worship attendance participating in missions this year than they did the previous.

  1. Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, Lewisport, Jerry Dalton, pastor.
  2. Charleston First Baptist Church, Dawson Springs, Patrick Yates, pastor.
  3. East Hickman Baptist Church, Lexington, Kevin Davidson, pastor
  4. Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, Catlettsburg, Mike Blankenship, pastor.
  5. Tiny Town Baptist Church, Guthrie, James “Buck” Tidwell, pastor.
  6. Williamstown Baptist Church, Williamstown, Terry Leap, pastor.
  7. Little Flock Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Rodney Alexander, pastor.
  8. Salem Baptist Church, Irvine, Jerry Smith, pastor.
  9. Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Nancy, Patrick Patterson, pastor.
  10. Gamaliel Baptist Church, Gamaliel, Danny Pace, pastor.

Pastor “Buck” Tidwell shared that Tiny Town Baptist Church experienced an increase in missions participation because of their initial involvement in Operation Inasmuch a year ago.  Not only did that single day of community engagement through missions projects involve a large percentage of their Sunday morning attendance, but a weekly backpack ministry to needy children was birthed as a result. Now, every week members are participating in missions because they were first encouraged to participate in a one-day mission event.

I don’t know how or why all of the churches saw increased missions participation, but I do know that the more seeds that are sown, the greater the Kingdom harvest. Pastors should lead their people to participate in missions because we’re commanded to do so and we have a gospel to proclaim.  However, there are benefits to churches that are sending, going and making disciples through missions participation.

Benefits to the missions participating church include: 

  1. Improves health and vitality.
  2. Generates passionate and exciting worship.
  3. Stimulates revitalization and growth.
  4. Develops disciples.
  5. Puts emphasis on people, not buildings or budgets.
  6. Turns focus outward, rather than inward.
  7. A greater Kingdom harvest because more seeds are sown.

My prayer is that more churches will experience an increase in the number of people participating in missions, but it won’t happen accidentally.  It demands an intentional effort by the pastor and church leadership.  What will you do in your church to encourage greater missions participation that calls people to send, go and make?

Will Your Life Count?

Where does time go?  It seems only yesterday that I was playing right tackle for the Greenback Cherokees.  Just minutes ago, I was looking into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world as I said, “I Do.”  And our children, how could they all have grown up so fast?

Somewhere it hits us all.  Maybe it is at your grandmother’s funeral.  Perhaps it is when your older brother left for the Marines.  For some of us, it is when we make our first house payment, or at our daughter’s wedding.  But there comes a time when we realize that life is more than ballgames, pizza, and homework.  Time is marching on. The days of our life pass quickly.

The Bible tells us that God has ordained the days of every person’s life.  In Psalm 139:16, we read, “All the days ordained for me were recorded in Your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

Our life is a gift from God and a seed of our parents.  Every life is unique.  There is no one exactly like you in the universe.  No other person can live your life.  When your days are done, there is no recycling bin to recreate you for another round of use.  We only have one chance to make our life count.  So can I ask you, what are you doing with your one-and-only life?

When all is said and done, will your life have counted for something?   Will it have mattered for eternity’s sake?

Can I ask you a couple of questions?

  1. If you had lived in Nazi Germany as a believer in Christ, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?
  2.  If you had lived in Alabama in the 1960’s, would you have spoken out against racism?
  3. When your grandchildren discover that you lived among the wealthiest generation in the history during a time when someone dies of starvation every 2.5 seconds, and a child dies from unclean water every 20 seconds, how will they judge how you chose to live and what you did with the blessings that God has given you?
  4. In a time when 2/3 of our world still needs the Gospel, can you name one thing last year that identified you as being on mission for Jesus?
  5. At your funeral would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you as a Follower of Christ?

These first two questions are easier, aren’t they?  They are just hypothetical.  I want to believe that I would have had the courage to stand against evil and racism.

It is those last three questions that trouble me at times.  For they are not hypothetical.  These are about the choices that I am making today with my life.  We choose each day what we will invest our life.

You and I were created by God to make a difference for His sake in our allotted time.  To make our life count now and beyond the grave.  To do our part to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.  In the end, nothing else will really matter.

Are you on mission for the sake of Christ?

Will your life count?  

Want to learn more about how to make your life count?  Contact the Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at (502) 489-3530 or [email protected]

NO Excuses!

It’s a pretty straight forward command, GO!  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, Matthew 28:19.

Since we’ve been commanded to go, we need permission in order to be excused from going.  Unless you’ve received special permission not to go, you better find out where God is sending you.  Jesus left the comforts of heaven and His place at the Father’s right hand to come to earth and He became our substitute on the cross at Calvary.

He told His disciples to go and acknowledged that many excuses would be given for why they couldn’t. The lame excuses that were given 2,000 years ago are the same ones we try to use today.

Here are some of the excuses given for not going –

  • Have to care for elderly parents (Luke 9:59–60).
  • Need to get everything in order first (Luke 9:61–62).
  • Must know what I’ll be doing before I commit to go (Luke 9:57–58).
  • Enjoying success where I am (Luke 5:1-11 & Acts 8:25-40).

Do any of those sound familiar to you?

It’s much easier to go when we don’t have family to take care of, I get that.  But it doesn’t excuse us from going if He has called us.

Waiting till everything is in order doesn’t excuse us from going when God calls either.  Delayed obedience is still … disobedience.

We can’t always know the details concerning the how, when and where of our call in advance. Many times those things aren’t shown to us until we’ve said yes to Him.

A successful ministry can be one of the greatest hindrances to going where Jesus wants us to go.  We may try to excuse the call to go elsewhere if we are comfortable and our current ministry is going well.

Jesus hasn’t given us permission to be excused from going where He leads.  We are to follow hard after Christ and He determines the timing and direction.  We are to adjust our lives and obediently go as He has commanded.  Have you adjusted your life to follow Him? Or would you prefer He make the adjustments?

He may lead you next door to share the gospel with your neighbor or to the other side of the world.  I’ve heard it said, “if it is important to you, you will find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse”.  Nothing is more important than taking the gospel to lost people in obedience to Christ’s command for us to go!  Will you go with NO EXCUSES whenever and wherever He sends?

by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, KBC

Cooperative Missions and Racial Reconciliation

I can’t remember a time in my life when the tensions between “races” has been so high.  The hatred at times seems like it is swelling to the point of bursting.  From politicians to athletes, everyone seems to have an opinion and a response to the injustices and protests against inequality.  The church of our Lord must not remain silent on this issue.  More so, the church of our Lord must not remain passive on this issue.

 

In 2015 the Kentucky Baptist Convention passed a resolution on cooperative missions and racial reconciliation.  In essence, the resolution affirmed our creation by God from one bloodline and our command to make disciples of all nations.  The resolution further confessed our misappropriation of “race” as sinful against black, brown, and yellow image-bearers throughout our nation’s and state’s early history.  In fact, we erroneously “defended the right to enslave African peoples, treating them as chattel, stifling their ability to pursue life, liberty, and economic autonomy.”  Because of our racialized thinking, we hindered multi-ethnic cooperative missions for the first one-hundred years of Kentucky Baptist existence.

 

Therefore, as a convention, we are resolved to unite together for the advancement of the gospel as a “symphony of multiracial voices who glorify the slain and risen Lamb (Rev 5:9-10).  In acknowledging our past sins of racism, we further resolve to live out the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit “in relationship with black, brown, and yellow brothers and sisters in our great Convention.”  Furthermore, we commit to “intentionally pursue at least one ethnic minority congregation in mutual friendship and love in order to reach our world for the glory of God.”

 

Resolutions are good insomuch as they have feet.  The gospel of Jesus compels us not simply to place ink on paper for resolutions, but to link arms and to serve together for God’s glory among the nations.  It’s one thing for us to vote on resolutions or even to “amen” the truth that Jesus breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that exists among differing groups of people (Eph 2:11-22).  Yes, the world needs to hear our denials of racism (all forms of racism) and our affirmations that all people are created equal and are thus image-bearers of God.  But it is altogether different for them to see us live these denials and affirmations out to a watching world.

 

Our brother James was pretty plain about truth without any action.  He said the two are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, they go hand in hand.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  In other words, it’s one thing for us to pass a resolution; it’s another thing to live it out.

 

I am encouraged by what I see among Kentucky Baptists seeking to live out not only a resolution, but what gets at the core of the gospel.  Jesus “reconciles us both (all groups of people) to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:16).  What the world needs to see in the midst of continued hatred across differing ethnic groups is the change that the gospel brings.  The world needs to witness the joining of arms and the serving of feet that are red, yellow, black, brown, and white.  For indeed, each of these are precious in His sight.  Kentucky Baptists, let’s live out the gospel by serving together as one new body in Christ, and demonstrate to a watching world that Jesus restores what was once broken.

Written by Doug Williams,  Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Strategist.

Global Hunger Sunday

When Southern Baptists observe Global Hunger Sunday on October 8, they will be called to act on the commands of Scripture.  The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw the hungry and hurting multitude in Matthew 14, “He had compassion on them…”  He healed and fed those who flocked to Him.

Scripture is filled with God’s compassion for the afflicted, broken, and hungry.  Isaiah 58:10 teaches, “And if you offer yourself to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness and your night will be like noonday.”

Compassion is more than a warm, fuzzy thought.  Compassion is a movement and desire in your gut that compels you to act.  The Global Hunger Fund gives us a way to act on the gut-wrenching scenes of need that are painted across the landscape of our world.  The Global Hunger Fund presents us opportunities, as God’s people, to make a difference for the sake of Christ.

The Global Hunger Fund gives us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to:

  • a single mother and five children suffering from famine in Lesotho;
  • a Christian family needing a touch of hope in the refugee camps of Northern Iraq;
  • an infant needing clean water in a remote village in Mozambique;
  • a hungry child in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky;
  • and to the multitudes weary and hurting in forsaken corners of our world.

Since its inception in 1974, Southern Baptists have given more than 235 million dollars through the Global Hunger Fund to meet needs both at home and abroad.  Tragically, in recent years, the amount given to the Global Hunger fund has been decreasing.

However, hunger needs have not diminished, nor has God’s love for those who are hungry, sick, and thirsty.  This God-driven fund helps families survive disaster and famine, provides clean water and medical care, improves health and nutrition, and most importantly helps countless people to hear of the hope and Good News of Jesus Christ.

On October 8, will you do your part in helping Southern Baptists respond to a hungry world?

Would you consider giving the cost of a meal out to help provide food for a hungry family in Eastern Kentucky?

Would you consider giving a gift of $25 to provide clean water in a forgotten village?  

Would you give $100 to provide medical supplies to a refugee camp in the Middle East?

Would you consider giving $500 to provide food for widows, orphans, and single mothers in a famine-stricken village?

Would you give a gift of compassion that someone may know the hope of Christ?

Give to the Global Hunger Fund on World Hunger Sunday, October 8!

Ministry Involvement Makes You Healthier

“Christians are equipped for service that lowers their blood pressure…”

Okay, so Ephesians 4:11-13 doesn’t say it quite like that.  It does say however, that we are equipped for works of service, and according to a recent study, works of service may just lower your blood pressure.

The study suggests that engaging in volunteer ministry can make you healthier by lowering blood pressure.  The study, by Rodlescia Sneed, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, involved over 1,100 adults. The adults were interviewed about their volunteer service and had their blood pressure checked at the beginning of the study and once again four years later.  All of the participants had normal blood pressure readings at the time of the first interview.

Regardless of the type of volunteer ministry or service the participants were involved in, those who said during the first interview that they regularly served in volunteer ministry or service were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure four years later than those who did not serve.

Why?  According to Sneed, “Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise.  There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes.”

What does that mean? It means God built us to connect with each other, and to serve each other and Him.

1 Peter 4:10-11 teaches us “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Christ followers have been equipped for ministry and we should use whatever gifts we’ve been given to serve others. It’s easy to see that ministry and service to others is expected of the Christ follower.

But there’s more: serving is a blessing, too. Proverbs 11:25 offers us the promise that “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

There are countless opportunities to engage in ministry service locally, throughout Kentucky, nationwide and around the world.  Discover how God has equipped you and commit to utilizing those gifts, talents, skills and experiences for His glory.  Check out www.kybaptist.org/GO for a list of opportunities.

When we are obedient to the Lord and serve, we receive a blessing. That blessing just might be lower blood pressure.

Why Get Trained?

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief offers several training opportunities every year for volunteers to become trained in disaster reponse., and to get connected with this Christ-centered ministry.

Why get trained?  Let me give you several reasons, why it is important to be trained if you want to respond in a positive and effective way in times of disaster:

  • People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
  • Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
  • Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to provide appropriate assistance and correct information to those affected.
  • Untrained volunteers lack expertise to genuinely help those who have suffered loss, and are unprepared to handle the emotional trauma of victims.
  • Untrained volunteers are unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.  
  • Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management; and, because of this, usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  • Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get site access in disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  • 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.

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 2017 and 2018:

September 16, 2017 – First Baptist Church of Richmond

January 13, 2018 – First Baptist Church of Grayson

February 10, 2018 – Mexico Baptist Church in Marion

March 10, 2018 – Shelbyville First Baptist Church

April 14, 2018 – Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green

September 15, 2018 – Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin

For more information, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office by phone at (502) 489-3527 or (866) 489-3527, by email at [email protected], or register for training at www.kybaptist.org/dr/.

 

Why Ready Church?

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has developed a strategy plan called ‘Ready Church” to help local churches to minister when disaster strikes in their community.  Ready Church seeks to assist churches in preparing a response strategy for disaster and crisis events  for the sake of Christ.

Why Ready Church?

Because most churches and organizations fail to prepare for any kind of disaster, and thus are caught unprepared and ill-equipped to minister in times of crisis.

Why Ready Church?

Because Kentucky averages a flood event every 6.5 days.

Why Ready Church?

Because Kentucky averages 14 tornadoes a year.

Why Ready Church?

Because Kentucky lies along the New Madrid earthquake fault line.  It is estimated that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake or larger would impact 90,000+ people in Kentucky.

Why Ready Church?

Because Kentucky communities will be impacted by ice storms, loss of electricity, fires, industrial accidents, workplace and school violence, and other crisis events in the coming days, 

Why Ready Church?

Because people need the compassion of Christ in the loss of disasters and crisis events.

Why Ready Church?

Because people need Christ, and are often opened to the Gospel when compassion is demonstrated in the midst of crisis.

IS YOUR CHURCH READY?

“And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that we may not be unfruitful.”  (Titus 3:14)

For more information or to schedule a consultation to help your church become better prepared for disaster events in your community, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office by phone at (502) 489-3527 or (866) 489-3527, or by email at [email protected]

 

 

Love Crosses All Barriers

When it comes to refugee resettlement in the U.S., this last year has been a difficult one with many ups and downs.  Presidential debates, travel bans, Supreme Court decisions, terrorist attacks by immigrants and passionate people on both sides of the argument have made refugee resettlement a very polarizing issue in America. There is a lot of discussion and division about how to respond to foreigners entering our country, even among some members of the Church.  I understand the issues are complex and I don’t pretend to know everything about immigration.  But I witnessed something this weekend that reminded me how important it is to simply love people, even foreigners and strangers.  

I am part of a host team at my church for an Ethiopian family that has just arrived in the U.S.  There are many responsibilities for our team, like setting up housing, enrolling kids in school, teaching the family how to shop at a “food store” and ride public transportation, or showing how and when to take the trash to the street for pick up.  Learning how to do the simplest of tasks can be overwhelming for a refugee who doesn’t speak the language or know the culture, but who has so many new things to learn and remember.

We spent most of the day Saturday doing many of these things with our new friends.  While we were busy helping Abdella and his family, my five-year-old grand-daughter was connecting with his five-year-old daughter.  His daughter doesn’t speak English and my grand-daughter doesn’t speak Swahili, but it only took a short time for them to cross cultural, racial and language barriers with a piece of chalk on a concrete driveway, because love knows no boundaries.  Very soon, they were laughing and playing as if they’d always known each other.  Love had crossed several barriers.  Our desire as a host team is to overcome the barriers of race, culture and language by loving this family so much that they will come to know the One who is love.

While there may be different opinions concerning how the government should administer immigration, the Bible has something to say about how we should love and treat others, including the foreigner living among us.  The following scriptures are only a few of the many, that give us wisdom about how we should love refugees.

  • Leviticus 19:33-34, love refugees as yourself.
  • Leviticus 19:9-10, leave food for the poor and the foreigner.
  • Deuteronomy 10:18-19, God loves the foreigner living among you.
  • Ezekiel 16:49, the sin of Sodom was that they did not help the poor and needy.
  • Exodus 23:9, do not oppress a foreigner.
  • Malachi 3:5, do not deprive foreigners around you of justice.
  • 1 Kings 8:41-44, do whatever the foreigner asks of you.