The Cooperative Program is more than Money!

When I think of Kentucky Baptist, one word that rises to the top is generosity. Kentucky Baptist are generous people, who have a vision to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.  I do not take for granted the compassionate prayers, the personal commitment, and the financial sacrifice that Kentucky Baptist make to support missions and ministry efforts in our state, nation, and world. As a former IMB missionary from Kentucky and member of the Missions Mobilization Team, I am thankful for the faithful generosity of Kentucky Baptist in their passionate support of missions through the Cooperative Program.

As stated on the SBC.net website, The Cooperative Program (CP) is the financial fuel for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Since its inception in 1925, the CP has been the primary way Southern Baptists “do” the work of ministry together both locally and globally. Standing on the firm ground of the Great Commission, the CP is a powerful tool that has galvanized the missionary zeal of our denomination for the past 95 years.

The Cooperative Program is far more than money or a funding system for missions and ministry. It has been an effective means of bringing the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus. In a time when the many people are skeptical of institutional structures, the theological conviction and purpose driving the CP must be elevated above and beyond the tool itself. The tool is wonderful, but the vision of reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ is greater. Missiology is not methodology; it is applied theology.

Through Cooperative Program giving, the Lord allows us not only to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission, but also to fulfill a vision that is greater than ourselves. Each church plays a vital role in discovering the lost, making disciples, and strengthening and planting churches both locally and globally. Collectively, we can accelerate not only authentic gospel impact, but also sustainable gospel witness.  Here is what the Lord has taught me, through the faithful CP giving of our Kentucky Baptist:  

  1. It is Beyond me: I obey God by giving my tithe to our local church. My tithe, combined with the tithes of fellow members, enables our church to reach our community and to live on mission.
  2. It is Beyond us: Our church partners with thousands of others across Kentucky to support missions and ministry statewide through the Cooperative Program. Together, we equipped people to welcome and share Christ with refugee families from more than 10 countries, started a Bible institute to equip International pastors across KY, and partnered with International Churches to make discipleships among unreached people.
  3. It is Beyond Kentucky: As KBC churches partner with 46,000+ Southern Baptist churches, our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries across North America to reach people for Christ and Plant urgently needed new churches. Together, we helped Send City missionaries in Chicago, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and New York share Christ and plant churches
  4. It is Beyond the USA: Our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries around the world to share Christ and plant churches among unreached and unengaged people groups. Last year, CP giving helped over 3600 workers plant 12,368 churches and see 89,325 new believers! South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia are only a few of the locations KBC churches are with IMB workers around the world!

The strength of the CP is that it allows all Southern Baptist’s churches to prioritize, elevate, and participate in the Great Commission, by partnering together to make Jesus known Here, There, and Everywhere. This is why I am thankful for Kentucky Baptist generosity, and I proud to serve KBC churches as they seek to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. We are stronger together!

If I can help you develop, share, or equip your church on the impact of cooperative program, please contact me: John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, email: [email protected] or call: 502-654-3385

Simple Lessons for The Called

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

If I could break down all I have learned to share with a next generation of those called by God, I would offer these simplified lessons:

  1. Maintain integrity.  “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them” (Proverbs 11:3).
  2. Preach the Word.  Handle the Living Word of God accurately and herald the unchanging truth of God with conviction. “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  3. Offer application not just information when you preach and teach, because God desires transformation. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
  4. Be willing to engage in strategic innovation without compromising God’s unchanging message in an age where things are changing faster than anytime in human history. This is the heart of what the apostle Paul is sharing in 1 Corinthians 9: 22-23 when he proclaims, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
  5. Help people to navigate truth in a time of instant information. Wisdom is more than an accumulation of information, and discernment is vital in this age of information overload. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 offers us incredible wisdom, “But test all things.  Hold on to what is good.”
  6. Love the flock. Being an effective leader means nothing if you do not genuinely care about those God has entrusted to you. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” 9! Peter 5:2).
  7. Awaken a passion in followers of Christ to study the word. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
  8. Seek to inspire the church to be filled with a deep love for our Lord that is more than an intellectual knowledge.  Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us of this truth, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
  9. Maintain a balance in worship that keeps the Word of God elevated but does not devalue music, prayer, giving, the ordinances, and fellowship as essential elements of genuine worship. May we worship as taught in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
  10. Learn to work with people and to build unity in the family of faith. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling of which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

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 .

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.”

What is Missions in the New Normal?

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” As pastors and church leaders empowering our congregations to reassemble for worship and live for Christ in a post Covid context, we must ask ourselves and our churches some challenging questions. Has our hope and joy always been in Christ and the kingdom of heaven? As church buildings have been empty, attendance numbers not counted, budgets potentially altered, are we striving to simply return to normal, so we can persevere and endure as the church at Ephesus? Who or what is our first love? Is Christ calling us to “go” back to Church or to “be” the Church?

As a Great Commission people, we are called to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations, by either planting churches among those who have never heard of Christ, or by revitalizing churches among those who have forgotten about Christ. But during this pandemic, it feels like everything has been on hold. Church members are asking how to be the church in our current situation, and what does missions in the new normal look like?  

The book of Jeremiah reminds us that because of Israel’s unwillingness to turn from their idols, God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Israel and the temple. Most of the vessels of the sanctuary and many of the Jews were carried away to Babylon as slaves for 70 years. Israel had their nation and their identity taken from them, and they longed to get back to the way things were. The false prophet Hananiah told them what they wanted to hear, which was that they would return home in two years. But God told His people that while they were captives in Babylon, they were to build houses, plant gardens, and instead of decreasing, they were to marry and continue to increase. In addition, they were to seek the welfare of the city in which they lived and to pray to the Lord for it because their own welfare would come from the welfare of that city.

Their situation should resonate with us during this time. We must recognize that God does not always want us to get back to the way things were. He is doing something during this time to awaken His people. We may be in these circumstances for a while, or at least in some form. God uses times like these to challenge His people both personally and corporately. He desires idols to fall and the church to return to its biblical core.

So, what are we to do as we come out of this pandemic? How has God refined us during this situation, and what has changed moving forward? Remember, during this time of sheltering in place, many have been plowing new ground for the kingdom. The kingdom advances every time you teach Scripture in a Zoom Bible study and someone turns to the Lord or they surrender a part of their heart they have been holding on to. The kingdom advances every time someone who never would have come to church watches an online service. The kingdom advances every time the church is pushed to get away from traditionalism and to define their worship services by the core elements seen in Scripture. The kingdom advances every time another pastor stays the course instead of yielding to discouragement.

Pastors and church leaders, as the ones whom the Lord has called to feed His sheep, may we lead our churches to Repent of our Idols, Return to being the Church, and Reimagine Missions in the New Normal:

  1. Repent of our Idols
    • Idol of Event
    • Idol of Success
    • Idol of Gifted Leader
    • Idol of Busyness
  2. Return to being the Church
    • Return to the New Testament Vision of the Church
    • Return or revisit God’s call to Worship, Discipleship, Ministry, Fellowship, Evangelism, Prayer
    • Return or Revisit the characteristics of a healthy church
      • Evangelism, Discipleship, Membership, Leadership
      • Preaching and Teaching, Ordinances, Worship, Fellowship
      • Prayer, Accountability and Discipline, Giving, Missions
    • Return or Revisit leadership roles
      • Pastors equipping the saints
      • Servant Deacons caring for the vulnerable
      • Every Believer ministering the gospel
  3. Reimagine Missions in the New Normal
    • Maintain missions as our catalyzing principle
    • Ground our mission strategy in God’s Word. Missiology is not methodology; it is applied Theology.
    • Work together and serve one another. Individualism is killing the American church.

Shepherds, as we seek to be the church and share the gospel in the new normal, let our first love be Christ and His word!  Let us equip the saints to not only find their joy and identity in Christ alone, but also to share their joy and the hope of the gospel in a fallen world. Let us love and serve our families well, and may we be willing to sacrifice everything for the glory of God. Remember, missions in the New Normal is simply missions in the New Testament.

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact me, John Barnett, at [email protected] May the Lord continue to give us wisdom, as we continue to seek His face. (Ref: IMB, BSCNC).

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.”

It’s a Perfect Fit

For several years, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has helped local churches and associations to conduct medical and dental clinics that minister to the needs of people in their communities.  The clinics have traditionally been conducted on weekends during the months of March, April and May.  However, the work to meet the medical and spiritual needs of people through the clinics begins months earlier.   The KBC equips churches, assisting with volunteer and medical personnel enlistment, evangelism training, logistics, clinic set up and a follow-up strategy.   

One of the resources provided to churches hosting a clinic is use of a modern, state of the art dental unit owed by SEND Relief of the North American Mission Board.  The cost of the unit and supplies used while in Kentucky are provided by the KBC as a service to our churches. The unit has two operatories and is fully equipped to perform most any dental service, including x-ray. 

The dental unit was purchased with Annie Armstrong Easter offering gifts and is needed to perform the services provided at the clinics, but it isn’t nearly as effective without Martha Smith.  Martha has faithfully served as the primary coordinator on the dental unit since the KBC’s first clinic.  She was ready to go again this year, until COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the clinics scheduled for 2020. 

Martha has been working in dentistry since 1975.  She brings to the clinic each weekend she volunteers, her love for the Lord, her experience in the dental field and an infectious smile.  This ministry allows Martha to mix her two passions, dentistry and helping others.  “It’s a perfect fit for me!”  The weekends on the dental unit are long.  They begin with set up and prep before the clinic opens and Martha won’t finish till the clinic ends and everything has been cleaned and put back in its place. 

It’s obvious that Martha loves what she does and just as obvious is the fact that the dentists and assistants volunteering on the unit love her.  It’s not uncommon for a church hosting a clinic to ask, “is Martha coming again?”  

Martha shared with me that she enjoys listening to and sharing with those who come to the clinics for help. God has opened her eyes through the ministry to the many problems and difficult situations people find themselves in.   They come to the clinics for medical and dental help, but Martha knows that their real need is spiritual healing that only Jesus can provide. 

Martha is thankful that God has provided this avenue of ministry for her.  “I don’t know why Christians think they need to go overseas to serve, when there are so many opportunities for using our gifts and sharing the gospel right here in our own communities”, she said. 

I’m excited and thankful that Martha is willing to use the gifts God has given her for His glory.  She and so many others are blessed because of her obedient service.  Christ followers will always find it a “perfect fit” when we use the gifts and talents God has given us for His glory. 

Listen, Lament, Pray, Repent

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. The Gospel is about reconciliation with God through Christ that results in peace between all relationships, where God and man, man and woman, humanity and creation can flourish and work as He intended. As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ, and we are to proclaim the gospel to people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Questions: How do we partner with Him? How do we become faithful, obedient witnesses?

As the Body of Christ, it is not just in the wake of scandal, civil unrest, abuse or unjust actions, that we should speak forth the gospel, but in all places to all peoples where brokenness reigns and Jesus’ kingdom is not being reflected or preached. As believers in a fallen and broken world, we should continually lament, confess, repent, and seek reconciliation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some steps to help us in these challenging days:

  1. Acknowledge that these are not isolated incidents. Abuse, racism, mass shooting, brutality, corruption, and war are not isolated incidents. Violence, oppression, land theft, racialization, classism, and genocide against people of color and other vulnerable people exist not only in other countries around the world, but also in the US as well. Poverty, inequality, and abortion are not one-off happenings and the scourge of greed, self-absorption, and fractured families are part of every community and daily life in a fallen world. Current events are moments that push suffering to the forefront of man’s consciousness, but this suffering is constant. As believers in the States, we need to speak out against racial oppression and atrocities that are committed against our neighbors, who are black and brown, not only today and tomorrow, but also every day until the Lord returns. Romans 12:15-16 says, not only to rejoice with those who rejoice but to mourn with those who mourn. As the church, we must place our hope in Christ alone, and work together as His ambassadors!
  2. Please stop talking and listen. Take time to listen to those people in pain and who are immobilized by grief and wrestling with anger and rage because of the constant and consistent suffering and violence in the world highlighted by events in the headlines or a particularly tough season in their lives. Read James 1:19-20.  
  3. Lament and Confess.
    1. Cry. There is no shame, condemnation, or weakness in weeping.  Share with a friend, pastor, or leader out loud why you are angry, sad, or afraid and allow your emotions to come. Read Psalm 13 or 88 and write out these truths in your own words if you have difficulty getting thoughts together.
    1. Confess: It is sin and violation of God’s purposes in this world when we crush the image of God in other people either implicitly or explicitly by actively oppressing the poor and marginalized or passively allowing them to continue. Read Psalm 103 and write these truths in your own words if you have difficulty.
  4. Forgiveness and Blessing.
    1. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah enters God’s Holy presence, and he is convicted of sin and immediately confesses. Instead of being condemned, he was cleansed and sent out as a witness. Similarly, when we confess our sinfulness before God, He is just and mighty to forgive us, not condemn us.
    1. Ask the Lord to expose any tensions or challenges of prejudice, racism or unexposed anger or bitterness in your heart. If needed, ask your neighbor, brother, or sister for forgiveness for your words, deeds, actions, or inaction.
  5. What does it look like to Repent & Reconcile practically? Repentance means that we turn away from our sin by confessing our sins to Christ, asking for forgiveness, and following God’s word in deed and action through the power of the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation is the work of God, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to bring about peace with God and man. Here are some first steps:
    1. Pray: Alone or with a group, grab your bible, a journal and pray. If you do not know how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-12 is a great place to start. You can email [email protected] and we can share some resources with you as well.
    1. Proclaim: Read Psalm 24. In it we see that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. That means our schedules, finances, the ground we stand on, the air we breathe, and the bodies we have belong to Him. Write down the time, talent, and treasure that you have and ask the Lord to show you can use those gifts to share gospel and be an ambassador for Christ! Praise the Lord for what he has given to you and offer it ALL back to God because He gave it to you!
    1. Partner: With the time, talent and treasure you brought to God, look at ways you can partner with your church and leverage them to share Christ and serve the poor, marginalized, oppressed, and displaced people in your community, state, nation, or around the world. Then, follow through with what the Lord shows you. Keep in mind, success is not in the progress but the obedience to the God who loves us.

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, concerns, or need help getting connected, email me at [email protected] or call 502-489-3404.

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.

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]