I recently overheard a conversation among friends about a company that fired an employee after he refused to follow the demands of his supervisor. I chimed in that “he deserved his punishment” and shouldn’t have been surprised since he knew what was expected of him when signing on for the job.
Several days later while preparing for a missions workshop in our state, I read again the familiar Acts 1:8 passage, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.
While the concept of insubordination is often linked with the military, it can as I’ve already referenced, also occur in the workplace. But does it occur in the church?
Webster’s dictionary defines insubordination as “not obeying authority or refusing to follow orders”. Before being taken up into heaven, Jesus gave final orders to His apostles, and to us in Acts 1:8. Has the church failed to obey His authority and refused His orders?
I’m not an attorney, but as I understand it, there are several characteristics that must be present before a situation can be considered insubordination. First of all, the order must be clear and in the form of a verbal or written statement. If Jesus had said, “I suggest that you guys consider being witnesses after I’m gone,” it would not be considered an order or a command to follow. God made sure that this command was recorded in the scriptures to ensure that we would understand His expectation of us.
Additionally, if it’s insubordination, the order must be proper and cannot violate the law. Being His witnesses doesn’t violate the law, at least in very many places in the world. But it definitely doesn’t violate God’s law. It only seems appropriate, that if His message is going to go to the ends of the earth, His followers must be the ones to take it.
I don’t know of a church that has directly refused to be His witness. Yet many members have done their own thing and failed to be witnesses of Christ in their community, state, nation or world. However, whether direct or indirect, it’s still insubordination if the order is not carried out. So, are you guilty of insubordination or are you actively involved in carrying out the command given by our authority, Jesus Christ?
The summer months are usually busy with activity as groups go on mission to share Christ. In years past, mission trips were typically only taken during the summer when school was out. But many more groups are exploring other times of the year for engaging in volunteer mission efforts, like fall break and Christmas vacation. Many collegiate ministries will raise funds and travel out of state or internationally on mission trips during spring break. And believers of all ages will spend a week or more of their summer this year on a mission trip with their church or family. But why is it that we are going?
We’re quick to call everyone going on the mission trip a missionary, but is that really true? Is it possible that some individuals go on mission trip as a tourist and not a missionary? You may be asking “what’s the difference”, so let me explain. Yes, both are going, and perhaps to someplace new, but their “why” in going is dramatically different. Tourists go because of the place. However, missionaries go because of the people and their need for Christ. Jeff Iorg, in his book, “Live Like a Missionary”, addresses this very subject, suggesting that a “missional Christian prioritizes impacting people – not going places – as his or her ultimate objective.”
Yes, God does call us to go and make disciples and many times that involves traveling to another state or country. But always, God’s focus is on the people who need a relationship with Him, not the place. I’ve encountered Christ-followers who considered where they were going on their next mission trip by where they’d not yet been. Almost as if they were checking states or countries off a map to see how many different places they could go on a mission trip.
My prayer is that every Christ-follower would be on mission and willing to go wherever God leads. But let the emphasis be on “where He leads” and not where we want to go. There are already enough tourists traveling around. God is calling out missionaries who will go forth and engage lost people with a boldness to share Him.
A comment I hear often from church leaders is “we are really involved in missions”. As leader of the KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team, this is an exciting and encouraging phrase to hear. It is music to my ears, at least initially. I say initially, because as the discussion progresses, I sometimes discover that while the church may be involved in some wonderful ministry activities, they are not necessarily engaged in missions.
A 2018 Barna report (Translating the Great Commission) shared that 27% of churchgoers say they have participated in missions in the past year and 62% say they have donated financially to missions. But how do they define missions?
The word missions comes from the Latin word, “missio”, which means “to send”. But as my conversations with church leaders reveals, missions doesn’t mean the same thing to all and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with sending members to share the gospel with those who are unreached.
Since “missions” is defined in different ways, let me share with you a definition that the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missions Mobilization Team has agreed upon. Missions is “advancement of the gospel by those who are reached among those who are unreached, often involving the crossing of cultural, geographic or language boundaries.”
We may be giving resources to meet human needs or involved in community ministry, but those things may or may not be missions. So, how does a church determine if what they’re investing in is really missions? Here are some questions to ask to determine if what we’re doing or giving to is really missions.
1. Are those doing the work or participating in the experience Christ followers?
2. Is there intentional gospel sharing in the activity or experience?
3. What boundaries are being crossed in-order to share the gospel?
4. Who are the lost that the gospel is being shared with?
Feeding the hungry is a good thing and meets a real need, but is there gospel intentionality? Helping to paint a widow’s home or building a ramp for the disabled is a selfless act of service and appreciated, but are boundaries being crossing and the gospel being shared? Yes, it’s okay to plan and implement a sports camp this summer and it is missions when we use it as a tool to reach an identified lost people group.
While the methods and resources used in missions engagement may have changed, what missions is, hasn’t. Ministry involvement doesn’t always equal missions engagement. Is your church missions engaged or simply ministry involved?
One of the most recognized and trusted advertising slogans in the world is “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best”. This phrase is more than just a slogan for Hallmark, it was a business commitment for the distinctive card company. When Ed Goodman, a Hallmark sales and marketing executive, wrote the words on a 3×5 index card in 1944, he was trying to capture the essence of why Hallmark stood as the very best in the world. Little did Goodman know just how much pressure the slogan would put on the company to be the very best and second to no other card company.
Thinking about this slogan, I wondered, do we send our very best to show we care? I don’t mean do we send Hallmark cards. What I mean is, do we send on mission the very best from our church to show a lost world we care?
The God we serve is a sending God. Nearly every time He speaks to someone in scripture, He is sending them on a mission. From Abraham to Moses to Paul, to us, God’s people are always being sent into the world on mission. God showed He cared by sending His best and only son into the world to save us. Jesus is referred to as “sent” forty seven times in the New Testament. Clearly, God is a sender by nature and cares about us.
After His resurrection, Jesus passed on his identity to His disciples: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Like his disciples – we too, have a responsibility to send our very best.
We read in Acts 13:1-3 that after prayer and fasting, the church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul out on mission to share the Gospel. They did so in obedience to Jesus’ command to go and the Holy Spirit’s leading. Make no mistake about it, the church sent out on mission two of their best because they cared for those who had not yet heard the Gospel. They correctly believed that people who don’t know Christ as Savior and Lord will suffer God’s judgement. So why would they not seek to share the Gospel with those who need to hear it? Barnabas and Saul were strong leaders and faithful teachers, but the church didn’t try to talk them into staying. Rather, they cared enough to send out two of their best churchmen because they cared for the unreached. Our failure to send out the very best from our churches to serve on mission or start a new church speaks to our lack of care for those who have not yet heard the Gospel and experienced the grace of Christ.
In the same way the slogan put pressure on the Hallmark company, I pray the example of the church at Antioch will put pressure on our churches to send the best members out on mission. Let’s show the lost world we care by sending our very best to share the Gospel with them.
We have officially entered the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. There is shopping to do, cookies to bake, activities for the kids and presents to wrap. Giving someone the perfect gift can be a hard thing to do. Do I really know what they need, or more importantly what they would want? It’s dangerous to give clothing when I don’t know their size and electronic presents quickly became outdated. And what do you give that special someone who already has everything they need and want.
I’ve spent many hours looking for just the right gift to give, browsing online and in stores, asking others for suggestions and sometimes even coming right out and asking the recipient what it is they’d like to have. All because I desire to give that special gift that will be appreciated and remembered. One that is meaningful and loved because I’ve thoughtfully selected it. A gift they won’t return!
Here’s an idea. A donation to a ministry or non-profit on behalf of someone won’t be returned and it’s making more than just the honoree happy. This kind of gift blesses the giver, the honoree and the ministry or organization that receives it. Sounds like a win to me. However, not just any organization will do. What you decide to give and who you choose to give to will determine just how happy it makes the honoree.
If you want your gift to be well received, and I know you do, it’s important to give to a ministry or organization that connects with the interests and desires of the honoree. For example, someone concerned about needy children would appreciate you giving to a ministry that provides after-school tutoring, meals and spiritual instruction. Someone with an interest in gardening might greatly appreciate seeds or chickens given in their honor to an international missionary teaching sustainable farming. You might consider giving so that young girls in Ukraine receive an education and hear the gospel. Wouldn’t it be exciting to know that a gift was given to help provide clean drinking water and the Living Water to quench the thirst of those in Africa? There are so many kinds of gifts that can be given to your loved ones that simultaneously meet the needs of others.
Why not make a lasting difference this year at Christmas by giving a gift that won’t be returned. Here are two organizations you can trust to help you give the perfect gift this year at Christmas.
International Mission Board – https://www.imb.org/give/projects/
The end of the year is often marked by an endless barrage of family gatherings, cookie swaps, white elephant gift exchanges, office parties and more. The holidays can be incredibly stressful for some individuals or families, and a time of profound sadness for others. However, the holiday season can be a welcome time of gospel intentional hospitality.
Since November 2021, Kentucky Baptist have welcomed and served over 900 of the nearly 1400 Afghans that resettled across the state. By using Global Hunger funds, churches were able to help more than 550 Afghans receive food for their first 3 months in Kentucky. God used the generous giving and hospitality of Kentucky Baptist to not only open homes for church members to share a meal with these beautiful people, but also to open hearts to receive the gospel. Today, there are new believers being discipled across Kentucky, families and individuals participating in bible studies, and a new church plant.
When Jesus shared meals with people, it gave him the opportunity to enter the lives of the people with whom he was eating. In fact, eating together is one of the most practical ways to overcome any relational barriers that separates us. Jesus modeled a way for us to use the gift of hospitality as a means to share his grace. Here are three ways to enter the holidays with gospel intentionality:
1. Pray for an Open Door
As Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” As you begin to shift your thoughts toward the birth of Jesus, gather your family to pray for your neighbors and the nations in your community. Ask the Lord to open a door for your family to share the love of Christ this Christmas. Then, talk about those you know who need to hear the gospel, and how you could share a meal together.
2. Plan a time to Share a Meal
There is a familiar saying around our house when it comes to dinner: “There’s always room for one more.” And there is. But what takes this from a stated fact to a shared reality is an intentional invitation. When we open our tables to our neighbors, we are offering more than a meal. We are offering an invitation into communion.
3. Prepare (Ask) Good questions.
Around a table, the art of conversation is fostered. Try to avoid questions resulting in one-word answers. Instead ask open-ended questions: “What are some of your greatest memories of the holidays growing up?” or “What is most difficult for you during the holidays?” These questions, when engaged honestly, can connect people at a deep level. Take time to really listen.
Focusing on these three things this holiday season can create space for intimate communion with family members, co-workers, neighbors, international students, or refugees. As you share a meal together and listen to their stories, take time to share your story and how you came to know the Lord. Then, just as you invited them to your table, you might find yourself in a conversation with someone who is wondering how they can find a seat at Jesus’ table.
The Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve your church. To discover how you can embrace the nations as your neighbor, email or call John Barnett at john.barnett@kybaptist or 502-654-3385.
In terms of the local church sending missionaries, one of the most overlooked areas is missionary care. Providing missionaries with a touch point of Pastoral Care is critical for them to not only maintain a healthy relationship with the church, but also sustain a healthy relationship and share Christ well among the nations. In order to plant healthy churches, we must have healthy disciples. Here is a simple outline or template of a Pastoral Care Plan with touch points:
Purpose: The goal of the Pastoral Care Plan is to have every missionary family and single adopted and advocated for by the church and the pastoral care team.
Limitations: Pastoral Care is intended to provide a base level of encouragement, care, and advocacy. Pastors need not feel the full load of care and advocacy unless desired. Each missionary has access to care through multiple channels including Sunday school classes, community groups, a care team, and missional staff (voluntary or paid).
Details: I ask that pastors consider committing to a missionary family/single and following through on basic touch points of communication and being accessible to the missionary. We want each missionary to feel like our pastors are “in their corner.”
Step 1: Know what you are committing to(suggested touchpoints):
Every Month: Provide a simple touch point. This could be a short email of encouragement, WhatsApp, a handwritten letter, or something of the like.
Every 6 months: Have one Zoom call.
Every year: Send a care package from your family to theirs. If possible, build it into the budget, and do not forget to include shipping cost.
Step 2: Commit to a missionary family/single by:
1) Signing up for available missionaries on the excel document.
2) Send an email to the missionary letting them know that you are committing to be their pastoral advocate.
3) Calendar your monthly touch point so you do not forget!
Step 3: Keep other leaders in the loop as needed. If you need help, have questions, or are concerned about your missionary; please let us know and we will be glad to help.
Adopting a missionary is a simple way you and your Missional Community can begin serving in missions. For information about adopting a Kentucky MSC missionary, visit www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary. To learn more about adoption options with national and international SBC missionaries, contact the Missions Mobilization Team ([email protected] or 502-489-3530). If you have any questions about setting up a Missionary Care Plan, please contact John Barnet ([email protected] or 502-654-3385).
Taking the gospel to the nations is not an easy task. As missionaries go out to proclaim the good news, they often become discouraged and consider quitting. Why? They feel as if they are entirely on their own, without the active support of sending brothers and sisters who can uphold, encourage, provide, and pray for them. The church’s desire should be obedience to the Scriptures as a going AND sending, supporting community. The little letter of 3 John calls the church to both send out and care for its missionaries “in a manner worthy of God.” It calls us to partnership – to “work together for the truth” with those we send to faraway lands. John commands us to love these missionaries with a hands-on kind of love, even if we do not know them personally (verse 5) precisely because we are partners in the gospel! This means that one of the best ways your Community Group can get involved in international missions is to adopt a missionary and begin caring for them.
The church’s vision may be to see each of our missionary units supported by several Community Groups who are strategically praying for, communicating with, and regularly sending packages to our member missionaries. Bottom line: We want each of our missionaries to have real and consistent care just as 3 John says they should. Would your group be willing to adopt a missionary, provide the care, and the love they need? If so, here are your next steps:
Talk it over as a group. Pray about it as a group. Discern your ability and willingness, as a group, to commit the time, energy, resources, and relational investment necessary to love and serve one of our missionaries or ministries well, “in a manner worthy of God” (v 6).
Designate a person in your group who will be the missionary care leader. This person/couple will connect with both the missionary and a Missions Mobilization Team member.
Get started. There are numerous ways you can care for your missionary unit:
Prayer– Get prayer requests from your missionary unit and pray as a group at least once a month.
Communication– Have personal conversations with your missionary unit at least once a month through email, written letters, or Zoom.
Care packages– Commit to send a care package to your missionary unit at least twice a year. Set a goal of once a quarter.
Have them Visit– When your missionary unit is in the U.S., have them come and visit your group.
Visit them– Encourage group members to visit your missionary unit on the field. People could do this individually or you could do this as a group, if possible.
Adopting a missionary is a simple way you and your Missional Community can begin serving in missions. For information about adopting a Kentucky MSC missionary, visit www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary. To learn more about adoption options with national and international SBC missionaries, contact the Missions Mobilization Team ([email protected] or 502-489-3530).
Care Teams are the most tangible expression of our church’s commitment to support our missionaries who are serving in cross-cultural environments. The team is centered around one team leader and can be made up of 3-8 individuals who provide on-going care and support. They serve as a primary link between the church as a whole and the missionary.
Simply put, a care team is a group of people who deeply love and care for their missionary unit. They communicate, pray for and stay connected to their missionary unit on a regular basis. Because of these strong personal relationships, the missionaries can be open and honest, allowing his or her team to see needs and share successes and defeats.
What Is the Vision for a Care Team?
There are two major roles of every Care Team: care and representation. The success of the care team depends on its ability to accomplish these two goals from the time that the missionary unit prepares to leave for the field until his or her return.
Many missionaries minister in physically challenging environments. Some are raising children far from extended family. Others struggle with cultural adjustments and language barriers. Most significantly, all serve on the front lines of spiritual warfare. For survival and spiritual health, every missionary unit needs the assurance that they are not alone, that there are others in the body of Christ who love them and are committed to their welfare and to the success of their work. Missionaries need empathetic listeners and caring friends who are not in a supervisory role. The Care Team can consistently provide that kind of spiritual and emotional care. Caring also involves identifying specific needs which the team can meet or organize others in the church to meet.
The Care Team also champions the missionary and his or her work to the church body and advocates for ongoing participation in their ministry even when he or she is far away. Thanks to the efforts of the Care Team, the church feels an ongoing sense of connection to our workers.
What Does a Care Team Look Like?
We have intentionally kept the structure of our Care Teams simple. The foundation of each Care Team is the team leader. He/She is the one who has the main connection with the missionary unit and leads the team in all aspects. The team leader either already knows the missionary deeply or commits to build a deep relationship. The rest of the team is built under the leadership of this committed person.
Each Care Team will look different. Some will have a team leader with 6-8 additional people on the team while others will have a leader with just one or two additional people on the team. Both types of teams can serve as great care networks for our missionaries.
Depending on the team members’ season of life, people may need to step out of their Care Team. We ask however that team leaders commit to the missionary full term (2-4 years) and/or be willing to replace themselves in this role if needed.
What Does a Care Team Do?
Teams can meet at anytime and anywhere; we just ask that each team meet once a month to fulfill their role as advocates. We suggest that you build a team around a missional group that already exist in the church. For example, Sunday School Class members, Prayer group, Life Group, Community group, etc.
The main role of a Care Team is to pray monthly as a team and on an individual basis. We also ask that you hold your missionaries accountable to regularly update their prayer requests.
Ask any missionary and they will tell you that they rarely stay connected with their friends and church family back home. Part of providing care to missionaries is the commitment to stay connected. Your missionary unit should hear from you at least once a month. This can happen through emails, Zoom, handwritten letters or any number of creative ways. Make sure this is part of your team meeting.
Send Care Packages
Nothing says I love you to a missionary quite like a box full of ranch dressing mix, chocolate and a few good books! Care Teams will send at least two care packages a year to their missionary unit. Perhaps the church can help with the cost of shipping two packages each year with hopes of your team sending a few more packages using personal funds, if possible.
Help with Departure and Arrival
Some of the hardest times for your missionary unit will be preparing to leave for the field and returning home for a stateside visit. There are a thousand things that need to be done and we ask that your team jump in and help as much as possible.
How Do We Get Started?
Here are three things to do to get your Care Team started:
Email the Team
Once the team leader is in place, he/she can email others on the team or start recruiting for the team. Get everyone on an email list and start communicating with one another.
Email your Missionary
The team leader needs to email the missionary and let them know their Care Team is forming. Ask for prayer requests and invite the missionary unit to the first meeting via Zoom.
Meet as a Team
Set a date for your first meeting. Pick a home to meet in and share a meal with one another. During this meeting make sure you get to know each other, pray for the missionaries and if possible, talk to your missionary unit on Zoom. Also make sure you set up a regular time and place to meet.
Oftentimes, the mission of God does not seem to match our conveniently constructed models. God calls us to love all people, which means taking the gospel to hard places, among hard people, and during difficult times. In Acts 8:26-40, we catch a glimpse of how God brings about what He has promised is going to happen in Revelation 5:9-10. God orchestrated circumstances in such a way that Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch met on a desert road to bring about His will, and He continues to do so today for the same purposes. However, we see some things about this mission that are often missed, or even rejected, in the West. Philip understood that God would never leave him or forsake him, so he never stopped sharing the gospel no matter where God sent him. In this passage, we see four realities regarding the mission of God that can empower us to share the gospel in hostile times.
The mission of God is inconvenient Think about the inconvenience of the Lord’s assignment for Phillip. Phillip had just been scattered from Jerusalem and gone to Samaria where “revival” broke out. Then, God ask him to leave and go south to Gaza. Not very convenient to go to a place that is known for robbers, in the middle of the desert in order to talk to a wealthy, Ethiopian eunuch. For someone limited on time, surely there were better assignments. In the West, our culture is built on convenience, constantly attempting to make life more comfortable. While some conveniences may have their place, the mission of God is never convenient, at least not the way our culture thinks about convenience. Church, we will never have mission without sacrifice.
The mission of God appears inefficient Phillip was praying, and God directed him to go to a desert place. Once there, the Spirit directed him to run alongside of a chariot of foreigners. The eunuch’s journey to Jerusalem was conceivably five months long, one way. Once there, he was doubly denied entrance into the assembly at the temple for being a Gentile and a eunuch. While efficiency has its place, the mission of God is hardly efficient, and the details surrounding Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch underscore this point. In the West, as one of the holdovers from the Industrial Revolution, our culture loves efficiency. We value seeking the greatest output for the least input. Church, we must obey God’s call, share Christ without fear and trust the Lord with the results.
The mission of God is ingenious God combats the core human instinct to “go our own way,” even our feeble attempts to earn His favor by our convenient, efficient means. The gospel is a gift, and the only way to be made right in God’s eyes is to admit you need salvation and to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. Nothing is more convenient than that! But the genius of God is that to grow in this grace is to receive His mission, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Grace writes a blank check for the obedience of the recipient. Church, we must spend time in prayer, hear from God and obey him at all costs.
The mission of God is indisputable God has given us the end of the story. Either it is true, or it is not. And if this story is the true story of what He is doing in the world, then the reason His mission seems inconvenient and difficult to many is perhaps because we are living for a different story. Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have command you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Church, the Great Commission is not an option clause, it is a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Missions Mobilization team exist to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, please contact John Barnett at [email protected] or text 502-654-3385.