Counsel for The Called

Lesotho-4God has called every believer to go into all the world and to make disciples.  Mission volunteers can be used by God to reach the nations, and to make tremendous impact on the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Here are my top ten tips for believers who seek to serve internationally::

  1. Do not expect other cultures to be like your own.  Everyone has a tendency to think that  our own culture is the norm.  It is not always good or bad, it may just be different from your own.  Avoid being critical of other cultures, or comparing it to America.
  2. Be a learner.  Ask questions.  Learn about local customs.  Embrace new foods and new experiences.  Show genuine interest in the people that you will meet.  Knowledge of others and culture will always strengthen your witness.
  3. Learn some language.  Not all of us are gifted in language, but most of us can learn a few words.  Learn to say ‘Hello”, Goodbye”, and “Thank you”.  Nationals appreciate our effort in even small ways, and it demonstrates that we want to build relationships.
  4. Treat others with dignity and respect.  Put others before ourselves as the Scriptures teach us, whether they be nationals or fellow team members.
  5. Have a servant spirit..  Christ demonstrated the effectiveness of a servant spirit in His ministry, and calls us to do the same.  A servant spirit opens doors for the Gospel and makes us a better team member.
  6. Welcome others into your presence.  Be open to people.  Seek to engage others in culturally appropriate ways.  Kindness, smiles, and a gracious attitude are bridges for the Gospel. 
  7. Demonstrate a spiritual depth.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship  are foundations for maturity in Christ.  You cannot share what you do not possess.
  8. Be fluid.   Things will not always go as planned.  Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the changes, and go with the flow.
  9. Demonstrate a passion for Christ.  Be ready to share your story and what He means to you.
  10. “GO”.  You will never be used by God until you say “yes” and go.  The Mission Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention has challenged every church to “Send One More” in the coming year in a missions cause.  Would you be that one or, even better, would you take someone with you?

A lost world is waiting.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are  the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

 

 

The Heart of Leadership

Perhaps no Biblical leader faced the questioning of his leadership like Moses.
The Book of Numbers shares that every time Moses turned around, someone was murmuring, grumbling, and questioning his direction and judgement.  It is not easy to lead any group of people, and the family of faith is no different.

Leadership is crucial for a pastor or spiritual leader within the church.  A charismatic Refugee DR Team - Ugandapersonality, natural gifts, and a seminary education are certainly important, but they are not the key to leadership.  In challenging moments, the ability to lead hinges on trust.  Very few will follow someone that they do not trust.

As I talk to church leaders today, I am amazed at their vision, passion, and knowledge.  Most are far more gifted than me, and I am excited about the future of the church.  Yet there is one area that concerns me as I talk with the next generation of leaders.  I am concerned that many do not seem to understand the importance of developing trust as they work with people.  It is my experience, that you cannot lead and influence people for the long haul without trust.  I fear that this is one of the reasons that results in so many short pastorates and church conflicts.

Here are crucial insights that I have learned about developing trust that will strengthen your ability to lead effectively:

  1. Trust must be earned.  Trust cannot be demanded or assumed.  In fact, if you have to demand spiritual authority, then you probably have no authority or influence.
  2. Trust takes time.  A congregation may love you and have even chose you to lead them, but it takes time for them to trust you.  I have found that the ability to lead effectively develops with time and often begins to mature after 4-5 years.  It was after 10 years that I saw my ability to lead move to new heights as I served as pastor in South Central Kentucky.  Longevity increases trust.  Hanging in there with people increases their trust in you.
  3. Trust comes with consistency.  People are always watching us as leaders. If they see consistency in our message, approach, ethics, and our dealings with people, then it will develop trust.
  4. Trust will rise from integrity.  Do you follow through with commitments?  Do you honor your word?  Do you keep promises?  Broken commitments destroy trust.
  5. Trust will grow when we are willing to be transparent.  Trust grows when we let folks see who we are, and admit our shortcomings and mistakes.  People are more likely to follow a sincere leader than a phony pretender.
  6. Trust is more likely, if folks see that we lean on Jesus.  Congregations do not need us to be the savior.  They need pastors who will lead them to know and walk with our Savior Jesus Christ.   People gain confidence in us when they see  that we walk with the Lord, and are seeking His direction.

Without trust, it is difficult to lead.  Trust matters.

” Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

 

 

 

A Deadly Temptation

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor’ (Proverbs 29:23).

Pride is a frequent topic within the Scriptures, and Proverbs 29:23 reminds us that pride will eventually lead one to fall.  Repeatedly, God warns us of the dangers of pride.  Pride breeds arrogance and self-glorification, and  blinds us to our shortcomings and sin.

Pride is deadly to spiritual leadership.  It is deadly because it deludes us into seeking after ourWest Liberty - 4 own kingdoms rather than seeking to build God’s Kingdom.  Our own little kingdoms built on charisma and our natural gifts will not last.  The Bible reminds us that God opposes the proud, but will give His grace to the humble.

As Spiritual leaders, may we learn from God’s wisdom by seeking to lead with humility as servant leaders.

Servant leaders are:

  1. Humble in Attitude..  Keep Christ first in all things.  A humble leader does not think of
    himself as lower than a worm’s belly, he just always recognizes that only Christ deserves the throne of people’s lives.  Keep the focus on Christ, not ourselves.  Seek after Christ’s way, not our own way.
  2. Humble in Actions.  We are called to serve.  Develop the Godly habit of serving others.  The best way to maintain a humble spirit is by putting others before yourself.  Be an example of Christlike service to others..
  3. Humble in Speech.  Seek to glorify God and not yourself when giving testimony.  Shift the focus to God and others when sharing.  Learn to listen to others.  Focus n praying for others rather than your own self interests.
  4. Humble in Vision.  Keeping our focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment of Christ keeps our focus on His Kingdom, rather than building our own little sand castles.  Our calling is to make His Name known among all the nations.  It will not matter if they remember our name, but it will matter if He knows our name as one of His faithful servants.

As C S Lewis once shared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

 

 

 

Implementing Associational Change

In today’s rapidly changing context, associational directors of missions (DoMs) are being forced to choose between leading like a missionary or serving as a curator and preserver of what has been.  Effective DoMs who want to see results will choose to have a missionary mindset.  They stand upon the eternal truths of scripture, but are ready to dump methods and paradigms that no longer give value to the association.  DoMs who function as missionaries are open to change and adapt their ministry to the real need of member churches, not the churches of yesterday.  Like the apostle Paul, they become all things to all people so that they might save some (1 Cor. 9:22).

On the other hand, DoMs with a curator mindset will value the past and resist change.  They believe old methods and paradigms are worth protecting, even if they no longer work. They are afraid of innovation and slow to embrace needed change.

While change may be needed, it almost always leads to failure if there is no appreciation for the past. I’m not suggesting a preservation of the past at the expense of the future, but an acknowledgement of the past and it’s contribution to the association’s current reality is important when leading change.

Associations that are effective and provide benefit to member churches will exercise flexibility, a willingness to try new things and the desire to make needed changes quickly.  Associations today should regularly assess themselves and the need for change.  Not every needed change will work, but don’t be afraid of failure or innovation.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you lead your association through needed change.  Hopefully these suggestions will allow your association to enjoy the benefits of implementing change without losing credibility, if things don’t go exactly as planned.

  1. Use Experimentation Language – words are important, so consider useing “try” instead of “change” or “discussion” instead of “meeting”. Experiments provide you with wiggle room and people expect trial runs to need mid-course corrections. See compromise as a sign of wisdom, not a sign of weakness.
  2. Plan in Pencil – nothing ever goes exactly as planned. A planned change or innovation is only a theory until implemented, and then it becomes a failure or a success. Think flexibility rather than certainty.  Think in terms of this is what we’ll do for now, rather than, this what we will do forever.  They only thing certain is that the future will be different from what you expect. Keep as many options open as long as possible.
  3. Stay Away from Hype – a big splash leaves little room for retreat. If you want long term success, be cautious of using hype to sell it. If we hype and it succeeds, all is well.  But if we hype and it fails, there is a loss in future leadership.  “Buy in” is helpful, but more importantly, we need permission to try something different.  Permission is easier to get than “buy in”, and a lot easier to back away from if things don’t go well.
  4. Avoid Leadership ADHD – ADHD leadership is very similar to innovative leadership. They both try lots of stuff. But non-ADHD leadership tries it in an experimental mode.  Nothing is oversold.  Everything is judged by its impact on the mission. However, ADHD leaders never slow down to experiment.  Everything is always full speed ahead.  When ADHD leadership is in charge, there is a constant stream of new initiatives and failed projects that numb everyone about the importance of the mission at hand.

If an association is going to be effective and valued by churches today, change and innovation are necessary.  There must be the ability and permission to make changes as needed or the association will die.  While change is needed in most of our Baptist associations, change at any cost will kill the association and render her of no value to member churches.  As Larry Osborne has pointed out, “change is a lot like electricity.  Handled well, it brings great blessings. Handled carelessly or without understanding, it can burn the house down.”

Conflict Settlement

Teenagers hands playing tug-of-war with used ropeReligion has always been a touchy subject.  Discussions about God, faith, and the church can spark lively and refreshing dialogue; it can also unleash anger and bitter disputes.  As long as there is more than one human present in a place, conflict is possible and likely.

The early church was no exception.  In Acts 15, a dispute arose from among the body of faith, on whether or not circumcision was necessary for salvation.  This was a heated dispute with a great deal of passion and debate.

But, it is worth noting that it never got ugly.  We do not read about folks spreading gossip and slander in the community.  No one questioned anyone’s motives.  They did not attack each other personally.  Instead, they chose to honor one another, listen respectfully, engage with dignity, and maintain fellowship.  They demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, as they resolved the issue and settled the conflict within their family of faith.  Above all, they fervently sought the will of God, in this matter.

Yet, they did not seek to appease everyone.  They did not take a majority vote.  It appears that everyone was given a voice, but the most mature among them made the final decision.  They put God’s desire before their own desires and traditions.  In the end, the church stayed together and continued to grow,

As the family of faith, we can learn a great deal about handling conflict from this passage.  Believers met.  They talked.  They listened to one another.  They shared their respective positions.  They deferred to the most wise and mature believers.  They allowed their leaders to lead.  They realized that God’s work was far more important than any of their personal wants.  They made a decision that would enable them to be about the mission that they had received from their Lord.  They stuck together and moved forward.  That is what family does.

Conflicts will arise, but they should never define us.  Christ, Scripture, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment should always be the hinges upon which the unity of our family of faith rests.

Reaching the Nations

Iraq-9It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees.  These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.

No longer safe to live in the place that they have called home, refugees are often forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

The flight usually brings more trauma.  Many do not survive the journey.  If they survive, they often are not welcomed in the place where they seek refuge.  Life in a refugee camp can be difficult, unstable, and a daily battle to survive.  The vulnerability of depending on total strangers for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter can be humiliating and defeating.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes.  These are people just like you and me.  These are people loved by God.  The Bible commands us to treat strangers and sojourners that come our way with love and grace:

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.  You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

What can we do as followers of Jesus Christ for the displaced?

One significant way is to partner with Refuge Louisville in life-changing ministry.  Refuge works alongside area churches to encourage and equip them to engage the refugees and immigrants in our communities.  They offer avenues through which the church can meet the various needs of our international population as they offer the help, healing, and hope of Christ.

Refuge continues to seek churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, and volunteers, who would serve on welcome teams.  These teams would commit to creating a positive welcoming space for the displaced families upon arrival, and they would be a helpful resource and loving influence for the first three months.  This allows Christians to be the first contacts for a refugee family as they come to America.  This is significant in helping a stranger to experience the real touch of God’s grace and saving Gospel message.

Team Expectations are as follows:

  1. Six to ten adults on a welcome team.
  2. Before arrival, set up the apartment for the incoming family using supporting agency donations.  Usually, this will not include transporting furniture to the apartment.
  3. Before arrival, purchase groceries and a welcome basket for the family.
  4. Before arrival, place a photo of the team in the apartment, so the family will know these are people who have committed to help them.
  5. Welcome the family at the airport and assist them with transportation to their new home.
  6. Provide as much transportation as possible the first few weeks.
  7. Share time with the family at least once a week for the first three months.
  8. At the end of three months, throw a milestone party to celebrate reaching this point.
  9. Teams are encouraged to stay connected with families, after the three months, as friends and continued support.

If your church is interested in making a difference in the life of a refugee family, contact Refuge Louisville to find out more information, to schedule them to share at your church, or to become part of God’s hands in reaching the nations.

Refuge Louisville, Inc
5007 Southside Drive
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 785-9577

Kentucky Baptists have a missions heritage that has demonstrated itself in going to the airport to travel to distant lands for the sake of the Gospel.  The question facing us today as Kentucky Baptists is:  Will we journey to the airport in obedience to the Great Commission to welcome the nations to our homeland?

You may also contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527 for information.

The Mission Field Down the Street

One of the most fertile and unreached mission fields in any community sits very close to, or just down the street from, the local church. It is the public school.  Public schools are filled with children, teachers and staff members who live, work and play in the shadow of our steeples.

There are 655,642 students and 50,148 teachers/staff members in 1,177 elementary, middle and high schools in Kentucky. These children, teachers and staff members need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and yet, 87% (2010 Glenmary report) don’t attend a worship service, as close as it may be. 

adopt_a_schoolThe local school represents a God-given opportunity for evangelism and missions if relationships are built upon trust and the meeting of needs. The local church is poised by its proximity to produce the greatest possible Kingdom results and community impact in the most efficient, effective and expedient way.

Depending upon the community, there are approximately 5 churches for every public school in the state. Imagine the Kingdom impact and community transformation that would happen if churches adopted schools. Things the church can do in and for the school include:

  • mentoring students
  • after school tutoring
  • assist with festivals, carnivals and parties
  • minister to teachers (provide breakfast, prayer partners, gifts, etc)
  • supply school supplies or educational resources
  • clean or paint classrooms
  • landscape around the building
  • volunteer to serve as teacher’s aids

If there’s uncertainty on the part of the school, suggest that you begin with a “semester of service” as a way of introducing the concept.  This allows the school to experience how beneficial the church’s involvement can be to the students and their families, teachers and staff.

I saw firsthand the impact that an adoption can make when Christ Community Church reached out and adopted Southside Elementary School.  After a couple of years into the adoption, the school’s academic growth surpassed 90% of the elementary schools in the state.  They earned a special distinction as a “High Progressing” school, finishing in the 71st percentile, up from the previous 14th percentile rating. Southside’s principal contributed the amazing turn-around to a team effort involving teachers, the church and the local community.  The church’s involvement presented opportunity for sharing the gospel, gave them credibility with teachers, and opened doors with the community and the school system for future ministry.  It’s now common for school administrators to call upon the church about needs and ministry opportunities relating to students and staff.

When God says that He is a “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), He is not speaking about some intangible heavenly spirit. God is a “father to the fatherless” through His church – as they become surrogate parents to students in need.  Staggering negative statistics change to successes when Christ followers become mentors and tutors in the local school, providing guidance, instruction and commitment that is missing in a child’s life. Will your church overlook the mission field down the street or will they dive in and serve where others dare to go?

 

 

Living Prepared: Disaster Relief Ministry

0919121217bSouthern Baptists have a long history of demonstrating compassion to those affected by crisis and loss.  In 1984, God moved the hearts of Kentucky Baptists to organize a state disaster relief ministry.  From that humble beginning, God has raised up 46 mobile disaster relief units, and trained thousands of volunteers to respond.

Disasters are nothing new.  Noah teaches us in Genesis 6 the importance of being prepared.  We should also let this lesson remind us of the urgency to share the Good News of God’s salvation with this generation.

Today, disasters happen every day across our globe, and Kentucky is not immune.  Kentucky averages a flood event every six days, and witnesses, on average, twenty-five tornado sightings per year.

I praise God for the trained volunteers who have answered the call of God to minister to the least of these, when tragedies strike.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were there after 9-11 in New York and following Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.  They have ministered to war torn refugees in Iraq and earthquake survivors in Haiti.  This past year, they served flood victims in South Carolina, tornado victims in western Kentucky, and victims of famine in Lesotho.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has answered the call to go wherever needed and to do whatever it takes for Christ’s sake.

One of the best ways to be used by God is to be trained, so that you can respond correctly and effectively.  Here are the upcoming opportunities to get connected to the ministry of Disaster Relief:

2017 Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Trainings:

January 14, 2017 at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown (Central KY)

February 4, 2017 at Big Creek Baptist Church in Hazard (Eastern KY)

March 4, 2017 at Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton (Western KY)

April 8, 2017 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Independence (Northern KY)

September 16, 2017 at First Baptist Church of Richmond (Central KY)

Find out more about this Kingdom ministry and register for trainings at www.kybaptist.org/dr.

Sharing with my International Neighbor

We live in a world on the move.  Our cities and communities are becoming more culturally diverse.  In Louisville, for example, there are now over one hundred languages represented in the metro school system.  Thousands of students are coming from abroad to study at our American universities.  The international community is evident in many of our small towns with the presence of ethnic restaurants and local shops.  The world is coming to us.

Iraq Team

How, in this changing world, can I be part of Christ’s Great Commission?  

How can I plant seeds for the Gospel with those from other lands that God is bringing to my community?  

  • Smile.  Grace and kindness work in any culture.
  • Open your eyes to those that God has brought to your community.  Take time to see the server at the restaurant, the cashier at the convenience store, the nurse at the hospital, the new person in your office, or the neighbor across the street who may look, dress, and speak a little different from you.
  • Start a conversation.  It can be as simple as asking someone their name and where they are from.  Ask them about their family or homeland.  Inquire about religious beliefs in their country.
  • Be a good listener.  Seek to be a learner.  People tend to listen to others who really listen to them.
  • Pursue genuine friendship.  Many internationals would love a real friend in a new land.  You are called to share with folks in a relationship, not sell the Gospel.
  • Be an ambassador for Christ.  Let them see Christ in you.  A good ambassador knows when to talk and when to listen.
  • Practice hospitality.  Share your phone number if they need a friend’s help or guidance. Invite them over for tea or coffee.  Drive them to the doctor or help them at a grocery store.  Have them over for a meal at your home.
  • Pray for them.
  • Share your faith story.  Tell them what your life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what Jesus means to your life now.  Try to work on being able to share this in two to four minutes.  Avoid church words like lost or saved, as unbelievers often do not understand the internal language of Christians.
  • Remember the goal is not to win debates, but to passionately share your faith.  Stand strong on what you believe in a loving manner.
  • Finally, be ready for the day when your new friend wants to know how they can have a relationship with God through Christ.  Be prepared to share in every day language what sin is, who Jesus is, and what the Gospel is.

“Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

 

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

West Liberty -7 Louisiana Floods: Worst U. S. Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

West Virginia Floods Devastate 1200 Homes, Many Lives

EF-3 Tornado Leaves Damage in Mayfield, Kentucky

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods certainly reek havoc on individuals, but house fires, vehicle accidents, and community violence can be equally devastating to families.

Disasters are always about loss.   Calamities can rob people of homes, material possessions, income, personal keepsakes, normalcy, emotional stability, and loved ones.  The loss is real.  It can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually overwhelming.  These catastrophic events often force people to live with intrusion, vulnerability, and a longing for escape.

The trauma of a disaster throws people off balance and always produces significant change.   Survivors often experience shock, numbness, fear, frustration, confusion, guilt, grief, and anger.  They are often left to depend on strangers for the basic necessities required to get through another day.

Disaster Relief ministry reminds those affected that we care and even deeper…God cares.

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

Disasters create doors of opportunity for us, as followers of Christ, to offer compassion to those affected by loss and pain.  The Bible teaches us that this is just the right thing to do when our neighbor is hurting.  Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me…inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40).  When we reach with compassion to the vulnerable and displaced, we are honoring Jesus and sharing His love.

Disasters also open tremendous doors for the Gospel.  Survivors gladly welcome those responding to help them.  This creates opportunities to share the hope that is within us.  In crisis events, compassionate acts of service and empathetic listening often open gates to share the Gospel.

Tragically, most churches are unprepared with a strategy to respond effectively to events of crisis within their community.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief seeks to train volunteers and partner with churches to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected in times of disaster.

Is God calling you to get involved and to be more prepared to serve effectively for His sake among the hurting?

To find out more about training opportunities and disaster relief ministry contact us at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527,

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things!