How Will You Be A Voice For Life?

These Syrian children were forcibly displaced and now live as refugees with their mother in Athens, Greece. Over half of the world’s refugees are children. In this family’s case, their father had been killed. These children live with their mother in an apartment building that had been converted into a makeshift urban “camp.”

Near the conclusion of the creation account found in Genesis 1, God’s Word makes a profound statement that highlights the significance and value of all human life.  Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

While there are many rich truths that could be gleaned from this single verse of Scripture, the fact that we are created by God in His image is what gives all men and women a deep sense of worth and value. Mankind is the crowning jewel or the zenith of God’s creation, and the Bible underscores this truth throughout the pages of Scripture. For example, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Throughout this month, many followers of Christ will set aside a time to remember and reflect upon the sanctity of human life and holiness of God.  Churches will celebrate the fact that life is a gift from God, and they will also grieve the numerous lives that have been lost prematurely due to abortion, abandonment, abuse, violence, persecution, or some other means. As believers, we are called to be a voice for the powerless and to serve and support those in need by sharing the grace, love, compassion, and good news of Christ with others. There are several ways that individuals and Kentucky Baptist churches can be a voice for life. Consider how God may be calling you to be involved.

  • We can pray for those whose lives are the most vulnerable, particularly the unborn, the disabled and the elderly.
  • We can stand ready to come alongside and minister to those who find themselves in the midst of a crisis pregnancy or the loneliness that often comes in the late stages of one’s life.
  • Maybe God is calling you to adopt a child, serve as a foster family, or minister to refugees. 
  • Perhaps God is asking you to play a part in the restoration and healing process with someone who experienced the emotional and physical pain of an abortion months or even years ago, but they still long for forgiveness and spiritual healing. Will you help that individual to know that God loves them and offers a new start in life?

In whatever way God leads you to be an outspoken voice for life, remember the truth that we are all made in the image of God. An individual’s worth and dignity is not based upon that person’s culture, their class, country of origin or the color of their skin. Every single person has value to God because they are made in His image, and each individual is precious to Him. Remember, whoever is precious and valuable to God should be precious and valuable to us.

For further questions or comments, please contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] The missions mobilization team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission both locally and globally.

Wise Instruction for a Leader

Good leaders are deciders. Leaders make decisions and move forward. They may not always be right, but they do not allow themselves to be paralyzed by indecision.

Great spiritual leadership recognizes the need for God to be integral in the process of decision-making. In Exodus 18: 19-21 Moses was given great leadership advice by his father-in-law Jethro, “Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”

This passage teaches us three great pastoral leadership principles:

  1. Bathe decisions in prayer. We should begin decision-making in prayer. If we are to lead God’s people effectively, we need to be a person of prayer. Our calling is to lead people to the place that God desires them to be, and to do that effectively we must stay close to God. Great leaders lead the people as they draw close to God and remain close to Him during the journey. Talk more to God about the church’s issues than you proclaim them from the pulpit.
  2. Base all you do on God’s truth. Godly leadership bases decisions on the truth, not personal opinions. We are called as spiritual leaders to teach the truth of God that He has revealed to us in His Holy Word. All we do should be based on the teachings of Scripture and our lives ought to seek to model these teachings. Any decision made that cannot find foundation in God’s Word will not stand the test of time and ultimately will fail.
  3. Share leadership with others whom God has gifted. Moses could not possibly do everything himself as he led the people of Israel, and neither can we. God does not call us to be Lone Ranger followers. Good leaders empower others to use their gifts and share leadership responsibilities with others. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone. Pastoral authority is not lessened in shared leadership, it is enhanced as we maximize the giftedness of the church and allow the followers of Christ opportunity to be used and to grow in their faith. Good leaders do not fear other mature believers having a voice in the decision-making process, and in wisdom welcome the input of others.

The called of God are to stand and lead. But that privilege only comes to those who have first followed. Therefore, speak after you have first sought a word from Him. Lead as you pursue His direction. Stand after spending time before His throne of grace. Be wise by seeking the input of other gifted followers of our God. And then issue the call to go boldly forward not by barking commands but by rallying the faithful to follow Our Commander and Lord.

What’s in Your Wallet?

Jesus commanded each of us as His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Our mandate as followers of Jesus Christ is to take the Gospel into all the world and to make the name of Christ known among all peoples. We are compelled to proclaim the Gospel, the only hope for billions who have not yet heard about the good news of Christ.

This mandate requires a sacrificial commitment. A sacrifice to go, and a sacrifice to send. Sacrificial giving by Southern Baptists enables us to place thousands of missionaries across the globe. The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions remain the lifeline for countless missionary families, who have sacrificed to go to the farthest corners of our world.

As we enter this season that highlights the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it should make each of as believers ask prayerfully, “What is in my wallet?”

Simply put, your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions enables missionaries to be sent to share the Gospel, disciple those who come to Christ, and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Southern Baptists realized when they began this special offering in 1888 that we can do more when we cooperate together for the sake of Christ than any of us can do alone.

When you give to Lottie Moon:

  • 100% of your gifts directly support missionaries serving the unreached.
  • You are making a way for the 2.8 billion people who have little access to the Gospel to hear of Jesus.
  • You are helping to transform lives around the world.
  • You are part of reaching the nations for Christ.
  • You are playing a role in the Bible being translated into every tongue and language.
  • You are providing hot meals, blankets, and clean water for refugee families.
  • You are enabling us to be God’s hands of compassion following disasters across the globe.
  • You are providing medical leaders in hospitals in broken places.
  • You are providing training for church leaders and pastors.
  • You are fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.

Why give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering?

Maybe, it would be better to ask, how as a follower of Christ, could I not give to this offering that is making the name of Christ known in every corner of our globe?

As Lottie Moon, missionary in China in 1887, said, “Why should we not…do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”

A Cultural Change May Be Needed

Last week, at our annual state convention, we recognized churches that had shown marked improvement in their missions participation. Those churches understood the commandment we’ve been given to go and make disciples of all people and had intentionally sent their members out on mission. 

It was so interesting to learn of things the churches had done to encourage their members to be on mission.  One pastor even commented that the increased attention on the various aspects of missions praying, giving and going contributed to a cultural shift within the congregation that led to the increased missions participation. They recognized that their church had a responsibility to send members out on mission trips, church planting efforts, disaster relief responses and local community ministry projects.  Living as sent people had brought intentionality to their going that God desires for His church.  They didn’t just go on mission, but were sent on mission by their church. 

The culture of a church will greatly influence whether or not it becomes a sending church. Culture is the personality of the church. Culture, more that vision or strategy – is a powerful factor in the church. Therefore, it’s possible that the personality or culture of a church will need an adjustment so that it can become a sending church.  Here are some steps toward development of a missions culture, that in turn, will produce a sending church.

  1. Preach sermons about missions – tell them of the church’s responsibility to send and our responsibility to go.
  2. Expect it.  Share with leaders, members and visitors that everyone is commanded to go and we’ll help you to be obedient.
  3. Repent of your failure to send and go as the Bible commands, if you’ve not been doing so. 
  4. Communicate impact – share and celebrate missionary achievements, spiritual decisions and answers to prayer.
  5. Skype with a missionary, or invite them to come and speak during the service.
  6. Pray for missionaries and ministry needs – share specific needs.
  7. Offer many different kinds of opportunities for people to use their gifts, talents and skills in missions and ministry (mission trips, local projects, long term service, etc). 
  8. Give scholarships to financially enable people to go.
  9. Provide missions education opportunities for children and adults – small groups, Sunday School, online, etc.
  10. Plan and implement a missions fair to introduce members to missionaries and missions opportunities. 
  11. Encourage giving to missions and share how the offerings are used. 
  12. Commission individuals and groups going out on mission.
  13. Adopt a missionary – develop relationship, provide support, give updates on their work, invite them to come, partner with them in the work, send teams.

So, what is the culture within your congregation?  What steps will you take to influence your church’s culture that will result in more people being sent out on mission?

Chosen to Go

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

As those redeemed by Christ, we have been chosen and called to proclaim the praises of our Savior into all the world.

So how can the church be a royal priesthood and fulfill the Great Commission given to us by God?

Six strategic principles can help the church to ensure that we do not turn from our primary calling to live on mission for Christ and to take the Gospel to every person across our globe:

  • Value the mission over methods. The Gospel and the Great Commission of our Lord are unchanging, but the methods utilized to reach our world can and often must change for us to be effective in our mission. It is always better to be missional than traditional.
  • Value people over programs. It is much more important to build relationships with people than it is fill calendars with programs. The church is not to just take up time in people’s lives, it is to disciple them to take the Gospel into the world.
  • Value risk over safety. To reach our world for Christ will involve risks. It may even mean at times that we suffer failures and setbacks and go to places that are less than safe. But great tasks and great missions are never accomplished by those who fear failure and who are unwilling to ever venture into the hard places. The Great Commission will always require steps of great faith.
  • Value super-teams over superstars. We are always stronger together than we are alone. The genius of the Cooperative Program is that it unites Southern Baptists to be more effective and efficient in reaching the world for Christ and in building His Kingdom not our own little sandcastles.
  • Value sending over maintaining. The church was not formed to gather us in. It was formed to empower us to go out. God is worthy of our worship, but real worship will always compel us to go forth from the walls of our church.
  • Value action over meetings. We can spend so much time trying to develop strategies and the perfect plan that we never actually accomplish the mission. Developing strategy and doing analysis has an important role in ministry, but we must always be careful that it does not paralyze us from action. Sometimes we just need to make a leap of faith and try something. If it does not work, stop it and try something else. Fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord will require us to get up from the pew and to go out for the sake of Christ.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

Storm Chasers

I have served almost twelve years as Disaster Relief Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and have been involved in countless disaster responses across our globe – from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest to famines in Africa. As I reflect on these events, there is no question in my mind that God is good and His heart breaks as He watches the suffering caused by these catastrophic events. For those reeling in the aftermath of these life-changing events, the loss can be overwhelming.

So what should our response be as the church to those suffering in the aftermath of these crushing incidents?

The Bible again and again calls us to reach to those wounded by life with compassion.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, ” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “

This is at the heart of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief volunteers respond time and time again to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ to those struggling in the aftermath of disasters. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are often the first on the ground and the last to leave these broken places. God’s light shines through the darkness as these responders offer the compassion and hope of Christ.

God often uses nature to both bless and to challenge us, to bring us food and to teach us the lessons of the struggle. The Bible challenges the church to fight against the devastation, disease, and brokenness of our world. He calls His followers to enter the battle and to be His hands and feet of compassion in a broken world. We are to leave the sidelines and enter the fray. As John reminds us,” This is how we have come to know love: Christ laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century it was the church that remained to minister to its neighbors when most others fled the plague. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provided millions of meals and rebuilt scores of homes. And last year, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided over 116,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and assisted hundreds of families with chainsaw cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Michael.

As the followers of Christ, we choose to be “storm-chasers”. But we do not chase the storm to gather data, we chase the storm to bring help, healing, and hope.

If you would like to learn how you could become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (502) 489-3527.

What is Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief?

Our world continues to experience devastation and destruction annually.  Man-made events as well as natural disasters continue to challenge our minds with “why.”  Why has this happened?  Why me?  Why my community?  As Believers, we cannot answer the “why,” but we can respond with love and compassion as we help those affected know that they are not forgotten by God.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the three largest disaster response entities in the United States. Trained volunteers stand ready to respond when disasters hit across our globe.  Disaster Relief ministry provides an opportunity for believers to be the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began ministry in 1984 and is part of the larger Southern Baptist Send Relief network of 42 state conventions, the North American Mission Board, and Baptist Global Response.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is supported by gifts of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  This ministry offers opportunities for believers to be on mission for Christ during times of crisis.

The Apostle John instructed us:

“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In times of crisis, people need more than empty words.  They need someone to come alongside them with genuine help and real hope.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief brings practical help, the healing grace of Christ, and the hope of the Gospel to those devastated by disaster.  More than 4500 Kentucky Baptists are trained as disaster relief volunteers.  Volunteers can staff mobile kitchens designed to provide thousands of hot meals, move in with a chainsaw after a tornado, assist homeowners in cleaning up a flooded home, offer spiritual care as a chaplain, and provide many other disaster services.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are trained in:

  • Bulk Supply Distribution
  • Chainsaw Ministry
  • Chaplain Care
  • Emergency Childcare
  • Damage Assessment
  • Flood and Wildfire Clean up
  • Mass Feeding
  • Roof Tarping
  • Radio Operations
  • Shower and Laundry Ministry
  • Water Purification and Well Repair

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has a host of resources that can be mobilized during times of disaster.  Resources that can be deployed are:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens with the capacity to prepare 68,000 meals a day for disaster survivors
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Fire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication and Command Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower trailers
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Trailer
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Mobile Roof Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-Steer
  • 1 Mobile Lift
  • 2 Fork-lifts

To learn how you or your church can get involved in this Kingdom ministry go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr, or call (502) 489-3527. Our next Disaster Relief training is at Lifepoint Church in Franklin, Kentucky on September 14. You can register for this training at
http://www.kybaptist.org/drtraining/

Strategy is a MUST for Baptist Associations

Most of the 2,400 churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention have chosen to belong to an association of churches.  Generally speaking, each association exists to provide support and assistance to member churches.  But, the specifics of how that is done and what it looks like is up to each association and its member churches to determine for their context.

For years, associations have been able to assist member churches, and many of them without any real strategy in place. But times are different today and every association should have a strategy that is understood and embraced by member churches.   It is estimated that 60-70% of associations exist in a rural or town and country setting, and they too, need a strategy that guides their work. 

According to the 2017 Baptist Associations Survey conducted by Jason Lowe, the second-most frustrating aspect of rural/town & country associations (according to church leaders) was a lack of clear vision/strategy.  It’s interesting to note that the greatest frustration was a lack of church participation.  Perhaps there is a lack of participation because there is no associational strategy. Additionally, it’s encouraging to note that according to the same survey, the top reason among church leaders in rural/town & country associations for why they would consider increasing their church’s financial contributions to the association was if the association had a clear vision/strategy.   The survey shows how important it is that every association develop a strategy that church leaders can embrace. 

Research provided in The State of Baptist Associations report did reveal 5 common elements that church leaders indicated that they wanted to see in their association’s strategy.  Those strategy elements were shared by Jason Lowe in a breakout session during the 2019 SBCAL meeting in Birmingham.  Here they are:

  1. Local evangelism and community engagement strategy –the most desired element of an associational strategy was to increase the association’s efforts to assist member churches in evangelism and community engagement.  While the details of how that looks will be different in each context, church leaders want to partner with other churches to engage their communities with the gospel.  Associations should take the lead in studying spiritual & social demographics of communities and coordinating efforts to mobilize churches on mission locally.
  2. Local church planting strategy – while some church leaders would prefer that their association spend less time in church planting efforts, the majority of church leaders would like to see their association spend more time in leading, assisting, or (at the very least) supporting local church planting efforts.
  3. Missions Strategy – in addition to local evangelism efforts, church leaders want their association to assist in planning and coordinating missions opportunities beyond their local area. This could include state, national, or international partnerships or mission projects led by the association.
  4. Leadership Development Strategy – associations need to make sure that opportunities are provided to equip, encourage, and strengthen pastors and church leaders. Consider developing a Leadership Pipeline, especially if your association has difficulty in identifying enough pastors to serve in your churches. Partner with your state convention to provide workshops and conferences that assist in developing leaders. 
  5. Communication Strategy – when asked to identify what would motivate them to increase their church’s financial contributions to the association, one of the most popular answers was an increased awareness of the association’s ministry efforts among church leaders and lay members alike. Therefore, associational leaders must not only implement a clear strategy for helping churches partner together to advance God’s kingdom, they must share the message of how it is being done through email, newsletters, social media, etc.  And it must be clearly communicated frequently and consistently. 

Association’s that have an effective strategy to guide them will prove value to member churches and bring benefit to themselves.  If your association doesn’t have a clearly defined strategy, now is the time to develop one.  For assistance in developing a strategy for your association, contact your state convention or an associational mission strategist.   

Amazing Grace

Jesus demonstrated to a broken world that “grace” is more powerful, more inviting, and more life-changing than fear, lectures, or judgement.  God’s truth is embraced when we understand that God is good and desires to give us life.

Our Christian faith teaches that Jesus fully satisfied God’s wrath and judgement on the cross, and assures everlasting life to all who follow Him through the resurrection.  God offers us forgiveness, acceptance, love, and life through the life-changing grace of Christ. 

The Bible shouts to the world the best news ever, “God in His deep love for us has poured out His grace that we might know Him and have life in Him.”  It truly is “Amazing Grace.”

Understanding the depth of God’s grace has three powerful, life-changing results in our life:

  1. It overwhelms you with gratitude.
  2. It captures your heart and awakens deep trust in the God who has poured out His grace on you.  When grace captures your heart, you embrace God’s biblical truth because you realize God desires the best for us and that His way is the best way.
  3. It motivates you to overflow with grace to others.

In 2 Timothy 2:1, the Apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul is reminding this young Christian leader that as Believers we started in grace, stand in grace, and are strengthened in grace.  God calls us who have been given such grace to be strong in grace, to be empowered in grace, and to be a witness in a broken world by overflowing with grace.

Mercy ministries give us an opportunity to demonstrate the life-changing grace of Christ to a broken world.  In times of disaster, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers illustrate the grace of Christ by offering unmerited help and kindness to those devastated by the ravaging loss of a disaster event. 

God calls His followers to wade into the muck and to be His agents of grace.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief extends the grace of Christ by sharing a hot meal to the hungry, cutting a tree off the home of a widow, bringing clean water to a village, cleaning out the flooded home of our neighbor, or praying with one overwhelmed and broken by loss.

Time and again those whom we minister ask disaster relief volunteers;

“Why would you come and help me?”

“Why would you travel so far, sleep on cots, help someone that you have never met, and do it all at no cost?” 

 I am thankful that we can share with them that it is all because of the grace of Christ.  We offer grace because God has poured out His grace on us. And as we demonstrate that grace it opens doors to share the best news ever that God in His deep love offers that life-changing grace to all who will receive it.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief demonstrating the strength of Christ’s grace as they offer help, healing and hope!

Effectiveness of Baptist Associations Questioned

The Baptist association has been an important part of our history as Southern Baptists. It has been described as “the oldest cooperative unit in Baptist life tracing its existence back over 300 years.” Therefore, because of its long history, one could assume that the association must be effective in networking and helping churches in missions and ministry.  But longevity of an organization doesn’t guarantee its relevance and value.  

I have participated in associations that were effective and viewed as important by member churches.  However, I’ve also seen associations where the focus had subtly shifted from serving and assisting churches to maintaining the associational staff and budget. So, what determines the effectiveness of an association?  While the answer to this question is in some part determined by the context of the association and its member churches, there are some basic principles that can be applied to any association of churches. 

Several years ago, Hugh Townsend (North American Mission Board) and others presented a model for a 21st Century Association known as the Four F’s: Fast, Focused, Flexible, and Friendly. It’s something that I have referred Kentucky associations to on numerous occasions.  I would suggest that the leadership of every Baptist association or network of churches evaluate their effectiveness through the lens of these four F’s.  Consider building the association’s structure and documents around these as well. 

Fast – How long does it take your association to make a decision to spend $1,000? If a church has a need to be met, or the association has a ministry opportunity for its churches that it is made aware of, how fast can you meet it? Can you do so within hours or days, or does it take weeks and months? Effective associations are able to minister effectively in a short period of time.

Focused – Priority-based core values, mission, vision. Focus on taking the association to the churches… and when they need it. Customize what you do. Is the association’s focus on serving the churches and assisting them in advancing the Gospel, or is there a mindset that the churches are there for the association? The focus of the association should be on assisting the churches in their mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved.

Flexible – How do you respond to immediate or emerging opportunities and needs? Is your structure flexible enough to meet church needs and conduct mission and ministry opportunities as they arise, or is it necessary to wait three or more months until the next Executive Committee or Annual Meeting to get approval? An Administrative Team or other committee/team should have the ability to adapt and readily meet the needs of the churches and the community. The structure should be simple, effective, and welcoming to new pastors and churches as well as to existing ones.

Friendly –Do the churches find the association ready and able to provide assistance and resourcing at their point of need and in a timely fashion? Is your association staff and leadership pastor/church friendly, or are they more concerned about not being inconvenienced? Is it relatively easy and simple for a pastor/church leader to contact the person needed and access the info/material that is available, or is it difficult? 

Based on the Four F’s, how effective is your association?  If associations aren’t effective, they will cease to exist because they are no longer of value to local churches.   

by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, Kentucky Baptist Convention, June 2019.