Are You Called to Missions?

Ninety persons who heard the call to missions currently serve, not in another country, not in another state, but right here in Kentucky.  Most times when we think of someone being “called to missions” our thought is to some remote area in Africa, China, or to international missions.  God’s call however, may be in the U.S. or, many times, right in a person’s own home state.

Time and again we hear testimonies from Kentucky missionaries saying they thought God would call them to serve “overseas”, or at least in another state, when His call was to serve right at home, to reach the thousands in Kentucky who do not have a saving faith in Christ.

Kentucky missionaries, or Kentucky Mission Support Catalyst (KY-MSC) as they are called, serve in a wide range of positions, including food and clothing ministries, pregnancy care centers, equestrian ministries, jail and prison ministries, disaster relief, all types of outreach ministries, and ministries to all age groups.  The positions engage in or directly support missions, church planting, collegiate ministry, or evangelism, in cooperative partnership with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, association, or organization.

To become a Kentucky missionary, candidates must be baptized Christ followers who are 18 years of age or older, be called by God, and be an active member of a local Kentucky Baptist Church.  They complete a KY-MSC application and commit to the KBC missionary conduct pledge.  The missionaries serve a minimum of 20 hours per week for the duration of their assignment, and commit to serve from 9 months to 3 years, which can be renewed.

Kentucky Mission Support Catalysts are self-funded.  Although a person can serve without becoming a Kentucky missionary, there are many advantages.  Two main advantages are prayer support, as people all over the state pray for them through interSEED (www.kybaptist.org/interseed), and networking with other missionaries.  The missionaries can be adopted by a church (http://www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary,1477), and they participate in orientation and a commissioning service.

Becoming a missionary opens the door for opportunities to share about their ministry and have teams come to serve with them in ministry.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention, as well as the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, helps to promote their ministries and share their stories, offers opportunities for the missionaries to speak and/or display at events, and offers an annual missionary retreat.  Grants are also available for the missionaries through both the KBC and KY WMU.

Perhaps you have felt a call to local missions and would like to learn more about KY-MSC.  Or, you may already be serving 20 hours in a ministry and would like to apply to serve as a Kentucky missionary.  Please click on the following link for more information and to download the application – http://www.kybaptist.org/kentucky-mission-support-catalyst,1635.   Or, feel free to contact us.  We would love to help you discover where God may be leading you to serve.

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)

 

 

So, What’s In Your Hand?

Most of us have seen the commercial advertising a credit card that ends with, “so what’s in your wallet?” There are many card options available and they want viewers to think about which one they are carrying.

Have you ever given thought to what’s in your hand?  What is it that you do with your hands?  Perhaps you use a drill, saw or hammer to build things.  Maybe you use your hands on a computer keyboard to design, write or keep financial records.  Some will use pots, pans and kitchen utensils in their hands to cook or bake.  I know of others who can produce beautiful music with instruments placed in their hands.  And still others who can offer healing and relief from pain using medical instruments in their hands.  So, what’s in your hand? 

God has placed within each of us gifts, skills and talents that he intends us to use for His glory.  Sadly, many have only used those gifts, skills and talents for personal gain.  Imagine what could happen if we were willing to release and give to the Lord what we hold in our hands.

Moses had a rod that he used for guiding, protecting and leaning on when tending sheep and walking the hillsides.  However, when that rod was released and given to God, it was used to part the sea, bring water from a rock and determine the winner in a mighty battle.  When the rod of Moses became God’s (Exodus 4:20), Moses was able to do extraordinary things with an ordinary stick.

What ordinary thing do you hold in your hand?  If we are willing, God will take whatever we hold in our hands and use it in extraordinary ways for His Kingdom’s advancement.  There are missions opportunities in Kentucky, North America and around the world that need you to use what’s in your hands.  There are construction, medical, farming, and technical needs that make great platforms for sharing the gospel with those who don’t yet know Christ.  Being on mission simply means using what’s in your hands and obediently answering His call.  So, what’s in your hands?

Check out www.kybaptist.org/GO for hundreds of mission opportunities through which you can use what’s in your hand.

It’s Horse Time in Kentucky

In just 11 days all eyes will be on Kentucky for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, commonly known as the greatest two minutes in sports.

Over 160,000 will make their way to the Bluegrass for this event.  Parties, celebrities, hats, mint juleps, betting, the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the race itself, the garland of roses, and the trophy presentation in the winner’s circle are all a part of this first leg of the Triple Crown.  Much excitement is in the air.

Kentucky is horse country for sure.  And, while people come from all around the world and spends thousands and thousands of dollars on this one weekend, out across our state there are many lesser known horses and lesser known owners that are making a difference in lives far beyond what the Derby brings.  In equestrian ministries throughout Kentucky boys, girls, men, and women hear the Gospel message and their lives are changed forever.

Missionary Chris Clarke, from Nortonville (Hopkins County), directs Happy Trails Ministry where he leads worship services at horse shows.  Chris shares (many times on horseback) about Five Building Blocks of Faith (Believe, Faith, Trust, Obedience, Surrender) and uses the horse to demonstrate each building block.  Chris also plays guitar and leads music, each service ending with the singing of “Happy Trails to You.”  In addition to the horse shows, Chris pastors Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church in Marshall County, KY.  Chris has shared about people who have come to know the Lord through these services.

In Letcher County, The Stables at Creekside Glen, directed by Drew & Leah Baldwin, is a ministry that uses horses as the platform to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This ministry hosts week-long camps, individual riding lessons, trail rides, carriage rides, and have teamed up with a local elementary school to help students with autism how to care for and ride horses.  For more information on The Stables at Creekside Glen, go to http://meridzo.com/stables-at-creekside-2/.

Russell Creek & Lynn Baptist Association Director of Missions Wilburn Bonta and Missionaries Charlie & Roma Simmons have lead worship services at trail rides and local horse shows, and at Land Between the Lakes’ Wrangler Camps for years.

And, in Annville, KY (Jackson County) Missionaries Mitch & Christie Schumacher direct High Mountain Horsemanship Outreach, a ministry that exists to inspire hope and growth by connecting horses, people, and God through the therapeutic equine programs, lessons, and events.  Everything they do is about pointing people a life changing faith in Jesus.  For more information about this ministry go to http://thehighmountain.com/.

Both High Mountain Horsemanship and The Stables at Creekside Glen have opportunities for volunteers to serve with them.  If you love horses why not consider a mission trip to one of these ministries.  To check out ways you can serve, go to their websites or check out the following links:

A few days serving in one of these ministries will be much more rewarding than a two-minute horse race.

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)

 

 

 

Meet Our New 2017 Kentucky Missionaries

Spring has officially arrived, which means it is time for our annual missionary orientation and commissioning of the new missionaries serving in Kentucky.  The orientation is a time for the missionaries to learn about the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program, and many resources and support available to them.  This time of networking with each other is most valuable.

Eight men and women that have sensed God’s call to serve in ministries across our state will be commissioned at the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union Missions Celebration on Saturday morning, April 1st, at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.

Those new missionaries are:

  • Damon & Yolonda Armstead, Executive Director and Director of Weekday Ministries at the Baptist Fellowship Center in Louisville.
  • Cory Bledsoe, Executive Director of Louisville Rescue Mission.
  • Joanna Mack, Executive Director of Grace & Mercy in Hopkinsville.
  • Renee Parsons, Director of Hope Central, a ministry of Central Baptist Church in Ashland.
  • Teresa Purichia, Interim Executive Director of Crossroads Life Center, a pregnancy care center in Glasgow.
  • Twyla Sheffield, KBC Northern Region Missions Mobilization Consultant.
  • Kendra Smallwood, Director of “A Chosen Sisterhood” women’s ministry of Rockhouse Baptist Church in Hyden.

This year’s WMU Celebration will also feature an Eastern Kentucky Missions Extravaganza that you will not want to miss.  During the Extravaganza participants will have an opportunity to visit and interact with many of the eastern Kentucky missionaries for a “hands-on” experience of the work they do.

By all means, we would like to extend a special invitation for you to join us for this year’s KY WMU Celebration and commissioning service, and pledge your support to these new missionaries.

The 2017 Kentucky Missionary of the Year will also be announced.

For more information on the Kentucky WMU Missions Celebration go to http://kywmu.org/annualmeeting.

Hope to see you there.

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.”

God has not forgotten

IMG_4386While recently visiting a European country to explore gospel partnerships and work among refugees, I was reminded about a truth that all need to hear. As our team listened to story after story of refugees who fled their homeland because of personal danger, one theme continued to emerge—God has not forgotten you! Whether from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, or elsewhere, God has not only not forgotten the refugee, He cares deeply for them.

In fact, as one man’s story goes, God uses the hurts and sorrows in their lives to bring about His purposes for them. This Muslim man fled his country because of radical Muslims. When coming to Europe he met a Christian for the first time. As he began to develop a relationship with this Jesus follower, he wondered why no Christians ever came to his country to tell them about Jesus. He eventually answered his own question. In his own words, Christians never came because they are not allowed, so God sent us to them so we could hear about Jesus.

God is using the crisis of refugees to expand the gospel among people’s in the world that have been closed to the gospel for centuries. In fact, the people in the 10/40 window are moving to Europe and North America in ways like never before. Why? Well, according to some who lived in the 10/40 window, God is sending those who need to hear the gospel to places much more accessible to receive the gospel.

The question that Christians must ask is, What part will I play in advancing the gospel among these people? Whether in our own country or a country more accessible to the gospel in Europe, Christians have a part to play.

“God has not forgotten you” is a truth for us all. Refugees hear this message as Christians show the love of Jesus and then share the love of Jesus. God is bringing refugees from the 10/40 window to places in the world where gospel mercy and gospel witness can be demonstrated. What part will you play in God’s unfolding plan to reach the unreached in parts of the world where they are easier to reach? Contact the Missions Mobilization team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention for tangible ways to play your part.

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.