Tearing Down the Walls

In November of 1989, the East German government announced it would allow limited travel across the West German border.  within hours of this news, hundreds of thousands of East and West Germans gathered around the Berlin wall.  A massive celebration erupted and people began spontaneously tearing down the wall with hammers and chisels.  The rest is history, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.  The wall that had divided the people was brought down.

May I ask, are there any walls in your life that divide you from others?  Walls that place you on one side and separate you from those other folks?  Perhaps the young adult with more tattoos and piercings than you find comfortable?  Maybe that Syrian family that just arrived at the airport?  Could it be the Latino family who moved to your neighborhood?  Or that homeless person standing on the street corner near your workplace?  And if you really want to get personal, how about those Samaritans?

In Jesus day, there was a huge invisible wall that stood between Samaritans and Jews.  The two cultures had hated each other for over a thousand years or so.  Jews believed that Samaritans were half-breeds, and those who had rejected the true faith by marrying pagans.  A Jew counted a Samaritan as a little less than a stray dog.

Jesus, however, broke all the rules.  Jesus had reached out to a Samaritan woman at a well and shared that God was more concerned with worshipping in spirit and in truth than whose family you were born in.  Jesus showed us that God loves the world…every person in the world.

That is why we read in Acts 8 that God sent Philip to preach Christ in the city of Samaria, and revival broke out.  God’s hammer was tearing down walls.

But God was not through.  He sent Philip on a second cross-cultural mission, and as he journeyed, his path intersected with an Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip shared with him the truth of the Gospel, and the Ethiopian became a baptized follower of Christ.  The walls of race were hammered to the ground, and the two became brothers in Christ.

Walls always divide us.  God desires to bring down the walls and to unite us as family in Christ.

We cannot experience the life that God wants to give us unless we are willing to lay aside our bias and prejudice. Who is the Samaritan in your world?  Who is the Ethiopian eunuch that God has brought across your path?   Will you take God’s hammer and help Him bring down the walls?

Kentucky Baptists have always been willing to go to the airport and travel to the farthest corners of the world for the sake of the Gospel.  God is asking us today; will we be just as willing to go to the airport to meet a refugee family for Christ’s sake?  Would we be willing to go down the street and offer a little hospitality to the family that looks a little different from us for Jesus?

Will we be those who tear down the walls?

Interested in becoming involved with a refugee family, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office to learn more at (502) 489-3527 or by ewmail at [email protected]

 

 

Missions Participation Involves Sending, Going and Making

The idea of Christ followers being involved in missions is supported throughout scripture. Two very familiar passages are Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Both record the words of Christ, telling His followers to go and make disciples of all people by being His witness in all places.

The church is not supposed to only study or learn about missions. The Bible is clear about our responsibility and uses action words like “send”, “go” and “make” disciples to emphasize the church’s role.  A church that is sending, going and making will experience a high level of missions participation by its members. Participation in missions is critical to healthy church development, individual spiritual growth and advancement of the gospel.  How exciting it is to learn of churches that are missions active, rather than simply missions minded.

Below is a list of Kentucky’s top ten churches, in terms of missions participation. Missions participation refers to mission trips, church planting efforts, local ministry projects and disaster relief responses.  Each of the churches has earned recognition because they had a greater percentage of their worship attendance participating in missions this year than they did the previous.

  1. Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, Lewisport, Jerry Dalton, pastor.
  2. Charleston First Baptist Church, Dawson Springs, Patrick Yates, pastor.
  3. East Hickman Baptist Church, Lexington, Kevin Davidson, pastor
  4. Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, Catlettsburg, Mike Blankenship, pastor.
  5. Tiny Town Baptist Church, Guthrie, James “Buck” Tidwell, pastor.
  6. Williamstown Baptist Church, Williamstown, Terry Leap, pastor.
  7. Little Flock Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Rodney Alexander, pastor.
  8. Salem Baptist Church, Irvine, Jerry Smith, pastor.
  9. Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Nancy, Patrick Patterson, pastor.
  10. Gamaliel Baptist Church, Gamaliel, Danny Pace, pastor.

Pastor “Buck” Tidwell shared that Tiny Town Baptist Church experienced an increase in missions participation because of their initial involvement in Operation Inasmuch a year ago.  Not only did that single day of community engagement through missions projects involve a large percentage of their Sunday morning attendance, but a weekly backpack ministry to needy children was birthed as a result. Now, every week members are participating in missions because they were first encouraged to participate in a one-day mission event.

I don’t know how or why all of the churches saw increased missions participation, but I do know that the more seeds that are sown, the greater the Kingdom harvest. Pastors should lead their people to participate in missions because we’re commanded to do so and we have a gospel to proclaim.  However, there are benefits to churches that are sending, going and making disciples through missions participation.

Benefits to the missions participating church include: 

  1. Improves health and vitality.
  2. Generates passionate and exciting worship.
  3. Stimulates revitalization and growth.
  4. Develops disciples.
  5. Puts emphasis on people, not buildings or budgets.
  6. Turns focus outward, rather than inward.
  7. A greater Kingdom harvest because more seeds are sown.

My prayer is that more churches will experience an increase in the number of people participating in missions, but it won’t happen accidentally.  It demands an intentional effort by the pastor and church leadership.  What will you do in your church to encourage greater missions participation that calls people to send, go and make?

Thankful for Kentucky Missions

It’s November and Fall is in the air.  The days are getting shorter.  The crisp, cooler temperatures are here, and the hills are filled with the beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors of the season.  Soon we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and reflect on the many ways God has blessed us this past year.

What has your year been like?   What do you have to be thankful for?  How has God blessed you?  And, how have you been a blessing to other people?

As I look back over the past 12 months, I want to thank God for His calling on my life and for allowing me to have a part in His great work in Kentucky.  It is a blessing to serve across the state with churches, associations, KBC staff, Kentucky WMU, and most of all, our Kentucky missionaries.  Below are some highlights of year for which I am thankful:

  • for the 93 Kentucky Missionaries that serve across our state.
  • for 17 new missionaries that joined our Kentucky Missionary Family.
  • for the 3217 professions of faith reported by the missionaries.
  • for over 20,000 volunteers that served with the missionaries, and many others that served churches and associations.
  • for thousands of dollars of resources that were donated to Kentucky ministries.
  • for the more than 15,000 Christmas Backpacks that blessed the children of Kentucky last Christmas, and for over 7000 Christmas Backpacks that were filled by Kentucky Baptists for needy children in Kentucky and the Send Cincinnati area this Christmas.
  • for Kentucky Missionary of the Year Amy Wilhelmus, Director of the Moore Activity Center in Covington.
  • for George & Cathy Chinn, Ryan Horrell, Pat Howard, Arlene Miller, John Morris, and Twyla Sheffield – the 7 mobilization consultants that serve assist me across the state.
  • for Cooperative Program and Eliza Broadus Offering that helps to fund the ministries in Kentucky.

Many lives have been touched this year by Kentucky Baptists, and the year is not over.  There are still nearly two months to serve.  Who can you bless during this time?  Look for ways that you can share God’s love during these last 2 months of 2017.

For information on serving with a Kentucky ministry during the holiday season contact the KBC Missions Mobilization office at 502-489-3530 or email [email protected].  You will be blessed, as well as be a blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Going to Zimbabwe


Recently, I had the privilege to lead my second short-term mission team to Zimbabwe, Africa.  The purpose of the mission was twofold: train pastors and church leaders in theological education and model racial reconciliation.  The team consisted of 8 African-American pastors and 5 Anglo pastors.  The team was not only diverse ethnically, but also demographically.  We had team members serving in the inner city, suburbs and rural areas of KY.  We had the privilege to partner with Nick and Kyndra Moore, IMB missionaries serving in Zimbabwe.

No one on the team knew every team member of the team (well).  In fact, the day we left for Zimbabwe was the day some of our team met each other for the first time.  We arrived in Zimbabwe and hit the ground running.  Spending the first night in a central location, the next day (Sunday) after the team split up for worship in two local churches, we grabbed our bags and loaded our vehicles and ventured out into twelve different locations throughout the country.  Some of our team members stayed in larger cities and enjoyed more modern accommodations (such as warm bread pudding and ice-cream), while others stayed in huts with hammocks and dodged giant moths, just being grateful they were not bats!  Regardless of where our team members stayed, they loved on the people of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe loved on them.

Each team member was responsible for teaching a set curriculum in partnership with World Hope Bible Institute.  The material consisted of courses ranging from hermeneutics to expository preaching to soteriology to New Testament to Systematic Theology to Ecclesiology.  Each location received teaching in three courses.

Relationships were built and churches were strengthened through the teaching ministry of our team.  Even more impactful were the lessons learned by our team as they observed the hunger and passion by the Zimbabweans to the learn the Word of God.  As always, our team received more than they gave.

 

While the whole mission was designed to intentionally create an environment for multi-ethnic cooperative missions, our team spent intentional time at the end of our week discussing what that looks like for churches today.  We used the new book Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention as a springboard for our discussion.  Kevin Jones, one of the book’s editors, who also was on our mission team, facilitated our discussion.  While much was said during our time of dialogue that was extremely beneficial, what stood out to me the most was that relationships are key to racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention.  We must live life together and do ministry together before the ills of racism will truly crumble.  So, let’s not just talk about racial reconciliation, let’s live it out together for the cause of the gospel and the glory of God to all nations.

Will Your Life Count?

Where does time go?  It seems only yesterday that I was playing right tackle for the Greenback Cherokees.  Just minutes ago, I was looking into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world as I said, “I Do.”  And our children, how could they all have grown up so fast?

Somewhere it hits us all.  Maybe it is at your grandmother’s funeral.  Perhaps it is when your older brother left for the Marines.  For some of us, it is when we make our first house payment, or at our daughter’s wedding.  But there comes a time when we realize that life is more than ballgames, pizza, and homework.  Time is marching on. The days of our life pass quickly.

The Bible tells us that God has ordained the days of every person’s life.  In Psalm 139:16, we read, “All the days ordained for me were recorded in Your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

Our life is a gift from God and a seed of our parents.  Every life is unique.  There is no one exactly like you in the universe.  No other person can live your life.  When your days are done, there is no recycling bin to recreate you for another round of use.  We only have one chance to make our life count.  So can I ask you, what are you doing with your one-and-only life?

When all is said and done, will your life have counted for something?   Will it have mattered for eternity’s sake?

Can I ask you a couple of questions?

  1. If you had lived in Nazi Germany as a believer in Christ, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?
  2.  If you had lived in Alabama in the 1960’s, would you have spoken out against racism?
  3. When your grandchildren discover that you lived among the wealthiest generation in the history during a time when someone dies of starvation every 2.5 seconds, and a child dies from unclean water every 20 seconds, how will they judge how you chose to live and what you did with the blessings that God has given you?
  4. In a time when 2/3 of our world still needs the Gospel, can you name one thing last year that identified you as being on mission for Jesus?
  5. At your funeral would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you as a Follower of Christ?

These first two questions are easier, aren’t they?  They are just hypothetical.  I want to believe that I would have had the courage to stand against evil and racism.

It is those last three questions that trouble me at times.  For they are not hypothetical.  These are about the choices that I am making today with my life.  We choose each day what we will invest our life.

You and I were created by God to make a difference for His sake in our allotted time.  To make our life count now and beyond the grave.  To do our part to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.  In the end, nothing else will really matter.

Are you on mission for the sake of Christ?

Will your life count?  

Want to learn more about how to make your life count?  Contact the Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at (502) 489-3530 or [email protected]

Mission Hope for Kids – Touching Hearts & Changing Lives

These two pictures (cardboard testimonies) tell the story.  The first one reads, “Before Mission Hope for Kids…Depressed, Worthlessness, No Friends, Thoughts of Suicide!!”  The second one, “After Mission Hope for Kids…Depression Gone, I am Worthy, Have Friends, I want to Live!!!! Thank You Jesus.”

Mission Hope for Kids is touching hearts and changing lives and the future of an entire generation of children and youth in Hardin County, KY.  They invest in the lives of at-risk students from low-income families and offer them a weekly sanctuary, a place where they can come as young as 4 years of age and continue to receive services through high school.  The students have their educational, spiritual, physical and emotional needs addressed by caring mentors.

Directed by KY-MSC Missionary Nelle Thomas and a large group of dedicated volunteers, this ministry has been serving the children of Hardin County since 2007.  The ministry began as an outreach of a local church, when a handful of church members volunteered to transport the children to the church facility to reach and care for them in a weekly Bible study.  Immediately after the program began, volunteers realized that the children were hungry and started a local chapter of Kid’s Café, to provide for both the physical and spiritual needs of these children living in poverty.  They were soon providing a meal, Bible study, and activities for 150 children in Elizabethtown.  With such a large growth, and a desire to do more for the kids, Kid’s Café dissolved, and Mission Hope for Kids was officially established in May 2012.

On a recent visit to Mission Hope for Kids, I learned that they currently serve over 250 students from pre-school through high school and offer food, access to clothes and hygiene items, support, care and mentoring by engaged adults, and continue to give hope to kids in Hardin County, so they can experience a better day and the brighter tomorrow that they deserve.

They serve alongside the schools and other county entities to develop a comprehensive program with a vision to make a positive impact by giving the students opportunities to become Godly, responsible and community-minded citizens with a bright future.

Students enrolled in the Mission Hope for Kids program are provided with tools, skills and year-round support to help them overcome the many challenges they face at home, school, and in life.  Every student qualifies to attend the program once a week, year-round, and to attend special events like a Back-to-School Bash and Christmas Party.

Mission Hope for Kids is truly making a difference.  Would you like to get involved?  MHFK can continually use volunteers and resources.  Some of their current needs are:

  • Someone to assist with computer skills
  • Computer updating
  • 50 plastic chairs
  • Dave Ramsey material for youth
  • Volunteers to help the students as they shop, to build relationships, and pray with the students.

For more information about Mission Hope for Kids, to see a video of the ministry, or to volunteer to serve, go to http://www.missionhopeforkids.org/media/.

Global Hunger Sunday

When Southern Baptists observe Global Hunger Sunday on October 8, they will be called to act on the commands of Scripture.  The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw the hungry and hurting multitude in Matthew 14, “He had compassion on them…”  He healed and fed those who flocked to Him.

Scripture is filled with God’s compassion for the afflicted, broken, and hungry.  Isaiah 58:10 teaches, “And if you offer yourself to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness and your night will be like noonday.”

Compassion is more than a warm, fuzzy thought.  Compassion is a movement and desire in your gut that compels you to act.  The Global Hunger Fund gives us a way to act on the gut-wrenching scenes of need that are painted across the landscape of our world.  The Global Hunger Fund presents us opportunities, as God’s people, to make a difference for the sake of Christ.

The Global Hunger Fund gives us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to:

  • a single mother and five children suffering from famine in Lesotho;
  • a Christian family needing a touch of hope in the refugee camps of Northern Iraq;
  • an infant needing clean water in a remote village in Mozambique;
  • a hungry child in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky;
  • and to the multitudes weary and hurting in forsaken corners of our world.

Since its inception in 1974, Southern Baptists have given more than 235 million dollars through the Global Hunger Fund to meet needs both at home and abroad.  Tragically, in recent years, the amount given to the Global Hunger fund has been decreasing.

However, hunger needs have not diminished, nor has God’s love for those who are hungry, sick, and thirsty.  This God-driven fund helps families survive disaster and famine, provides clean water and medical care, improves health and nutrition, and most importantly helps countless people to hear of the hope and Good News of Jesus Christ.

On October 8, will you do your part in helping Southern Baptists respond to a hungry world?

Would you consider giving the cost of a meal out to help provide food for a hungry family in Eastern Kentucky?

Would you consider giving a gift of $25 to provide clean water in a forgotten village?  

Would you give $100 to provide medical supplies to a refugee camp in the Middle East?

Would you consider giving $500 to provide food for widows, orphans, and single mothers in a famine-stricken village?

Would you give a gift of compassion that someone may know the hope of Christ?

Give to the Global Hunger Fund on World Hunger Sunday, October 8!

Global Song

He was captive to the thought that the greatness and salvation of God should be extended to the nations.  He was determined that the nations be called to worship the one true God through the gift of His Son, Jesus.  He wrote of praying prayers such as this: “I covenanted with my Father that He would do either of two things- either glorify Himself to the utmost in me, or slay me.  By His grace I shall not have His second best” (Daniel Akin, Five Who Changed the World, 88).

He knew that his desire for God to be glorified in his life would best be lived out by telling the nations of God’s greatness.  Writing a letter to his family, he said, “Remember you are immortal until your work is done.  But don’t let the sands of time get into the eyes of your vision to reach those who still sit in darkness.  They simply must hear” (Five Who Changed, 93).  Not allowing the sands of time to blur his vision, he went to South America and to the country of Ecuador.  He had heard of the Huaorani Indians, also know as the Auca Indians.  They had never heard of Jesus, but he was willing to live his life so that they would hear.  He was willing to give his life so that they would hear.

That was in the mid-1950s.  Many scores of others have never heard of Jesus.  Yet, God has a heart for the nations, as is evidenced in Psalm 96.  The Psalmist insists, “Sing to the Lord a new Song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. . . . Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples” (Ps 96:1, 3).

The word “peoples” or “nations” is used throughout this psalm.  There is an estimate of 11,629 people groups in the world (www.joshuaproject.net).  People groups (PGs) can be defined in a basic way as those of the same language and common identity.  By identity is meant common history, customs, family and clan identities (www.peoplegroups.org). Of these PGs, over 7,000 have less than 2% of Christian presence among them, which represents over 4.3 billion people.

Let me put it in this light: nearly 60% (4.3 billion people of the world’s 7.5 billion population) of the world’s population has very little to no Christian witness.  Essentially, six out of every ten people in the world have little to no access to the gospel.  We know that Scripture teaches us that the Lord will save people from every tongue, tribe, people and nation (Rev 5:9).  In other words, the Lord will save individuals from every people group.  How will this be brought about?  The answer: When our passion for God burns hot and bright, then our desire to make Him known among the nations/peoples of the world will extend globally.

It will take multiple hearts like that of Jim Elliot in the 1950s to see Psalm 96 lived out today.  The nations are called to worship the one true God, and we are the ones to call them to do so.  So, let’s call the nations to sing.

 

 

Why Get Trained?

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief offers several training opportunities every year for volunteers to become trained in disaster reponse., and to get connected with this Christ-centered ministry.

Why get trained?  Let me give you several reasons, why it is important to be trained if you want to respond in a positive and effective way in times of disaster:

  • People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
  • Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
  • Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to provide appropriate assistance and correct information to those affected.
  • Untrained volunteers lack expertise to genuinely help those who have suffered loss, and are unprepared to handle the emotional trauma of victims.
  • Untrained volunteers are unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.  
  • Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management; and, because of this, usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  • Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get site access in disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  • The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!

Check out these opportunities for training in 2017 and 2018:

September 16, 2017 – First Baptist Church of Richmond

January 13, 2018 – First Baptist Church of Grayson

February 10, 2018 – Mexico Baptist Church in Marion

March 10, 2018 – Shelbyville First Baptist Church

April 14, 2018 – Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green

September 15, 2018 – Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin

For more information, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office by phone at (502) 489-3527 or (866) 489-3527, by email at [email protected], or register for training at www.kybaptist.org/dr/.

 

It’s Not Too Late…

 

School is back in session, summer is almost over, and Christmas is soon approaching.  Although only four months away, there is still time to participate in the Christmas Backpack Project for children affected by poverty.  17.3 million of the children living in the U.S. live in poverty, with almost 1 million of them in Kentucky.

For these children, Christmas does not always come with gifts, like it does for others.  For the past several years thousands of children in Kentucky have been receiving backpacks from Baptists in surrounding states filled with food, clothing, hygiene items, school supplies, toys, and a Bible or some Gospel witness.  To see the smiles on the children’s faces as they walk out with a backpack, many times almost as big as themselves, just warms the heart and helps you to experience the joy of giving.

In 2016 over 15,000 Kentucky children were blessed with these gifts and, this year, we want to invite Kentucky Baptists to be a part of this effort.  A goal of collecting 5,000 backpacks from Kentucky Baptist churches (the NAMB goal is 65,000) has been set.  One half of the backpacks collected in Kentucky will be distributed to children living in poverty in our state, with the other half going to need children in the Send Cincinnati area.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is partnering with Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union and the North American Mission Board (Appalachian Regional Ministry and Mississippi River Ministry), in this effort.  Many churches, associations, WMU groups, Sunday School classes, and even individuals are already working diligently to pack their backpacks.  It was also the mission project for many Vacation Bible Schools this past summer.  We are excited to report that, to date, we have 107 registered participants, for a total of 3479 backpacks committed.

For information on how you can participate, how to pack a Christmas backpack, or to register your church’s participation go to www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.  Or, if you would like to have someone come and share with you about this project please contact email  [email protected].  Collection date is October 16-20 so please respond soon and join us in making a difference in a child’s life this Christmas and, very possibly, for eternity.