Both…And!

I had the opportunity last week to spend several days in eastern Kentucky alongside disaster relief volunteers who were providing help, hope and healing following historic flooding in thirteen counties.  I saw families who had lost everything, literally everything except the clothes on their backs. Homes were washed down river, cars destroyed, personal possessions lost, and everything left behind covered in mud.  Flood insurance is almost non-existent, and families are overwhelmed and uncertain what to do next.  The question was raised in a discussion with someone who had come to help, “are we here to help them recover from the flood or share the gospel?”  The answer is Yes! 

Caring for the needs of others is not an option for Christ followers. Jesus demonstrated this by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons and raising the dead. If we are going to identify with Him, then we too, must love our neighbors and help those in need.    

However, preaching the gospel is not an option either.  Jesus said I was sent to preach the kingdom of God to others. We too, have an obligation to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). Furthermore, those who are lost can’t believe and call upon Christ to be saved unless they hear the gospel preached (Romans 10:14). 

So, which was more important to Jesus, caring for the needs of others or preaching the gospel?  I don’t know that he had a preference.  We find that Jesus preached and cared for others everywhere he went.  Every time Jesus sent out the disciples, He commanded them to take care of the needy as they preached the gospel.

We understand from scripture that after Jesus’ return to heaven, the disciples followed His example of simultaneously preaching and caring for others.  We observe in the life of Jesus and the disciples, that caring for hurting people provides opportunities for preaching the gospel. Jesus didn’t send some of us to preach and others to do disaster relief or community service. 

Helping mud out a flooded home is complimentary to sharing the gospel.  Blending the feeding of a family in a shelter with telling them about Jesus is God-honoring.  Providing a place to shower or do laundry can easily be mixed with listening to others and sharing how we’ve found hope in Christ.

A healthy balance between meeting needs and preaching the gospel can be so effective in reaching the lost.  Success of this approach is evidenced in the sixty-four (64) lives that have come to faith in Christ because of the flood recovery efforts in eastern Kentucky in the last several weeks.

Remember the question that prompted this post – “are we here to help them recover from the flood or share the gospel?”  I’m not saying that caring for the needy is equal to sharing the gospel.  But both are important because they are expected of Christ followers.  They are two sides of the same coin and there will certainly be synergy and life transformation when we do both together, just as Jesus did. 

Care Teams for Sent-Ones

Care Teams are the most tangible expression of our church’s commitment to support our missionaries who are serving in cross-cultural environments. The team is centered around one team leader and can be made up of 3-8 individuals who provide on-going care and support. They serve as a primary link between the church as a whole and the missionary.

Simply put, a care team is a group of people who deeply love and care for their missionary unit. They communicate, pray for and stay connected to their missionary unit on a regular basis. Because of these strong personal relationships, the missionaries can be open and honest, allowing his or her team to see needs and share successes and defeats.

What Is the Vision for a Care Team?

There are two major roles of every Care Team: care and representation. The success of the care team depends on its ability to accomplish these two goals from the time that the missionary unit prepares to leave for the field until his or her return.

Care 

Many missionaries minister in physically challenging environments. Some are raising children far from extended family. Others struggle with cultural adjustments and language barriers. Most significantly, all serve on the front lines of spiritual warfare. For survival and spiritual health, every missionary unit needs the assurance that they are not alone, that there are others in the body of Christ who love them and are committed to their welfare and to the success of their work. Missionaries need empathetic listeners and caring friends who are not in a supervisory role. The Care Team can consistently provide that kind of spiritual and emotional care. Caring also involves identifying specific needs which the team can meet or organize others in the church to meet.

Representation

The Care Team also champions the missionary and his or her work to the church body and advocates for ongoing participation in their ministry even when he or she is far away. Thanks to the efforts of the Care Team, the church feels an ongoing sense of connection to our workers.

What Does a Care Team Look Like?

We have intentionally kept the structure of our Care Teams simple. The foundation of each Care Team is the team leader. He/She is the one who has the main connection with the missionary unit and leads the team in all aspects. The team leader either already knows the missionary deeply or commits to build a deep relationship. The rest of the team is built under the leadership of this committed person.

Each Care Team will look different. Some will have a team leader with 6-8 additional people on the team while others will have a leader with just one or two additional people on the team. Both types of teams can serve as great care networks for our missionaries.

Depending on the team members’ season of life, people may need to step out of their Care Team. We ask however that team leaders commit to the missionary full term (2-4 years) and/or be willing to replace themselves in this role if needed.

What Does a Care Team Do?

Meet Monthly

Teams can meet at anytime and anywhere; we just ask that each team meet once a month to fulfill their role as advocates. We suggest that you build a team around a missional group that already exist in the church. For example, Sunday School Class members, Prayer group, Life Group, Community group, etc.

Pray

The main role of a Care Team is to pray monthly as a team and on an individual basis. We also ask that you hold your missionaries accountable to regularly update their prayer requests.

Stay Connected

Ask any missionary and they will tell you that they rarely stay connected with their friends and church family back home. Part of providing care to missionaries is the commitment to stay connected. Your missionary unit should hear from you at least once a month. This can happen through emails, Zoom, handwritten letters or any number of creative ways. Make sure this is part of your team meeting.

Send Care Packages

Nothing says I love you to a missionary quite like a box full of ranch dressing mix, chocolate and a few good books! Care Teams will send at least two care packages a year to their missionary unit. Perhaps the church can help with the cost of shipping two packages each year with hopes of your team sending a few more packages using personal funds, if possible.

Help with Departure and Arrival

Some of the hardest times for your missionary unit will be preparing to leave for the field and returning home for a stateside visit. There are a thousand things that need to be done and we ask that your team jump in and help as much as possible.

How Do We Get Started?

Here are three things to do to get your Care Team started:

Email the Team

Once the team leader is in place, he/she can email others on the team or start recruiting for the team. Get everyone on an email list and start communicating with one another.

Email your Missionary

The team leader needs to email the missionary and let them know their Care Team is forming. Ask for prayer requests and invite the missionary unit to the first meeting via Zoom.

Meet as a Team

Set a date for your first meeting. Pick a home to meet in and share a meal with one another. During this meeting make sure you get to know each other, pray for the missionaries and if possible, talk to your missionary unit on Zoom. Also make sure you set up a regular time and place to meet.

It’s Christmas Backpack Time!!

It’s that time of year again – halfway to the Christmas season.  Has your church committed to fill Christmas Backpacks for needy children?  With temperatures in the 90s, it’s hard to think about Christmas, but the collection date for Christmas Backpacks is only 3 months away.     

Statistics show that only 4 states have a higher percentage of children living in poverty than Kentucky.  For these children, Christmas does not always come with gifts, like it does for others.  A Christmas backpack filled with food, clothing, hygiene items, school supplies, toys, and a Gospel witness brings a smile on a lot of children’s faces.  It will bring a smile on your face too, just knowing you have helped to provide a needy child with a special Christmas gift.     

The KBC Missions Mobilization Team has been preparing for the Christmas Backpack Initiative since January.  Applications requesting backpacks have come in from ministries across the state and many churches have committed to fill backpacks.  If your church has not already done so, it’s not too late to get on board. 

Instructions for filling the backpacks can be found at www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.  There you will find a promotional video, bulletin insert, poster, the “Christmas Story” leaflet, and the link to register your backpacks.  Be sure to print copies of the leaflet to put in each backpack. 

Another good idea is to print extra copies of the “Christmas Story” leaflet and share with girls and boys in your neighborhood, at the grocery, in your family, and even children in your church.  It is a great Gospel witness.

Let’s work together to exceed the goal of collecting 10,000 backpacks from Kentucky Baptist churches! Many of the backpacks collected will be distributed directly to children living in poverty in Kentucky, while others will go to needy children in our partner SEND City, Cincinnati.  Collection date is October 24-28 so please respond soon and join us in making a difference in a child’s life this Christmas and, very possible, for eternity.

If you have questions please email the Missions Mobilization office at [email protected] or call 606-875-3079.  Thank you for helping a child this Christmas season.

“Let’s not neglect to do good and share what we have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16

The Blessing of Serving

The Bible is full of illustrations of numerous people who served the Lord for the sake of the gospel. Jesus Himself came not to be served but to serve. (Luke 22:24-27). Jesus was our greatest example of servanthood, but we find many more such as: Paul, Peter, Andrew, Barnabas, Timothy, Mary, and the list goes on. Each one of these had a different personality and giftedness and expressed it in their unique way.


It reminds me of the words Peter, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11).

As I think about the blessing of serving, four things come to mind.

Serving Requires Sacrifice.
Any time we serve others, it requires a sacrifice on our part in some way. It may be our time, our resources, our finances, our talents, our abilities, or in other ways. It will always take effort and sacrifice when serving others.

Serving Removes Self.
When we serve others, our attention shifts from self to others. Our focus is turned to the one of whom we are serving rather than on ourselves. It develops a completely different focus and purpose. Rather than always seeking to serve our own needs, we discover we find joy in serving and caring for others.

Serving Reveals the Savior.
We are no more like Christ than when we are serving others. Isn’t that what He came to do? Wasn’t that the whole focus on His ministry? And ultimately, He served us by providing our salvation through His death on the cross. He sacrificed. He focused on others. Our sacrificial serving others models the ministry of Jesus. May we serve so others will see Jesus.

Serving Releases the Spirit.
When we are willing to sacrifice in some way, focus our attention on others rather than ourselves, and truly desire to reveal the Savior, the Spirit of God is released to show us great and mighty things. How many times have we learned we are not in control, but He is? He will orchestrate things, moments, situations, conversations and more to show us more of Him. And we simply stand in awe.

As I watch the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, they model the ministry of Jesus. They so often sacrifice their time, resources, abilities, vacations, and more because they love to serve. The reason they love to serve, is they have experienced the blessing of serving.

They realize when the focus is no longer on self and now focused on the Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit is released to show us amazing things. Life changing moments. Eternal differences.

Learn how you too can become a Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteer at www.kybaptist.org/dr.

The Work

The day of Stephen’s death was the day that a “great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1).  As the first known martyr of the Christian church, God used the “blood of martyrs as the seed for the church” (Tertullian).  As persecution spread, so too, did the early church and the gospel with them. The gospel spread north and eventually west of Jerusalem, lodging powerfully in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).  It is in this city that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

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Perhaps the second most influential church in the New Testament next to Jerusalem is Antioch, located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem near the Mediterranean Sea.  The church at Antioch was a mission-sending, mission-participating congregation.  The DNA of this first-century church flowed with making disciples of all nations.  From the outpost of Antioch, the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on what we refer to as Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3). 

Notably, this church places a premium on worshipping and seeking the Lord (Acts 13:2).  While the church of Antioch is filled with robust leaders—Barnabas, Simeon (Niger), Lucius, Manaen, and Saul, the Holy Spirit says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

But what was “the work” to which the Holy Spirit had called them?  If Acts 1:8 is the theme of the book, then our answer lies within that passage.  In short, Jesus calls the apostles to make disciples of all nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  This work of disciple making to which Jesus calls the apostles is extended to the church as we see the gospel spread from Jerusalem and beyond.

Their work is our work.  The work of all churches is to make disciples of all nations among whomever we can and wherever we are.  Some recent gospel “workers” serving in another country had to leave their place of work for another place of work.  In reflection about that move, they affirmed, “God called us for the work, not for a place or a people.  He called us for the work to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).  Whatever changes we may experience in the world or in our life, and wherever we may find ourselves to be, may we do the work God has called us to do!”   

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The church at Antioch understood the work God had called them to—that of making disciples locally and globally.  This work is not easy work, and at times, our location of the work and the people to whom we are working among will change, but the work remains the same.  We are to work at making disciples of all peoples wherever and to whomever God sends us.  May the DNA of the church at Antioch be in us all, until our work on earth is done.      

What is Spiritual Warfare?

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The Bible speaks about the reality of a conflict we face as believers, and we popularly call that conflict “spiritual warfare.” Given the fascination of this topic, it is easy to mystify the spiritual battle and miss the Bible’s basic teachings about this conflict:

  1. The Bible is a book about God, not about the devil. The Bible does not answer every question about warfare, nor does it grant us permission to focus our attention on the devil. Any approach to warfare that magnifies the devil’s power does not reflect biblical spiritual warfare.
  2. Satan is not our biggest problem. We face three enemies: the world, our flesh and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). In some cases, the three are so interwoven, it is difficult to tell them apart. Our primary problem is not Satan, though; we are our biggest issue.
  3. God reigns, even over the enemy. We have strife between human beings and the serpent because God put that conflict there (Genesis 3:15). That strife would lead to the cross, where the death of Jesus would break the back of the powers (Colossians 2:15). Now, God sovereignly uses the battles to make us the followers He wants us to be.
  4. The enemy we face is a defeated foe. Satan has been bound through God’s judgment and the cross, is being bound through the preaching of the gospel and will be bound for eternity. We do genuinely wrestle against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12), but the devil and his forces have never been outside of God’s control.
  5. On one hand, warfare is the devil’s attempt to deceive and divide believers to keep us from glorifying God and carrying out the Great Commission. From the Garden of Eden, he has tried to bait us with false teaching, lure us into sin and turn us against each other. He seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8), so we can no longer be a light to a lost world. As Church Lawless commonly summarizes it, the enemy wants us to mess up (fall into sin), give up (get discouraged), get puffed up (live in arrogance), split up (divide) or shut up (quit evangelizing).
  6. Satan battles against us because we are God’s witnesses to the world. When the apostle Paul described lostness, he often framed it in terms of spiritual warfare. Non-believers follow the prince of the air (Ephesians 2:2). They are blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), bound in darkness (Colossians 1:13, Acts 26:18) and caught in Satan’s snare (2 Timothy 2:25-26). His goal is to keep us from proclaiming and living out the gospel that sets people free.
  7. On the other hand, we are not on the defensive in this battle. Yes, we are to stand against Satan (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14), but standing is not simply waiting and deflecting the arrows of the enemy. Even Paul, who called the Ephesians to stand, sought their prayer so he would keep proclaiming the gospel boldly even when he was imprisoned (Ephesians 6:18-20); his own “standing” meant that he would faithfully evangelize even if the war cost him his life. We put on the full armor of God not so that we can defend ourselves, but so we can march into the enemy’s kingdom to do the work of the Great Commission.
  8. The offensive nature of this battle demands that we do evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism requires intentionally taking the light into the darkness. Discipleship then requires teaching others to understand their position in Christ and to put on the full armor of God. If we do not evangelize, lost people remain in Satan’s kingdom; if we do not disciple, we send believers into the war unarmed. Either can result in tragedy.

In the Great Commission, the Lord commands us to make disciples of all nations and he established his church to be the way we would gather to worship, grow in discipleship, and go to every nation with gospel, i.e., every tribe, tongue and people could know and worship Him. The very task of church planting places the planter in the sights of the enemy. Because we are seeking to reach lost people, develop strong disciples, and plant healthy congregations who plant more congregations – all of which means that we are offensively engaging the enemy’s territory – we can rest assured that the enemy will fight back.

We do not need to fear, however. In the power of God, simply love Christ, and live and speak for Him in such a way that God is glorified and an already-defeated Satan is threatened (Acts 19:11-16).

The Missions Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, please contact John Barnett at [email protected] or text 502-654-3385. *info used in this article is attributed to Dr. Chuck Lawless. Taken from my notes in his Spiritual Warfare Class and his writings. Used with his permission.

Cedaridge Ministries Celebrates 30th Anniversary

On Friday, June 10th, I was privileged to attend the 30-Year Celebration of Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg, KY.  Cedaridge is a non-profit ministry with a primary focus of serving needy families in Whitley, Knox, Laurel, and surrounding counties with food, clothing, household items, home repairs and, most of all, share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

In 1999, when I first began with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Cedaridge was one of the first ministries I was introduced to, and it has been exciting to see how it has grown through the years.  What started as a ministry of the South Union Mount Zion Baptist Association, Cedaridge has now grown into its own 501(c)(3) organization, with three warehouses. 

Cedaridge is directed by Mission Service Corps Missionary Keith Decker.  Keith was approved by the North American Mission Board on June 18, 1997 and is one of the longest serving MSC Missionaries in Kentucky.  He is not only a co-worker in ministry but has become a dear friend and encourager to me.  He is one of the most humble, grateful, and dedicated persons you will ever meet.  Having grown up much like the clients he now serves, Keith has a heart for those less fortunate and for those lost without Christ.  Over the past six years, Keith has reported four hundred twenty-nine (429) persons have prayed to receive Christ through the ministry of Cedaridge. 

Cedaridge operates a thrift store where families in the community can shop for good used clothing, household items, and furniture at a minimal cost.  They operate a recycling center that meets a big need for Whitley County and brings in revenue for the ministry.  They have facilities that can provide shelter in times of emergency.  Just recently, Cedaridge was a distribution hub for the government food boxes.  Working with churches and other ministries, these boxes provided food for hundreds of families in southeastern Kentucky.

Mission teams come to Cedaridge throughout the year to direct Vacation Bible Schools and other outreach events, work at the Center, do wheelchair ramps and home repairs in the community.  During the Christmas season, Cedaridge partners with churches and individuals to provide Christmas Backpacks filled with food, clothing, toys, clothing items, and a Gospel witness to hundreds of children.

Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionaries Joyce Decker, Lorie Wells, and Brenda Sparks now serve alongside Keith, and are all there to help in times of need.

To learn more about Cedaridge go to www.cedaridgeministries.com.  Email [email protected] to volunteer or partner with Cedaridge.  Or, visit Cedaridge at 189 Factory Lane, Williamsburg, KY.

Thank you, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers

Every Christian is called to be on mission for the sake of the Gospel. His call may vary from person to person; however, we are all called and commissioned to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel. Being a Christian is not just about who we are, (or Who’s we are), but also what we are to be. We are to be just like Jesus Christ.

The Bible challenges us, What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [f]your works, and I will show you my faith by [g]my works. James 2:14-18

The ministry of disaster relief models the ministry of Jesus. Jesus would see a physical need and seek to meet their need so He could show them their greater need: their spiritual need.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are some of the most dedicated, selfless, and faithful servants I have ever seen. Just like Jesus who was moved with compassion to those in need, Kentucky Baptist disaster relief volunteers are moved with compassion to those affected by disasters and are ready to respond.

I am often reminded of Stan. Stan’s family attended church, but he was very independent and did not need Jesus. He believed church could make you a better person, so he sent the family, but he did not need anyone to help him. Following a severe ice storm, Stan was caring for his wife who was battling cancer and their four grandchildren they had adopted. Their power had been out for over a week, and he was getting tired. I made several offers for them to come to the church and let us help. He would always tell me “No, we take care of ourselves.”

A few days later, Stan finally reached a breaking point and brought his family to the church for warmth and rest. Several of those gold shirt volunteers began to love on them and get them whatever they needed. They served them selflessly. Stan watched with amazement how these volunteers just did whatever needed done with eagerness and a smile. He had never witnessed anything like this before.

A few days of watching this, Stan said he needed to talk to someone, “Right now!” One of the chaplains took him aside and asked what he needed. Stan replied, “I have never in my life witnessed such love as I have with all of these gold shirts. They have something I do not have, and I want what they have.” The chaplain shared with Stan the Gospel message, and Stan prayed to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His life was dramatically changed!

I have watched so many of our volunteers in those gold shirts work hard, serve faithfully, and love generously without ever expecting anything in return. They model true servanthood.

I see them work hard all day and drag in exhausted in the evening. The feeding crew who had also been working hard all-day preparing meals, serves these volunteers. It’s not long, everyone is laughing, celebrating what God did that day, sing songs of praise, and sleep hard only to get up with eagerness to serve another day.

They understand God had set up these diving appointments and they cannot wait to see what will happen next. God has a plan. It may be a meeting at a gas station, at restaurant, in Wal-Mart or in someone’s back yard. But they are there. Ready to serve.

To the world it seems like foolishness. But to those who have experienced it, it is life changing; it is amazing; and it is incredible.

They love to work together, serve together, and pray together. They are eager to learn, to train, and to train others. They are truly the hands and feet of Jesus, ready to go across town, across the state, across the nation, or even around the world. Just like Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.” (Isa. 6:8).

Many of them use their own equipment or vehicle; take their own vacation time to serve to help others; take time away from family or their own needs at home to serve others. It is in their heart.

So, next time you see someone in the gold shirt, let them know how much you appreciate them .

Everyone can pray. Pray for this ministry and these volunteers as they serve.

Most can give. Your generous gifts help provide the resources needed to care for others in times of disaster. Your giving allows us to go; to provide the chainsaws, the kitchens, the trailers, the tarps, supplies, training, and so much more. And as you give through the Cooperative Program, you support this wonderful ministry.

Some can go. Will you pray about and consider becoming a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer? It will change your life.

This ministry not only models the ministry of Jesus Christ, but it demonstrates the cooperative spirit of the Christian. We are a family.

THANK YOU!



Establish Healthy Churches

From time to time as I help churches develop their missions strategy that inevitably should involve church planting, the question is asked: “Do we need more new churches or for our existing churches to become healthier? The answer is simple. Yes! We need both. While I have written about the need for church planting, I want to focus on the importance of how the establishment of healthy churches also involves ensuring that our existing churches become healthier.

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Along with planting new churches, establishing churches involves discipling existing churches.  Establishing churches is not a decision about whether we need new churches planted or existing churches strengthened.  We need both.  Discipleship must be intentional, or it will not occur.  Followers of Jesus need to be taught scripture reading, doctrine, prayer, evangelism, church membership, fasting, missions, parenting, biblical view of work, ethics and so much more. In other words, each church must have a robust and intentional method of discipling their own people from the youngest to the oldest – from the cradle to the grave – with the word of God.

Churches must ensure that disciples are being formed within their congregations. Paul reminds the church at Colossae that the goal of every church is to proclaim Jesus by “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ” (Col 1:28).  Similarly, Jesus instructed his first-century followers on that Galilean Mountain to “teach [all believers] to observe all that [he] commanded [us]” (Matt 28:20).  Ultimately, we are after the transformation of lives rather than simply the preservation of information.  Jesus and Paul are concerned with disciples living out the teaching of Scripture and not simply knowing the teaching of Scripture. 

So, what might a transformed disciple look like?  The IMB speaks of 6 marks of a disciple (Foundations, IMB).  In other words, every church’s goal is to see every Jesus follower mature by the transformation of the word in these areas of their life:

  • transformed heart- being born again with a new heart
  • transformed mind- being renewed in our minds
  • transformed affections- being led with godly desires/affections
  • transformed will- being obedient in what we do
  • transformed relationships- being reconciled with others because of Jesus
  • transformed purpose- being engaged in God’s mission

In essence, then, establishing healthy churches involves the holistic transformation of each disciple in every aspect of their life—heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose. 

Further, disciples transformed by the gospel will contribute to overall healthy church formation.  But what does a healthy church look like?  Helpful in this conversation is the IMB’s 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church (Foundations, IMB).

  1. Biblical evangelism
  2. Biblical discipleship
  3. Biblical membership
  4. Biblical leadership
  5. Biblical preaching and teaching
  6. Biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  7. Biblical worship
  8. Biblical fellowship
  9. Biblical prayer
  10. Biblical accountability and discipline
  11. Biblical giving
  12. Biblical mission

What plans does your church have in place to ensure that all believers are taught not simply to know the Bible, but to live [observe] the Bible?  How is your church ensuring its ongoing healthy growth by intentionally focusing on these 12 characteristics?  Where might your church be strong in these 12 characteristics and where might your church be weak? What steps can you take to shore up weaknesses and reinforce strengths? After all, our the goal is not simply for a church to exist, but for healthy church existence. And that, as we know, takes intentionality.  

Praying for Our Neighbors and Community

Matthew 22:36-39  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible because loving your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest commandment, after loving God.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors and most of us actively try to do that by meeting their needs and showing love in tangible ways.  But another valuable way we can love our neighbors is by praying for them.

I have often found myself so caught up in helping neighbors with their needs that I forget to pray for them and the community we live in. While the work I do with them, or even for my neighbors is important, nothing is more important than the prayers I pray for them. 

Hudson Taylor said “when we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.”  Through prayer, God invites us to work with Him for the well-being of our neighbors.  It is God’s way of giving us a stake in His Kingdom building work. 

We want good for our neighbors and the community we live in, but too often we rely on the work of our hands instead of partnering with God and seeing things really happen. I must confess that prayer is sometimes the missing element in my attempt to care for neighbors and bless my community.

Let me suggest the following ways that we can pray specifically for our neighbors and the community we live in.

Pray that God would …  

  1. Give neighbors a hunger and thirst for God and His Word.
  2. Heal the emotional wounds of people living in my community that relationships between neighbors would be made right. 
  3. Remove any racial or social barriers that exist between neighbors.
  4. Destroy poverty in the community and grant economic growth to meet the financial needs of families.
  5. Deliver the community from alcohol and drug addiction. 
  6. Drive out all occultic influence and evil activity in the community. 
  7. Strengthen families in the neighborhood and bless each home.
  8. Provide opportunities for sharing the gospel so that many would hear and receive Jesus.   
  9. Give believers a deep burden for the lost and an increasing desire to share the gospel with them.   
  10. Bless the pastors and churches of the community, granting them power and protection as they minister.
  11. Deliver the believers in this community from self-centeredness and indifference toward those who need Jesus.  
  12. Transform the homes in this community so that they will be Christ-centered.

THANK YOU Lord for placing me in this community and for what You are doing to bring about Your kingdom here. I pray that my neighbors in this community will come to know you!