I gave my life to Christ at the age of nine. I understood then, as much as young boy can, that I was making a commitment to become a Christ follower. That meant allowing Christ to control every aspect of my life. I knew that my life was no longer mine. I was to model my life, attitude and actions after Him. Whatever Christ did, I was supposed to do.
Scripture tells us to imitate Christ, walk as He did and follow His steps. (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21). I didn’t know that I would one day serve as a missionary or go on a mission trip. But I have come to understand that if I’m a Christ follower, I am also a missionary, because that’s what He was.
A missionary is defined by the North American Mission Board of the SBC as a person who, in response to God’s call and gifting, leaves his or her comfort zone and crosses cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission.
Jesus became the first missionary when He left heaven and came down to earth. God called His son to leave the comfort of heaven and go to earth. Now that’s a change of geography and culture for sure! His mission was to seek and save the lost who needed to be rescued. He engaged the indigenous people of the earth while proclaiming the Gospel. He lived His life as a witness to the Father’s love. What a missionary He was!
I want my life to reflect Christ and pray that people see Him in me. If I want to be like Christ in every way, it will mean going as a missionary because that’s what He did. I might not cross an ocean, but I will need to cross the street or grocery isle. I might not go to a foreign land, but I will need to engage the internationals in my community. I might not be sent by a mission agency, but I have been sent by Christ Himself (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20). I am thankful to be a follower of Christ AND missionary – you can’t be one and not the other.
How can I think like a missionary? Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). They are driven by the fact that there are people out there who are not yet brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they have not been given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. With this great burden comes three questions that are usually on the forefront of missionaries’ minds:
1. Who lives around me? Missionaries want to discover the people who live in their city. They want to know the number of people, commonalities, diversities, languages, cultures, joys, hopes, fears and struggles.
2. Who goes to my church and the other churches around me? Missionaries want to understand who their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in their city or community. They want to know the number of believers, the health of the churches and the reach of their ministries. They understand that every believer and every church is called to fulfill the Great Commission, and that it is God’s design for churches to work together to reach their communities and the world for Christ.
3. Who is left? Missionaries want to devote their time and resources to those in their community who are unbelievers and have not yet had an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. They look for “gospel gaps”, which are opportunities to use the gifts and skills God has given them to enter into the lives of unbelievers and to meet them in the midst of their brokenness. They engage people through social, service, support, sports, seasonal or study activities. The goal is to build authentic relationships with gospel intentionality.
How can I live like a missionary? Once a missionary has asked these three questions about their community, then what would they do?
Be fervent in prayer.
Seek to enter into the lives and communities of people who are far from God and have not had opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
Be bold and frequent in the proclamation of the gospel, calling people to repent and believe.
Disciple those who come to faith, teaching them to obey all the commands of Christ.
Gather new believers together to form healthy churches, growing them up together into maturity in Christ and developing from among them those who will lead these newly formed churches.
Eventually partner with churches and leaders they formed to press into other communities where they gospel had not yet gone.
What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities? Imagine how our culture would change if we began not only to think but also to act like missionaries in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. The Mission Mobilization team exist to serve your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. To discover new opportunities to make disciples and further develop an “Act 1:8” strategy that reflects the specific gifts and personality of your church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone 502-654-3385. We are here to serve!
Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
I am so grateful to our Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteers who are so eager and willing to respond to those who are suffering from disaster. It seems we have seen so many people that have been affected in some way and several even repeatedly.
That is what we discovered in Lake Charles, Louisiana recently. This community was very hard hit from Hurricane Laura last fall with still much left to do to rebuild. Some had just completed rebuilding when the torrential rains came just a few weeks ago flooding many of the homes once again. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak, discouragement, and distress this caused these families.
This past week I visited some of our Kentucky Flood Recovery teams that responded to the recent flooding in Lake Charles. It was a long way to travel but Kentucky volunteers are so willing to go when the need arises. Distance does not matter. They understand there are people hurting and that we have the resources they need to help them clean up and recover. We bring them the help that is needed, with the equipment to do the job, and a trained team that can get the job done quickly, safely, and efficiently.
But there is more. Not only do we bring the help that is needed for those who need assistance recovering from the mess, we bring them hope. In fact, there was one individual who was so discouraged and distraught they were considering ending their life. That is when the disaster relief team in the gold shirts arrived. They brought the help that was needed to clean up the mess, but more importantly they brought them hope that through the process it would be okay.
There is hope that comes because of the help they receive. But beyond that, there is the hope that we bring through Jesus Christ. By helping those who are hurting, we can share with them the hope we can find in the Bible and through the cross.
With every home that we help, we present to the homeowner a Bible, signed by every member of the team. These families treasure this Bible as it reminds them of the help and the hope that came to them from these precious people in gold shirts. And this begins the healing process as they move forward from destruction and discouragement, to hope and healing.
In times of disaster, we bring the Help, Hope, and Healing needed to those who are suffering.
Remember to PRAY for our teams and for those experiencing loss. Everyone can pray. Remember to GIVE to support the continued work of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Most can give. Remember to GO and be available to serve and help those who are hurting. Some can go.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
William Carey is known as the “father of modern missions.” He was a missionary to India in the late 1700s. He and his good friend, Andrew Fuller, partnered together for the advancement of the gospel. While Carey went to India, Fuller stayed back home becoming president of the Baptist Mission Society. Carey famously said to Fuller before his departure overseas, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.” Carey went and Fuller held the ropes.
New York City is known for many iconic markers—the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, One World Trade Center, just to name a few. People flock to this great city for food, entertainment, fame, and fortune. I recently led a group of church leaders there for a vision trip to meet church planters living in the city for gospel impact. The city is coming back to life after a year of uncertainty known as 2020. Manhattan, for example, known as a worldwide center for all things commercial, financial, and cultural, was busy with activity.
As we met with various church planters to hear their stories and their vision for reaching the city, one theme became clear: we need your help! Great Commission work is not meant to be done alone. In a metro area of 22 million people, only 2% follow Jesus. The massive need of lostness alone can be crippling to any gospel minister without the right support, not counting the challenges of living in a concrete jungle.
Kentucky Baptist Churches, while very different in context from New York City, can play a vital role in providing a lifeline of gospel advancement in a human sea of lostness. Every church leader we met expressed the need for meaningful partnerships. These partnerships are not dependent upon having the same ministry context, but simply a willingness to link arms or as Carey told Fuller once, hold the ropes.
Kentucky Baptists can hold the ropes with gospel partners in New York City through the following examples:
Partner long-term (at least 3-5 years). Relationships take time and gospel work in New York City is often slow. Relationships built around encouragement, prayer, teams, and finances provide much needed support.
Send multiple teams (per year if needed and possible). Nothing like seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and touching the city to understand the great needs of the city. Short-term teams done rightly can be a huge boost to the planter and the advancement of the gospel.
Be gospel centered. Partnerships built around the gospel are critical. While there are many good and helpful ways we can serve others, the gospel must be at the center of all we do.
Follow the vision/strategy of the church planter/church. Let those who live in the city and know the needs of the city determine how to best reach the city.
Be a servant. While New York City is a great place to experience so much, partnering there requires that Kentucky Baptist Churches place priority on serving their partner.
As William Carey set sail for India, he needed the assurance that others like Fuller would be back home holding the ropes for him. New York City church planters need the assurance of Kentucky Baptists that we will join in the work there by holding the ropes for gospel advancement. If you want to learn more about your church partnering in NYC, please contact me at [email protected]
Just off the Mountain Parkway, on the Wolfe-Morgan County line, sits Crossroads Baptist Church, a little white church in the quaint community of Helechawa, KY. The building that once housed the community school was given to the church as a place of worship. In 2007 Crossroads was started as a mission of Faith Baptist Church Cannel City with 6 members. It soon grew to 17 or 18 members.
Mission teams from Pellville Baptist Church in Hawesville, White Hall Baptist Church in Richmond, Mt. Washington Baptist Church, Little Flock Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Shively Baptist Church in Louisville, and perhaps others, came alongside Crossroads to fix up their building and help with outreach. For several years Shively Baptist Church also came to lead Vacation Bible School. I recall the day someone from the church called to ask for help in planning their own VBS. Although they had made many good friends and appreciated the work of the mission teams, they were eager to conduct a VBS themselves, without depending on outside help.
During the November 2013 Kentucky Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, Crossroads moved from “mission” to “church” status. Red River Baptist Association Mission Strategist George Drake shared that West Liberty Baptist Church had been the mother church of Faith Baptist Church in the early 1980s, Faith Baptist Church was the mother church of Grace Baptist Church in the mid-1990s and Crossroads Baptist Church in 2007, and Grace Baptist Church was the mother church of Wrigley Baptist in 2005. In the Fall of 2013 I visited, and wrote a blog about, Crossroads Baptist Church. The blog ended with, “Perhaps sometime in the future we will hear that Crossroads has also birthed a church.”
While that has not actually happened, I recently learned from Red River Baptist Association Mission Strategist George Drake that Crossroads has moved their Sunday evening services to the Nada Baptist Mission, about 30 miles away. Since hearing that the Nada Mission had closed and the church building given to the Red River Baptist Association, Crossroads Pastor Mark Risner has had such a burden for the church and the Nada community, and desires to see the Mission revived or replanted.
Crossroad’s members have painted and cleaned up around the Nada Mission, have gone door-to-door inviting the community to their services, and are planning a Vacation Bible School for the later part of June 2021. Other churches in the area, as well as a mission team from Western Kentucky, have also come alongside to help with the Nada Mission. Volunteers have helped with the physical labor, while others have donated funds to help pay bills.
Before COVID Crossroads was averaging 45-50 in attendance. This little church, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, is excited to be on-mission. Please pray with them about the future of the Nada Mission, for the families in the community, and that God will send a pastor to this church. I can’t wait to see how my blog will read in another 8 years.
Churches helping churches, churches planting churches, churches reopening churches with closed doors – this is the cooperative Kentucky Baptist Convention way…and, might I add, God’s way of spreading the Gospel, from person to person, community to community.
A word from IMB workers and The Global Refugee Network:
Time is never a guarantee when Christians meet a refugee in Greece. They may have years, months, weeks or just hours to share the hope that is found in Jesus. This is why International Mission Board missionaries and ministry partners who serve in Athens, Greece, developed an eight-hour, eight-day and eight-week ministry strategy to share the gospel and disciple refugees based on the time available.
“You never know how long you are going to have with someone,” Derrick Pennon* said. Pennon and his family formerly served with the IMB in Athens, Greece, before accepting a position at a Baptist church in Kentucky.
“You might lead somebody to faith that morning, but they’re on a train that night, leaving for Macedonia, so drop everything you’re doing. You’ve got eight hours,” Pennon added. “What are you going to give him in eight hours, or a family who might be leaving in eight days? What can you give them in eight days so that they can reproduce it whenever they land?”
Pennon says eight weeks to eight months with new Christians is ideal. They’ve found this time frame gives them opportunity to more fully share biblical truths before the refugees are relocated.
Greece is a transition country—no refugee comes with the intent to stay, Pennon explained. The Greek unemployment rate is high, making it difficult for many Greek citizens to find work.
Refugees typically first arrive on a Greek island, many of them coming by boat from Turkey. On the islands, initial checks are performed and then refugees receive approval—the timing of this varies—to be ferried to Athens. Refugees are placed in camps in the Greek capital as the asylum process continues, and while they wait to hear what country will admit them. Once refugees move to their host countries, gaining residency and citizenship is often another long journey.
It wasn’t always this way, but Pennon said refugees on the islands now might be there for years before they are ferried across to Athens. The islands are very overcrowded, and the conditions are poor. Pennon said the unfortunate reality is that many refugees stall in Greece due to a backlog of cases. The country has had difficulty managing the caseload of refugees coming through and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.
Some of the refugees that Pennon has met have been there two years. Though many refugees have long stints in Greece, Pennon and other believers will often meet refugees interested in the gospel during the tail end of those two years. Sometimes they meet refugees who use smugglers to expedite their move to other countries. Timing can be frustrating and unpredictable, making preparedness key.
“God in His sovereignty—He knows when someone is going to come to faith,” Pennon said.
Pennon said they leave the timing up to the Lord and are committed to being prepared, no matter what.
“We’ve learned that the hard way during the height of the [refugee] crisis, because, literally, people would get off the boat in the morning in Athens, and then that night they’d be leaving for Macedonia. And so, you literally had eight hours—what are you going to do in that time that you have with someone?”
The height of the refugee crisis in 2015 led to the formation and galvanization of their eight-hour, eight-week and eight-day strategy. Though the crest of the crisis has passed, the strategy’s efficacy continued and IMB missionaries currently on the field are continuing the ministry.
Pennon said those ministering to refugees operate with a movement-minded strategy with church multiplication as the end goal. Their team includes multiple nationalities working together.
When possible, they pair refugees with a Christian from the same or similar background for evangelism and discipleship. One of the strengths of the diversity of their team is having same-culture or similar-culture Christians sharing the gospel.
In this way, God makes the most of their time together—however short that time might be.
A Word of Thanks
Dear Southern Baptists,
As the facilitators of the IMB Global Refugee Network, we would like to express to you our sincere thanks for your ongoing concern, gifts and prayers for refugees and displaced peoples around the world and our workers among them. Your generosity and faithfulness help to spread God’s love and saving gospel to those who are often seen as, “the least of the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40).
Barry and Sarah Holtman*
To discover how you and your church can get involved in reaching Forcibly Displaced Peoples both locally and globally, contact John Barnett, Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone: 502-654-3385. We are here to serve you today!
Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
I remember driving through our community one sunny afternoon and drove past the local fire station. I noticed that the overhead doors were open, and I was assuming at first that it was because it was such a beautiful day.
But then something else caught my eye. The fire trucks were just inside and the doors of all the firetrucks were open. Hanging from each door was the fireman’s coat and on the floor below each door was his turnout gear. As I saw that picture, I immediately thought to myself, “They are ready to respond within 30 seconds the moment the alarm sounds. They were ready at a moment’s notice.”
With my heart and passion for the disaster relief ministry, it got me to thinking. So, I asked myself the question, “Are we ready to respond at a moment’s notice when disaster strikes?” Obviously, as volunteers there is no way we can respond as quickly as a fire department. But are we ready? Are you ready?
We have learned that there are four basic phases of a disaster response.
The first is READINESS. Are you ready when disaster strikes? Being ready starts now, not after a disaster happens. We need to be alert, available and able. Being ready means being trained, equipped and being ready when the need comes. It involves already knowing and have rehearsed the steps when the call comes.
The second phase is RESPONSE. Response involves mobilizing to meet urgent needs. Response involves search and rescue, immediate relief, feeding, sheltering, and meeting emergent needs.
The third phase is RECOVERY. The recovery phase can last a few days to several months. Recovery includes chainsaw, flood, fire, roofing and tarping, and debris clean-up. This is the phase where the work gets done and requires many volunteers, regardless of skill level.
The final phase is REBUILD. This phase is usually long term and requires assistance from both skilled labor and those willing to serve and learn. This often is the reconstruction phase after homes have been affected by disasters. One major advantage during this phase is the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with the survivors.
We all know disasters happen and they can even happen to any of us. Are you ready? Have you, or are you planning to take the steps to be ready to respond when there is a need?
Hurting people need helping hands. And helping hands come from caring hearts.
A tsunami of debris engulfed the city blocks surrounding the World Trade Center. Just prior to this wave of debris, smoke rose in the New York City skyline as both towers were struck by hijacked commercial airliners on September 11, 2001. Thousands attempted to escape the chaos of the enflamed buildings and surrounding area. While hordes of people were panicking as they ran away from the direction of the twin towers, heroically others ran to the site as the towers eventually collapsed in a massive ruble.
People were right to run away from the danger, but who would run to it and why? First responders, that’s who. Thank God for first responders who train and prepare for times such as September 11. Instead of running away from danger and distress, first responders run to it.
The Great Commission is about followers of Jesus running to the needs of the world. We lay down our lives (both figuratively and sometimes literally) for the hordes of people running to escape the chaos of life. I was recently reminded of this gospel call when a pastor in a large Midwest city told our vision trip team of a shooting in his neighborhood. Instead of avoiding the location where the incident occurred, his church went and set up on the corner of the street to engage with family members and neighbors. They were there to proclaim that hope is found in Jesus alone. This church functioned like first responders.
This same church, on a weekly basis, has “night church” in a section of town that is known as a hot spot for trouble late at night. They gather near the street and play Christian music, share testimonies of God’s transforming power, and talk with neighbors about the good news of Jesus. The church is running to the needs in their community. They are, in fact, first responders bringing hope in the name of Jesus.
Churches across our nation and state can learn much from this Midwest large city new church. Here are some takeaways that will help us all in our Great Commission work:
Be a church that runs to the needs in your community with gospel hope.
To run to the needs, we need to know our communities.
To know our communities, we must immerse our lives in the community.
Immersing our lives in our communities requires a continual presence in the community.
The chaos of sin is sweeping across the communities of our state and nation like a tsunami. It would be easy for the church to simply quarantine itself from the debris and mess. However, this is not the Jesus way. He calls us to run to the need, not away from the need. How will your church respond to the chaos of sin in your community? Will you be a first responder with gospel urgency?
Cory Bledsoe, Executive Director of Re:Center Ministries in Louisville has been chosen as the 2021 Kentucky Missionary of the Year.
This award is given annually to a missionary that demonstrates:
Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention.
True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.
Founded in 1881, Re:Center Ministries (formerly Louisville Rescue Mission) reconciles homeless and hurting people to God, family, and community by the power of Christ in partnership with the local church. Programs span a continuum of care—from prevention to relief to recovery – and provide holistic, high-impact answers to the problem of homelessness in their communities.
They offer an emergency day shelter for women and children, LifeChange Stability which provides men an emergency place to stay, a three-month recovery program for men who are homeless, and a twelve-month transition ministry for men who have jobs and are transitioning to leave Re:Center.
As the Executive Director, Cory provides day to day leadership, and management of the facility.
He is a proven leader and has escorted Re:Center ministries through major change that has included rebranding, a fresh vision, strategy development, expansion of the ministry into southern Indiana, and a thrift store. Cory has also strengthened the partnership of Re:Center with local churches who help to reconcile the hurting to Christ.
Cory understands homelessness and the hopelessness that accompanies it. He believes that if the spiritual void is not met with the gospel of Christ, any assistance provided is only a temporary band-aid.
He is actively involved in his local church, is married to Sarah and they have 3 children.
Eric Allen, Missions Mobilization Team Leader with the Kentucky Baptist Convention says, “When I think about the many lives that have been transformed through Re:Center, I recall Brandon who was addicted and homeless. After trusting in Christ and going through the program, Brandon was called to ministry and went on to attend Bible college. That’s life change!”
CONGRATULATIONS to Cory Bledsoe, the 2021 Kentucky Missionary of the year. He is most deserving.
God is opening gospel opportunities by bringing diaspora and displaced people to our doorstep! Church, now is the time to embrace the nations as our neighbors, and share the love of Christ with those who have never heard!
Welcome the displaced locally.
We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Technology, migration, travel, and media has made the world more globally connected, yet culturally diverse.
Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet, and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight. Most have been displaced through war, famine, persecution, racism, human trafficking, natural disaster, or forced migration. Many of them have never heard the name of Jesus and are desperately seeking help, healing, hope, purpose, and truth.
In midst of this global crisis, God is opening new pathways for the church to respond to needs, share the gospel, build community, and plant churches. Here are 3 ways the Mission Mobilization Team can serve you today:
Discover the Opportunities:
Learn about ongoing opportunities for your church to embrace displaced people both locally and globally. Mobilize your church to pray for the nations next door, by using the IMB Prayer Points calendar for April 2021. The document is attached below.
Develop a Strategy:
We want to help you develop a comprehensive strategy to reach displaced people in your area. The steps of this strategy are summarized as follows:
Step #1 – Hear & Share
Step #2 – Access & Discover
Step #3 – Develop & Implement
Step #4 – Train & Equip
Equip your Church:
Our team can provide personalized resources and trainings to your church as they prepare to minister to displaced people in your region. Read more about our resources below.
Go to the displaced globally.
For training and resources about how your church can embrace this global call, please contact John Barnett. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at (502) 654-3385. Get involved today church.
“So then you are no longer slaves and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19