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.

IMB Photo

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!

Sharing the Gospel in Hostile Times

Syrian refugee girls march at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan.

Oftentimes, the mission of God does not seem to match our conveniently constructed models. God calls us to love all people, which means taking the gospel to hard places, among hard people, and during difficult times. In Acts 8:26-40, we catch a glimpse of how God brings about what He has promised is going to happen in Revelation 5:9-10. God orchestrated circumstances in such a way that Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch met on a desert road to bring about His will, and He continues to do so today for the same purposes. However, we see some things about this mission that are often missed, or even rejected, in the West. Philip understood that God would never leave him or forsake him, so he never stopped sharing the gospel no matter where God sent him. In this passage, we see four realities regarding the mission of God that can empower us to share the gospel in hostile times.

  • The mission of God is inconvenient
    Think about the inconvenience of the Lord’s assignment for Phillip. Phillip had just been scattered from Jerusalem and gone to Samaria where “revival” broke out. Then, God ask him to leave and go south to Gaza. Not very convenient to go to a place that is known for robbers, in the middle of the desert in order to talk to a wealthy, Ethiopian eunuch. For someone limited on time, surely there were better assignments. In the West, our culture is built on convenience, constantly attempting to make life more comfortable. While some conveniences may have their place, the mission of God is never convenient, at least not the way our culture thinks about convenience. Church, we will never have mission without sacrifice.
  • The mission of God appears inefficient
    Phillip was praying, and God directed him to go to a desert place. Once there, the Spirit directed him to run alongside of a chariot of foreigners. The eunuch’s journey to Jerusalem was conceivably five months long, one way. Once there, he was doubly denied entrance into the assembly at the temple for being a Gentile and a eunuch. While efficiency has its place, the mission of God is hardly efficient, and the details surrounding Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch underscore this point. In the West, as one of the holdovers from the Industrial Revolution, our culture loves efficiency. We value seeking the greatest output for the least input. Church, we must obey God’s call, share Christ without fear and trust the Lord with the results.
  • The mission of God is ingenious
    God combats the core human instinct to “go our own way,” even our feeble attempts to earn His favor by our convenient, efficient means. The gospel is a gift, and the only way to be made right in God’s eyes is to admit you need salvation and to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. Nothing is more convenient than that! But the genius of God is that to grow in this grace is to receive His mission,  “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Grace writes a blank check for the obedience of the recipient. Church, we must spend time in prayer, hear from God and obey him at all costs.
  • The mission of God is indisputable
    God has given us the end of the story. Either it is true, or it is not. And if this story is the true story of what He is doing in the world, then the reason His mission seems inconvenient and difficult to many is perhaps because we are living for a different story. Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have command you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Church, the Great Commission is not an option clause, it is a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ.

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.

Would You interSEED for our KY-MSC Missionaries?

Each month we post an interSEED prayer calendar for Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionaries and Church Planters.  Many of you download this calendar and pray for the missionaries and planters on their birthdays, and we thank you for doing so.  But now, I am asking that you go another step and pray for all of the 117 KY-MSC Missionaries for the next month. 

The last few weeks have been difficult for many of our missionaries, and they have shared many specific prayer requests.  Some have experienced health issues, others surgeries, family deaths, family and ministry-related issues.  All of these going on while continuing to minister to others.

Ministry can be hard and discouraging at times, especially when the missionaries are dealing with personal problems.  They need our prayers and encouragement more now than ever. 

I would like to ask you to go to www.kybaptist.org/msc, where you will find a list of the missionaries, their pictures, a ministry description, and email address.  As you view their profiles would you pray for each missionary and perhaps even send an encouraging email.  (If you would like to send encouragement or prayer cards email teresa.pa[email protected] for mailing addresses.)

Pray for the missionaries’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

Pray for their families, their children, their marriages to remain strong.

Pray for the missionaries to have strength to do the work they have been called to do.  Most all of them work long hours, days without a break, and without enough help.  Pray for co-laborers to come alongside and share in the work.

Pray for safety.  Yes, even in Kentucky, many are serving in dangerous areas.

Pray for both personal and ministry finances.  All of these missionaries are self-funded and often find support very lean.

Most of all pray for them spiritually.  Pray that the missionaries have a personal, intimate, growing relationship with the Lord.  Pray that they are bold in their witness and that they are a shining example of Christ.  Pray for mentors and support groups.  Pray that the missionaries are surrounded by other strong Christians and get connected to a strong, supporting church family.

As you spend time in prayer each day don’t forget to thank God for the missionaries serving in our state and pray for them to stand strong in their service.

You might also consider “adopting” a Kentucky missionary through our “Adopt-a-Missionary” initiative.  For information go to www.kybaptist.org/adoptmissionary.

Thanks for your care and concern.

Pray for Ukraine…and Give

Pray for Ukraine. We hear those words often and our hearts break for them and we are moved with compassion. We want to do something, anything to make a difference.


As I look at the images we see on the news and online, I often have no words. There are no words to describe my thoughts, my emotions, and the evil we are seeing happening in our world. I do not feel what these people feel, I have not experienced what these people are experiencing, I am not displaced as these people are, and I am not hurting and scared as these people are. Yet, my heart breaks for them.

As of May 1, 2022, around 13.2 million people – approximately 30.5% of the Ukrainian population – have been forcibly displaced by the ongoing military offensive, including 7.7 million internally displaced and 5.5 million displaced across international borders.

According to the revised estimations, over 24 million people – more than half of Ukraine’s population – will need humanitarian assistance in the months ahead, about 8 million more than estimated less than two months ago. It includes 15.7 million inside Ukraine, whose access to vital necessities have been impacted due to massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, the consequent displacement, and dramatic loss of jobs and livelihoods.

Send Relief continues to be in contact with company and national partners on the ground and Send Relief’s response to this major crisis continues to rise. Send Relief began responding with food relief before the invasion and continues to collaborate with national partners and Baptist Union leaders to provide food, shelter, transportation, medical supplies, clothing, and trauma ministry to those displaced and impacted by the crisis. Send Relief has continued to expand response to displaced people and is now assisting in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Italy. SBDR disaster response teams have deployed to Poland and Romania, and Send Relief continues to work with field leaders to deploy SBDR and other volunteer teams. SBDR state conventions currently active or in process of activating: North Carolina Baptists on Mission, Texas Baptist Men, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Southern Baptist Texas Convention, Georgia, Missouri, California, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Alabama.

Current projects: Send Relief continues to work in 14 countries and has 42 current relief projects funded through company partners, state convention partners, and Baptist Union partners. Ministry is happening with the support of many Southern Baptists.

So, what can we do? How can we help? Pray for the Ukrainians…and give.

Prayer Requests:
• Pray for peace in Ukraine and Russia.
• Pray for increasing numbers of people being displaced.
• Pray for the rising numbers of refugees in Western Ukraine, many who do not want to leave their country.
• Pray for those unable to leave war ravaged areas of Ukraine who are increasingly in need of basic life sustaining supplies.
• Pray for God to change the hearts of those in power in Russia.
• Pray for God’s protection for believers serving and ministering on the front lines of this crisis.
• Pray for those suffering in the areas of active conflict and for those who have lost loved ones.
• Pray that God will open people to the hope of Christ through this difficult season in their lives.
• Pray that the displaced can find a shelter and basic needs as they flee from the conflict.
• Pray for minority groups being displaced, who are often forgotten and disenfranchised.
• Pray for women and children displaced from home without husbands and fathers, who are often the primary providers in these families.
• Pray that children will be protected from those who might seek to harm or exploit them during this crisis.
• Pray that partners and the local church will have wisdom and strength during this time.
• Pray for local churches and partners in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Germany as they seek to help those fleeing and traumatized by war.
• Pray for the SBDR response teams and other volunteer teams as they serve in response.
• Pray that as we serve together and offer compassionate ministry in these difficult circumstances that all we do would glorify our great Lord and Savior.

Everyone can pray. Most can give and you can support the Ukrainian relief effort by visiting www.kybaptist.org/Ukraine. Some can go. Pray for our Kentucky Baptists scheduled to go in the coming weeks. Give to support this work.

“Brethren, pray for us” 1 Thessalonians 5:25