Standing Ready

Disasters come whether one is prepared or not, and tragically most churches fail to prepare for disaster events in their community.

As Stephen Cyros declared, “Remember, when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.”

Be prepared as a church by:

  1. Encouraging the need for preparation. Church leaders can lead in providing disaster preparation information that includes safety, first-aid, needed supplies, and evacuation or shelter instructions to those in our churches. People who are prepared have increased survivability in times of disaster.
  2. Assessing the greatest and most likely disaster threats for your community.
  3. Examining the church property to determine if there are ways to minimize loss and to improve the church’s ability to withstand a disaster event.
  4. Ensuring that the membership understands evacuation or sheltering plans if a disaster occurs while the church is gathered.
  5. Devising a plan to check on church members in the aftermath of disasters. Focus a priority on the most vulnerable in your family of faith such as the elderly, those with disabilities, single mothers, and those with health issues. This could be a great ministry for deacons or other church ministry groups.
  6. Developing a ministry plan for the church in the aftermath of disasters. Often churches miss opportunities to meet real needs and to have life-changing impact with families in the aftermath of disasters because they have not planned for a disaster. Crisis events open doors for the Gospel as people are seeking help and answers. God has placed the church in communities to be His hands and voice, but we need to think about how we can best help survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.
  7. Connecting with other churches in your community and other organizations to discuss how to prepare and respond to disasters. Most County Emergency Managers would welcome churches who genuinely want to help, and who have a plan to meet vital needs. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone.
  8. Being prepared to pivot the focus of the church in the aftermath of a disaster. The day after a disaster strikes your community is probably not the time to begin a new ministry, but the church demonstrates a lack of compassion and awareness if it does not pivot from the routine and put priority focus on responding to the loss that disasters bring. In the aftermath of disasters, the church needs to show the Gospel in action.

The Scripture gives a great word for the church as we seek to prepare for times of disaster in Proverbs 27:12,

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

On a Mission From God

Moses was chosen, called, and commissioned by the Lord to deliver and lead the people of God.  Though reluctant to lead at first, Moses demonstrated himself to be a skilled and effective leader.  His uniquely close relationship with God was the foundation of his leadership and enabled him to lead amid a diverse and often difficult group of people.  God himself spoke this validating word of Moses in Numbers 12:7, “He is faithful in all My house.” 

Throughout his journey of faith Moses demonstrated that leaders must have vision, perseverance, and the ability to endure the pain of leadership without compromising their character.  Our character as leaders is always on display to those around us and to those who follow us.  If we crumble and fall into the pit of unhealthy leadership and practices, it will have crippling and devastating consequences for the people entrusted to our care as leaders. If we are not healthy as church leaders then the family of faith will be vulnerable to the plague of disorder and dysfunction.

Humble leaders attract followers and create an environment of trust, and trust is vital to healthy relationships and healthy organizations. Arrogant, autocratic leaders may dominate for a time, but they do not build trust among those who follow them. And eventually, most see their kingdoms crumble around them in the tremors of seismic rebellion.  There is a difference in leading people and driving people. 

 Spiritual leaders have been entrusted by God to lead those whom God has placed in their care. Humble servant leadership is not weak leadership. For leaders, it is not between being strong or weak, the choice is between building God’s kingdom and helping people discover God’s purpose for their lives or building our own little earthly kingdoms and exploiting those entrusted to us.

Leaders who are strong and humble value the people entrusted to them, and when you find this kind of leader, you will find healthy and growing churches and organizations. This is the kind of leader that people will follow.  This kind of leader produces confidence in the heat of the battle.  This kind of leader inspires trust when storms arise.  This kind of leader motivates people to reach heights they never dreamed possible. Ultimately, this kind of leader enables people to reach the place promised to them by God.

It is a paradox that the one whom God entrusts in leadership can be both humble and visionary; he can be a person of grace and yet bold; he can be consumed and yet at peace; he can be filled with compassion and yet speak the truth without compromise. Moses learned the lessons of leadership as a shepherd in the desert and by answering God’s calling with trembling yet unwavering faith.  And in the end, it was said of him in Deuteronomy 34:10, “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

When leaders recognize the privilege of being chosen and called by God and give of themselves to humbly serve those entrusted to them, they are secure and can endure because they know, as Elwood Blues put it, that they “are on a mission from God.”

Do Not Be Alarmed

For most of us our world has changed in 2020.  Our world has been drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are washing our hands and using sanitizer more.  We are social distancing and wearing face masks as we try to not get too close to one another.  Many of us have stockpiled food, water, and even toilet paper.  We are weary of the nightly reports of stay-at-home extensions, new cases, death counts, and growing unemployment.  Most Americans believe that it will be a long time before things return to normal, and social media chirps constantly about the new norm.  As we begin the re-opening process, it appears the response to this deadly disease has left us with more questions than answers.

The pandemic has ground our economy to a halt, but it has not slowed the famine in Sub-Saharan Africa that has left millions starving.  It has not ended the Iranian – U.S. tensions that witnessed another close encounter in the Persian Gulf this week.  According to the United Nations Refugee Agency it has not decelerated the number of displaced people across our globe.  Nor has it curbed the active early tornado season that spawned over 100 twisters and left 73 people dead.

I do not claim to be an expert, but I think that I can accurately proclaim, life can be a dangerous venture.  The journey of life often passes through dark valleys.  Valleys that can leave us anxious, frightened, and insecure.  And many ponder “What if it all gets worse?”

As I read the Bible, I am thankful that God is honest with us.  Jesus shared with His disciples and reminds us that difficult days will come. He tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines, pandemics, and natural disasters.  He predicts His church will be persecuted, people will turn on each other and spew hatred against their neighbor, false prophets will appear, and wickedness will increase.  Jesus shares that things are going to get worse before they get better. 

Yet do not miss an important word that Jesus shares with His followers right in the middle of this calamity-filled proclamation.  Jesus shares this key directive in Matthew 24:6 as he teaches about the coming tribulation, “See that you are not alarmed.”  This word “alarm” in the ancient language means “to wail, to cry out in despair, to be hysterical.”  Jesus counsels us when bad stuff comes, do not panic, or fall apart.  And He tells us why with His next words in this passage of Scripture, “because these things must take place.”

Must is a vital word in this passage because it asserts that all events, everything that takes place in this world, from the mundane to the chaotic are part of God’s plan.  God uses all things to accomplish His purposes and plans.  When the world seems to be careening out of control, be reminded that God is still on His throne, and our Lord has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us. He declares to us that trials and tribulations will come in this world and they are very real, but do not let these present troubles blind you to the fact that a better world is coming.  Jesus has formulated the predictive model for our world’s pandemic, and He has established a treatment plan that will cure all that is wrong in our present age.

If you have placed your faith in Christ, it will all work out in the end, and by His grace, He will get you through today and tomorrow. And by the way, if this world is a chaotic mess, be assured it is not yet the end.

Teach Me to Do Your Will During COVID-19

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief remains ready to respond during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to partner with Kentucky Emergency Management and other responders. The pandemic has been unlike any previous crisis response and we have been forced to adapt and be creative in our response. For example, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief donated 12,150 N-95 masks to medical workers and facilities in Kentucky from our flood recovery inventory and prepared almost 6000 meals for children to fill a gap for a school system in Western Kentucky. This is not our typical ministry during a disaster, but it provided opportunities for us to be salt and light during this crisis.

When disasters create havoc in communities, churches along with Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief are to be faithful and to minister with Godly compassion. The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed our ability to react in the same ways that we typically respond in times of disaster. Yet the church remains called by God to minister when our neighbors are hurting and overwhelmed.

Here are some thoughts for ministry during this time:

  1. Pray for our neighbors, and for God to bring healing to our state. Pray for opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations.
  2. Be agents of peace who calm rather than encourage panic.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind.
  3. Seek to encourage others and to demonstrate the hope that we have in Christ. Many people are more open to Gospel conversations during seasons of crisis as they are awakened to the frailty of life.
  4. Develop a plan to check on the most vulnerable in your congregation and community. Those who might be ill, or who are at higher risk.  This does not have to be direct contact.  It could be by phone, text, or email.
  5. Develop a plan on how the church might deliver basic supplies to people in need.  This plan should include safety precautions so that we minister but minimize risk to those whom we are ministering.  We want to help those in need but not create risks that could further infect ourselves or others.
  6. Look for creative ways to worship, to share spiritual truths, to demonstrate compassion, and to minister in this unique time. This will require us to think out of the box, but it also creates opportunities to take the church beyond the four walls of our buildings.

Be reminded that the church has always been willing to run toward not away from times of crisis for the sake of Christ and our neighbors.  This is a difficult time that is causing many to be filled with anxiety and stress but is also a time for us as the church to demonstrate the peace, grace, and hope of Christ.

Finally, I would offer the words of the Psalmist,

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.  May Your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:10).

The psalmist confirmed obedience to God’s call but asked God to lead him in a way that his feet could be steady, and he would not fall.  This is great instruction as we plan to serve in times of crisis. As followers of Christ may we be those who demonstrate to a world shaken by this pandemic that our feet rest on the solid rock of Christ.

Responding to the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus is creating stress and anxiety across our nation and all of us should continue to monitor this outbreak and be prepared to adjust as the situation evolves. We should take the outbreak very seriously but be sure of our facts and avoid panic.



Here are facts and safety tips about Coronavirus:
 

  1. There are many kinds of coronaviruses. Some cause colds and mild respiratory illnesses, but others are more severe.
  2. The Coronavirus that is causing issues is COVID-19 which is a more severe coronavirus.
  3. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
  4. 94% of people who contract the disease have recovered with elderly and those with immune issues being the highest at risk.
  5. 99.5% of people who contract the flu recover with small children and those with immune issues being the highest at risk.
  6. Coronavirus symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath that can begin 2-14 days after exposure.
  7. To prevent the spread of Coronavirus disinfect surfaces with bleach or shockwave or any areas that are frequently touched.
  8. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  9. Use hand sanitizer that is alcohol based and that is at least 60% alcohol.
  10. Cover your mouth with arm if sneezing or coughing.
  11. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands.
  12. Please stay at home if you are sick, and especially if you have fever.
  13. Try to avoid contact with people who are sick.
  14. Facemasks will not guarantee prevention from getting respiratory virus but can help in not spreading virus.  Masks are best worn if you are sick or showing symptoms. Masks do add a layer of protection though not a guarantee so masks would be suggested if you are caring for someone who is showing symptoms.
  15. Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
  16. Higher risk groups for Coronavirus are older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease and immune deficiencies.

Finally, do not forget that our lives rest in the Lord, and I offer you this encouragement today,

“The Lord is the One who will go before you.  He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid or discouraged.”   (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I’m Not Trained, But I Did Stay at a Holiday Inn Last Night

Believers often ask in Disaster Relief, “Why do I have to go through training to serve as a volunteer?  Why can’t I just go help people?”

Preparation is important in any area of ministry, because it enables us to be more effective in ministry.  The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success.” Sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more efficient, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters.  Through your gifts to the Cooperative Program, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is able to provide training in disaster relief that prepares Kentucky Baptists to be ready to serve in positive ways during times of disaster.

Top ten reasons to be trained:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a team.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas.
  6. Training prepares us to understand, in a deeper way, some of the trauma that victims face, so that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the heart for ministry by increasing awareness of the need and different opportunities to minister.
  8. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively.
  9. Training prepares the head by gaining knowledge.
  10. 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.

Several years ago, there was a popular commercial that showed a man preparing to do surgery when everyone began to realize that perhaps he was not up to the task.  The man’s response to their concern was, “I may not be a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”  I cannot answer for you, but I really do not want that man doing surgery on me. Yet, sometimes we are that way when it comes to ministry.  “Hey, I am not really prepared to minister to you, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

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 2020:

  • February 8, 2020 at Edgewood Baptist Church in Nicholasville
  • March 7, 2020 at First Baptist Church of Paducah
  • April 4, 2020 at Hawesville Baptist Church
  • September 12, 2020 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow

For more information or to register go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr.

Wise Instruction for a Leader

Good leaders are deciders. Leaders make decisions and move forward. They may not always be right, but they do not allow themselves to be paralyzed by indecision.

Great spiritual leadership recognizes the need for God to be integral in the process of decision-making. In Exodus 18: 19-21 Moses was given great leadership advice by his father-in-law Jethro, “Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”

This passage teaches us three great pastoral leadership principles:

  1. Bathe decisions in prayer. We should begin decision-making in prayer. If we are to lead God’s people effectively, we need to be a person of prayer. Our calling is to lead people to the place that God desires them to be, and to do that effectively we must stay close to God. Great leaders lead the people as they draw close to God and remain close to Him during the journey. Talk more to God about the church’s issues than you proclaim them from the pulpit.
  2. Base all you do on God’s truth. Godly leadership bases decisions on the truth, not personal opinions. We are called as spiritual leaders to teach the truth of God that He has revealed to us in His Holy Word. All we do should be based on the teachings of Scripture and our lives ought to seek to model these teachings. Any decision made that cannot find foundation in God’s Word will not stand the test of time and ultimately will fail.
  3. Share leadership with others whom God has gifted. Moses could not possibly do everything himself as he led the people of Israel, and neither can we. God does not call us to be Lone Ranger followers. Good leaders empower others to use their gifts and share leadership responsibilities with others. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone. Pastoral authority is not lessened in shared leadership, it is enhanced as we maximize the giftedness of the church and allow the followers of Christ opportunity to be used and to grow in their faith. Good leaders do not fear other mature believers having a voice in the decision-making process, and in wisdom welcome the input of others.

The called of God are to stand and lead. But that privilege only comes to those who have first followed. Therefore, speak after you have first sought a word from Him. Lead as you pursue His direction. Stand after spending time before His throne of grace. Be wise by seeking the input of other gifted followers of our God. And then issue the call to go boldly forward not by barking commands but by rallying the faithful to follow Our Commander and Lord.

What’s in Your Wallet?

Jesus commanded each of us as His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Our mandate as followers of Jesus Christ is to take the Gospel into all the world and to make the name of Christ known among all peoples. We are compelled to proclaim the Gospel, the only hope for billions who have not yet heard about the good news of Christ.

This mandate requires a sacrificial commitment. A sacrifice to go, and a sacrifice to send. Sacrificial giving by Southern Baptists enables us to place thousands of missionaries across the globe. The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions remain the lifeline for countless missionary families, who have sacrificed to go to the farthest corners of our world.

As we enter this season that highlights the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it should make each of as believers ask prayerfully, “What is in my wallet?”

Simply put, your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions enables missionaries to be sent to share the Gospel, disciple those who come to Christ, and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Southern Baptists realized when they began this special offering in 1888 that we can do more when we cooperate together for the sake of Christ than any of us can do alone.

When you give to Lottie Moon:

  • 100% of your gifts directly support missionaries serving the unreached.
  • You are making a way for the 2.8 billion people who have little access to the Gospel to hear of Jesus.
  • You are helping to transform lives around the world.
  • You are part of reaching the nations for Christ.
  • You are playing a role in the Bible being translated into every tongue and language.
  • You are providing hot meals, blankets, and clean water for refugee families.
  • You are enabling us to be God’s hands of compassion following disasters across the globe.
  • You are providing medical leaders in hospitals in broken places.
  • You are providing training for church leaders and pastors.
  • You are fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.

Why give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering?

Maybe, it would be better to ask, how as a follower of Christ, could I not give to this offering that is making the name of Christ known in every corner of our globe?

As Lottie Moon, missionary in China in 1887, said, “Why should we not…do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”

Chosen to Go

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

As those redeemed by Christ, we have been chosen and called to proclaim the praises of our Savior into all the world.

So how can the church be a royal priesthood and fulfill the Great Commission given to us by God?

Six strategic principles can help the church to ensure that we do not turn from our primary calling to live on mission for Christ and to take the Gospel to every person across our globe:

  • Value the mission over methods. The Gospel and the Great Commission of our Lord are unchanging, but the methods utilized to reach our world can and often must change for us to be effective in our mission. It is always better to be missional than traditional.
  • Value people over programs. It is much more important to build relationships with people than it is fill calendars with programs. The church is not to just take up time in people’s lives, it is to disciple them to take the Gospel into the world.
  • Value risk over safety. To reach our world for Christ will involve risks. It may even mean at times that we suffer failures and setbacks and go to places that are less than safe. But great tasks and great missions are never accomplished by those who fear failure and who are unwilling to ever venture into the hard places. The Great Commission will always require steps of great faith.
  • Value super-teams over superstars. We are always stronger together than we are alone. The genius of the Cooperative Program is that it unites Southern Baptists to be more effective and efficient in reaching the world for Christ and in building His Kingdom not our own little sandcastles.
  • Value sending over maintaining. The church was not formed to gather us in. It was formed to empower us to go out. God is worthy of our worship, but real worship will always compel us to go forth from the walls of our church.
  • Value action over meetings. We can spend so much time trying to develop strategies and the perfect plan that we never actually accomplish the mission. Developing strategy and doing analysis has an important role in ministry, but we must always be careful that it does not paralyze us from action. Sometimes we just need to make a leap of faith and try something. If it does not work, stop it and try something else. Fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord will require us to get up from the pew and to go out for the sake of Christ.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

Storm Chasers

I have served almost twelve years as Disaster Relief Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and have been involved in countless disaster responses across our globe – from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest to famines in Africa. As I reflect on these events, there is no question in my mind that God is good and His heart breaks as He watches the suffering caused by these catastrophic events. For those reeling in the aftermath of these life-changing events, the loss can be overwhelming.

So what should our response be as the church to those suffering in the aftermath of these crushing incidents?

The Bible again and again calls us to reach to those wounded by life with compassion.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, ” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “

This is at the heart of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief volunteers respond time and time again to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ to those struggling in the aftermath of disasters. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are often the first on the ground and the last to leave these broken places. God’s light shines through the darkness as these responders offer the compassion and hope of Christ.

God often uses nature to both bless and to challenge us, to bring us food and to teach us the lessons of the struggle. The Bible challenges the church to fight against the devastation, disease, and brokenness of our world. He calls His followers to enter the battle and to be His hands and feet of compassion in a broken world. We are to leave the sidelines and enter the fray. As John reminds us,” This is how we have come to know love: Christ laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century it was the church that remained to minister to its neighbors when most others fled the plague. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provided millions of meals and rebuilt scores of homes. And last year, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided over 116,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and assisted hundreds of families with chainsaw cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Michael.

As the followers of Christ, we choose to be “storm-chasers”. But we do not chase the storm to gather data, we chase the storm to bring help, healing, and hope.

If you would like to learn how you could become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (502) 489-3527.