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.

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.

Reflections and Updates on the Ukrainian Crisis

I watch as an older man stands in front of his bombed-out house. All of his memories, the small earthly things that give us comfort, his entire history is scattered. There is a confused, bewildered look on his face as he realizes that the accomplishment of his labor is no more.

I see a woman who does not want to leave the danger zone because she just witnessed the death of her family by artillery fire. To her, she is sitting at their grave.

I see people lining up at bordering countries with whatever they can carry and waiting in 15–16-hour lines, exposed to the elements and waiting to be processed. Once they cross the border, their status changes to “refugee,” but regardless of the label, it is the same person fighting disbelief, exhaustion, and desperation as they search for ways to fend for their families.

You see, it does not matter which country is experiencing conflict: Uganda, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Syria, Libya, Georgia, Armenia and now Ukraine, war forces people to become displaced.

With the tragic scenario currently unfolding in Ukraine, Send Relief has responded quickly, propelled by God’s love. They are providing food, hygiene items, shelter, safety blankets and transportation to the neighboring countries that people are fleeing to, such as Hungary and Poland, while continuing projects are providing relief to people still trapped in Ukraine itself.

As they monitor the situation, it has become clear that the bulk of the Ukrainian refugee population are currently seeking shelter in countries with similar cultures and languages, as well as those with a large diaspora presence of Ukrainians. Currently, Poland will be the base of operations moving forward, but as is the case many times, the majority of people in dire need are not the refugees outside the country but the displaced people trapped inside the country, with no means of travel and no family or friends to go to.

Present news reports state that over 2.5 million refugees have made it to Poland, with Romania receiving the second highest number at 700,000. All of the countries receiving people need more assistance, because coping with an influx of this number of refugees is difficult for any nation.

Send Relief has established multiple rest and registration facilities at the key entry points, where they can offer refugees relief packages with sandwiches, water, and more necessities, along with working with local authorities to provide a play tent for children to wait in while their parents are processed. As of today, Send Relief is partnering with local churches and national partners in fourteen countries.

Currently, the majority of those fleeing Ukraine are women and children, as most 18–60-year-old men must remain in the country to fight unless they have medical exemptions.

Establishing these rest and registration points will help Send Relief confirm where they will be resettling in Poland and other countries, who they will stay with and if we can arrange follow-up visits to assess and strengthen the financial capacity of host families.

In all of this, we must remember that God is in control. His kingdom expands in a time of turmoil. As the body of Christ unites, believers are emboldened and strengthened in their walks with God.

As Kentucky Baptist, you can join in solidarity with the people of Ukraine by praying, giving and going! Go to https://www.kybaptist.org/ukraine/ today and get involved!

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. *field info from Abraham Shepherd, Send Relief (Area Director for Europe, Middle East, and North Africa.

Called to Make a Difference

God has always called His people to make a difference. God has always been a “sending God” where we are called to be sent. We find all through Scripture, and especially in the life of Jeremiah the prophet of being called and sent by God.

As God is calling Jeremiah, He points out to Jeremiah in chapter 1 verse 7, “Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.”

God called Jeremiah to be a voice calling people to a relationship to God. What is God calling you to? There are four things I want to point out:

First, There is a Call to be Responded To. God’s call on our lives is always a personal call. He does not call us all the same way for the same purpose, but His call to us is always personal.

• He called Noah in a personal way.
• He called Abram in a personal way.
• He called Moses in a personal and unique way.
• He called Samuel in a personal way in the middle of the night.
• He called Jeremiah in a personal way when he was a young man.
• He called Saul in a very personal and unexpected way.

Jesus calls us and He calls us by name in a personal and specific way, each unique.

The call from God to be responded to is two-fold: to a relationship with Him and to be on mission for Him.

Second, There is a Commission to be Committed To. God called Jeremiah to be a spokesman to the people. This was his commission to be committed to.

Every Christian has a commission to be committed to (Matt. 28:19-20). And just as God told Jeremiah, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.” The first words God puts in the mouth of any Christian are the words of his/her testimony – a testimony of how God changed your life.

There is also another commission we must be committed to and that is the mission God has assigned to you personally. As the Scripture compares the members to a body (1 Cor. 12), we all have part that we are called and assigned to in God’s plan. We must be committed to the commission we are assigned.

Third, There is a Caution to be Alerted To. In Jeremiah 1:17 God gives him a caution. God was warning Jeremiah not to be more concerned with making excuses for not carrying out the commission than about obedience to fulfilling the call.

We are all full of excuses.
• It is the preacher’s job.
• It is not my gift.
• I witness by my life.
• I am too busy.

However, we should always remain obedient to the call. I am reminded of the words of the old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus. But to trust and obey.”

Yes, it is just that simple. Not always easy, but it is simple.

Finally, There is a Command to be Obedient To. When God calls a person to follow Him and to answer His call, He expects not dialogue, not discussion, nor debate; but simply obedience.
The Psalmist said, “I have inclined my heart to perform Thy statutes.” Psalm 119:112

Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.”

Have you been called to make a difference? Are you committed to following His command?

GO! And make a difference in the world around you.

As the World Watches – There is Something We Can Do!

As the world watches, Ukrainians are being invaded by Russia and forced to flee from their homes.  While the actual numbers are believed to be higher, it was reported today by national news sources today that 365 Ukrainians have been killed and 759 have been injured.  We’ve seen the videos of families crying and praying as shots are fired and shells dropped in or near their homes. The world is watching as mothers and children wait it out in subway stations or bomb shelters throughout the Ukraine.  It’s so heartbreaking and perhaps even traumatizing. 

Many have denounced the actions and feel strong emotions toward those responsible. I’ve felt that too.  But I want to do more than feel, I want to help.  But what can I do?  Are there things I can do to help those that are experiencing isolation, hunger, physical pain, death of loved ones, unemployment and loss of shelter?  The answer is yes.  There are two primary ways we can help at this time in the crisis:

  1. Prayer – prayer is the best way to face anything, especially a crisis.  Prayer is a real connection to God and helps us as we petition God on behalf of others. God encourages us to cry out to Him when there is trouble.  “Call out to me when trouble comes. I will save you. And you will honor me.” (Psalms 50:15; Psalm 91:15).

Here are some specific ways to pray:

  • Pray for peace, asking God to bring an end to the violence and tension between these countries.
  • Pray that God will redeem this situation by drawing people to himself. 
  • Pray those in the crisis will place their hope in Christ rather than governments, a powerful military or diplomacy.
  • Pray that leaders will exercise wisdom and seek God about decisions being made.
  • Pray for the safety of soldiers and their families while separated from them. 
  • Pray for the 1.5 million refugees who have been displaced that are now seeking safety, shelter and food. 
  • Pray that Christians in both countries will stand strong and boldly proclaim their faith as it is tested.
  • Giving – giving is a way for us to bless those in the crisis as we’ve been blessed, and we certainly have been!  Donating to relief efforts encourages a grateful and generous spirit in us as we determine in our heart to give and help others who are in need. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7). 

There are many organizations receiving financial gifts on behalf of the Ukrainian crisis and to whom you give is of utmost importance.  Here are a few things to consider before writing a check or making a charge on your credit card:

  • Research the organization you are giving through to ensure they are credible and have boots on the ground that can carry-out the response effort.
  • Consider becoming a partner to the organization and giving over the long haul because relief and recovery efforts may take months, and sometimes even years.    
  • Support an organization that was there before the crisis and already invested in the people. Unfortunately, charities come out of the woodwork following a disaster and many don’t have the local network, infrastructure or relationships to efficiently and effectively distribute aid to victims.
  • Make sure that the organization you are giving to is a registered non-profit with the state regulator.  If you wish to receive a tax deduction for your gift, make sure that they are registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.  You can check this out at: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search

The Kentucky Baptist Convention (www.kybaptist.org/ukraine) is an organization collecting financial aid on behalf of the Ukrainian crisis. It is the organization that many choose to give through because it meets all the criteria outlined above.  They have partners on the ground already providing aid. To date, our nationally partner, SEND Relief, has already dispersed almost a million dollars in aid.  We have boots on the ground meeting needs because we were there prior to the crisis and have plans (Lord willing) to still be there when the dust settles.  Additionally, a small portion of the financial aid received through the KBC will be used specifically to aid Ukrainian refugees who settle in Kentucky. If Ukrainian refugees don’t settle in Kentucky, any dollars withheld will be forwarded to our national partner, SEND Relief. 

I can’t imagine being forced out of my home, community or country. But if it happened, I would find encouragement and strength in knowing that people everywhere are praying for me and giving financially toward my recovery.   

Ukraine Crisis: Overview, Impact and Opportunity!

Send Relief is bringing help and hope to displaced families in Ukraine during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Overview

After 8 years of ongoing conflict, Russia has launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, rolling in tanks and troops into their neighbors to the West.

This conflict could cause nearly 5 million people to be displaced and lead to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis among the Ukrainian people. The greatest needs for displaced families are food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation and hygiene needs.

Send Relief, a cooperative ministry between the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, is working with local Baptist partners in Ukraine to respond to the growing crisis by ministering to displaced families. Send Relief can connect you and your church with opportunities to pray and give to support this response!

Your gifts to Send Relief are already providing emergency food supplies, shelter and clothing to displaced families. As the conflict escalates, Send Relief partners are preparing to provide more food relief, continue meeting shelter needs and offer transportation to those impacted by this crisis.

Impact and Opportunity

Give today to bring help and healing to the hurting! Link to give: sendrelief.org

This is a scene from a Ukrainian church we have partnered with to care for displaced families. They are providing food, a warm place to sleep and fellowship to 60+ displaced this weekend.

Your gifts for Ukraine are helping the Church be the Church! Also, your prayers are critical! Remember Church, there is extraordinary power in prayer. Kentucky Baptist, the Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist and Send Relief Ambassador for Care for Refugees, if you have questions or concerns. We are here to help! Email John: [email protected] or text: 502-654-3385.

Link to download your Ukrainian Prayer Guide: https://www.sendrelief.org/resource/ukraine-prayer-guide/

Church: Pray, Give, Get involved today!

*All Pics and article information have been shared with permission from Send Relief (sendrelief.org)

Spiritual Growth Leads to Mission Service

There’s no shortage of places to serve on mission with the Lord.  Opportunities abound, but only a very small number are willing to respond. We’ve heard the request for mission trip participants or the plea for volunteers to help meet a need in the community, but how did we respond?   Many churches lack people who are willing to get involved in taking the gospel across the street, much less, around the world.  The mission fields locally and globally are in desperate need of obedient Christ followers willing to say, “here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). I’m not sure what more can be done by churches or missions organizations to entice people to respond affirmatively to mission service.

I don’t think the answer to more people serving is greater promotion, financial assistance or even a powerful personal challenge. While those things may be helpful, what is needed are spiritually mature believers who will say yes to live out their faith (James 2:14-26).  We need God’s power to fall upon our churches because His presence in our lives will bring repentance, followed by a life of service. When God is at work among His people, there is never a shortage of volunteers or resources for His work!  When Christ followers are walking with Him, witnessing to neighbors and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) will be a natural outcome. 

God didn’t save us to satisfyingly sit.  He saved us to serve Him through a life on mission. He expects us to minister to the least of these (Matthew 25:40) and take the gospel to the lost. But will I be obedient in going if it requires making personal sacrifices in-order to do so? Living a life on mission involves exchanging my selfish desires for whatever God wants. The author is unknown but I’ve heard it said that “spiritual maturity isn’t measured by how high you jump in praise, but by how straight you walk in obedience”.

If we are growing in our faith there will be an awareness within us of the lostness around us.  Very simply, God draws us to Him and sends us out (John 20:21).   Spiritual growth in the life of a Christian will be lived out through missions involvement. So, if I’m not living as “sent”, perhaps I’m not as spiritually mature as I should be because growing is evidenced by going. 

I pray that what God is doing in my life inwardly will be seen outwardly through mission activity that results in new believers being baptized and discipled.

How Will You Be A Voice For Life?

Near the conclusion of the creation account found in Genesis 1, God’s Word makes a profound statement that highlights the significance and value of all human life.  Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

While there are many rich truths that could be gleaned from this single verse of Scripture, the fact that we are created by God in His image is what gives all men and women a deep sense of worth and value. Mankind is the crowning jewel or the zenith of God’s creation, and the Bible underscores this truth throughout the pages of Scripture. For example, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Throughout this month, many followers of Christ will set aside a time to remember and reflect upon the sanctity of human life and holiness of God.  Churches will celebrate the fact that life is a gift from God, and they will also grieve the numerous lives that have been lost prematurely due to abortion, abandonment, abuse, violence, persecution, or some other means. As believers, we are called to be a voice for the powerless and to serve and support those in need by sharing the grace, love, compassion, and good news of Christ with others. There are several ways that individuals and Kentucky Baptist Churches can be a voice for life. Consider how God may be calling you to be involved.

We can pray for those whose lives are the most vulnerable, particularly the unborn, the disabled and the elderly. We can stand ready to come alongside and minister to those who find themselves in the midst of a crisis pregnancy or the loneliness that often comes in the late stages of one’s life. Maybe God is calling you to adopt a child, serve as a foster family, or minister to refugees.  Perhaps God is asking you to play a part in the restoration and healing process with someone who experienced the emotional and physical pain of an abortion months or even years ago, but they still long for forgiveness and spiritual healing. Will you help that individual to know that God loves them and offers a new start in life?

In whatever way God leads you to be an outspoken voice for life, remember the truth that we are all made in the image of God. An individual’s worth and dignity is not based upon their culture, class, country of origin, or the color of their skin. Every single person has value to God because they are made in His image, and each individual is precious to Him. Remember, whoever is precious and valuable to God should be precious and valuable to us.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” — Genesis 1:27

The Missions Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Email or text John Barnett, KBC missions strategist, to discover new opportunities and tools for you and your church to share the love of Christ by being a voice for life! Email: [email protected] Text/Call: 502-654-3385.

WHY YOU SHOULD OPEN YOUR HOME THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

The end of the year is often marked by a seemingly endless barrage of family gatherings, cookie swaps, white elephant gift exchanges, office parties and more.

The holidays cause some to stress and wonder if they can fit everything into their schedule. Others experience profound sadness as they reflect on the loss of a loved one or other disappointments in life. 

As a parent, I am always seeking to equip and encourage my family to live a life on mission. My wife and I pray and ask the Lord to teach us new ways to be intentional in fulfilling the Great Commission at home and in our community.

The holiday season can be a welcome time of gospel intentional hospitality. When Jesus shared meals with people, it gave him the opportunity to enter the lives of the people with whom he was eating. In fact, eating together is one of the most practical ways to overcome any relational barriers that separates us.  Jesus modeled a way for us to use the gift of hospitality as a means to share his grace. Here are three ways to enter the holidays with gospel intentionality:

1. Pray for an Open Door

As Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” As you begin to shift your thoughts toward the birth of Jesus, gather your family to pray for your neighbors and the nations in your community. Ask the Lord to open a door for your family to share the love of Christ this Christmas. Then, talk about those you know who need to hear the gospel, and how you could share a meal together.

2. Plan a time to Share a Meal

There is a familiar saying around our house when it comes to dinner: “There’s always room for one more.” And there is. But what takes this from a stated fact to a shared reality is an intentional invitation. When we open our tables to our neighbors, we are offering more than a meal. We are offering an invitation into communion.

3. Prepare (Ask) Good questions.

Around a table, the art of conversation is fostered. Try to avoid questions resulting in one-word answers. Instead ask open-ended questions: “What are some of your greatest memories of the holidays growing up?” or “What is most difficult for you during the holidays?” These questions, when engaged honestly, can connect people at a deep level. Take time to really listen.

Focusing on these three things this holiday season can create space for intimate communion with family members, co-workers, neighbors, international students, or refugees. As you share a meal together and listen to their stories, take time to share your story and how you came to know the Lord. Then, just as you invited them to your table, you might find yourself in a conversation with someone who is wondering how they can find a seat at Jesus’ table.

Lord, help us to open our homes this holiday season for glory of your name, and we pray that many will come to know you! Merry Christmas. We are stronger together!