Living in Response to the Gospel

Thinking like a missionary is a reasonable service proposition (Romans 12:1). It is not extreme in light of what Christ has done for us. Following Jesus might seem radical or extreme at the outset, but once the initial step has been made the missionary mindset follows naturally.

Following Jesus re-wires our thinking. It changes every facet of our worldview. Christ is the light of the world, and His light enlightens us (John 1:4; 8:12). Far too often as Christians, we exaggerate the difficultly of choices that are normalized in the Scripture, i.e., sharing the gospel as a regular part of our daily walk with the Lord. 

Life as kingdom citizens is joyfully different than the status quo. We get to live with a perspective focused on “things above.” For example, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As our Lord and Savior, Jesus modeled this kind of mindset for every believer. As born-again believers, God has filled us with the Holy Spirit, so that we might walk in His ways. Remember, it is Christ in us and not Christ and us!

We could try to identify the bottom-line indicators of the missionary mindset in a number of ways, but perhaps the simplest way is to look at a missionary’s priorities.

Missionaries are mission-oriented Jesus followers. They find joy in prioritizing gospel-mission over their own comfort. A believer with a missionary mindset makes decisions based on gospel-mission objectives.

Mission-oriented Jesus followers will answer life questions like “where should I live?” or “how should I spend my income?” in radically different ways than those living out the status quo for American citizens. However, these decisions will not seem radical to them. Far too often, a Jesus follower living in light of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will hear “I could never do that” from other believers as they observe their mission-oriented decision-making process. For the missionary, the life choices they have made seem joyful, fulfilling, and reasonable.

A natural and vital reprioritization is especially important if we are to fulfill our calling to make disciples who make disciples. If we are going to disciple others to lead, we must become leaders who intentionally live open and accessible lives. We must ask ourselves, am I willing to live a life that follows Christ at all costs? Is my identity in Christ and Christ alone? Do others see Christ in me?

Leaders must bring their disciples into their lives in a way that allows them to observe, learn and practice the same decision-making process that they live by. The new disciple must learn to see the world from a kingdom perspective. They must be led to apply the example of Christ’s life to every aspect of their own. If we are living for Christ and sensing the joy of a life lived on mission, we will invite other disciples into our lives and teach them to do the same. This will become the DNA that is passed on to second, third and fourth-generation believers. This does not mean that we will never face challenges, but that we will model, teach, and learn how to keep our identity in Christ in the midst of our sufferings.

Prayerfully, many of our kids and the next generation will not think that the missionary mindset is so “radical.” After all, it is a reasonable service in light of the good news. It is our joy to follow Jesus!

Here are some questions/thoughts to explore:

  • Would choosing to live in a specific neighborhood because of their need for the gospel seem like a strange choice to you?
  • Would accepting a particular work assignment because of the way it would position you strategically for gospel mission seem weird to you?
  • Would inviting someone to live with you or have free access to “private areas” of your life with the objective of discipling a new leader seem odd to you?

Add-on: Read the June 15 Blog Post below, “Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary”, for some practical first steps to take as you seek to live on mission for Christ.

Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary

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?

They would:

  • 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!

Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

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).

Blessings, 

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!

Link to this IMB article on the web:

Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

Embracing the World at Your Doorstep!

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

REIMAGINE MISSIONS

In the remaining months of 2021, leaders will better see if the COVID pandemic was simply a blip in planning or a complete disruption to ministry as we have known it.

In a recent Barna webcast, the question was posed, “Is this an interruption or a disruption?”

An interruption means this is only a temporary interference and things will be back to normal soon.

A disruption requires more of a pivot to lasting adjustment. It means that the way we have done things may be incomplete for this season and beyond.

Will you dare to reimagine how your church can carry out the mission of God in light of our current reality?

Today’s Realities

COVID-19 Impact

As COVID-19 began to spread, many missional activities came to a screeching halt. Though the mission has not changed, our circumstances have. As we come out of the pandemic, we must move from self-preservation to selfless sacrifice for the sake of the nations. This will take intentionality and avoiding the inclination to return to overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions.

Tips & Tools

Whether we succumb to fear and focus inward or seek to overcompensate in our own strength for the perceived slowing of missionary advance, we must return and trust our sovereign Lord who has promised a “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” around the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9).

During this season, we need a Mindshift when it comes to missions. We need to pivot away from overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions and begin to see the people of God as the primary means through which God has determined to see His glory spread throughout the whole earth, by preparing and equipping the people of God as ministers of the gospel.

Tomorrow’s Possibilities

Reimagine

The clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every disciple of Jesus to reproduce others who walk with Christ by making disciples. Similarly, the clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every church to reproduce themselves. Disciples make disciples, churches plant churches. Reimagine a church that recognizes that their salvation is not for themselves, but that they have been blessed to be a blessing. Reimagine a church whose missions strategy is its people, where every ordinary follower of Christ is actively ministering the gospel among their friends, family, neighbors, and the nations.

Remember, the vision and mission of God never changes. Below you will find a simple Missions Assessment Tool and a resource on the Biblical Pattern of Missions in the Acts and the Gospels that can help you begin to reimagine today.

Tips & Tools

4 Helpful List: Custom Assessment for Missions

Resources

Patterns of Mission from Acts and the Gospels

The KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team is here to help you find resources and tools as seek to fulfill the great commission. Churches must learn how to innovate our practices while we maintain essential biblical convictions. Email, text or call John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, and let us journey alongside you as you Reimagine Missions in 2021 and beyond. Contact info email: [email protected] cell: 502-654-3385.

How to approach evangelism with different cultures, faiths, and worldviews

The United States is a melting pot of cultures and worldviews. Migration brings thousands of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists to cities all around the country every year. This trend continues while agnosticism, atheism and apathy marks the worldview of many Americans.

For Western Christians, being a witness for Christ in a religiously plural society is no longer an international missionary challenge. In the midst of a melting pot of faiths, Christians must learn how to adapt in their evangelistic efforts.

The first-generation Muslim immigrants who frequent your local park have different assumptions about issues of sin and salvation than those of the postmodern college student who works at your local coffee shop.

Christians in such a diverse context must learn to show how the gospel speaks to each of these differing worldviews. Evangelistic adaptability can be developed in the following four ways:

Listen to the person’s story.
Whatever religious context you face in evangelism, listening is crucial. Listening conveys a person’s value as one who is uniquely made in the image of God. Asking good questions helps one understand two major issues: what is most important to the person (the object of their devotion) and the story that person tells themself in order to explain reality.

Ask questions about the person’s hometown or country, family, cultural holidays, hobbies, passions, and future goals. For example, you may say “Tell me the story behind one of your festivals or holidays.” A natural follow-up question might be, “How do you live out your faith? Tell me about your devotional life.”

A concrete type of question is often better than a theoretical one such as, “What do you believe about God?” Listen intently to how the person describes their views of God, humanity and the stories embedded in their devotional practices. You are not only listening for cognitive beliefs. Religious traditions, experiences and societal values communicate just as much about a person’s worldview as does their intellectual beliefs and convictions. You can then naturally begin sharing your own story of meeting Jesus and then share the story of Jesus.

Remember the essentials. 
In order to share the story of Jesus (i.e., the gospel), it is often natural to introduce it by sharing your own story of how you became a follower of Jesus. When sharing the gospel, keep in mind some essential elements, such as God, creation, sin, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the need for repentance and faith. The four-fold model of the Bible’s grand narrative as creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is also helpful. Another approach is to answer the following four questions in your gospel presentation: Who is Jesus? What has Jesus done? Why is Jesus important or the only way? How should we respond?

The ideal evangelistic encounter will include all of these elements. Do not be discouraged if you are only able to share aspects of the gospel in conversations with lost people. Any attempt at sharing Christ is not a vain activity. However, these essential elements can serve as foundational components for any contextualized gospel conversation.

Respond to their story with the story of Jesus. 
Once you have given a genuine ear to listen and learn about the other person, keep in mind what you learned as you speak about the story of the gospel. Responding to their story with the story of Jesus.

For example, if the person shares that their family is the most important thing in the world to them, it can be helpful to include Abraham’s story of how God used his descendants to spread the good news of salvation and bless all the families of the world. Perhaps the festival that is important to them has aspects of the gospel embedded within it. Use those elements to connect them to the gospel.

For example, the Hindu festival Diwali is about light conquering the dark. You can highlight the fact that Jesus calls himself the light of the world. You are not claiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of their festival. Instead, you are taking a familiar concept (light vs. dark) and connecting it to the biblical message, i.e., the truth.

Contextualizing the gospel is not making the gospel more relevant. The gospel already is relevant. Our job is to share the gospel with the nations here, there, and everywhere. We do this best when we listen well and then apply the gospel to what we learn about a person. However, this is difficult to do in the first conversation. That is why there is one more principle for learning adaptability.

Walk alongside them moving forward. 
If possible, do not just share Christ with a person one time. Follow up with them. Evangelism should not be a one-and-done approach. Jesus called us to make disciples, which involves investing time in people.

As long as an individual is willing to talk, continue to process the gospel with them. We describe this as “walking” because it is a process, and it is a relationship that is moving in a direction toward faith in Christ.

People who have very little exposure to a biblical worldview, such as Hindus and Muslims, need time to process everything. This involves getting them in the Scriptures as much as possible. Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts, as you share the Word of God. Let them see how Christ is truly alive and working in your own life. Help them meet other believers and witness the love of God in the body of Christ.

We also describe this as “walking alongside” because we are not in a position of authority over them. You are letting the Word of God serve as the authority as you continue to listen and learn about the person. Walking alongside others is how we can best learn to apply the gospel in a variety of cultural settings.

Contextualization in gospel ministry is best learned in relationships with people. Listen to them, remember the revealed faith, apply the gospel to their life, and walk alongside them towards Christ.

For more information on how to share Christ cross culturally, develop an Acts 1:8 paradigm, or build Great Commissions Pathways for you Church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, on the Missions Mobilization Team. Email: [email protected] Text or Call: 502-654-3385. We Are Stronger Together!

Prayer: Reaching the Nations Next Door!

The mission of advancing the gospel is the great work of the church, and prayer is the engine that moves it. As God brings the nations to America, he continues to open the eyes of believers to see the unreached and least reached people across our state. Of the 200,000 plus foreign-born and their children living in Kentucky, over 160 unique people groups have been identified. We need more intentional prayer and intimacy with Christ, producing more heartfelt evangelism by believers among the lost. Here are three ways focused prayer can empower the church:

Prayer lifts our eyes to the Harvest field.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus said, “The Harvest is Plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray earnestly for the Lord to send out laborers into his Harvest.” As you discover and pray for various unreached people groups in Kentucky, our prayer is that your eyes will be open to the lostness that exists in your community, across Kentucky and beyond.

Prayer opens the doors for the gospel to advance.

Spiritual work requires spiritual power, and united biblical prayer opens doors to share Christ in our communities (Acts 4:23-33). As God’s people faithfully pray for the lost, unbelievers are convicted of their sin and become more receptive and open to the gospel.

As the pandemic began, our mission team was praying for opportunities to share gospel with our Muslim neighbors. That very night, my Muslim friend, Ibrahim, sent a message asking if I could share about Christ (Jesus) with his neighbor, Fatima, who had a dream about Jesus! I never thought that one of my Muslim friends would ask me to share Christ with another Muslim! After meeting with my wife and I, Fatima is now a follower of Christ! Prayer connects us with people who are open to the gospel, lead us to the right place at the right time, and empowers the church to fulfill the Great Commission.

Prayer provides a challenge toward engagement.
When believers experience Christ in intimacy through prayer, our desires begin to align with God’s. Thus, developing a burden for the lost, but also a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

When the church prays, God’s people move closer towards God’s heart for the nations. May God raise us up to advance his kingdom, as we fall on our knees in prayer.

We are here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. For further assistance, email, text or call John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or 502-654-3385.

The Joy of Giving Yourself for Others and for Christ

C. S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, “Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”

Volunteers with Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief give themselves away for the good of others and the sake of Christ when disasters strike. They have discovered the joy that is found in giving all that we are and have for Christ.

Listen to these testimonies about how they are giving for the sake of Christ through disaster relief:

“We volunteer to help the victims clean up after the disaster in order to speak to their heart.” (Mike Bastin – Pleasant View Baptist Church)

“God uses us, DR volunteers, at a time when hope seems gone.” (Carolyn Gray – Zion’s Cause Baptist Church)

“Disaster Relief opens up doors to people for the Gospel.” (Tom Garrity – Jeffersontown Baptist Church)

“Disaster Relief gives our volunteers a way to show victims of a disaster that God loves them.” (David Bayes – Liberty Mills Baptist Church)

“God uses the love He placed in DR workers, to help people in their time of trouble. Making the DR workers a living Bible.” (Jerry and Andy Cable – Campton Baptist Church)

 “Disaster Relief allows us to demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ to people that have found themselves overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control. Sharing the Gospel is always much more effective after sharing God’s love.”   (Roger Whitehead – Grayson First Baptist Church)

“Disaster relief is the mirror that reveals the love of God.” (Sammy Hammons – Kirksville Baptist Church)

“Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief allows us to work through the brokenness and point those we are able to serve back to a loving God through His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bob Brame – Hickory Grove Baptist Church)

“In the midst of disasters, most people, even those previously resistant to the Gospel, realize they are not in control of their current or future circumstances.  Disaster Relief volunteers come alongside them to help carry their burdens while sharing the Love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.” (Keith Stinson – First Baptist Church of Richmond)

“The word Kentucky draws Attention (Famous Kentucky Fried Chicken). Kentucky Baptist DR gold shirts draws Curiosity. Curiosity draws conversations. Conversations open doors. BOOM! Opportunity to Share Jesus.” (Janice Gaines – Hamlet Baptist Church)

“In one week of DR I get to share the Gospel more than in a whole year at home with my regular routines.” (Gordon Hayworth – Fairdale First Baptist Church)

“Ian Sterling was saved at one of our Kentucky Baptist disaster responses to Bay Minette, Alabama. Ian was an American Red Cross volunteer and shared how he had observed our volunteers being the church and this drew him to Christ.” (Larry and Elaine Koch – Redemption Hill Baptist Church)

Is God calling you to give of yourself to bring help, healing, and hope when disasters strike?

Find out how you can give and get involved during times of disaster for the sake of the Gospel at www.kybaptist.org/dr .

Simple Lessons for The Called

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

If I could break down all I have learned to share with a next generation of those called by God, I would offer these simplified lessons:

  1. Maintain integrity.  “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them” (Proverbs 11:3).
  2. Preach the Word.  Handle the Living Word of God accurately and herald the unchanging truth of God with conviction. “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  3. Offer application not just information when you preach and teach, because God desires transformation. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
  4. Be willing to engage in strategic innovation without compromising God’s unchanging message in an age where things are changing faster than anytime in human history. This is the heart of what the apostle Paul is sharing in 1 Corinthians 9: 22-23 when he proclaims, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
  5. Help people to navigate truth in a time of instant information. Wisdom is more than an accumulation of information, and discernment is vital in this age of information overload. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 offers us incredible wisdom, “But test all things.  Hold on to what is good.”
  6. Love the flock. Being an effective leader means nothing if you do not genuinely care about those God has entrusted to you. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” 9! Peter 5:2).
  7. Awaken a passion in followers of Christ to study the word. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
  8. Seek to inspire the church to be filled with a deep love for our Lord that is more than an intellectual knowledge.  Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us of this truth, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
  9. Maintain a balance in worship that keeps the Word of God elevated but does not devalue music, prayer, giving, the ordinances, and fellowship as essential elements of genuine worship. May we worship as taught in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
  10. Learn to work with people and to build unity in the family of faith. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling of which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Hard Places, Hard Times!

SUPPORTING GOSPEL WORK IN OPPRESSED PLACES AND DURING TURBULENT TIMES!

“14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The Apostle Paul not only understood that the Great Commission belongs to the local church, but also that “sending churches” must pray, encourage, and partner with their “sent ones.” As Kentucky Baptist Churches, we have the joy of supporting and partnering with IMB missionaries around the world, through our Cooperative Program Giving and Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings. However, the Great Commission is more than simply our giving, it includes our willingness to have gospel partnerships in hard places, among hard people, and during hard times. The spread of the gospel faces challenges because people are battling their own personal sin and pride in the face of the “offense” of the gospel. In addition to the challenge of human sinfulness and depravity, sometimes the gospel runs up against challenging settings. Christians in places of religious freedom still carry the biblical burden to take the gospel into higher security or closed settings. The Great Commission is not an option clause, but a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal for these difficult settings is to see the Holy Spirit establish a long-term, doctrinally sound, multiplying church presence for the glory of God.

If we are to partner in a high security location, we must first build and maintain a relationship with a committed missionary who resides in the difficult place or among the difficult people. Workers in hostile areas live with spiritual oppression as a constant companion, much like a tumor that cannot be removed. A good partner carefully considers the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical challenges that exist in this particular setting.

God can use you and your church to not only preserve the wellbeing of your missionary partner, but also play a critical role in fulfilling the Great Commission by doing three critical things:

Pray
We must pray for our missionaries, but beyond that, they need to know we are praying for them. Ask them for specific requests and then follow up to see how the Lord worked. Find out their specific cultural challenges and commit to pray for them. Paul asked his friends to pray for him, and he gave them specific prayer requests.

Encourage
We must also encourage our missionaries. These are real people who have real interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. Do not forget that they have a favorite genre of music, a sports team they keep up with, jokes they enjoy, frustrations as a parent, concerns as a spouse, and a thousand other facets that make them human. Treat them the same way you treat other friends. Talk with them about their interests, fears, joys, and sorrows.

When neglected, the humanity of our missionaries is what often takes them off of the field. When cared for, the humanity of our missionaries is often what makes them the most effective. People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. Ask your church members, how can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel? Find ways, be practical and be consistent.

Go
The Bible is overflowing with commands, reasons, and motivations to go, serve and spread the gospel with your physical presence. It is not only important for some of us to go to difficult places long-term, but also for others to go to these places short-term in order to help our missionaries by encouraging and supporting them. Due to the travel restrictions caused by the current pandemic, you might consider “going” on virtual mission trip, which is an excellent way to pray, encourage, and connect with workers in hard places!  But as you go either physically or virtually, go for the benefit of your spiritual partners and the lost, not to fulfill your own dreams. There is a specific danger present in any type of mission trip that makes it about the individuals going instead of supporting strategy of the workers living on the field.

Also, be realistic about the results you will see during your time in a difficult area, or during your time of virtual trip. In many of these places, the work is long and often times they have yet to see the “harvest.” Radical Prayer, persistence, and patience in working the soil is required. The Lord is free to work in any way that He desires, but those who “go” must keep in mind that they might not see a massive turning to the Lord on their first trip.

As you partner with missionaries in difficult and possibly hostile locations, you are part of bringing unreached and unengaged people to the throne room of God. There are many places you could go or ways you can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, but the greatest blessing is to go and serve where the Lord calls you. The work is large, the challenges are daunting, the need is overwhelming, but the eternal value of even one soul is worth every bit of effort we can summon. Remember the words of the Lord Himself in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Even during the pandemic, we can help you Discover the Opportunities, Develop a Strategy, and Equip your Church to Pray, Encourage, Go! Whether you are just getting started or needing to start a new, our team can help you take the next step. Email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or call 502-654-3385.