Are You Ready?

Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention

I remember driving through our community one sunny afternoon and drove past the local fire station. I noticed that the overhead doors were open, and I was assuming at first that it was because it was such a beautiful day.

But then something else caught my eye. The fire trucks were just inside and the doors of all the firetrucks were open. Hanging from each door was the fireman’s coat and on the floor below each door was his turnout gear. As I saw that picture, I immediately thought to myself, “They are ready to respond within 30 seconds the moment the alarm sounds. They were ready at a moment’s notice.”

With my heart and passion for the disaster relief ministry, it got me to thinking. So, I asked myself the question, “Are we ready to respond at a moment’s notice when disaster strikes?” Obviously, as volunteers there is no way we can respond as quickly as a fire department. But are we ready? Are you ready?

We have learned that there are four basic phases of a disaster response.

The first is READINESS. Are you ready when disaster strikes? Being ready starts now, not after a disaster happens. We need to be alert, available and able. Being ready means being trained, equipped and being ready when the need comes. It involves already knowing and have rehearsed the steps when the call comes.

The second phase is RESPONSE. Response involves mobilizing to meet urgent needs. Response involves search and rescue, immediate relief, feeding, sheltering, and meeting emergent needs.

The third phase is RECOVERY. The recovery phase can last a few days to several months. Recovery includes chainsaw, flood, fire, roofing and tarping, and debris clean-up. This is the phase where the work gets done and requires many volunteers, regardless of skill level.

The final phase is REBUILD. This phase is usually long term and requires assistance from both skilled labor and those willing to serve and learn. This often is the reconstruction phase after homes have been affected by disasters. One major advantage during this phase is the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with the survivors.

We all know disasters happen and they can even happen to any of us. Are you ready? Have you, or are you planning to take the steps to be ready to respond when there is a need?

Hurting people need helping hands. And helping hands come from caring hearts.

Are you ready?

First Responders with Gospel Urgency

A tsunami of debris engulfed the city blocks surrounding the World Trade Center.  Just prior to this wave of debris, smoke rose in the New York City skyline as both towers were struck by hijacked commercial airliners on September 11, 2001.  Thousands attempted to escape the chaos of the enflamed buildings and surrounding area.  While hordes of people were panicking as they ran away from the direction of the twin towers, heroically others ran to the site as the towers eventually collapsed in a massive ruble.

People were right to run away from the danger, but who would run to it and why?  First responders, that’s who.  Thank God for first responders who train and prepare for times such as September 11.  Instead of running away from danger and distress, first responders run to it. 

The Great Commission is about followers of Jesus running to the needs of the world.  We lay down our lives (both figuratively and sometimes literally) for the hordes of people running to escape the chaos of life.  I was recently reminded of this gospel call when a pastor in a large Midwest city told our vision trip team of a shooting in his neighborhood.  Instead of avoiding the location where the incident occurred, his church went and set up on the corner of the street to engage with family members and neighbors.  They were there to proclaim that hope is found in Jesus alone.  This church functioned like first responders.

This same church, on a weekly basis, has “night church” in a section of town that is known as a hot spot for trouble late at night.  They gather near the street and play Christian music, share testimonies of God’s transforming power, and talk with neighbors about the good news of Jesus.   The church is running to the needs in their community.  They are, in fact, first responders bringing hope in the name of Jesus.

Churches across our nation and state can learn much from this Midwest large city new church.  Here are some takeaways that will help us all in our Great Commission work:

  1. Be a church that runs to the needs in your community with gospel hope.
  2. To run to the needs, we need to know our communities. 
  3. To know our communities, we must immerse our lives in the community.
  4. Immersing our lives in our communities requires a continual presence in the community.

The chaos of sin is sweeping across the communities of our state and nation like a tsunami.  It would be easy for the church to simply quarantine itself from the debris and mess.  However, this is not the Jesus way.  He calls us to run to the need, not away from the need.  How will your church respond to the chaos of sin in your community?  Will you be a first responder with gospel urgency?   

Introducing the 2021 Kentucky Missionary of the Year

Cory Bledsoe, Executive Director of Re:Center Ministries in Louisville has been chosen as the 2021 Kentucky Missionary of the Year. 

This award is given annually to a missionary that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Founded in 1881, Re:Center Ministries (formerly Louisville Rescue Mission) reconciles homeless and hurting people to God, family, and community by the power of Christ in partnership with the local church.  Programs span a continuum of care—from prevention to relief to recovery – and provide holistic, high-impact answers to the problem of homelessness in their communities. 

They offer an emergency day shelter for women and children, LifeChange Stability which provides men an emergency place to stay, a three-month recovery program for men who are homeless, and a twelve-month transition ministry for men who have jobs and are transitioning to leave Re:Center. 

As the Executive Director, Cory provides day to day leadership, and management of the facility.  

He is a proven leader and has escorted Re:Center ministries through major change that has included rebranding, a fresh vision, strategy development, expansion of the ministry into southern Indiana, and a thrift store.  Cory has also strengthened the partnership of Re:Center with local churches who help to reconcile the hurting to Christ. 

Cory understands homelessness and the hopelessness that accompanies it.  He believes that if the spiritual void is not met with the gospel of Christ, any assistance provided is only a temporary band-aid. 

He is actively involved in his local church, is married to Sarah and they have 3 children.

Eric Allen, Missions Mobilization Team Leader with the Kentucky Baptist Convention says, “When I think about the many lives that have been transformed through Re:Center, I recall Brandon who was addicted and homeless.  After trusting in Christ and going through the program, Brandon was called to ministry and went on to attend Bible college.  That’s life change!”

CONGRATULATIONS to Cory Bledsoe, the 2021 Kentucky Missionary of the year.  He is most deserving. 

To learn more about Cory’s ministry at Re:Center go to https://recenterministries.org/.

Consider adopting Cory through the KBC Adopt-a-Missionary program.  For more information go to www.kybaptist.org/adoptmissionary

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

Should We Plant or Revitalize Churches?

As I have the privilege to meet with Kentucky Baptist Churches and their leaders about the Great Commission, we regularly discuss matters of church planting and church revitalization.  When it comes to the Great Commission, a primary part of the church’s faithfulness to that call involves healthy church formation.  As Jesus instructs His disciples before He ascends back to heaven, He commands them to make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). 

IMB Photo
IMB Photo- A church meets in a small building in South Asia.

While we love to tell people that we are all about making disciples, what does that actually mean?  The best way to know what that means is to examine what Jesus’ early disciples did to make disciples.  In short, the book of Acts demonstrates their understanding of Jesus’ command as that of birthing or planting churches and strengthening existing churches (Acts 14:19-23).  Great Commission obedience is done in the context of forming healthy churches.    

So, as I meet with churches across the Commonwealth of Kentucky to discuss the Great Commission and a strategy for obeying Jesus’ command, we inevitably discuss church planting and church revitalization. Here is the question I most often ask: Are we called in the Great Commission to plant new churches or help existing churches become healthier?  The answer is clear—Yes!

Great Commission work involves the planting of new churches and the revitalization of existing churches.  The Great Commission expands as churches are planted and strengthened.  Why?  Because more churches are needed to reach an ever-increasing population.  Yet, churches that are not healthy will never focus outward, but only inward.  For example, one NAMB stat reveals that there is only 1 SBC church for every 6,505 people.

Intertwined in Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts is the planting of new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Scripture never puts church planting and church strengthening at odds. We could say that they are two sides of the same coin.  Paul’s concern in Acts is for the spread of the gospel through planting new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Thus, in Acts 14 Paul plants new churches and then circles back around to these same churches to ensure that these churches are in fact healthy. 

While healthy churches seek to build disciples within their own congregation, they also look outward to reach other peoples and places through the planting of new churches.  This Great Commission focus requires a Kingdom mindset that says it’s not simply about our own local congregation, but about the spread of the gospel through many congregations. 

So should churches be about planting new churches or strengthening existing churches.  Yes!  Great Commission work is the making of disciples through the context of local churches planting new churches and strengthening existing churches.

Meet Our New 2021 Kentucky Missionaries


Sixteen men and women have sensed God’s call to serve in ministries across our state and will be commissioned during a very inspirational service on Friday, April 16th, during the evening session of the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union Annual Meeting & Celebration at Shelbyville First Baptist Church.  With last year’s WMU Meeting being canceled due to COVID, we will be recognizing new missionaries for the past two years. 

 These new missionaries are:

  • Mollie Bentley, Director of Rockhouse Baptist Church Mission Center in Hyden.
  • Shawn & Carla Estes, Directors of Fortify Ministries (serving internationals & displaced people) in Glasgow.
  • Audra Hatfield, Directing a community outreach (serving internationals & others) through Faith Baptist Church in Frankfort. 
  • Sheila Hourigan, Executive Director of House of Hope Pregnancy & Family Resource Center in Springfield.
  • Linda McDonald, serving with Impact Ministries in Hopkinsville.
  • Susan McIntosh, serving with Impact Ministries in Hopkinsville.
  • Christian & Katie McKenzie, Directors of Hillcrest Baptist Camp in Cave-in-Rock, IL.
  • Stephanie Mayes, serving with Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Whitley City.
  • Joyce Morris, Missions & Ministry Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell,
  • Tanya Parker, Missions & Ministry Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell.
  • Denise Richards, serving with Impact Ministries in Hopkinsville.
  • Brenda Sparks, serving with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.
  • Alex Tenenbaum, Director of Community Engagement with Forest Baptist Church in Louisville.
  • Jonas Yoder, Benevolence Director & Re-entry Coordinator with Hell is Real Ministries in Princeton.

Prior to the commissioning these missionaries will spend the day in orientation where they will learn about the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program, Eliza Broadus State Missions and will be given many resources that will be beneficial to them as they serve.  The time of networking with each other will also be most valuable. 

You can partner with these and/or one of our current 111 Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries by:

For more information please contact the KBC Missions Mobilization office at [email protected]

We hope to see you at Shelbyville First Baptist Church on April 16th.  Go to www.kywmu.org and register for either in-person or online.

It’s Time to Take Notice

Ron Crow, KBC Disaster Relief Director

I have a picture that my wife bought for me while we were in Israel a few years ago. It is a stunning picture of Jesus’ lower garment and His feet walking on the crowded dusty road. You also see a woman’s hand and finger as she is reaching out to touch the hem of His garment and the picture depicts a glow at the very point where she touches Him. This picture illustrates the story we find in Mark 5:21-34.

Jesus was busy about His ministry among the people as the crowds were gathered around Him even as one family was begging Him to come and heal a young girl who was dying. You could imagine the commotion of the moment. There was the background noise of the crowd and the cries of hurting people with desperation in their voices. All kinds of activity were going on around Jesus. Everyone pulling for His attention.

Then, this woman who had been suffering from a chronic illness for over twelve years touched His garment with the faith that if she could only touch His garment, she would get well. Jesus did not know this woman. Jesus did not even see this woman. But He did notice her. Amid all the commotion and activity, He noticed her. He stopped and met her need. In fact, in meeting her need, He also had the opportunity to meet her greatest need, her spiritual need.

I often find myself getting caught up in the busyness of life. I may be in the crowds where there is a lot of commotion and talk. You have been there too where many of the noises are not even noticed as it all becomes one giant mass of noise. You either pay attention to what you want to or what you need to; or find yourself trying to tune it all out altogether. Sometimes we find ourselves even to the point we do not want to notice others and become inward focused.

Regardless of the mental state we might be in, if we truly want to be like Jesus, we will always be looking for opportunities to notice a need. It might be a simple smile, word of encouragement, kind gesture. Or you will discover a physical need that you have the resources or at least know where and how to get that need met. We need to learn to notice things as Jesus did. And the way we learn to notice, is to learn to think like Jesus.

That is one reason I love the disaster relief ministry so much as it models the ministry of Jesus. As you look at His ministry, He would often meet a physical need which always opened the opportunity to meet the spiritual need. He did this so well because Jesus noticed the need.

I’m reminded of what James said in James 2:14-17, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily foodand one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.”

Our faith is to be put into action. Faith is not a condition to claim but a life to live. And what I have found when I notice a need, that I not only can be a blessing to another, but I am blessed myself, often in unexpected ways.

Maybe it is time we notice. Open your eyes, look around and notice through the eyes of faith and see all that God will show you. Notice a need and meet a need. You’ll be blessed.

A Vaccine in Every Arm and the Gospel to Every Home

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 500,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19.  This sobering statistic and the threat of even more deaths has caused pharmaceutical companies to up their game.  They are working harder and faster, in an effort, to get a vaccine shot in the arm of every American. 

Prior to COVID-19, there was a very little desire for competing companies to work together.   But the urgency of the situation now required companies to think much bigger and bolder in-order to accomplish the goal.  One White House official said “we have to take bold action and overwhelm this”. 

As a result, Merck and Johnson & Johnson realized they could be better together and decided to work in partnership to ensure a greater impact toward the goal of defeating the virus.  Another White House official speaking about the partnership said “they understood this was a wartime effort. This was their legacy. This was their time.”

Getting the vaccines made, put into vials, and shot into arms is a massive undertaking involving many different people.  The Defense Production Act, which gives the government the power to compel companies to support a war effort, could have forced cooperation between Mercke and Johnson & Johnson.  But it didn’t have to because these two companies voluntarily chose to work together in order to address an urgent need.  As a result, millions more Americans will have the opportunity to receive a vaccination in their arm in an effort to avoid death. 

COVID-19 is a serious virus and statistics reveal that it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  However, there is an even more concerning statistic shared by the Glenmary Research Center, who reports that 85% of Kentuckians do not a have a relationship with Christ.  It’s alarming to think how many will die without Christ and spend eternity in hell because they’ve not received the gospel.  But how can they receive the gospel if it isn’t shared with them? 

The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s “Gospel to Every Home” initiative is an opportunity for associations and churches to partner together so that our neighbors, family members and co-workers might receive the gospel and avoid eternity without Christ. Getting the gospel to 1,728,681 homes is bold action and a goal that can be accomplished if we voluntarily choose to work together. We’re in a spiritual battle and this is a monumental task requiring a wartime effort!  Let’s take action with an even greater sense of urgency and cooperation than Merck and Johnson & Johnson, and get the gospel to every home before it’s too late.  

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.

Partners in the Mission

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Every church and follower of Jesus has one and the same mission in life—makes disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  That is, every believer through his or her local church is called to both grow as a disciple of Jesus and help make disciples for Jesus.  Each church must think carefully about how best to make disciples of their own members as well as how to make disciples elsewhere. 

Discipling believers in each local church is no easy task.  However, even more difficult is being part of disciple-making beyond one’s own location and church.  After all, how can you make disciples where you have no on-going presence?  Yet, let’s not forget that the call of the Great Commission is one of disciple-making “of all nations” and throughout “Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Matt 28:19 and Acts 1:8).

For local churches to make disciples beyond their own locale, there must be intentional effort.  Disciple-making requires time and relationship.  Churches seeking to follow Jesus’s call to make disciples “of all nations” will do well to partner with trusted missionaries and churches to accomplish that end. 

But what should such a partnership entail?   As Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists, we call ourselves a Great Commission people, a people who cooperate in the mission.  While our partnership in the mission certainly involves our dollars as we give through Cooperative Program, it must be more than that as well. 

As a denomination with thousands of missionaries in our states, nation, and world, linking arm and arm with them is vital for Great Commission impact.  Let me suggest five practical ways for churches to partner with our missionaries in the mission of making disciples locally and globally:

1. Develop long-term partnerships (3-5 years minimum).  Relationships take time to build.  We want to invest in peoples and places for ongoing gospel work. The greatest impact comes over time.  These partnerships involve such things as: prayer, encouragement, finances, short-term teams, resources, etc.

2. Let the missionary determine the strategy.  Those who live in certain locations among certain peoples know best the needs and how to engage them with the gospel.  Working alongside of our missionaries to help with their strategy rather than against their strategy is crucial for long-term impact.   

3. Multiple teams per year (if needed). As partnership is about relationship, relationships occur over time and through interaction.  Rather than sending a team of 10, perhaps a church can send two teams of 5 at different times in the year.  Smaller teams allow for easier logistics.  More teams allow for deepening of relationships more than once a year.  However, as with suggestion #2, let the missionary ultimately determine the size and frequency of teams.

4. Be gospel-centered.  This may seem like a no-brainer.  However, we have all heard of short-term teams that paint, clean, build, play, and the like.  While all these elements and more can be valuable to short-term missions, we do all that we do for gospel advancement.  At the end of the day, the number one issue is whether we clearly explained the gospel and called people to follow Jesus.  Even our gospel-centeredness must be sensitive to the strategy of our host missionaries.  We know that the gospel is offensive to some (2 Cor 2:14-17), but we ourselves in our mannerisms and tactics don’t want to be.  Be gospel-centered as we rely on the guidance of our host missionaries and their strategy.   

5. Be a servant. Just as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), short-term mission teams partner well by going to serve and not be served.  Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is thrilling but doing so to the detriment of the mission is costly.  This is not to say we should never see new sights or experience new cultures. Rather, set aside time to do just that, but give priority to serving both the missionaries you partner with and those who need the gospel. 

We all have the same mission—make disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  To do so well requires intentionality both here and there. As we partner for the sake of the gospel “over there,” let these five guiding principles direct you to partner well in the mission.