‘Wars and rumors of wars’

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A few days before our nation celebrated its independence, the Obama administration continued its assault on American morals and values with the inclusion of gender frauds in the United States military and threats of drafting our daughters for war. Media coverage coincided with stories of a seemingly endless number of suicide bombers and well-armed terrorists continuing to unleash suffering and death around the globe and, increasingly, on American soil.

While military and political experts debate ways to defeat a covert enemy with no regard for human life, I believe the time has come to question whether that enemy has the capacity to defeat us. By “us,” I am referring to the peoples and nations that do not embrace the teachings of the Koran and Islam.

Notice I do not use the term “Muslim” to reference our enemies, because millions of people who call themselves Muslims do not live out the murderous teachings of the Koran and, thus, are not our enemies. They may have been born into Islamic countries and/or cultural traditions, but they do not obey the Koran’s commands to kill infidels (non-Muslims). That doesn’t mean Islam is a “religion of peace,” as President Obama is fond of saying. To the contrary, peaceful Muslims are those who choose not to follow some or all of the teachings of their religion.

As for the growing number of Muslims bent on following the Koran and creating an Islamic Caliphate everywhere on the planet, they are the self-professed enemies of every human being who refuses to submit to their demonic religion and have unequivocally and publicly declared war upon on us all. And they just might win.

Why would I make such an unthinkable statement? Consider these reasons, among many:

  1. The seat of economic and military power has, for the past several decades, resided in the West, but Western nations are quickly abandoning the cultural values, moral precepts, and religious convictions that have kept us unified and strong. This abandonment is the direct result of the rejection of Christianity. The call to lay down one’s life for God and country begins to ring hollow in countries where God is mocked and His teachings are discarded as offensive. Will millions of young fighting men still answer the call to war when the country for which they would fight despises their core beliefs and their God? Will those who do not believe in God and the Bible’s teachings about our obligations to love our neighbors and defend the weak be willing to put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow man?
  2. Although religious convictions are disappearing in free nations, they are growing in the Islamic world. The jihadist takes up arms and willingly lays down his life with the conviction that his god will welcome him into eternity. Eternal convictions are what cause men to face the enemy with courage and risk death with shocking confidence. In the classic movie, “Sargent York,” young Alvin stole away to the woods to search the Scriptures for direction and then faced the enemy without any concern for his own life. Today, young Abdul does the same, but studying the Koran rather than the Bible, what he reads is not a call to defend the defenseless but a call to slaughter the defenseless. He answers that call with a promise of virgins awaiting him in the afterlife.
  3. Bible prophecy does not ensure the temporal defeat nor victory of Islam. What the Bible does ensure is the victory of Christ over Satan and the eternal victory of the church over everything and everyone who stands against her, the false religion of Islam included.

Will America ever become a Muslim nation? I wish the answer to that question was more obvious than it is. Will Islam wipe Christianity from the face of the earth? I’m glad the answer to that question is never in doubt.

Muhammed’s bones are dust, but Jesus’ tomb is empty and His bride will be here to greet Him when He comes for her. I love my country and pray God does not lift His hand of protection from her. But my petitions turn to praise when I recall that God will deliver His people from death’s sting to Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

Posted in Christianity, Culture, Government, Islam, Nation, Public Affairs | Leave a comment

Southern Baptist polity & autonomy gets ‘perplexing’ when it comes to resolutions

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The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis was a tremendous opportunity to celebrate all God is doing through our Cooperative Program-funded mission work and ministries to reach North America and the world for Christ. It was also a fascinating display of Baptist polity.

SBC-MessengersThe autonomy that exists at every level of Southern Baptist life is often misunderstood by the media and by people from other religious traditions. Our denominational autonomy means that instead of Southern Baptists having a hierarchical system of control, our churches, associations, state conventions, and the SBC all operate with their own authority. For example, no denominational body tells a local Southern Baptist church what to do. Nor does any denominational body tell another denominational body what to do. That is to say, the state convention does not control a local Baptist association or vice versa.

As messengers registered and then voted on business items and candidates for SBC offices, their voices could be considered, in a general sense, representative of Southern Baptist churches and associations, but their decisions are not binding on churches, associations, or state conventions. Nowhere is our polity more perplexing than in adopting resolutions.

Resolutions are statements, typically expressed in official and “flowery” language, that communicate positions taken by a convention or association and sometimes even a local church. Resolutions can be an important part of convention annual meetings. That was certainly the case at this year’s SBC. Convention messengers approved 12 resolutions on topics including freedom of the press, biblical sexuality, women and the military draft, the confederate flag, and evangelism.

If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to go online and read through the resolutions adopted in St. Louis. As you do so, here are three helpful observations (not original to me) about resolutions:

  1. A resolution is a powerful expression of conviction but is non-binding. It is a snapshot in time of what messengers approved at one convention meeting but does not bind future convention meetings or, for that matter, any individual Southern Baptist, SBC entity, or SBC church.
  2. A resolution speaks for the messengers who were gathered in a particular place at a particular time. As such, a resolution is not a statement of official Southern Baptist policy, nor could it, in most cases, represent the beliefs of every Southern Baptist. We place great value, however, on what it means for a deliberative body of messengers from cooperating churches to make a public statement concerning key issues facing our churches, country, or culture.
  3. Resolutions are informative rather than directive. A resolution does not have any effect of allocating resources or directing the work of Southern Baptist or state convention entities, and a resolution certainly cannot govern the ministry or policies of any local church.
Posted in Baptist Polity, Denominational Life, Resolutions, Southern Baptist Convention | Leave a comment

Summer is a busy time for Kentucky Baptists

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Throughout the pages of Scripture, God’s people are exhorted to pray. In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul offers this encouragement: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). As Kentucky Baptists begin another summer of mission work together, would you join me in praying for some very specific requests?

First, pray for Kevin Smith and his family as they transition from Kentucky to the Northeast where Kevin will begin serving as executive director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Also pray for Andrew Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, as he is promoted from first vice president to president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The biggest mission event in most of our communities this summer will be Vacation Bible School, a time when churches all across the state will be ministering to and sharing the gospel with families. Pray for the thousands of Kentucky Baptists who will be evangelizing and discipling students during VBS. Pray that the Holy Spirit will use VBS to bring the lost to Christ.

Kentucky Changers is also a big part of a missional summer for many of our churches committed to sharing Christ in their Judea. Pray that God will use this missions effort to save the lost and equip students who are serving in Kentucky Changers to live their lives on mission.

I recently had the privilege of spending time with Crossings’ summer staff at Cedarmore, most of whom are college students, as they prepare for their summer mission of sharing the gospel with close to 15,000 young people at our Kentucky Baptist camps. Pray for these young leaders to have sustained health, energy, and passion as they share the gospel, and pray for campers to hear and respond to the good news that Jesus saves. Pray for Crossings’ new president, Jeff Dalrymple, and other new Crossings’ team members as they quickly settle into their roles in the ministry’s busiest season.

Kentucky Baptists will benefit from thousands of reinforcements as we seek to reach our state for Christ this summer. Volunteer mission teams from churches sprinkled across the Southern Baptist Convention choose Kentucky as a missions destination each year, most doing their work in the summer. As you pray for these volunteer teams, be sure to express gratitude to God for those outside of our state who love the lost in Kentucky. Pray that their witness would be effective and that they will have much joy in their labors.

Finally, pray for our pastors, especially those with school-aged children. In the midst of VBS, mission trips, camps, and other special events on the church’s summer calendar, finding time to spend with their own children who are out of school for summer break can be challenging. Pray that God would give your pastor freedom to enjoy his family this summer.

Posted in Crossings, Kentucky Changers, Missions, Pastor, Vacation Bible School | Leave a comment

Syncing churches in ministry

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Guest post by Kentucky Baptist Convention President Kevin Smith.

As a pastor, I stand with the 3,500 Baptists in my local church. As president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I stand with 750,000 Baptists in my state convention. Together we desire to see the Great Commission pursued in our commonwealth and beyond! No individual congregation can accomplish this task alone.

The 42 state conventions are the primary, relational promoters of cooperative ministry and the Cooperative Program. Whether associations, state conventions, or national mission boards, Baptists have always understood that we are better together.

State conventions have the capacity to pursue ministries beyond the ability of individual congregations and beyond the scope of our national mission boards. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, for example, show the love of Christ to hurting families in times of crisis. “Yellow Hats” are on the scene often before government assistance is available. This compassion ministry is the collective effort of Baptists at the state convention level.

State conventions also have other distinct ministries that provide opportunities for evangelism:

  • camps/retreat centers—researchers regularly note the percentage of Christians that begin to follow Christ as children. Notable portions of these students make commitments to Christ in camp settings.
  • children’s homes/orphan care—state conventions coordinate Baptists’ efforts to love orphans. For example, in Kentucky, we care for over 1,000 abused and neglected children that desire a “forever family.” Again, the facilities, expenses, and compliance with state laws put this biblical ministry beyond the scope of individual congregations.
  • colleges/universities—although Christian higher education is facing some challenging days, the remaining colleges that stand upon biblical fidelity were often founded and are presently supported by Baptists in various state conventions. This ministry is still vital in many contexts and many Baptists are still committed to supporting these institutions.
  • campus missionaries—state conventions galvanize the local church to reach high school and college age students through campus ministries.
  • Christian witness at state capitols—state conventions have the ability to muster the collective voice of Baptists in the state concerning pressing issues that enliven Christ-followers. For example, for several years, Baptists in Kentucky have rallied against political efforts to expand gambling in our state by placing casinos in an area of great poverty.
  • church revitalization and care for pastors—many pastors in America are discouraged or overwhelmed. State conventions intentionally, as part of their ministry assignment, seek to address these two concerns. While our national missions boards focus on international missions and church planting/re-planting, state convention staff seek to intentionally support and resource pastors, especially the vast majority of SBC pastors that are single-staff or bivocational.

State conventions sync our 45,000 congregations into one Southern Baptist national/global disciple-making effort, while simultaneously providing focus and strategy for our distinct mission fields. They conduct thousands of presentations/consultations with pastors, churches, and associations to make them more effective Great Commission Baptists through evangelism training, revitalization support, strategic planning and leadership development, worship/music consulting and training, assistance in handling church conflict, pastor search team training, training in church technology and security matters, etc.

Our Baptist cooperation, at the state convention level, allows the majority of our churches to experience a capacity of ministry and mission that is well beyond their individual ability resulting in a greater impact with the message about the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Adoption, Baptist Associations, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Camp Ministry, Church Planting, Churches, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Evangelism, Family, Foster care, Kentucky Baptist Convention | Tagged | Leave a comment

Executive Director Report highlights from the May Mission Board Meeting

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I am pleased to update you on our cooperative mission work, particularly as we look back over the past year. First and foremost, totals from the most recent Annual Church Profile give us much cause for celebration. In three key categories, KBC churches continued to see increases for a second straight year. Baptisms are up over the year before, totaling 14,460. Total church membership is also up, as is Cooperative Program giving. Another vital statistic is participation in volunteer mission trips and projects. That number is up, with a total of 105,415 Kentucky Baptists involved in mission work.

Chitwood1As we embraced our new mission statement four years ago, one of the things I stressed to our staff was the need to get out of the building and into the churches. A convention created by churches for churches to help churches had better employ people who are ready to call on churches. To that end, your KBC staff members drove more than 520,000 ministry miles last year, up from 465,000 in 2014. Those miles were, for the most part, en route to visit churches, their pastors and staff, and associational missionaries. I always like to put the distance driven by our team members in perspective, so I’ll add that 520,000 miles circles the globe 21 times or, to bring it closer to home, you could make the trip from Pikeville to Paducah 1,300 times.

As to the ministry accomplished while traveling all those miles, here is a brief synopsis:

  • Your Mission Board staff members preached and spoke more than 1,000 times.
  • We made approximately 10,000 presentations and consultations with Kentucky Baptist pastors, associations, and congregations regarding topics ranging from evangelism training, developing a missions strategy, worship trends, managing church conflict, pastor search team training, utilizing technology in the church, church security issues, and the list goes on and on.
  • Ministry events overseen by Mission Board staff and Kentucky missionaries yielded more than 2,500 professions of faith.
  • We helped churches start 25 new churches and currently have more than 50 church plants in the three-year funding launch phase.
  • To help churches engage the generation of Kentuckians between the ages of 12 and 24, KBC campus missionaries have helped establish 44 teams across the state. These teams, called Twelve24 Teams, are currently engaging 40 middle schools, 59 high schools, and 18 college campuses.
  • KBC staff members created 116 news releases, 67 videos, sent thousands of tweets and more than 1,000 Facebook posts.

In November, we launched our online news site, Kentucky Today, as a complement to the ministry of our Baptist newspaper, the Western Recorder. Kentucky Today has delivered literally thousands of state, national, and world news stories to Kentucky Baptists at no charge, and has provided news and features from throughout the KBC and SBC. Kentucky Today is a tool we created with two overarching goals in mind: to ensure Kentucky Baptists are well informed so that they can better engage our culture, and to strengthen the sense of community among Kentucky Baptists.

Kentucky Baptists still believe in working together, as is evidenced by the fact that CP is at its highest point, year-to-date, than it has been in the past five years. In fact, for the current fiscal year, churches are giving 5 percent above the budget. As I complete my fifth year as your executive director, I celebrate God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of our pastors and churches to reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ.

Posted in Annual Church Profile, Baptisms, Baptist Associations, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Church Planting, Churches, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Denominational Life, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Kentucky Today, Mission Board, Missions, Southern Baptist Convention, Western Recorder | Comments closed